The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Does Christianity have a negative view of humanity?


I’m reading the book “Grace for All”, a collection of essays defending arminianism against Calvinism. In the first essay, Roger Olson defends arminianism against the charge that it doesn’t have a negative enough view of humanity. Olson argues that arminianism sees mankind as depraved, almost like such a view is a badge of honor. On p 8 he quotes Arminius: “In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and … weakened; but it is also … imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no power whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.”. Olson then quotes Arminius as saying that due to the fall, man in the state of nature is “altogether dead in sin.”

That’s an extremely negative view of humanity. It seems really unnatural to me. When I look at my unbelieving neighbors, I don’t think of them as depraved. Does Christianity require embracing such an outlook?


To answer that we should consider what the two largest denominations of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church & the Eastern Orthodox Church, have to say on the subject. Total Depravity is associated with the TULIP of the Reformed or Calvinist groups which are a minority within “Christianity”. Arminius wasn’t a Calvinist, but he’s just one man. Add Roger Olsen & that makes two.


Olson and Arminius may not have believed in total depravity, but they were/are a hair’s width away.


Always wise counsel, for any theological discussion! :smile:

And speaking of the thread topic: Does Christianity have a negative view of humanity?


@Bob_Wilson @Paidion I’m pretty sure you guys don’t think unbelievers are inherently depraved. What’s your view?


It might depend on what one means by “inherently depraved.” I share Talbott’s perceptions that we are born with significant ignorance, seeing the world through our own egotistic eyes, and thus are bound to sin, and need a learning curve where we recognize the consequences of perverse choices, and the value of righteous choices. I find this view overlaps Judaism’s traditional reading that we are born as a mixed bag, made in the image of God with ability to do good, but also finite creatures with a penchant to do self-centered evil.

I see this perception as avoiding both the fundamentalist extreme of demonizing all human beings as so evil as to be worthy of eternal torture, and the more sentimental liberal extreme that baptizes human nature as simply good.


Bob, based on what I’ve read it sounds like a lot (possibly all) Christians who view unbelievers as evil do so “because of the fall.”. Their doctrine seems to rest entirely on a literal reading of Adam and Eve. I doubt Adam and Eve were real people (or at least that their story as recorded in Genesis describes what literally happened), so I don’t see a basis for ascribing evil to people as their default character. Are some unbelievers “evil”? Sure. But I don’t think that in general, the unbelievers I stand next on line at the grocery store, or who deliver my mail, or wait on me at a restaurant are evil. As you say, they’re a mixed bag. Any other view, whether one that sees them as inherently evil or inherently good, is IMO unnatural.


@daveb and @davo what’s your view on humanity’s “natural” condition? Evil? Good? Mixed bag?


Every person has the disease we call ‘sin’. Israel was chosen to show exactly that fact - Torah was given as a good thing, but was powerless in helping Israel overcome the disease. So Torah was God’s way of showing how rampant sin is - and Israel was a microcosm of mankind as a whole, that’s why Paul can say that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
I don’t care about hair-splitting over how sinful individuals are; I do care about the verdict from God that all need a savior, and that in the Messiah all sin was brought to one focal point, and there was condemned in the body of the Messiah.


Yep… and thus was Christ made sin for all that all might be made the righteousness of God — and THAT’S the gospel, i.e., the revelation of God’s righteousness, not ours…

Rom 1:17 For in it, i.e., the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”


You tie DaveB’s allusion to Romans 8:3’s view that the atonement “condemned sin in the flesh” with 2 Cor. 5:21’s explanation that it enables us to “become the righteousness of God,” and conclude that the gospel reveals “God’s righteousness, not ours.”

I see that too, if it’s understood that the divine righteousness that God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ gospel provides is enabling God’s kind of righteousness in our lives. As Romans 8’s next verse explains, Jesus is a sin-offering that condemns sin “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”


I feel like most of Christianity (or rather, Christendom) has an ethos that sees unbelievers as depraved. But the more I think about it, the more I question its biblical foundations.


Bob, Jesus did all that was necessary, he paved the way for all of humanity to be accepted by God. You either think that Christ died for all, or you are saying that there is a condition that God has imposed on HIS creation.

Love to hear from you on this.


You know I often defended not seeing that and seeing conditions related to our own response. Upon what do you base your assured assertion that I am wrong, and that everything’s already been done??


first of all, I have no assured assertion that I or you are wrong, thus my question, why are you being combative?

My understanding that you seem to not to sway the way with the fulfilled grace understanding is perfect opportunity to get a outside view (from my perspective) of what academia believes… Can you help me or not?


This recent discussion reminds me, of an old joke:

A storm descends on a small town, and the downpour soon turns into a flood. As the waters rise, the local preacher kneels in prayer on the church porch, surrounded by water. By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a canoe.

“Better get in, Preacher. The waters are rising fast.”

“No,” says the preacher. “I have faith in the Lord. He will save me.”

Still the waters rise. Now the preacher is up on the balcony, wringing his hands in supplication, when another guy zips up in a motorboat.

“Come on, Preacher. We need to get you out of here. The levee’s gonna break any minute.”

Once again, the preacher is unmoved. “I shall remain. The Lord will see me through.”

After a while the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the church until only the steeple remains above water. The preacher is up there, clinging to the cross, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper calls down to him through a megaphone.

“Grab the ladder, Preacher. This is your last chance.”

Once again, the preacher insists the Lord will deliver him.

And, predictably, he drowns.

A pious man, the preacher goes to heaven. After a while he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, “Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn’t you deliver me from that flood?”

God shakes his head. “What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

I might have a date tonight. So I’ll have to respond tomorrow:

But I have my phone camera ready!


I’ll make this easy, God loves us, or he loves some of us or he is done with the crap we all have all created, and at some point he will reek havoc with his creation, What God do you want to serve?

This is the question


Perhaps - the real one??? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


No offence, but do you know who the real God is?


That’s a trick question isn’t it? Of course I do - not completely, naturally - but he has left his witness in the world.
I know you’re going for Bob so I’ll just let this drop.