CALVINISM: TOTAL DEPRAVITY
DISCLAIMER: The material in this article may offend those with other viewpoints. This article is not meant to offend or cause any emotional harm to anybody. I have written this piece to both share my experiences with this topic and to hopefully help others who are interested in this doctrine. And if you'd like to make the most of this article, go grab your dusty Bible under that lamp and follow along. May you be blessed in reading this as I did in writing it.
Hopefully you are here to be encouraged and to read upon a subject with open eyes. If you're just here because you hate Calvinism and want to be negative, please stop right there. This isn't an article written to be offensive, self-justifying, or even written to debate a topic. Not only am I completely interested in this matter, but I want to write out all of my thoughts so that it may help somebody who may be struggling with this. Personally, I struggled with this doctrine for over two years. Not only the Doctrines of Grace (also known as Calvinism), but with each subject inside the acronym TULIP. So come on in and enjoy the richness of Scripture and be encouraged. So let's begin by defining the acronym TULIP. Then I'll tell you how I came to believe in this doctrine.
ACRONYM TULIP stands for:
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irrisistable Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints
I once held that we as free agents of God's creation were created with the complete freedom to choose God or not...to live for Him or live for ourselves and the world. I used to work in a church, as a janitor, with another guy. We would work together every Saturday, cleaning the stairwells and glass of the church. During this time we would debate the topics of predestination, freewill, and God's foreordained will. Even though we were on completely different wave-lengths, we would have a great time debating the issues. During those two years we never came to a compromise. I was never able to convince him of my viewpoint, neither was he to convince me. So after two years of working together, I moved out of state.
I met a girl and we discussed the topic often. I continued to tell her how stupid people must be to think that we don't have freewill. Obviously I have freewill. Watch me choose to get drunk or choose to not get drunk. It was so plain, wasn't it?
So after the girl of my dreams and I got engaged I wanted to clearly show her that Calvinists were one fry short of a happy meal, so I pulled her over to the couch, grabbed my Bible, and opened up a bunch of passages. Pointing to Ephesians chapter one, I said, "This is one of the many passages of Scripture that Calvinists use to prove that God predestined some for salvation and left others to be themselves." Then I moved my finger over to Romans 9:16 which says, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." What happened next surprised both of us. As I was reading this passage and saying how stupid Calvinists were I turned to her and said, "I think I believe this."
My whole world spun. I didn't know what to do. One moment I'm fighting against a belief system that I thought prevented God from being loving and keeping me from being in control. The next minute I'm sitting there, stupefied; pondering the fact that I can't help but believe. It was right there in front of my face. It (my salvation) didn't depend upon my will or works, but upon God. There it was. Plain. Clear. I was changed.
* Thanks, by the way, for making it this far in this article!
That was about 5 years ago. Now I have studied the subject where I have tears thinking about how gracious God has been to me through this doctrine. I can't help but rejoice thinking that I had nothing to do with my salvation. I'm so glad I had nothing to do with it. I know I wouldn't choose God if I had the option. None of us would. And that brings us to the first concern of Calvinism: total depravity.
Most Christians would agree with total depravity. But some wouldn't take it as far as Scripture does. So let's first define it so we're all on the same playing level and not excusing ourselves because of semantics. What I mean by total depravity is man's most natural condition apart from any exerting grace upon him/her. We understand that man is not as evil or sinful as he could be. But that, we believe, is because of God's restraining grace upon each man/woman. So understanding that even though man is not as evil as he could be, but is restrained by God's grace, then even man's virtue is corrupt and not owing to himself. Therefore total depravity is total for a number of reasons:
1. Man's rebellion against God is total.
If God's grace did not keep us from comtinuing in a pattern of sin farther and farther down into the depths of sin itself, we would be worse than Hitler. We would destory everything in sight. We would not only deny God, but hate Him to the core. We would do everything in our finite power to conquer Him and rule as our own gods. The totality of man's rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9-10 and 18. "I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one seeks for God....There is no fear of God before their eyes."
