[Programing note: There will be no The Squirrel Can Cook this week, as it is just too hot to cook. Deo Valenti, The Squirrel Can Cook will return next Friday]
Returning to our examination of the doctrines of Calvinism, I would like now to turn to the doctrines themselves. It is difficult to deal with each doctrine separately, as they are all intimately woven together, so there will be some crossover with the other doctrines as we deal with each.
I have come to the conclusion that people who reject the Doctrines of Grace usually do so for a combination of two reasons: 1) an inflated view of man and 2) an insufficient view of God. They fail to grasp just how totally sinful man is and just how absolutely sovereign God is.
The TULIP begins where we must begin, with the Total Depravity of Man. While most people who reject Calvinism point at the doctrine of limited atonement as the point they disagree with most, a little digging shows that it is an inadequate understanding of man’s total depravity that is really the issue. Because if our starting point is a failure to recognize just all sinful man is, and how debilitating to man that sin is, we will fail to understand how difficult saving man really is.
Totally Depraved | Humans are corrupt throughout | Not "bad as can be" – TurretinFan
Most people misunderstand what is meant by that term “total depravity.” And, truthfully, depravity is not the clearest word that could be used. John Macarthur refers instead to man’s total inability; because the Bible tells us that man, in his natural state, is unable to seek God, obey God, or to please God in any way. “Depravity” is not the best choice of words, because when we hear the word “depraved” we think of the worst of offenders; mass murderers, child molesters, concentration camp guards, telemarketers, and the like. We don’t think of ourselves as “depraved.” And, in a sense we are correct (I hope none of my readers are a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Pol Pot.) But, in the theological sense, we are all depraved. Total Depravity does not say that men are as bad as they could be. What it does say is that every part of man is tainted and corrupted by sin.
Cloud defines total depravity this way: “Man is totally corrupt and dead in his sin so that he cannot even respond to the gospel unless God sovereignly enables him, which only happens if he is one of the elect. God not only must enable the dead sinner, but must sovereignly regenerate him and give him the gift of faith.” This is a fairly concise definition, as far as it goes. Mr. Cloud does not address the Calvinist position that man is responsible for his own sin.
The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way: “By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body… From this original corruption, hereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”
So what is the scriptural support for this doctrine? While there are many passages that allude to the doctrine of total depravity, Romans 3: 10-18 is surely high on the list.
“…as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS"; "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." (Romans 3:10-18 NASB)
In these eight verses, Paul quotes from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Psalms to show that all mankind is sinful without exception. He sums it up quite clearly in Romans 3:23 when he writes, “for all have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God.” Note that Paul, and conversely the Old Testament prophets, say that there is no one who does good and there is no one who seeks after God. Humanity is so unable to please God that the Bible calls mankind “spiritually dead.”
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1-2 NASB)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but dead people very rarely do anything for themselves. Like, NEVER! A funeral home attendant, while preparing to a body for burial, does not set a pile of clothes down and ask the corpse to get dressed. Just as those who are physically dead are physically helpless, the spiritually dead are spiritually helpless. As Paul says, in Romans 8:6-7, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,” we are, by nature, hostile towards God.
This is not to say that man does not have choices, just that man’s choices are not free. We will not, on our own, choose to do good, or to follow God any more than a lion would choose a pile of bananas over a steaming pile of fresh meat. It is not in his nature.
I hear the questions, because I’ve heard them before, “What do you mean, ‘none who does good?’ Lots of people do good! Feeding the poor; helping little old ladies across the street; supporting the symphony, are these things not good?” I’ll let Isaiah answer that one…
“…all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…” – Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)
The literal translation of “filthy garment” (“filthy rags” in the KJV) is “used menstrual cloth,” an undeniably disgusting image. And Isaiah says that that is the value of our righteous deeds! How much more ugly are our unrighteous deeds? But we can see that what we see as good the Bible describes as truly worthless and disgusting in God’s sight. In even the best things that we do there is an element of pride and self-righteousness. Every thought that we have, and every action that we take, is not free from the taint of sin.
It is reported that John Bunyan said that there was enough sin in the best prayer that he ever prayed to damn the whole world. That is the essence of Total Depravity.