The surprising key to real social change

Unsplash/Julio Rionaldo

Sidney and Beatrice Webb were British economists and sociologists of the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Both were strong social activists and are still considered the authors of British social structure.

Like many in Europe at this time, they practiced a family Christianity early on, but eventually abandoned the faith when they reached adulthood. Interestingly, while Beatrice in particular was frustrated that their attempts at social change did not produce the desired end results, she admitted that their foundation was laid on a faulty assumption.

Detailing his revelation, Webb wrote: “In my diary of 1890 I wrote: ‘I staked everything on the essential goodness of human nature. Today, 35 years later, I realize how permanent bad impulses and bad instincts in humans are and how little can be counted on to change them, such as greed for wealth or power, through a change in the social machinery. We must ask better of human nature, but will we get an answer? Without it, how will we get better social institutions? No amount of knowledge or science will be of any use unless we can curb the evil impulses of the human heart. And can this be done without faith in the authoritarian ethics associated with the spirit of love?

In other words, Beatrice Webb realized that you cannot begin the process of becoming good, whether on a personal or societal level, until you recognize – just as the Bible teaches – that you are bad.

The bad news first

The new from Amazon The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power The series opens with the following sentence: “Nothing is bad in the beginning.”

And according to the Scriptures, that was true. However, at some point, the most beautiful and intelligent of God’s creations fell (Is. 14:12-14), followed by mankind (Gen. 3), and now, sad to say, from the point view of human birth – everything is evil in the beginning.

In the Psalms, David writes, “Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5), with Jeremiah agreeing: “The heart is more deceitful than everything and is desperately ill; who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9)?

The dissent is our secular society working overtime through the media telling us we’re good (unless, of course, you’re on the “wrong” side of their political alley). They are backed by psychologists like Abraham Maslow, who said, “As far as I know, we just don’t have an intrinsic instinct for evil. Supporting such thinking is his psychologist-partner-in-crime, Carl Rogers, who said, “I don’t find that…evil is inherent in human nature.

But even unbelievers like Beatrice Webb come to see that these claims about humanity’s innate goodness are wrong. Over time, those who are intellectually honest agree with John who wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8), and Charles Spurgeon who said bluntly, “You cannot slander human nature; it’s worse than words can paint.

Accepting this reality may sting at first, but as Webb noted, it’s essential to moving up the ladder until we can recognize and obey, as she calls it, the “authoritarian ethic” that governs. both our hearts and society.

Now the good news

Orval Hobart Mowrer, former president of the American Society of Psychologists, pointed to the danger Webb cited as well as how we take the next step when he wrote: “For several decades we psychologists have considered the whole issue of sin and moral responsibility like a great incubus, and hailed our liberation as epoch-making. But in the long run, we discovered that to be free from sin is also to have the excuse of being sick, rather than being a sinner… By becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being”.

Without realizing it, Mowrer was echoing Isaiah who wrote thousands of years ago: “For we have all become as unclean, and all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags; and we all wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind” (Is. 64:6).

If our iniquities have carried us away, then what brings us back? An admission of these wrongdoings, followed by personal repentance and spiritual rebirth in every human heart.

While things can certainly look gloomy, the good news is, as John Calvin said, “Christ is far more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”

The death of Christ on the cross removes our penalty for sin while the new birth stops its continuation and brings salvation, thus blessing each individual and the society in which they live. Paul puts it this way: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10 ).

The beauty of this gospel is that it agrees with what Beatrice Webb observed and directly addresses it: “No amount of knowledge or science will be of any use unless we can check the evil impulses of the human heart.”

And, once that happens, it is possible for society to assume the goodness of each individual Christian. This is why CS Lewis says, in his essay Meditation on the Third Commandmentthat the primary politics believers should play is one where, “He who converts his neighbor has performed the most practical Christian political act of all.”

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has authored numerous articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented apologetic events. He holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce, a master’s degree in Christian apologetics and a doctorate. in the New Testament. His latest book is, Confident Faith: Winning People to Christ with the Apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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