No Divinity, No Decency

Human sin is so destructive that we should expect to find only selfishness on earth.

After the flood and Noah’s worship of God, God made this promise: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done” (Gen. 8:21). The human decency we see around the world is a fulfillment of that promise.


“I don’t believe in God,” declares the passionate lawyer who bravely defends the falsely accused. “I don’t even like Him: jealous, self-obsessed, cruel.”

“What do you believe in?” asks the Catholic but deeply corrupt lawyer.

“Human decency.”

This brief exchange, in the recent British legal drama Silk, portrays the common view of God and man. God—as often described and displayed by imperfect Christians—seems strict, mean and judgmental.

Yet when we look around the world, we see lots of people showing “decency”—doing kind and selfless things for others. That could be mothers sacrificing for their kids, fathers serving their families, people extending help to someone who’s struggling or showing kindness to someone who’s been rejected.

This seems to happen just as much among people who don’t know Christ. Many atheists and agnostics are just as decent outwardly, if not more, than churchgoing Christians.

But the reality is, there would be no decency without divinity. Human sin is so destructive that we should expect to find only selfishness on earth.

“I tell you, if the Lord Almighty had left us to our own devices,” wrote Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, “all virtue would have turned into brutishness, all order into chaos, and all humanity would have descended into the dense smoke of hell.”

While that view doesn’t make it into many TV or movie scripts, it often is present great literature.

A book club I belong to recently read two books that show this truth well: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Both of these books depict the end result of sin and selfishness. They allow us to see more clearly that the decency we find in the world is the work of God.

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