Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day (Gen 1:26-31).
What is natural?
So often, things are justified as being “natural.” “These drugs are good: they’re natural!” “These sexual desires are entirely natural, so why would you say they’re evil?” “It’s natural to want to punch someone in the face when they punch you. Just go ahead and do it.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but in philosophy, David Hume outlined what’s called “the Is-Ought Problem.” Basically, it is that people use description of the way things are now as a justification for the way things ought to be (this is, therefore that ought to be). But the problem is that, if you are appealing to the way things are, who are you to say things should be any different?
Take drugs, for example. Marijuana is “natural,” (actually, it’s been heavily modified by human cultivation, but I digress). So is deadly nightshade and, as the name indicates, it will kill you if you consume it. Same with a mushroom scientifically classified as amanita ocreata, aka death angel, destroying angel, or angel of death. Totally natural, totally deadly.
And if we take nature as it is for the basis of our moral code, then all things are permissible. For one thing, how do you separate human behavior from that of the rest of the natural world—we are, after all, part of the natural world, therefore our own behavior should be taken into consideration. But even excluding humanity, you will find in what we think of as the natural world everything that is abominable.
For example, rape is common in the natural world. Consent isn’t really a consideration. Ducks rape, chimps rape, bed bugs rape (males actually mutilate the females, impaling them with their reproductive organs rather than using the female’s reproductive tract. The process is called “traumatic insemination”).
Murder is also commonplace. Ducks and chimps again. Lions do, too. Male lions are particularly fond of killing cubs when they join a new pride. Ants make war on one another, slaughtering thousands. Even the carefree dolphin murders other dolphins.
So if you are getting your morality from the way things are, then nothing is improper. Everything is fine, no matter what you do.
Yet in the Bible, Paul says things like “Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (Rom 1:26b-27a). Paul appears to be appealing to nature. Is he wrong? Or what’s going on?
No, he’s not wrong. He’s just not appealing to nature as it is. He’s appealing to nature as it was created to be!
Sin is not natural. It may seem natural to you because it is easily done, and you feel inclined to it. But you must bear in mind that you are not as you were created to be. None of us are.
Sin is a violation of nature. It’s a violation of God’s created order, the nature that God created. It is natural for you and all the rest of us humans to do good. It is natural for you to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. All that falls short of that is unnatural.
It feels natural to you because you are a part of a fallen world. Your nature is not how God created it to be, but it was twisted in the Fall.
And Jesus worked in this way, too. When people asked Jesus about divorce in Matt 19:3, how did Jesus respond?
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Jesus didn’t say, “Well, it’s entirely natural to want to divorce your wife.” He said, “God created marriage; you don’t have authority to redefine it.”
Jesus appealed to what was truly natural: what God created.
I am writing this because I think it’s a very important point for all of us to remember. It is sin which is unnatural, pleasing God is natural. It is not natural to want to watch porn or to want to do drugs or to want to avenge yourself. No, those are desires, but they are not natural, and acting on those desires is not natural. Loving God is.
So do what is natural. When you find yourself facing desire, remember what is actually natural and what is simply a desire.
Be your best nature.