Musings on Human Nature & the Original Sin

Hi, friends. Does anyone else have that friend or family member they can talk to about philosophical or intellectual thoughts? My dad is one of them for me. This post is inspired by a couple of our chats.

A while back, I was piecing together an argument in support of theism based on the difference between humans and other animals. Why do humans seem to have innate moral compasses? Why is it evil if a human mother eats her baby, but it’s not evil if an animal mother eats her baby? [Incidentally, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis begins with the topic of the innate moral compass, and he argues it convincingly.]

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We discussed my argument in the car on a family trip–that the emotional and intellectual divide between humanity and other species supports the notion of a creator/designer…but my brother replied that most of the “morals” I attribute to humans derive from the deep-seeded biological imperatives of social creatures.

My dad threw another wrench into my argument. He said that some people believe humans are inherently good and could hypothetically exist in a utopia if they didn’t need anything (which reminded me of the paradoxical “noble savage” trope in my literature studies) but he disagrees. He said that society is the thin veneer that keeps humans from acting animalistic; according to him, if electricity went out around the world for a week, people would already have reverted to anarchy.

I have to say based on scripture that creation is good since God declared it so, but I know what my dad meant. He doesn’t believe that humans would choose to be honest, noble, and kind if society didn’t keep us all in line. Some evil doesn’t have a rational or psychological origin; it just exists. The worldwide horrors of the twentieth century echo that truth.

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If humans are just tame animals, my argument for the divide between humans and animals is easily rebutted…or is it? 

My dad and I had a similar conversation months later. We were speaking of the human pattern of building up and tearing down; I said that humans need conflict, struggle, violence. Everyone claims to hate drama, yet there’s always drama.

And it hit me. Adam and Eve lived in a utopia; though technically composed of flesh, they were “spiritual” beings created for communion with God. When they ate from the tree of knowledge, they rebelled against that communion founded on complete trust…showing that, like animals, they could survive without that reliance on God. Hence, the part of them made of flesh like every other animal was activated; animalistic survival instincts were awakened in humans, so we struggle with lust, selfishness, etc…while our “innate moral compass” still lingers because we were created in His image. 

Now the human need for conflict, or “human nature,” makes sense in the context of the creation story; we need burdens because of our survival instincts that we gained due to the original sin. So no, I don’t believe that humans could ever be happy in a utopia (if such a system were even possible) after the fall of man.

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We are part animal, part spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to resist the animal part and develop our spiritual side. [Though writers like Lewis argue that our animalistic urges are less dangerous than our uniquely human urges, such as the desire to gain power. One could argue that the desire for power is still rooted deeply in survival instinct. Just depends how much credence you give to the argument that humans and animals differ.]

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the creation story, why humans need conflict, or any subject related to the post. Feel free to bring a different perspective; I like to consider myself open-minded.

28 comments

  1. I have read your article very carefully. I think above all that entertaining conversations of this kind can only do good. My perspective on the difference between humans and animals is that we human beings have the gift of spirit. (The inner strength, the sensations, the emotions, the conscious and unconscious thoughts) The animals, live of irrationality, instinct and live only for carnal cause. But without forgetting that they also have a soul. In my opinion, who invented the word “soul” “there”, he invented it with this thought. it is true that they live by instinct, but they always have a soul. You opened my friend’s world. We could stay here and talk several days … 🙂

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  2. Wow! Very interesting. We are all created by the same God as equal. I think there are some humans that have to have conflict, control, and be in charge. We all have our good points but we as humans all have a not so good side as well. Sometimes you have to speak out to defend you believe in. It would be great if we could all live in a happy place with one another and not have conflicts or disagreements. Enjoyed your post and the other comments. Deb

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  3. Those sound like interesting conversations, however I would say that we must remember that the effect of Adam and Eve’s sin was upon all of creation including the animals. I believe a straight forward reading of the text shows that animals we’re vegetarian and death was not introduced even among the animals until the effect of sin.

