Sunday, August 9, 2020

Is Man Basically Good?

To say the least, it was unusual for a Destroyer to be the flag ship of an admiral, but this was such a small group of ships that the Commodore chose the USS William V. Pratt. It was the ship I served on as a junior officer, and I was fortunate for the experience. I was a new Christian, and one night I found myself in a theological debate with the Commodore over the question: Is man basically good? The flag officer insisted that man was inherently wicked, but I held onto the belief that man was basically good. From my perspective, the cause of bad behavior was that people were hurt by life’s experiences which created a cycle of pain, but I contended that if a person was treated well and educated, they would grow beyond their experience and learn to respond in a better, healthier way.

The prevailing thought in 2020 American society holds the view I boldly debated with the Commodore. In that conversation so many years ago, neither one of us were able to sway the other person, yet I acknowledged he brought up a lot of good points that I had never considered.­ He was also a Christian with many years more experience than I had at that time, and I learned a lot from my conversations with him. 

The Reality 

The reality is that men and women are all made in the Image of God. We were made for love and to do good things. We were created a little lower than the angels, but the Father’s plan has always been for us to become co-inheritors of His Kingdom. This is who we were made to be, but there is more to our reality. As Isaiah pointed out, all of our righteousness is as filthy rags. We were made for love and good deeds, but our hearts tend toward evil, and if our hearts tend toward evil, does that make us wicked? 

No one likes to think of themselves as wicked, so Christians look to the New Testament writings and point to how we are “a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.” We have been redeemed and remade… this is great news! So if our hearts are renewed, that means we no longer lean toward evil, right? Then why does Paul also write that he fails to the good he desires and instead does the evil he doesn’t want? Theologians have gone to great lengths to describe the difference between justification and sanctification, but it can quickly be summarized as this: we were made and re-made for good, but we aren’t there yet. 

However, that does not mean that we are wicked. Yes, our tendency is to go astray, to please ourselves in all its myriad forms, to do only the good that we choose. We were made for good but choose to please ourselves instead. That is our old man fighting against the new man we’ve become. Yet for those who accept God’s grace and seek His presence, we are transformed from “glory to glory” while He works in us to live good and godly lives. We are changed as we spend time in His Presence, and we are empowered “to live and act according to His good pleasure.” Yet the wicked are those who commit the only unforgivable sin, the sin against the Spirit, which I believe is a continuous and intentional refusal to have a relationship with God beginning with an acceptance of His grace that acknowledges our selfish nature. 

  1. We were made for good 
  2. Our hearts tend toward evil 
  3. Even after accepting Christ we continue to do bad things 
  4. God changes us over time to live rightly 
We were made for good but aren’t there yet, and the wicked who never accept God’s grace will never arrive. 

A Practical Response 

So what do we do with this information, and why does it even matter? As a follower of Christ, we need to acknowledge daily our need for Him, and as we walk with Him, He transforms us. We recognize the innate value of every person, and just as we receive the grace of God in our lives, we extend it to others. We build guardrails in our lives that anticipate everyone’s tendency toward selfishness while still looking for and cultivating the good that is in everyone. We even build guardrails in our own lives so that our eyes remain on “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith”, just as we also build checks and balances into societal power structures to resist corruption. 

If we build a system around false assumptions that system will fail, yet that is exactly what is happening worldwide. I had been taught that man is basically good and therefore as a new Christian, I had a hard time accepting what the Commodore tried to show me: I was made for good, but I wasn’t there yet. 

The admiral shared an understanding of reality that greatly influenced the thinking of America’s founding fathers. They built a system of checks and balances to mitigate the risks of centralized power structures. They understood that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This system they envisioned, the great American experiment, was able to course correct over time to accomplish great things, including the abolition of slavery and the recognition of women’s rights. The system they designed was over time able to support the dream of Dr. Martin Luthor King, and I believe given the time and commitment, we could still see the full realization of that dream. 

