Have you ever experienced corruption? I’m sure you have in some sense of the word and to varying degrees. Our experiences with something often dictate our understanding. In order to understand and fully appreciate the state into which man fell, I offer an exercise to help set the stage for looking at this particular description for our human nature.
The primary sense in which Boston uses the term “corrupt” is that of moral perversion or depravity. Antonyms for corrupt in this usage are upright, good, moral. However, for the sake of this exercise, I want you to think about your experiences with corruption using the synonyms filthy, rotten, putrid, foul, polluted and contaminated. Take a moment to ponder. Some of you will not have to go any farther than your refrigerator. Have you ever watched the show “Hoarders”? Newton’s second law of thermodynamics defines corruption as the quantity of matter staying the same but the quality deteriorating. This filthy, rotten, putrid, foul, contaminated, nastiness offends the senses. I hope you are not reading this blog during a meal. If so, I apologize for ruining it.
You may be asking yourself why I have included the nasty stuff meaning of corruption if Boston is talking about the lack of morality. I enjoy etymology, the historical study of word origins and meanings. This is a practical study when we read scripture and older texts because quite often we lose something in translation to the modern vernacular. Today we do not use the term corrupt to describe something nasty. The term “corrupt” in the English form dates back about 700 years and I find it interesting that the translators of scripture from the original languages chose this particular word.
Here is one example of what the scripture says about human nature:
Psalm 14:3 “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” NIV
If you are a King James only Christian, “he” preferred to substitute the word “filthy” for “corrupt”. The version that King James didn’t like, the Geneva 1599, and almost all other translations since, used “corrupt”. If the translators of scripture believed that God only wanted us to understand that our natures had become immoral, they could have said immoral. Why choose a word that has such variable meaning? God intended that we understand that our natures had become rotten.
Try using your concordance and see how may times the word corrupt or its variant is used in scripture. You will see how seriously God wanted to convince us that we have a desperate need of renewal. If you think that I am being too negative about our condition, I will clarify one thing. We are not as corrupt as we could be nor once were. In Reformed Doctrine we use the term “Total Depravity” to describe the corruption of our nature. By the term “total” we mean everyone, all man. We believe that, by God’s grace, we have not been allowed to become as depraved as we could be. God has constrained our sin nature and has restrained us from following our nature into a more rotten condition. As far as history is concerned, there is a lower degree of depraved behavior now than in times past. If you evaluate history you can see that we are a kinder gentler race. I’m not speaking of “we” as just Americans. The spread of the gospel throughout the generations has led to the beginning of the renewal of man. Yes, we do have instances of barbaric behavior that makes the news and causes us to believe that man is becoming worse. We also see trends in society that seem to point to the worsening of western civilization. Primarily this notion is the result of our lack of knowledge in world history. I can assure you, as a whole, compared to the dark ages and even the recent past of the new world, America, it is a far better place to live. The Prince of Peace brought the transforming light of the gospel to reconcile the world. Though this light may seem dim to us, think how bright it is in places where once was only darkness. God has not quit nor will he until all man whom he will call are made perfect in righteousness. Even those who are not the called are affected in some way by this light.
Next time we will, with the help of Thomas Boston, compare our current state with the state of the first man, Adam.