In my post "Can You Trust Your Senses Or Your Logic?" I touched a bit on the Christian doctrine of the Depravity of Man. I explained that if this doctrine is misunderstood, then it leads to Christianity undermining the ability to apprehend truth. In this post, I want to go a little deeper and build a case for an understanding of the doctrine that does not compromise our ability to apprehend truth; that incorporates the effects of Original Sin on our ability to apprehend truth; and that makes clear that without recognizing God, the amount of truth that can be apprehended is severely limited.
When God created man, He created him "In our image". This is referred to as the Image of God.
The Image of God includes many attributes of man, but today I am going to focus on morality. God created man with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong; good and evil. Even though Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command in the Garden, man still has this ability (Rom 2:14-15). In the Garden, what changed when Adam and Eve rebelled was not man's ability to recognize good and evil, but his propensity to ignore it. Adam and Eve believed that they could live outside of God's law. They were promised that they would be like God, and that they would be able to determine good and evil, if they would act against God. Even though they were not granted those things, man still believes that he can get along without God or His laws and proceeds to ignore the truths that God has revealed. Man continues to do this because he so desires to be the measure of all things.
What changed in the Garden was man's attitude toward his Creator. God told Adam and Eve what was going to happen because of their rebellion. For instance, God predicts that the ground will be "cursed" because of them. God's basically saying that He has His way of doing things that He will reveal; but man, in his rebellion, will refuse God's instructions, and the land will not cooperate because it is not being treated the way God designed it to be treated (Gen 3:17-18).
Man still has the ability to find truth, but he has to work harder at it. Rather than just accepting what God has revealed, man must test, make excuse, and test, then make another excuse (on and on) because his prideful heart does not want to accept where the facts are leading him (back to his Creator). But, if man is to return to his Creator, he must submit to Him, and his prideful heart has a very hard time with that. Man likes the idea of being lord over himself, but when God is Lord, man must sacrifice all the pleasures of the flesh that pull him further from God. Paul discusses this struggle in Romans 7:7-25. Remember, Paul is speaking under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit- the struggle is there. God never promised that coming to Him would cause us to somehow avoid the struggle with our sin nature.
God created us with the ability to recognize truth when we see it. Sin did not remove this ability. If it did, Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) would not have penned the words "Test everything. Hold on to the good." (1 Thes 5:21) Nor would Isaiah have quoted God as saying "Come now, let us reason together," (Isa 1:18a). God would allow these things to be included in His Word if we could not trust the results of our testing and our reason.
When man recognizes where the facts are leading him, and proceeds to accept the lead, he is brought to realizing more truth. Until man recognizes that God is his Creator and he must submit to Him, man cannot recognize that God's standard of perfection is beyond what mere man can even hope to achieve. At that point, if man wants to restore his relationship with his Creator, he must be willing to accept the sacrifice that Jesus Christ offers and relinquish the control he longs to maintain over his own life.
Without recognizing God, man limits himself in the amount of truth he can find. When so much evidence points to God, and man refuses to accept it, he spends more time refuting the evidence or looking for counter-evidence than he does in finding more truth about the creation and the Creator (Rom 1:18-25). If man would just realize God's existence, he could make much more sense of the world he inhabits, and of the purpose for his existence.
In the Garden, God did not change (Mal 3:6); the laws of physics did not change (Jer 33:25), and man's ability to find truth did not change (1 Thes 5:21; Isa 1:18a). The only thing left is man's heart (Jer 17:9). If it is to be led back to its Creator, it must be guided carefully toward the Truth.
The contents of this post intertwine with my early post (Nature vs. Scripture). It goes more into man's tests and interpretation of those tests- just because you have the facts does not mean the you will interpret them correctly to find the truth.
For more information check out these articles:
The Physics of Sin by Dr. Hugh Ross
As Man Actually Is by Greg Koukl