Are Criminals Born or Made?
This question has been under consideration for some time. Mostly by the cultural and intellectual elites of varying disciplines. The common man has tried to come up with answers to this query as well but most of us have settled for the answers from the above-mentioned intellectuals. Because of this, we have in effect taken for granted that the study of the human mind and human society are incapable of giving an answer to a question that evades their tools of investigation and explanation. So, where should we go to answer it? Well, we should go to the Christian worldview.
For the sake of clarity, breaking down this question into two concepts would be helpful to answer it without the studied ambiguity of the big up philosophers at our beloved universities. What this question is really asking is whether criminal behavior is an issue of human nature or human nurture.
Crime is a hot topic here in Trinidad and Tobago that engenders a host of opinions when it comes to the question of how to solve the problem, much of which comes from the field of psychology. Psychology’s answer to our question does not get us anywhere meaningful. Simply because it does not consult the final authority on matters such as the nature of human beings and the God who made them. So then, how does the bible answer this question?
Put simply, the bible answers the question with an emphatic ‘yes’. Criminal behavior comes about because of human nature and human nurture. However, one precedes the other. Let me explain. The existence of criminal behavior is based on the fact that all men are born that way, to begin with. Human beings are born into this world as criminals against the God of heaven because of Adam’s sin (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:3). Therefore, the problem with societal crime does not originate with man’s greed or hatred of others but man’s hatred of God and His righteous law (Romans 8:6-8). Let that sink in. Sin is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Sin is what happens when human beings reject God’s law and instead prefer a life of lawlessness. When Adam broke God’s command in the Garden of Eden, all of the human race was plunged into spiritual death and depravity, defiled in every part of our soul and body by sin (Romans 5:12). Whether it is the little white lie or gross acts of immoral criminal behavior of every sort, no one escapes the bible’s broad brush of human depravity. This is the fundamental nature of human beings that intellectual elites in their blindness avoid admitting but rather are comfortable creating excuses for human corruption.
It pleased God to have Adam represent mankind as the king over His creation. Adam’s guilty standing before God was imputed to all his posterity and his corrupted nature was naturally passed on through reproduction. For example, consider Cain’s murder of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). This corrupted nature is characterized by hostility to all things godly. It is against peace with God and neighbor, breaking and bending all human thought and action to impurity and delighting to do so. In short, the heart (mind) of man is deceitful and desperately wicked continually, the spring from where all immorality and lawlessness emerges (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 1:21).
This truth touches all of us. No one is righteous. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10-18, 23). Sinful corruption is the truth about human society. You know this is true because you experience it every day in your own soul and in your environment (1 John 1:8). As our sin comes out of our hearts and into our speech and actions, we automatically affect our social and physical environment as we live, producing a domino effect of even more sin as we interact with our environment. This is a dark and hopeless realization, that our lawlessness creates the perfect conditions for more lawlessness to occur (John 8:34, Romans 6: 23). Man is desperately in need of someone to run interference in this horrible cycle.
The conclusion we are coming to is that corrupt human nature taints human nurture with sin. This answers our question, criminals are born sinners, like the rest of us, transgressing God’s law ultimately and continuously as they break the civil law. Their environment plays a part in their criminal behavior, as it too is corrupted by the effects of sin brought to light in varying degrees. From poor parenting and family structure to keeping bad company, can affect an individual’s probability and propensity to engage in criminal behavior. But their social environment is not the main problem. It is the symptom of a deeper, more far-reaching problem that community programs, a good education, a therapist and the penal system cannot solve. At this juncture, let me make the issue very clear. You and I are no different to the criminal in God’s eyes. We also live in the same corrupt environment and possess a corrupt lawless nature like the criminal. The upstanding citizen and the low life criminal are both guilty before a holy God because of their sin.
For there to be any kind of remedy for human depravity, expressed through criminal behavior or otherwise, there must be a change in the hearts of men and women regarding our love to break God’s law. I mean a fundamental change, actually, more like a spiritual rebirth that only God can produce (John 3: 1-16). God has to rescue us because we cannot rescue ourselves from the cycle of sin (Romans 5:6-8, Ephesians 2:5). The good news is that God has indeed made a way for all of us as sinners to be saved from the guilt and corrupting effects of sin. This way is through the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Lord, and the Savior of men’s souls (John 14:6-7).
Jesus came into this world and lived an obedient human life in accordance with all God’s commands to procure a righteousness that could be given to men freely. He also came to take on Himself God’s just punishment that our sins deserve so that we could be forgiven before a holy God (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus Christ actually died on a cross, giving of Himself totally to save men from the just judgment of God. Forgiveness is not cheap. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving because He not only saves us from the penalty of sin but also gives us a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ezekiel 11:19). A new heart that loves God, His law and hates sin. This new heart loves to obey, relate to and please Him. God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day to show that all that He did on earth and on the cross was accepted, and now you and I can have our sins forgiven and be restored to right relationship with God (Colossians 1:19-20).
So, would you put your trust in Jesus Christ and what He did to be saved? If you have not as yet I encourage you to consider Christ Jesus, the only way you and I could be forgiven for our crimes against God.