You often hear this expression in day-to-day conversation that you can’t change human nature. What is implied by this statement? Is it not generally a negative commentary on humankind, an affirmation that human beings gravitate to the lowest levels of behavior naturally, automatically, irreversibly?
To act in accordance with human nature is to do what humans do naturally. Human nature directs what is natural. The Webster’s definition of natural is “being in accordance with or determined by nature.” Nature in turn is defined as “the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing”.
How did humanity come by its inherent nature? Genesis one avows that man was created in God’s image. It further declares that all of God’s creative work was good. This statement is generally understood to mean perfect in God’s eyes. Was human nature molded by God in the original creative process? If so, was that nature flawed? Is that the human nature that we can never change? Is it a nature we would want to change? Did human nature become flawed after the “Fall of Man”?
Redemption is a buying back process. Redemption implies returning something to its former state or estate. Then again, maybe the basic nature of Adam and Eve and subsequent mankind was not altered by their mistake. Maybe they and we simply lost sight of what our true nature is.
Often we hear of discussions about whether individuals are predominantly guided in their behavior by their nature (Heredity) or their nurture (Upbringing). Most would probably conclude that we are a product of both. The question here is reworded slightly: Are the negative aspects of human behavior the product of our natural self or the result of our educated, culturally conditioned self?
If Jesus came and completed the process of redemption did that include restoring mankind to his original nature, i.e. that which existed prior to the Fall? If mankind’s nature has not been restored, why not?
Galatians 5:19-22 attributes a host of behaviors to the sinful nature. It contrasts these with the fruit of the Spirit. Was that sinful nature the human nature we now proclaim as irreversible when we use the expression, “You can’t change human nature?” Did Jesus’ redemptive work address the nature of man? In overcoming sin, death, and Satan what did Jesus accomplish in relation to man’s nature? When all things were made new, what happened to man’s nature? Nothing?
In Romans Chapter 2 Paul indicates that some Gentiles did by nature the things of the law. Apparently their consciences guided them to do what the law required without their having to be taught. Was this a display of human nature?
In Romans 12:2 Paul exhorts his brethren to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. This sounds like a return to something previous seen and understood, a recall to the basic nature instilled by God in mankind. In effect, God was not in the business of changing human nature. He was recalling to our memory the nature that has been a part of us all along. A nature that had been obscured by centuries of neglect. God said that there was a way which seemed right but which led to death. What seems right is what we are conditioned to believe, it is not what defines our very nature.
I am reminded of what Neale Walsch said in Tomorrow’s God. “Yesterday has nothing to do with who you are. It has only to do with who you thought you were.” Rising to be all we can be involves letting go of the idea that mankind is basically bad and cannot change. That is defeatist theology at its worst.