Archive for the ‘total depravity’ Tag

Humanity Still Sucks   1 comment

The misconceptions surrounding the doctrine of man’s total inability (or total depravity) do not negate the implications of the doctrine.

(1) Because man is totally depraved, salvation is necessarily a supernatural phenomenon. Those who are “dead in their trespasses and sins” do not normally or naturally become alive in Christ. Many of us are not convinced of this. Our thinking goes somewhat like this:  If only the gospel were explained clearly enough, then anyone would turn to Christ for salvation. How do we explain the “failure” of Jesus to convert all but a few of His hearers? Intellectually, man is so affected by sin that a totally convincing argument will fall on deaf ears. The gospel is not logical to the lost, but foolishness:

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19-31).

While some people suppose we can reason the lost into heaven, there are others who believe that we can nag them into eternal life by breaking down their resistance to the point of surrender. That is why we play 29 stanzas of “Just As I Am” and plead with the lost. That is why some wives persist at trying to wear down their husbands with the message of salvation, over and over, sneaking in a tract here, setting up a meeting with the preacher there, and so on. Others will try to use emotions to scare unbelievers into a decision for Christ by threatening them with hell fire.

Do not misunderstand me! I am not saying that the gospel can’t be sloppily and haphazardly explained. We should make the message of salvation as clear as possible. We should address the whole person—intellect, emotions and will. But after we have done the best possible job of proclaiming the gospel, it is only God Who can bring a dead man to life. Salvation is a supernatural experience and we mere humans must not rely upon our own strength or devices. If people are to be saved, it must be because God has used us and our words. We remain continually be dependent upon Him for success in evangelism.

(2) Even children are totally depraved. I know that statistics reveal that most people are converted in their youth. A famous Southern Baptist study showed that 80% of all conversions take place before the 21st birthday. I’m not going to refute these figures. Yet, logically speaking, if we are born in sin and rebellion against God, children are just as dead as adults. They are no more inclined to trust in Christ than anyone else. Granted, they have not become hardened in their sins (1 Timothy 4:2), but they are no less dead. All that we have said above applies to children, as well as to adults.

Children, because their desire to please, will often go through the motions of conversion, but that does not save them. Children, like all others, must be convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). They must be born again. Unclear statements of faith, such as “having Jesus in your heart” often lead to professions without any concept of what salvation means.

(3) Because salvation is a supernatural matter, no one is ever too lost to be saved. Some people are far more aggressively opposed to the gospel than others. This leads us to conclude that an agnostic is more likely to be saved than an atheist, but who could have been more opposed to the gospel than Paul, who referred to himself as “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)? Salvation rests with the ability of God Whose power is infinite. No man is less dead than another. The most hardened and resistant sinner is no obstacle to the grace of God. No one is beyond God’s salvation.

(4) The bad news of total depravity is really the good news. The most difficult aspect of salvation is not getting man saved. I’ts in convincing him that he’s lost in the first place. After all, who needs to be saved who is not hopelessly lost? Total depravity means that man cannot save himself and must look to another for salvation. Christ came to the world to save sinners. He did not come to heal those who are well, but those who are sick (Mark 2:17). If you are lost in sin, there is hope, there is help, for Christ died to save sinners. When people come to the point of despair, realizing their own inability, it is also the point of hope, for where else would they look but to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and deliverance. Soft-soaping mankind’s total inability to save himself will not hasten the process of salvation, but probably will hinder it.

(5) We must be careful not to cushion the consequences of sin so as to minimize the desperate condition of the sinner. The prodigal son wised up to his situation in the pig pen, far from his father in a foreign land, eating the pods which were pig food. As much as that father loved his son, he realized that he would not be reconciled to him until he saw the folly of his ways. He had to be lost before he was found; he had to be dead before he could receive life (Luke 15:32). Many of us are tempted to build a pig pen in the back yard, trying to soften the blows of sin. While we must surely grieve at the sins of those we love, sometimes we must allow hard times to come upon them before they will recognize the seriousness.

(6) If man is totally unable to save himself or to contribute to it in any way, then all of the praise and glory for our conversion must go to God.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Perhaps it is in our prayers that we are most likely to confess the fact that our salvation is solely from God. As B. B. Warfield put it,

He who comes to God in prayer, comes not in a spirit of self-assertion, but in a spirit of trustful dependence. No one ever addressed God in prayer thus: “O God, thou knowest that I am the architect of my own fortunes and the determiner of my own destiny. Thou mayest indeed do something to help me in the securing of my purposes after I have determined upon them. But my heart is my own, and thou canst bend it. When I wish thy aid, I will call on thee for it. Meanwhile, thou must await my pleasure.” Men may reason somewhat like this; but that is not the way they pray.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Humanity is Responsible   Leave a comment

Humanity is totally depraved. We’re born in sin as a result of Adam’s original sin in the garden, but then we choose to disobey God whenever we have a choice in the matter. Even Christians fail God’s standard all the time. Humanity sucks, but we can’t use that as an excuse to sin. A truth as crucial as that of man’s depravity has many implications for Christians as well as non-believers, but it’s important to understand what it does NOT mean.

