Defense of Total Depravity and its effects on the human will
Depravity means that sin has touched all of what a person is.
In the unbeliever this means that his intellect is now corrupted
by falsehood. His speech no longer brings glory to God. His
motives are selfish instead of pure. His character is stained
and corrupted. Furthermore, the doctrine of total depravity
does not teach that the person is as bad as he can be, or that
he always does the worst possible thing. Instead, it teaches
that all parts and passions of the person have been touched by
sin and are affected by sin. It means that our intellect is
corrupted, our speech does not glorify God, and that our motives
are not pure. This is because we are stained by sin and we are
flawed by its effect upon us.
- We can
recognize this fact by comparing ourselves to Jesus because He
exemplifies what it means to not be touched by sin.
intellect has no corruption. His speech always glorifies
God. His motives are always pure. His character is without
stain and completely flawless. How many of us would dare
say that the unregenerate, like Jesus, are able to equally
choose good and evil and make the right choices. Not I.
The truth is that we have all been touched by sin and Jesus
Himself teaches us that our natures are corrupt and fallen.
- Jesus said
of the unregenerate...
- in Mark
7:21-23 Jesus said, "For from within, out of the heart of
men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts,
murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as
well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and
foolishness. 23"All these evil things proceed from within
and defile the man."
15:19 He said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts,
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
slanders. 20"These are the things which defile the man."
John 8:34, "Jesus
answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who
commits sin is the slave of sin."
John 3:19, "And this
is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and
men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their
deeds were evil."
are their deeds evil? Because Jesus said, "Even so,
every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears
bad fruit. 18"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor
can a bad tree produce good fruit," (Matt. 7:17-18).
Jesus speaks of the nature of a thing. The nature of
the fallen is that he is sinful, completely touched by
sin in all that he is.
- Likewise the
Bible elsewhere says of the unregenerate...
Jer. 17:9, "The heart
is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who
can understand it?"
“There is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who
understands. There is none who seeks for God; 12All have
turned aside, together they have become useless; There is
none who does good, There is not even one.”
Rom. 7:18, "For I
know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good
Rom. 7:23, "but
I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war
against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the
law of sin which is in my members."
1 Cor. 2:14, "But a
natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God;
for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand
them, because they are spiritually appraised."
Eph. 2:1, "And you
were dead in your trespasses and sins."
Eph. 2:3, "Among
whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the
lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and
of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even
- Since God's
word declares that the unregenerate man has a deceitful heart,
does not do good, does not seek for God, cannot understand
spiritual things, has nothing good dwelling in him, is dead in
his sins, and is by nature a child of wrath, we maintain that he
is incapable of making a moral choice to decide to trust in
Christ on his own. We maintain that his will is also affected
by sin and, as the word of God says in Romans 6:14-20, he is a
slave of sin. This means that he is incapable of coming to God
on his own because he cannot and will not choose contrary to his
fallen and sinful nature. We see proof of this in the following
scriptures from Jesus.
6:44, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me
draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
John 6:65, Jesus said,
"For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to
Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."
no one can come to God without the Father drawing and
granting it to him, then the person is powerless to come
to God of his own free will.
Please consider this again. If the free will argument
is that the will of man is somehow neutral enough,
somehow uneffected by sin enough, that it can make a
choice between coming to God and not coming to God, then
it would not be powerless and the statement "no one can
come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the
Father," would not be true.
- Since the
unregenerate cannot come to God unless it has been granted to
Him to do so (John 6:65),
then it is logically necessary that it is God who is performing
the action and work of salvation in the individual. This means
that God is the one who predestines, God is the one who elects
and it also means that His election is not based upon looking
into the future to see who would pick Him because, as we have
seen, the Bible says the unregenerate's heart is deceitful (Jer.
17:9), that he does not seek for God (Rom.
3:10-12), that he is a slave of sin (John
8:34), and that he cannot understand spiritual things (1
Cor. 2:14). In other words, left to his own abilities which
are governed by his nature, He will never seek God. Why?
Because the Bible says that no one seeks for God on his own.
