A few of us were taught that “man’s most basic spiritual problem” is “the integrity of the Word,” which is not really a problem at all, but a blessing and a provision. What was really meant was that man’s basic problem is failing to believe that the Bible has integrity.
But there is a major downside to thinking that this is the basic spiritual problem of man, because it leads to the idea that the problem is one of ignorance. If a lack of knowledge of the integrity of Scripture is the problem, then knowledge is the solution. And if knowledge is the solution, then those with the most knowledge of the integrity of the Word are going to be in the best position to help others.
But those who think they are in possession of the most knowledge are also most likely to be puffed-up by that knowledge if they think that it is their special knowledge that gives them spiritual value. In a puffed-up state, they cannot truly edify others or lead them to Christ, whose burden is easy and whose yoke is light.
Actually, this whole situation has already been enacted in the Gnostic heresies of the first and second centuries. These people also believed that man’s basic spiritual problem was ignorance of a special body of knowledge necessary for salvation and immortality. And this was not a knowledge of the Savior and his work, but a knowledge of a complicated system of passwords and keys to ascend through the levels of heaven to “the One” (i.e., “God”).
The Bible says that man’s basic spiritual problem is sin, and the solution to this problem is not knowledge, but a person named Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his life in payment for that sin. Knowledge of him and his work on our behalf is important, but not as important as his personhood.
To be a part of the solution to the sin problem plaguing mankind, one needs enough knowledge to articulate the good news of Christ’s accomplishments, enough to introduce another person to the one who did the work for them, namely Jesus Christ. Introducing someone to Christ requires both knowledge and love, as well as a recognition that knowledge alone will not suffice to adequately represent this person named Jesus. Jesus said in John 13:35, by our love they will know we are his disciples. Many who know little, love much, and many who know much, love little.
By identifying man’s basic spiritual problem as sin and not ignorance, we are able to keep Jesus Christ at the center of all our efforts to lead others to the spiritual solution to their problems.
Man’s basic problem is neither intellectual, for which education is the answer, nor moral, for which moral training is the answer, nor emotional, for which love is the answer. Man’s basic problem is sin, and Jesus Christ is the only answer to that problem. That solved, man’s other problems can be handled in the best way. Without that problem solved, all attempts at perfecting man and improving society are doomed from the start, as thousands of years of human history attest.