Christians have a theological view of the world that is given us by the Holy Scriptures. Our epistemology, that is what we believe is true and why, is predicated upon our conviction that the 66 books known as the ‘Holy Bible’ is inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and true. In the overarching worldview through which we see history, current events, and the world at large, Christians have room to accommodate the notion of evil. In fact, a primary doctrine of Christian theology for thousands of years has been the core belief that man is essentially bad. Mankind is a race of fallen creatures, suffering from the disease of wickedness which we have inherited from Adam. This negative anthropology is as much the heart of our religion as the solution to such a problem, who is Jesus. If we weren’t inherently bad, we wouldn’t need a Savior who is inherently good, who could reach into time and space and give us new natures that aren’t depraved.
Paul wrote it best in Romans 3, in which he painted an abysmal picture of the heart of man:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This view of mankind as essentially evil is in stark contrast to the collective wisdom of our modern age, which holds to John Locke’s tabula rasa theorem that man is born with a blank slate. Locke’s hypothesis was a departure from classical Christian thought that man is born evil. It is peculiar, then, that the American Founding Fathers considered so heavily the work of Locke when designing our system of governance, which is contrastingly formed upon the Christian notion that people are naturally evil.
The Federalist Papers 51 addressed the topic of human depravity in relation to government head-on, and the famous quotation is most often attributed to James Madison:
The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
Human nature, according to the Federalists, was inherently wicked. Because mankind does not consist of angels, it must have government. Because government is comprised of men, government must be limited, because even the governors are wicked. Therefore, the Founders saw fit to install a form of government in which the wickedness of man is checked and balanced at all levels, both for the governed and for the governors.
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