Inspired by the question Is a moral society more open to the gospel than an immoral one?.

Are people, by nature, good? Or are people evil by nature?

To define these in terms of the world (as opposed to this being rephrased version of "Are people born into sin?"), a "good" person would be someone who does good things for others, considers others above themselves (or at least is considerate of other people's feelings), and generally wants to do things to benefit or help others.

Evil, by comparison would be people who are egoistical, to the point of being willing to do harm to others for their own benefit. This covers a range of "evil" actions (from manipulative people all the way up to murderous people.)

Another way to view this: "good" could be correlated to "love", and "evil" could be correlated to "hate".

I've heard that some humanists believe that people are, by nature, good people. That people, in general, want to help others, support each other's causes, and do things to benefit others over themselves.

What does the Bible say about this? Are there other extra-biblical Christian documents/doctrine to support one way or the other?

  • I'm closing this question as Not Constructive, based on our quality standards. This question is far too broad and, as worded, solicits debate and opinion, rather than fact.
    – Richard
    Oct 20, 2011 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


Deriving from the topics of Original Sin and Common Grace, I would argue that the answer is "both".

Let me expand. Our born nature is that of a sinner - one who cannot obtain God's favor on his own. However, we also have natural tendencies to take care of immediate family (Matthew 5:47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" and Luke 11:11 "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?").

In so far as it benefits US, we are "basically good". But since we tend to epitomize selfishness, when the benefits for US no longer exceed the cost, we will tend to be "basically evil".

As to the extreme examples of that (theft, murder, etc etc), the cost-benefit analysis was either never made, or is highly skewed.

  • 1
    +1 That is a fascinating answer and something I've never considered before.
    – Richard
    Sep 14, 2011 at 14:44
  • Criminals are generally bad at making cost-benefit analyses. That's why harsh penalties do little to drive down crime rates.
    – TRiG
    Jan 22, 2012 at 2:34

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