TURNED ASIDE AND BECOME CORRUPT
by Wayne S. Walker
"Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt. There is none who does good, no, not one" (Psalm 53:3). The basic theme of Psalm 53 is the folly of the godless, and it begins with the familiar words, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good" (verse 1). The modern atheist absolutely hates this statement because he thinks of himself as the epitome of sophisticated wisdom, but the sad record of atheism, at least in the history of western civilization, bears evidence to the truthfulness of the observation.
It is in this context that David then says, "God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God" (verse 2). Not all people are atheists, but all responsible people live like those who say, "There is no God," at least one time or another because all have sinned, as Paul notes in Romans 3:23. Sin is basically a rejection of God and His way, whether in a single act or in a general lifestyle. In fact, Paul had earlier used Psalm 53:3 (or its parallel passage of Psalm 14:3) in a string of quotations from the Old Testament to give book, chapter, and verse(s) to his assertion. "They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12).
Of course, these passages do not explain why all have turned aside and become corrupt. The Calvinist argues that it is because we are born with a sinful nature, having inherited "original sin" from Adam, and thus cannot help it. The Bible does not teach this doctrine. Rather, it says, "Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). In other words, sin is something that we choose to do, not something that we just happen to have or get (cf. 1 John 3:4). Thus, because all responsible beings have chosen to sin, there is a sense in which all have turned aside and become corrupt.
Yes, human beings can do things that are good, even those who are in sin. However, no responsible person can do absolute good in and of himself and thus be saved on the basis of his absolute goodness. Any good the heathen or even the atheist might do in life is the result of whatever aspect of "the image of God" remains in him (Genesis 1:27). Yet, all of us have sinned, and this is why we shall not be saved by our own good works (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5). However, God’s grace offers justification from sin through the blood of Christ to those who trust Him (Romans 3:24-26). Therefore, because of the love and mercy of God, we, who have turned aside and become corrupt, can choose to do good in meeting God’s conditions for pardon, and thus receive His blessings.