Theology Tuesday: Not Defective!

Urbana '06, a giant missions conference (over 22,000 participants) happened in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago. Here's the link to a story that ran in the Post-Dispatch about the event.

A friend of mine was in town for it, and on the last day of the event I took her and a friend of hers for lunch. Talking about the different workshops and events that were part of the conference, M's friend made the comment that she was "really struck by the total depravity of people."

I've heard that same sentence a lot. I've even said it now and then. But that time, it made me nervous. And now I know why.

I think it's possible to insult God by focusing too much on the "depravity of mankind." We, after all, are good creatures who behave badly, not defective creatures God made wrong andwill someday completely replace.

In another time this might be too fine a distinction, but everything in our culture focuses on what's wrong with us. From "consolidate your debt" to "melt away fat with such-and-such a new procedure" to "you're not in my top 8 anymore because you're a freak," the whole world is telling us we're made wrong.

When you discover something you bought doesn't work correctly, you bring it back to the store and have it replaced. You don't fix it yourself; most of us wouldn't know where to begin fixing the things we buy today. That's replacement, not redemption, and it is not what God practices with us.

Depravity would be a safer topic in a culture that valued redemption of its possessions more, in a place where everyone knew how to fix things. We don't have that, so what we need is to strike a balance with teaching, reminding ourselves and our students that God made us right and perfectly, and when we behave badly doesn't give up on us and replace us with a better model.

1 comment:

Esther said...

That's the most beautiful thing I've read in ages. Wow. Thanks.