Depravity, is it total?

In a recent discussion on Facebook with a few Calvinistic brethren of mine, we ran across the topic of Total Depravity. Here is a segment of that conversation wherein I discuss the Reformed view of this doctrine’s flaws.

Jared, your view of man’s depravity seems to be rather chaotic and confused. Much like Luther and Calvin’s views on the matter were. Especially Calvin.

I remember reading in the Institutes on several occasions where Calvin would say in one chapter that Man was unwilling to submit to Christ while in the next he would go on about how man was unable to submit to Christ. Which is it? It seems fashionable in Reformed doctrine to attempt to have both. To have your epistemic cake and eat it too. However this is not merely a mystery (the favored escape hatch of Calvinists when faced with the logical and philosophical paradoxes elicited by the conclusions of their theological system). Rather, such notions of man’s inability to do good is antithetical, or logically opposed to the notion that man is unwilling to do good.

And therein may lie another difficulty for us. For the good I speak of is good meritorious unto salvation. In that respect we can certainly make a case that no man seeks after God of their own accord. However we’ve thankfully also been shown that God, through the Holy Spirit, is at work in the world drawing all men unto Christ. So in the end, the Calvinist notion of no man seeking is only half true. The rest of the truth is that man has been given all he needs in order to “seek and ye shall find”. As such I completely reject the notion that I Corinthians 2:14 is a normative prescriptive statement regarding man’s noetic capabilities such that, apart from Christ, a man is wholly ignorant of all spiritual truths.

Regarding Matthew 7:11, the focus of the passage is on the father who gives the ultimately good gift of his son. The focus is on the giver, not the gift. This ought to be pretty plain since gifts cannot, in and of themselves, be either good or bad. It is the giver and their intentions in making the gift that determine the goodness or not of the gift. I would say that I am surprised that you attempted to avoid this relatively straightforward and simple teaching of Jesus but I must admit that I have come to expect theological contortions like this when one holds to a man-made theological system first and foremost as opposed to simply taking the text at it’s plain meaning.

What is a text’s plain meaning? I would argue that it is what someone, saved or not, would understand the author to have meant.

But therein probably lies another great gulf between us for I do not think one can make the honest case (without severe epistemic ramifications) that apart from Christ dwelling within us we can not know or be certain of our knowledge regarding any truths whatsoever.

Oh, and regarding the LBC, WMC, etc. I hate to tell you but none of them are Scripture. Further I would argue that they all suffer from the same philosophical short-sightedness in that they somehow manage to miss the glaring problem with evil, sin, and suffering they create by their view of God’s sovereignty and how all things that come to pass (including sin) were somehow ordained by God. You can cling to the notion of a greater good if you wish, but I would argue that the scores of people whose faith has been wrecked and destroyed by such a heinous view of God ought to be a clear warning that such a notion is not only logically and morally untenable, but that in practice the fruit it yields is far from serene comfort.

The fact is that God is not in league with what he claims to be waging war against (name sin, death, and hell).

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4 responses to “Depravity, is it total?

  1. Haha. Just like the media.

  2. I'll admit, it is easier to sound didactic and condescending like WLC when you divide up the convo.

  3. Radically Corrupt is preferable to Totally Depraved. It's about Salvation. It's ultimately about how we respond to God not to each other.

    Matt. 7:11 is the continuation of a sermon which begins in chapter 5. In which it "plainly" states, And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, …

    It stands to reason that this is a teaching moment for the disciples. They will be the seekers and knockers verse 7:7 speaks of. Many of the bystanders had no idea what He was even talking about because they were still hung up on "Love you enemies". They could not receive spiritual truth.

    In John's gospel (7:34) the Jews would unable to seek and find because they were blinded by the god of this world. (radically corrupt and dead in their sins)

    To your point, some Calvinists seem confused but I think it is unnecessary to slam the man himself. I'm thankful to God for using both Luther and Calvin to free the church from the dead religion it had become. The Reformed are always reforming as they gain greater insight into God's will through His word. It's a tight system.

    "The lost man cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can't find a police officer."

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