We Are Born Good, Not Perfect

In the beginning God made it all and, “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 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.” (J. I. Packer “Good.” New Bible Dictionary pages 423–424.) Again, God didn’t make us or the world and call it perfect, but rather implied that everything 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 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.

Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, page 59.)

Again, we are born good, not perfect. And we are born even more imperfect now because of Adam and Eve’s trespasses. So just because we are any certain way at birth, does not mean we are that way because of divine intention—and it certainly doesn’t imply perfection. But that seems to be the American gospel today: “I was born perfect and I should never try to be anything different.” In fact, a Barna OmniPoll in 2015 found that 91% of US adults believe, “the best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself” (Barna OmniPoll, August 2015). This fact is hardly different for Christians, with 76% agreeing. The majority of Christians are 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 (Romans 8:1-11) and grow fruit that is juxtaposed to the things our physical bodies actually desire (Galatians 5:19-24). We are to become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and be imagers of God (Genesis 1:26) which is Jesus, himself (John 1:1-18).

Matthew Nelson Hill calls this pursuit of holiness “the fine tuning of human evolution” (Evolution and Holiness: Sociobiology, Altruism, and the Quest for Wesleyan Perfection, page 31.) If we can recognize that we’re not perfect and that we’re a little off scientifically-speaking, and probably even more so spiritually and morally, then we can pursue holiness 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.

So may we join in that pursuit together and leave the theology that we are born perfect behind us.

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