To examine depravity using a lens of reasoning, we must ironically first examine its origins using a lens of faith. What is depravity and how did it originate? Science has a plenitude of answers for all aspects of the human condition except the soul. When it comes to matters concerning the spirit, the scientist, being the rationally minded fellow he is, rests on a pillow of logic, and covers himself with a blanket of atheism or agnosticism. There are exceptions, but this is the normal trend.
The scientist comes close to being a Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith but stops right where he’s supposed to make that leap and grasp the abstract. ‘The abstract? That’s philosophy’s realm!’ He exclaims and strives and strives some more using his utilitarian approach to examine the mysteries of the universe. He gains knowledge, and his mind expands, but the sheer ‘absurdity’ that there is a God threatens his very schema of reasoning. He knows that all he knows will indeed seem like trash if he believed. So, he inches and inches; never making progress while paradoxically making progress. It’s a strange dilemma.
Now, before you think my reasoning is flawed, please note that I’m only analyzing the scientist of today. The scientist of tomorrow might just live in a five-dimensional world, and fully evolved and fully equipped may be able to peer beyond space and time into matters of the soul and picture things non-linearly.
So, what is depravity? Some say it’s ignorance; others say it’s active rebellion against what’s right. Now, let’s go further and ask ourselves how we distinguish right from wrong. This falls into the realm of morality. Now, none of these things are proven, but they do exist. It’s sadly ‘common sense,’ and there isn’t any research on the subject. It falls into the realm of theology, theodicy, and philosophy.
My view is that depravity originated from a passive act and then took an active form, which brings me to the story of Lucifer. How did he fall? His fall (if you believe in the Christian viewpoint) was the original act of depravity. After much introspection, I’ve concluded that God caused it in a way that didn’t make him evil. Harsh, but not evil. Now, before I continue with this train of thought, I want to define evil by saying that there are two kinds: a metaphysical evil and an innate evil which originated after the fall of Lucifer. God is infinite, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and hence the gap between an infinitely good God and finitely good creation itself is evil. It’s metaphysical evil. So, the only way to bridge that gap is through grace. The grace of God holds a being in place and prevents him from wishing to become his own God. In Lucifer’s case, God for mysterious reasons withdrew that grace and hid his glory from Lucifer, which in turn, made the cherub want to be God. And that was the first sin or the first act of depravity.
Then came Adam’s fall where something similar happened, and then depravity completely overwhelmed man’s very essence. He became corrupt, selfish and innately evil. Sadly, this is the only way I can explain depravity. But what about morality? What about the conscience? If man is totally depraved, why does he feel guilt or often make the right moral choices? I can only explain this using religion again. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Hence there is a hardwired knowledge of good (the conscience) in every person. But every person is also naturally predisposed to evil.
I’ll end this essay by saying that I’m willing to be proven wrong by counter-arguments and I’m willing to listen (even if I don’t agree) to other viewpoints. Perspectives are fascinating and beautiful and have this raw quintessence. And as far as evolution is concerned, I’m no Darwinian, but I do believe that the earth is millions of years old and there is so much more we as a species haven’t discovered yet. Finally, some of you might ask the all-important question: Why did God passively orchestrate Lucifer and Adam’s fall? The answer is that God is using the worst possible of all universes (the one we live in) to bring in a new heaven and earth, which is the best possible of all universes, where his name will be glorified, and all his attributes praised. God needs evil to proclaim his righteousness. His notion of good and evil works both collectively and individually. God will judge each person individually, but he uses evil to collectively bring about a greater good.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)