Rom. 3:10-12, “There
is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who
understands. There is none who seeks for God; 12All have turned
aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does
good, There is not even one.” Furthermore, in
Rom. 7:18, Paul says,
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me."
course, we know that Paul is not speaking about the Spirit
indwelling him, for the Spirit is good. Rather Paul is
speaking about his sinful nature. Therefore, if it is true
that the unregenerate can choose God out of His own free
will (which I do not believe), then we find something good
in that person, something that has made a good and wise
choice. Furthermore, it would mean that God finds some sort
of favor or merit in that person by which He then elects him
since God is basing His decision to elect because of a
quality and action in the individual. But, this would be
contradictory to what the Word of God has declared that
nothing good dwells in the unregenerate and that God is
impartial in His elective choice.
given the sinful nature of the unregenerate, it is not in the
will of the unsaved to be born again. It is not of the will of
man but of God since it is God who causes us to be born again.
Proof of this is found in the two following verses...
John 1:12-13, “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,
13who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God.”
1 Pet. 1:3,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again
to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead."
we can see that because of the sinful nature of the
unregenerate, because of the bondage of sin within him, because
his heart is full of evil, because He does not seek for God, God
must intervene and elect individuals lest none be found
redeemed. In other words, God, in His sovereignty, regenerates
the unregenerate giving them the ability to then desire God and
granting that they believe as Phil. 1:29 so clearly states. The
rest He lets go their natural way, to damnation.
- But then,
some will object in various ways.
First, some will say that God does not intervene in the
hearts of individuals so as to affect their choices. But
the fact is that the Scriptures declare that God does
Exodus 4:21, "And
the Lord said to Moses, 'When you go back to Egypt see
that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I
have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so
that he will not let the people go."
Yes, Pharaoh also hardened his own heart (Exodus
8:32, "But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time
also, and he did not let the people go."), but this
verse clearly teaches us that God also hardened
"But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to
pass through his land; for the Lord your God hardened
his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to
deliver him into your hand, as he is today."
1 Sam. 10:9,
“Then it happened when he turned his back to leave
Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came
about on that day.”
“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand
of the Lord. He turns it wherever He wishes.”
"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens
whom He desires."
Likewise, God also softens the hearts of people as is
declared in the following scriptures.
"Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart
to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear."
Jer. 24:7, "‘And I will give them a heart to know
Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people,
and I will be their God, for they will return to Me
with their whole heart."
some will say that God simply works a kind of prevenient
grace in a person that cooperates with the person enabling
him to choose God of his own free will. This prevenient
grace is said to be a grace given by God to an unbeliever
that woos the person and gently persuades the person, to
come to Christ. It is a "quickening, aiding and directing
of the energies of the free will of man" towards acceptance
of Christ as a Wesleyan pastor once said. But, of course,
the final decision is up to the individual.
where is this in scripture? Where does it say that God
helps a person believe by working grace into him?
If you say John 6:44 ("No one can come to Me, unless
the Father who sent Me draws him"), then you admit
that human nature is incapable of coming to God on
its own, thereby validating the truth of total
depravity and the inability of man to choose God
apart from God's regenerative work.
If you look to John 12:32 ('If I be lifted up from
the earth I will draw all men unto me;'), then "all"
here cannot mean every individual since there is no
other way to be saved but by the gospel of Jesus and
not all have heard that gospel of Christ.
some will ask how can God hold someone responsible for that
which he cannot help but do?
First of all, total depravity does not mean that men
cannot make choices. It says that their choices will
only be consistent with the nature of fallen man which,
we have seen from God's word, is fallen, a slave of sin,
full of evil, is incapable of understanding spiritual
things, and does not seek for God.
Second, if the claim that it is not right for a person
to be held responsible for doing only that which is
consistent with his nature would mean that the devil
himself is exempt from judgment since he also is only
following the dictates of his fallen nature.
- There is so
much more to say, but the simple truth is that God is in control
of salvation. It is He who predestines. It is He who elects.
It is He would guides the heart. It is He who grants that we
believe (Phil. 1:29) and causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3)
because the truth is that as fallen people, we will not be born
again of our own wills, but of God's will (John 1:13).
To God be the glory for saving any of us and He did save us
in spite of our bondage to sin, in spite of us never seeking for
God, doing no good, and not understanding spiritual things.
He saved us because of Jesus, for His glory, and by complete
grace, not grace based upon the decisions of man. Instead,
grace based on the decision of God.
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Copyright by Matthew
J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 2012
I welcome your comments via E-mail