    Therefore the “animalistic durian nature” didn’t even exist among the animals (and there was no need for it).

    Original sin both on earth and in heaven with Lucifer was pride, seeking to be equal with God – power. The creature that doesn’t rightly worship is creator will always seek to climb the ladder of power to take a place equal to our higher than its creator. Hence you have ongoing conflict.
    Just my thoughts, good thought provoking post

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      1. Let me preface this instruction by saying that I hate how convoluted this is 😂… to edit a comment, go to the menu that has your stats and blog posts and site pages and all that then click on comments.

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  4. As I have gotten older, I have had more trouble with the Biblical Adam and Eve story. I think the tale is more noteworthy for what it does not tell us, than for what it does tell us. The Biblical account raises more questions than it answers, at least for me.

    That said, it does appear that religious teachings the world over are tailored – or have to be tailored – for the level of understanding of the audience. Have we grown in understanding in the past 3,000 years? Very few people, and this includes those who are affiliated with organized religions, appear to me to have achieved a spiritual level of consciousness.

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  5. Wow. You have created wonderful discussion on the basics. I basically believe that human beings are not animals simply because we are created after the image of creator. We are representative of creator. We are appointed to bring everything else under our authority which God us. Animals die and will not inherit eternal life. I hope this helps. 😊🙏

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  6. When as scripture says, the corruptible is changed to incorruptible and the flesh gives way to the spirit, which of course is when we die and go to be with the Lord, then we will be able to have and live eternally in a utopia.

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    1. Funny enough, I am working on a post series on Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright, which asks and answers that very question, so I truly appreciate that point. When I use the term “spirit,” I am not meaning it as a synonym to “soul” (a concept which has wreaked havoc on Western Christianity). Rather than body vs. soul, I am saying flesh/survival instinct/sin vs. spirit/part of us made in the image of God. I’m not saying that material=evil but that flesh and survival instinct went together in animals (they are made of flesh but not made in God’s image) and we were “spiritual” (bearing His image, made for communion with Him) beings made of flesh whose survival instinct (like in animals) was awakened when we proved to God we could survive without Him.

      If that distinction is still incorrect to you, shall I assume that you agree with Dadability that animals were affected as much as humans by the original sin? The further implication being that there isn’t a correlation between flesh and sin/survival instinct. When I consider that possibility, I quickly get bogged down in minute questions.

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      1. Thank you for that clarification. And yes, I agree with those definitions. And yes, the entire cosmos was affected by sin. Hence, John 3:16. And the better translation of it is includes the cosmos, not just the world.

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  7. I’m another person for whom the biblical Adam and Eve story remains a challenge and sometimes, a puzzle. Has our understanding changed and grown over the years? Sometimes in discussions about the various bloodthirsty and seemingly irrational accounts of the Old Testament, I’ll use the explanation that these merely reflect the limited understanding and morals of mankind at the time and that we don’t do that now. But then you only have to turn on the news to realise that little has changed .

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    1. Thank you, T.R.! ♥ I’m glad you think so because it was one of those times that I wasn’t sure if what I was trying to convey made sense or not, haha. Some people probably don’t think about these things so deeply, but I was trying to make sense of different ideas like “the innate moral compass” vs. “human nature,” and it all started to click after months of contemplation. 🙂

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      1. I think sometimes people focus too hard on the topics and lose the overall focus being on Christ. However, I think also there is a proper to discuss these things especially for people who wonder or maybe it would help them understand God better. You did not only use text book terms and words. I think you painted it clearly enough someone who is not into theory, or particular deep discussion about these things, could understand it 🙂

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  8. Thank you for your blog on this subject, my father and I sometimes had similar discussions, although it often then turn toward creation vs evolution. He knew the bible but was turned away from the church by religion, we could discuss the bible at length, but poor mum couldn’t because she would bible bash him until I got her to listen to the Lord.
    I have typed a blog that may interest you, I called it ‘Did God create Satan?’ It’s not as refined as you writing, but I’m only a beginner.

    God bless and inspire you.

    Tom.

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