(1) Total depravity does not mean that man is as bad as he could be. The adjective “total” in the term “total depravity” does not mean 100% so that every man is completely corrupt, totally evil. In fact, some men are more wicked than others. This is why Luke 12:47-48, Matthew 10:15 and 11:21-24 provides for degrees of eternal punishment. During the great tribulation men will be given the liberty of pursuing their wicked desires without restraint (2 Thessalonians 2:6-10), until then, total depravity refers to the condition of man whereby every aspect of his nature—intellect, emotions, and will—have been tainted by sin. Not every molecule of bread is yeast, but yeast affects the whole loaf. Total depravity works in the same way.

(2) Total depravity is never intended to reinforce sinful psychological self-abuse. Many Christians fail to appreciate who they are in Christ. They demean themselves as unlovable and unworthy. We are unworthy of God’s grace—that is what makes it grace. Though we are worthy of condemnation, we are also divinely created and fashioned by God in the womb (Psalm 139:13). God valued man enough to send His Son to die for us, while yet sinners (Romans 5: 6-8). If we are true believers, we are in Christ, and He is in us. Every Christian has a spiritual gift which equips that saint for a function and calling within the body of Christ, the church (Romans 12:3-81 Corinthians 12:1). When the Christian is self-demeaning, he or she is depreciating the work of God. In my opinion, that’s a pretty serious sin. If you will remember, it was the steward who thought he had the least to offer his master who was inclined to be slothful with what he was given (Matthew 25:14-30).

(3) The doctrine of total depravity is never an excuse for sin in the life of any Christian. I’ve heard self-proclaimed Christians excuse the sin in their life with a flippant, “But I’m totally depraved; what did you expect from me?” The answer to such a statement is, “No, if you are a Christian, you are not totally depraved.” Paul wrote in Ephesians “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). That’s past tense. In Romans 6, Paul again addresses the subject of sin in the life of the Christian. The rhetorical question has been raised; “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1) Paul emphatically answers, “God forbid!” The reason that a Christian must not continue to live in sin is because he has died to sin:

Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:8-11).

Christians must leave the old life of sin behind to begin living a new lifestyle of righteousness. In Romans 7 tells us that a strong desire to shun sin and practice righteousness is still not enough to overcome sin’s influence in our lives. In Romans 8, we find that no Christian must live in sin because God, through His Son, has brought forgiveness, and through His Spirit, has brought power to live according to His righteous requirements.

Total depravity means that man will always choose to do evil, because that is his disposition. Since, in Christ, “old things passed away” and “new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we now are able to choose righteousness and flee evil because of God’s enablement. No Christian must sin because total depravity speaks of the condition of lost men and women.

We who were dead in sin are now alive in Christ, free from sin and forgiven of its penalties (Ephesians 2:1-10). We are presently being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Our lives are being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit enables us to comprehend spiritual realities (1 Corinthians 2:6-13). The Spirit of God gives us power to live according to His demands (Romans 8:1-4).

(4) Total depravity does not mean that an unsaved person has no choice to make, but it does mean that fallen man will always choose to go his own way rather than submit to God. Early in Romans, Paul demonstrates that all men are worthy of God’s eternal wrath, not just because Adam sinned, but because all men are given some revelation about God, which they must accept or reject, and, given this choice, men always choose to reject God. The lost must be confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ, for apart from a hearing of the word, men cannot be saved:

“Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)

All men are faced with the choice of submitting to God or rejecting Him, but man’s nature determines man’s decision. Man, in his lost state, has the same free will to become a Christian that a lion has to become a vegetarian. This is why salvation is always initiated by God and not by man:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. … For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, … (Philippians 1:6, 29).

(5) Man’s total inability in spiritual things does not mean that it is futile to proclaim the gospel to the lost. Man will never respond positively to the gospel in his own strength, but the Bible makes it clear that those who are saved have been the recipients of divine enlightenment and enablement.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. … And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 13:48; 16:14).

Because it is God Who saves men, we may proclaim the gospel boldly knowing that those whom He has chosen will be saved. And when we pray, we need not pray that men will have the intellectual ability to believe, or that their wills may be open to divine instruction, but that God will give them life, effectually call them, and draw them to Himself. If it is ultimately God Who saves men, then we can plead with Him for the souls of men, knowing His desire to save (1 Timothy 2:4), knowing He delights to answer our prayers (1 John 5:14-15), and knowing He is able to save any whom He chooses (Acts 9:1-22).

And even when men do not believe the message of the gospel, God is glorified by its proclamation:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Lest they see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:8-10).

In evangelism, as in every area of Christian living, we are never commanded to be successful, but only to be submissive to His will and obedient to His word.

The Libertarian Ideal

Voice, Exit and Post-Libertarianism

CRAIN'S COMMENTS

Social trends, economics, health and other depressing topics!

My Corner

Showcasing My Writing and Me

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Deep Thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool

WordDreams...

Jacqui Murray's

Steven Smith

The website of an aspiring author

thebibliophagist

a voracious reader. | a book blogger.

cupidcupid999

adventure, art, nature, travel, photography, wildlife - animals, and funny stuff

Republic-MainStreet

The Peaceful Revolution Liberate Main Street

%d bloggers like this: