Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.Psalm 51:10, King James Bible 1769
When I was a teenager my family and I watched the 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank in our living room. Anne died in a Nazi concentration camp, but she left behind a diary of the events that occurred while her family was in hiding. A memorable part of the movie was when she expressed her belief that people were good at heart.
George Barna of the Cultural Research Center wrote recently that one of the top 10 most seductive unbiblical ideas embraced by Americans is ‘the idea that people are “basically good”’. That suggests that the memorable part of the movie about Anne Frank was seductively unbiblical.
The reason the idea that we are good at heart is wrong is because it is sentimental. It is a false form of consolation, because it looks for goodness in the wrong place. Rather than acknowledging that God is good, it claims that somewhere deep down inside of us we are.
To a society that rejects Jesus, we mythologize the Kingdom of God rather than preach it. To a society that blatantly intimidates with sexual addiction, we downplay the need for repentance. Alisa Childers wrote that one of the five signs that one’s church was becoming progressive is “[t]he heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice”.
I’m still trying to figure this out. You are welcome to tell me what you think about people being good at heart.
Final thought: After David impregnated Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed to avoid scandal, and was called out for it by Nathan (2 Samuel 11-12), he didn’t think much of his heart. He wanted God to create in him a clean one (Psalm 51).