C. Beliefs about human nature
The society believes that there are both good and evil in every human heart
The belief that there are both a tendency to do good and a tendency to do evil in every person’s heart undergirds a sense of moral responsibility and individual accountability in a society.
If a society believes that each person has tendencies to both good and evil, then it will see it as the person’s responsibility to decide to do good and decide not to do evil. This means that people who decide to be honest, work hard, and be productive should be rewarded. But people who decide to do harmful and evil things to others should be punished for the harm they do.
By contrast, if a culture believes that each person is basically good, it will regard the bad choices he makes as the fault of outside factors that have hindered him. Less accountability and individual responsibility will inevitably be the outcome of this belief.
The Bible clearly teaches that there is a tendency to sin or evil in every person’s heart, for it says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
But it also recognizes that even people who do not have the written law of God (that is, the Bible) are still able “by nature” to “do what the law requires,” and when this happens “they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (Rom. 2:14-15). In theological terms, this is called “common grace,” which is the undeserved favor that God gives to every human being whether one believes in him or not. Every person has a conscience and a moral sense of right and wrong. This moral sense may not be perfect, but people still will often “do what the law requires,” and their actions will often conform at least outwardly to the moral law of God. Because of this common grace, and the knowledge of right and wrong that people possess, Paul says that “the whole world” will be “held accountable to God” (Rom. 3:19).