In the beginning God made it all and, “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Note that God said it was very good and not perfect. The Hebrew word used here is tob which means pleasant, joyful, or agreeable. The New Bible Dictionary explains that this word signifies, “primarily that which gratifies the senses and derivatively that which gives aesthetic or moral satisfaction.” God didn’t make the world and call it perfect, but rather implied that it was good in design and (as the double entendre implies) morally good.
And since we’re good and not perfect, we often come flawed not just morally, but in ability too. As the brilliant biblical scholar, Michael S. Heiser points out,
humans have widely differing abilities. Some never see birth due to natural death or abortion. Others manifest in their bodies the effects of a world that isn’t Eden. Some human beings have severe mental and physical defects that impede or prevent representing God according to the original vision. And even if we’re blessed with what we consider normal health, we’re all subject to disease, injury, aging, and the weakness of a world subject to corruption.
This is why I view any kind of “I was born this way” theology, as a false and worldly theology. We were made good, not perfect. And we are even more so imperfect now because of the knowledge of good and evil we attained through Adam and Eve. Just because you are a certain way does not necessarily imply divine intention—and it certainly doesn’t imply perfection. That’s pride at its finest. But that’s the American mentality today: “I am who I am and who I am is perfect. I should never try to be anything different.”
It often feels like everyone is buying into this idea. In fact, a Barna OmniPoll found that 91% of US adults believe, “the best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself.” This fact is hardly different for Christians, given that 76% of us agree as well! We’re looking inward for answers instead of Godward!
Evolution and genetics are incredibly complex. I don’t think God’s point was that every last scientific detail was perfect, but rather that life existed—that we existed. And seeing as how we do in fact exist and are made in God’s image and are to be morally good creatures, that right there is what we should be focused on. That is what we as Christians need to amplify in our lives.
The Bible tells us that we are to shed our flesh and put on the Spirit (Ro 8:1-11) and to grow fruit that is juxtaposed to the things our physical bodies actually desire (Gal 5:19-24). We are to become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) and be imagers of God (Ge 1:26) which is Jesus, himself (Jn 1:1-18).
Matthew Nelson Hill calls this pursuit of holiness “the fine tuning of human evolution.” If we can recognize that we’re not perfect and that, scientifically-speaking, we’re a little off and probably even more so spiritually and morally, then we can pursue holiness together rather than what we feel on the inside. Sure, there is goodness in us, but God wants to take that goodness and increase it so that we can be all we were ever intended to be, filled with the fruit of the Spirit—fruit that far surpasses the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Ge 2:9).
So may we join in that pursuit together and leave the theology that we are born perfect behind us—because it is playing a part in every conversation today and severely messing us up.
This is an excerpt from my latest book, A Taste of Jesus.
Packer, J. I. “Good.” Ed. D. R. W. Wood et al. New Bible Dictionary 1996, p. 423–424.
Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. Bellingham, WA, Lexham Press, 2015, p. 59.
Barna OmniPoll, August 2015. See Gabe Lyons’ book Good Faith for more dialogue on this fact. See the section entitled “The New Code” in chapter 4.
Hill, Matthew Nelson. Evolution and Holiness: Sociobiology, Altruism, and the Quest for Wesleyan Perfection. Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2016, p. 31.