The Dichotomy, Human Dignity Vs Human Depravity

I was reading over @ Bookworm Room and this post applying observations on Anne Frank ( of the diary) to a commonly held worldview was interesting:

…for Liberals to cling to this “ideology” moves beyond optimism into idiocy. First off, anyone who has children knows that, while they have a tremendous capacity for love, and have within them the seeds for reason and kindness, their innate state is more Lord of the Flies than anything else. Children are naturally violent, greedy and jealous.

What tempers children is a society’s externally imposed value system. And these value systems don’t spring out of whole cloth. They are the results of centuries of give and take, violence, refining, and thought. In a chauvinistic way that I’m not even going to bother to defend, I think our modern Judeo-Christian value system is one of the best ever created — and it’s not innate, it’s learned. I’ll go even further here: I don’t like the current fundamentalist Islamic value system, with its denigration of women, Jews, and non-Muslims, and its obsession with visiting extreme physical violence (and I include beheading and other slaughters) on those so denigrated.

So, I don’t think we in the West are innately good, or that those in the fundamentalist Islamic Middle East are inherently bad. I do think, however, that we have the better value system, and that it’s absolute idiocy for someone to go around mouthing Anne Frank’s touching but misguided words about humans’ innate goodness.

The Christian doctrine referred to is, of course, that of the depravity of man.

A book mentioned here, ‘Lord of the Flies’ was seminal in my early thinking and I still agree that man tends to entropically degrade into base and selfish behavior…BUT…. I do not think society functions as the Savior, but only as an inhibiting factor to that downward spiral that humankind is so prone to.

The reason I hold a caveat or two to the doctrine of man’s depravity is that I believe the Christian doctrine also teaches about the dignity of man. And you can’t lose sight of that if you are to retain a whole picture of humanity.

The idea of the dignity of man is firmly rooted in this scriptural truth: God created man in His own image. Despite sin, despite all our sordid history, we still retain that image, however marred. And that gives us the ability to explain why some quite beautiful and wonderful things are resident in our fellow human beings. It gives us hope for own kind.

Perhaps this is the “good” that Anne Frank, and those others cited, are trying to convey. Man is not at all good, but he seeks to be oftentimes, and he has an appreciation of it oftentimes. Some call this the divine spark- which I don’t know as an accurate term, but more as an expressive one.

I think that these two seemingly contradictory views of the nature of man are the balance of truth for the dual magnificence and hideousness of mankind.

What I am talking about is quite apart from the doctrine of Salvation; it is the explanation of what we are, not what our relationship to God is or can be. It explains how we can do deeply kind things, beautiful things, and yet have such capacity for atrocity. How we can have both heroes and villains, and how some can encompass both qualities.