Thomas Oden, on why we humans have messed up thoughts apart from God’s wisdom. [My thoughts are indented to the left and italicized.]:
Modern secular piety claims on the simple grounds of creation a natural relation with God unimpeded by sin.
Note: Catch that first sentence. Oden’s point is that the typical person today assumes that, if God exists, we’re all in a positive relationship with him, just because he created us. If we simply exist, God must be cool with us.
All privileges and immunities of unhampered goodness are imagined to be equally distributed as if without reference to any actual history of sin.
In other words, most people tend to think that how we’ve lived and what we’ve done or been doesn’t matter at all to God. Whether or not God has said he’s not cool with something doesn’t concern us. He must just keep feeling really affectionate towards us, cause that’s who he is, right?
The secular imagination posits that if I am basically good and getting ever better, and my self-interested passions are reliable guides, even if there might be a divine Giver or source, such [a God] would not reject me for any conceivable reason. Such is the diluted modern version of the teaching of adoption by nature, not grace.
By “adoption by nature” Oden means the idea that we’re “God’s children,” with the rights of family, just because we’re human.
The resulting fantasy is a God who can’t say no, who draws persons who never lack good intentions toward a Christ without a cross.
Conscience amid modernity has become so seared that we imagine we are welcomed by God while we are doing precisely what God disapproves, and remain determined to continue (Amos 5:23).
Christian teaching assumes the opposite: that the history we share with the first humans has come to a disastrous end – our own sin, tempted in all things. God as caring Abba, a central teaching of classical Christianity, has been diluted by a thinner modern version that denies the history of corrupted freedom and, in the interest of tolerance, romanticizes human innate goodness. This view promotes a distorted vision of the family of God, as if human creation had never actually fallen, so as to remove any need for rebirth from above.
Though modernity clings desperately to the belief that we are by nature children of God, classic Christianity remembers how deeply we are “by the nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). “By nature” implies choice. It is only by the grace of adoption that we become children of God “through faith.”
Adoption into the family of God implies turning completely away from the way that leads to death.