Did all mankind fall?


Question 16 - Did All Mankind FallQuestion 16 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first disobedience?

The answer given is, “Since the covenant was made not only for Adam but also for his natural descendants, all mankind sinned in him and fell with him in his first disobedience.

The fact that we are inherently fallen offends our 21st Century sensibilities. Actually, it offended man’s sensibilities in every age. Along these lines, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote:

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Even a superficial reading of the news provides ample evidence that there is something wrong with man. Stories of war, crime, assault, abuse, neglect and selfishness can be found on every page. We see all around us the effects of the fall of man.

And lest we should be hypocritical in our thinking on this, any reflection at all will provide a man with ample evidence that there is something wrong in his own heart. I suggest that the unending production of self-help books reveals our acknowledgement that we are broken.

The problem with self-help books is that they too often provide means of addressing the symptoms rather than addressing the disease.

It is of no ultimate use to me to control myself to appear that I am concerned about my fellow’s well being when in fact, I am not in the lease concerned about him. It is of no ultimate use to suppress my anger and appear peaceful, when I would really rather have lightening come out of the sky and punish the one who made me angry. By addressing the symptoms, I can perhaps go some way toward improving how I am perceived but unless I address the source, I am one slip-up away from major disaster.

Jesus tells us that it is out of the abundance of the heart that a man speaks. Evil stuff comes out of our mouths because there is evil in our hearts. Unless our hearts are changed, very little about us will be improved, despite our best efforts.

The Christian response is to point out our need for regeneration. We need to have our hearts changed by God. In the book of Ezekiel, God tells us:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:25–26, ESV)

In the New Testament, Paul tells us:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:1–5, ESV)

Aside from a work of God in our lives, we have little hope. As we proceed through the remainder of the Catechism questions, additional information on what God has done to provide correction will be revealed. Until then, let me point to the two words highlighted in bold above . . . But God . . .