Everyone was created with certain “inalienable rights”. Even if a person refuses to accept the reality of God (or God I know Him to be), they are still created in His image and worthy of loving respect, kindness and consideration. The American system of government was established valuing the inherent worthiness of every individual while acknowledging the corruptibility of anyone. 

Ironically, people are seeking to deconstruct our system of government as they seek to establish a global government, all with the underlying assumption that man is basically good. The deconstructionists say that we have evolved intellectually as a global society to the point where we can rise above the things that have held us back in the past. They say war is an evil that can be eliminated by getting rid of the things that cause it: e.g. - patriotism, borders and religion. But what would this world look like if the Allied nations had not gone to war against the Axis powers of WWII? Is it possible that the plurality of nations act as a natural deterrent to global totalitarianism? 

And with respect to religion, what has happened historically when everyone is compelled to follow the same doctrine? When religious power structures are centralized, haven’t they also become corrupted and caused so many travesties? It’s not religion, but the corruption of religious power structures that should concern us! The answer is not to compel a secular religion that forbids all religious expression, but to encourage the open discourse among all belief systems. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another!” 

There are many power structures: government, religion, financial, education, entertainment, etc. What happens to each of these as they become centralized? How many works of art have failed to be recognized because a centralized power structure has silenced innovative beauty in preference to pop art? How has knowledge been stunted because educational power systems have shut down healthy discourse? 

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

We were made for good but aren’t there yet. 

What guardrails need to be in place in our lives as individuals and within our society? “Pray for wisdom”, and do not doubt that God will grant it! 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy ( 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Love Pyramid - Part 2

Intimacy, Desire and Ability 

“Boys use emotional intimacy to get physical intimacy and girls use physical intimacy to get emotional intimacy.” The words I heard in college returned to me as I read about a Scandinavian study that showed how 16 year old girls’ self-esteem declined when in a sexual relationship; conversely, 16 year old boys’ self-esteem went up. It made sense. The girls were selling a part of themselves to have a need met, but the boys were discovering a need they weren’t even aware of being fulfilled. 

It also brought back to mind a book my future father-in-law handed me as I dated his daughter: “I Loved a Girl” by Walter Trobisch. Trobisch was an African pastor who brilliantly wrote about physical and emotional intimacy, using a triangle to illustrate the importance of balancing emotional and physical intimacy as a couple progresses in their relationship. I am so grateful for my father-in-law in general, and I especially appreciate him being bold and loving enough to share this book with me. It helped me understand what I want to share with you. 

The Love Pyramid takes the 2 dimensional illustration I learned from Pastor Trobisch and extends the depth of God’s Sovereignty. By 
“sovereignty” I mean: God is fully in control. He has the knowledge, ability, and is the very embodiment of love. Understanding love is foundational to understanding the Love Pyramid. Love is Who God is and who we were made to be. I won’t rehash what I wrote previously, but I encourage you read it for context. 

There are four corners to the Love Pyramid that lead toward Oneness: 

1. Emotional Intimacy 

2. Physical Intimacy 

3. Desire for Commitment 

4. Ability to Commit 

Love is a decision accompanied by many feelings. The loving, romantic relationship God created for a man and wife is filled with all those feelings, feelings that hit us on so many levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Because God is good, love is good, and He made the union of man and wife to be a wonderful kaleidoscope of positive feelings. Jesus told us that a man would leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; that the two would become one flesh. This oneness that God created for marriage is symbolic of the oneness that He desires for each of us. Without going into the many details, it’s precisely because of the beauty of this gift of loving oneness that the enemy has perverted it, using a bait and switch technique to pull us away from God’s best into something that is bent and twisted out of shape. 

