Evil people

From the sermon on the Mount:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Here is a classic prooftext for the doctrine of universal human depravity…

Supposedly, Jesus is dealing here with self-righteous people. How can Jesus, therefore, expect them to follow an argument which demands, as a premise, that they acknowledge that they are evil? One would think that Jesus would need to produce arguments that prove to them that they are evil, rather than appealing to their evilness as a common understanding.

And yet these evil people, according to Jesus, can do good things–they can give good gifts to their children. Isn’t this contradictory? Did he really mean to say that they give tainted gifts to their children? Seems not. Evil people give good gifts.

They why claim that the Sermon on the Mount is impossible to follow? Why shouldn’t Jesus be expected to give the same latitude to someone who refuses to look lustfully after a woman or who fasts in secret rather than in public that he gives in the Sermon itself to parents who give gifts to his children? If evil people can give good gifts to their children there is no reason, in principle, that they can’t pray for those who persecute them.

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