The Christian Response to the Contemporary View of Man

For the first post in this series click here.

John 15:5

Without Me you can do nothing.

Contemporary Doctrine:

Proverbs 23:7

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.

The next doctrinal error we want to discuss is that man has been created with great potential and only needs to find the keys to unlock that potential in order to live a happy and productive life. Of course this teaching did not originate within Christianity but has been adopted into much contemporary teaching. The Christian form of this false teaching says that the Bible teaches us the keys we need to be able to live the abundant and productive life we were created for.

It is assumed that one of the biggest things keeping the Christian from living up to his God-given abilities is his bad self-esteem. He doesn’t realize how much potential resides within him, so he doesn’t live up to it. His thoughts about himself are too low. And since he undervalues himself in his heart, his heart overflows with negative words and confessions about himself, which in turn make his situation even worse. He is unaware that his words have power to create reality because he is unaware of his inherent potential. So the greatest key to changing his life is to change how he views himself.

In order to have a right perspective about himself he needs to have a correct view of God. The God of historic Christianity is considered judgmental and therefore harmful to his self-esteem, and thus to his potential. In light of this imagined fact the individual is instructed to focus on the love and forgiveness of God instead of his holiness and justice. By focusing on God’s unconditional acceptance at all times and resisting any convicting thoughts he will be able to overcome his feelings of unworthiness and sinfulness. This will free him to think and speak positively about himself, and create the abundant life he was created for.

Biblical Response:

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. 

Isaiah 64:6

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. 

Luke 9:23

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Romans 7:17-18

But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 

Colossians 1:16

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

The problem with this error is that it is not even remotely related to Christianity. The Bible does not teach that man has inherent potentiality, but inherent sinfulness. Yes, mankind is valuable to God because he views us through His grace and kindness, but not because He sees something valuable or worthy within us. There is nothing good in us. Man’s view of himself is not too low, his view of himself is too high. Mankind is filled with pride, and is led by his self-centered heart to continually rebel against his good and sovereign Creator.

When one is born again by God’s Holy Spirit he has something, rather Someone, good living inside of him; but in himself the born again believer is still corrupt through and through. Apart from the grace of God through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit we can do nothing. We have no potential in us whatsoever, except of course the potential to rebel against God, die in sin and perish eternally.

It is true that to fulfill the purpose for which we were created we need to think rightly about God and about ourselves, but in Christianity those things are very different than the humanistic New Age philosophy presented above. We were not created for ourselves but for God; we were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We were not created for worldly success as though we were each given our own little kingdom to rule over. Nor were we created to find joy in anything but God and His will.

Our true fulfillment does not lie in affirming ourselves, but in denying ourselves. We don’t find our lives by fulfilling our hopes and dreams, we find our lives by taking up our cross and following Christ. The false New Age teaching described above that has become so prevalent in our day is none other than the original lie spoken to Eve by the Serpent in the beginning, “God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

The Christian Response:

The Church has never been a self-help movement. We did not come to Christ to achieve success in this world, we are looking towards eternity. We are willing to lay down our hopes and dreams in order to live for God, His will and His kingdom. We are about our Father’s business, seeking and saving the lost. We don’t expect to have a better time in this world than our Savior did. In this life we are at war with spiritual forces that are trying to take souls to hell. So we do not imagine that we can sit back and enjoy the finer things of life while people perish.

And no one will ever convince us that we deserve God’s mercy, or that we are inherently valuable. By God’s grace we have been delivered from such delusions. We do not have high self-esteem, nor do we desire it. We don’t find our joy in thinking highly about ourselves and our potential, we find our joy in thinking highly of Jesus Christ our mighty and gracious Savior. We count all things as nothing in comparison to knowing Him. We say with John the Baptist, “Let Christ increase, and let us decrease!” We are not interested in establishing a kingdom of our own, we are interesting in serving our King. And when it is all said and done we will tell him, “We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty.” And in His grace, Christ will kindly respond, “Well done, good and faithful servants, come and share your Master’s happiness!”

Note: Proverbs 23:7 above means that even though the greedy man tells you to eat freely, his heart is against you. That is to say, God judges men’s hearts, he sees what they really are. It has nothing to do with thinking positive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s