Little kids are cute, aren’t they? At least usually. If you observe little children, you will see that they are inherently selfish. They also can display a fierce anger. Given a little mobility, they can act on these things, and I am sure that parents never taught them any of it.
Consider also human behavior in a war zone or natural disaster where law has broken down. Yes, some people rise to be heroic; but this is something that they learned. The more common and instinctive response is to fight for survival or even superiority. That is why there is looting, hoarding and kidnapping in such situations.
So are people basically good or basically bad? That depends on what you are talking about. Humans were created in the image of God and still retain some of those qualities that can be developed and brought out. But deep within our bodies is a different driver. The Bible calls it sinful nature. Here is how it is described:
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:7
Surely I have been sinful from birth. Sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 7:16-17
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1Corinthians 2:14
Now the works of the sinful flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God Galatians 5:19-21
So what is “sinful nature”? We got when it starts, how it disables, what it does and how we can respond to it. But what is it? I would conclude from Psalm 51 that sinful nature is a distortion of our DNA. God does not make every individual from scratch. We inherit our traits from the generations before us. It this goes all the way back. Whatever Adam and Eve got into, it changed them and it has changed everybody since then from what God created us to be.
What kind of genetic change is it? Looking at the results of sinful nature, it would appear that it has radically changed how are brain was supposed to work. We don’t naturally resonate with God, we are wired to have certain sinful appetites, we quickly get addicted to things, and we often respond with anger and competitiveness (which suggest hormonal changes as well).
None of these are learned. In fact, they are hard, if not impossible, to completely unlearn. God’s coaching of Cain in Genesis 4, suggests they we must resist our nature and can to some extent. But that story didn’t exactly end well.
Sinful nature may come with some variety among people. Some more inclined toward anger. Others possessing an inclination toward certain sexual sins. We are a case where natural is not ideal. Far from it.
That sinful nature is resident in the body rather than the soul would explain why we physically need to die, decay and be resurrected. This is now our fate, saved or not.
It points out that we are not conceived as pure, children of God. We are damned before we are saved.
Could the rising field of gene therapy change this? An interesting thought, but I doubt it. This is not the product of one rogue protein.
The cure is Jesus. Jesus’ life to fulfill a Law that we break the moment we are conceived. Jesus’ death and forsakenness to pay the Law’s penalty for what we are and do. Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit to contain the works of our sinful nature and to bring us to faith and keep us connected to Christ.
It is more contagious than any pandemic–a genetic disease that started with our common ancestor. It is 100% lethal, even eternally lethal. We need no research for a cure, God has already provided that. We just need distribution.