God’s desire for us is to grow in oneness together, so it’s easy to understand how someone’s desire for commitment is painful when left unfulfilled. We can also easily understand how our desire for emotional intimacy can sometimes lead to compromises when this good need is left unfulfilled. Reflecting on the 16 year olds in sexual relationships, boys are often vilified their actions, but if we’re completely honest both genders in this scenario are using each other. Both are seeking their own needs over the needs of the other. God created us for both emotional and physical intimacy, but using another person to have one or both of those needs met is not love

Love is enduring and involves commitment. But is it enough if both people have a strong and equal desire to be in a life-long, committed relationship and they both determine to do what is best for the other one? That sounds like love, right? But can it lead to the oneness that God desires for us? 

If both the Lover and the Beloved don’t have the ability to commit, their commitment is limited. Some examples include: very young couples without an ability to financially support themselves or the children that will eventually arrive; a prior commitment to love someone else; a physical constraint such as imprisonment; etc. Any number of other examples can illustrate this point: without the ability to commit, it is pointless and even painful if all the other corners of the pyramid want to soar to the top but the ability to commit is just not there. In such situations, allowing the relationship to progress is short-sighted. If God has you in those circumstances, then it’s important to join Him where you are and not to dwell on the impossible possibilities. This ability to commit in love is where God’s Sovereignty really comes into play. We are in a in a place where He has put us, and we can choose to trust Him or choose to take things into our own hands. 

Looking again at the pyramid we can envision another scenario, where someone has the ability but lacks any desire to commit. In this case they may lack love and may not be living as they were intended to be. They could be losing out on one of God’s greatest gifts for those who were created in His image. 

I encourage you to look at the two images I’ve included and to reflect upon them. Think about the impact of pushing up on one corner of the pyramid when others are stationary. Consider how this applies to either your current situation or past experience then reflect about how this illustration may be helpful for either yourself or to others in your life. I intentionally tried to be concise, but I could easily write a book about this and still not cover it completely. If you have questions or something you’d like to discuss, reach out to “mitch” at “”. 

copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Love Pyramid - Part 1

The Foundation of Love 

Some of the best things in life are easy to understand but hard to implement, and when the simple things get difficult, our tendency is to over-complicate the simple. Love is a great example. It is both a decision and a feeling, and because it is often made up of such conflicting desires, people sometimes give up on understanding and refer to it as a great mystery of life. 

There are seven Greek words for love and three Hebrew words, but we only need to be focused on divine love. Paul wrote about this kind of divine unconditional love that is often quoted at marriage ceremonies: 
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. 
Love as described above is truly divine, and it doesn’t come easily for us; however, it is possible when we can look to a visible model of that love. Tragically, some people have never seen love modeled for them, and if any of us look to a human being as our model of love, we will be disappointed because imperfect people love others imperfectly. John the Apostle gives us hope as he tells us that God’s demonstration of love enables and inspires us to reflect His love. 
We love because God loved us first. 
Love is simple; it is a decision to give of oneself to another. We were created to love and to be loved, and because it is part of who we were created to be, we are filled with so many good feelings when we choose to give of ourselves and love someone else. But our feelings can be misleading, and therefore we need to be cautious to not be led by our emotions even if we are often rewarded by them. 

We are filled with so many conflicting desires and seeking to fulfill those desires ironically leaves us strangely unsatisfied with an ever pressing need to fill that growing emptiness. It’s like eating food that is nutrient deprived. Feeding our appetite never satisfies so we eat increasingly larger servings. It is also like a drowning person who in their panic for air is likely to drown any potential savior. This is the nature of lust, which desires nothing more than to receive. It is passion without reason, emotions that promise an empty reward. 

Understanding the nature of love is easy, but our desires make it hard for us to live a life of love. It’s easier to say we can’t understand love than to admit that we don’t feel like loving, and so we complicate love. Understanding this foundation of love is essential to understanding the Love Pyramid that I’ll describe in a future blog. If we grasp this foundational understanding of love, it changes our concept of God, His love for us and all the structures of religion. These structures fall away as unnecessarily complicated rules once we understand that they only implementations of love. There is no need for rules when we love as we were made to love. (see Mark 12:28-34
“Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true.” 
copyright ©2020 Mitchell Malloy (