In Romans 7, Paul describes the fearful dilemma of not being able to fully control what goes on inside of him. There is a war raging within between good and evil. He describes himself as a wretched man.
Richard Beck has said,
This notion of a duplex self appears to be a universal human experience. The rabbis, who likely informed Paul's analysis in Romans, speak of two competing impulses in the human heart. There is an evil impulse, the yezer ha-ra, which struggles against theyezer ha-tov, the impulse for good.[i]
It is a common dread to worry about our dark side. Paul asks who will deliver me from this body of death? Beck articulates the fear this way:
What if, someday, I can't fend off the monstrous impulse? We all know we are one act away from moving into danger. One mistake and I can go from "upright citizen" to "monster." We are generally successful at fighting off the monster, but we sense that the line between the abyss and me is paper-thin. Monsters, thus, are warnings and omens to remain eternally vigilant about both who we are and who we may become.[ii]
The time in which we grew up could be called the Age of Disenchantment. The modernists demystified the world with science to explain everything. Electric light keeps the darkness at bay. Insulated houses keep out most night noises. Deforestation and the domestication of the wild keep us far from feeling our vulnerability to the elements.
Not so with the ancients. They lived in an enchanted world where trees could conceivably clap their hands and mountains might sing songs of praise.
Psychology, biology and cosmology now explain everything… almost. Textbooks are good at appeasing our questions until someone starts levitating. We think that if we understand something, we can control it. We have an innate need to be in control and protect ourselves from fearful beasts.