2. In man's total rebellion, everything he does is sin.
Becuase we are corrupted in the very nature of ourselves, we are unable to do any good. Yeah, some people do good works here and there, but in God's eyes, those are evil works. Scripture teaches that, "for whatever does not procede from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23b). This faith is a faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, God, and Treasure. We cannot be truly saved without this faith. And if we are not saved, then we do not have this faith. This results in us not being able to not sin. This is hard to imagine, but we were made not for ourselves, but for the One who made us. He created us to worship Him, to love Him, to enjoy Him. And if that is not at the center of our beings when we give all our money away to help feed children in Africa, then what we commit is sin. It's all about the heart. It all starts with the motives and the faith we have. If we have none, we produce nothing truly good.
3. Man's inability to submit to God is total.
Man is completely and totally unable to submit to God (see next paragraph). Even through a prayer. God must do it all (we'll get to this later). Romans 8:7-8 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." See...our natural minds and thoughts cannot submit to God because we are totally depraved at our natural level.
Man is completely and totally unable to submit to God because he will not. Our total inability is due to our total unwillingness. We are corrupt. We will not submit. And nobody can make us. Our very desires are against God. Until He changes our inner being. Then our desires change.
4. Because of our total rebellion, we are deserving of total punishment: hell.
God is holy, just, infinitely worthy of our praise and adoration, but we continue in our sin, totally. And because of this we deserve a punishment that fits the crime. We have lived lives of complete rebellion against an infinitely worthy Judge, so we deserve infinite retribution. Hell is where we will go if we continue in this total insurrection. God will judge us perfectly.
God says that we are under His wrath if we continue in unbelief. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." - John 3:36. And here, "we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." - Ephesian 2:3. And here, "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." - Romans 5:9.
OUR JUDGMENT: HELL
God is serious about hating sin. He is urgent in dispensing justice where justice is due. And we all deserve hell. That's the thing. Some people will claim that this is not fair. That we are trying to be good people, but that's not true. Ever since we were born we were not taught how to be bad, we had ot be taught to do good. It's in our nature to be bad. It's in our nature to do evil. And that's why we all deserve this eternal punishment. What's not fair is that God actually provided a way to be saved. That's the unfair part. Anyone want to protest that? Hopefully you will put some deep thought into understanding that hell will be poured out on all who continue in their total depravity. Here are a few verses to solidify this truth:
- 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9
- Matthew 5:29f; 10:28; 13:49f; 18:8f; 25:46;
- Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10
Okay, so many of you may say, like I did, that you have complete freewill to do whatever you desire. So you pick up a cup of water and dump it out, completely proving your thesis. But that proves nothing except that at a very small level you have freewill. But at a deeper level you know you do not. For example, at what trimester in your mother's womb did you decide to have those color eyes, or that color hair, or even what mother you would have? When did you decide that you would be born in the nation you were born in? I know I didn't choose that! So at some level you know that you don't have complete freewill. So why is it so hard to believe that you don't have freewill in the spiritual sense? You don't. And you can't prove that you do either. Scripture asks, "What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
'None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.'"
Please, I'm begging you, don't just push these thoughts aside. Don't just argue with what I've said. Just think about it. If you don't believe it, that's fine. All I'm asking is that you ponder it and find out if it's true or not. No harm in that. No need to backfire or write negative comments.
If we think of ourselves in any less light, we pronounce God's grace and kindness to us to be less than what it is. If we are the ones "saving" ourselves by choosing God, then we are in control of our destiny and God has limited Himself. If we claim that we are not totally depraved, God didn't do much of a miracle at all. And we can't call ourselves new creatures. We are just reformed creations. But that's not what the Bible says my friend, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" - 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.
I care about you, so whether you agree or disagree, I tried to show enough Scripture to help you understand what's the truth concerning this issue. You don't have to be a Calvinist to believe this doctrine. But you do have to believe this to be a Christian. How else are you going to love Jesus? You can't love a cure without knowing you have that disease. You would never appreciate Jesus if you didn't know that He took your hell for you. He took your eternal punishment on that cross.
Most people think that the Roman soldiers inflicted Jesus with horrible, physical pain and that's what God counted as payment for your sin. Although Jesus did receive the most excruciating physical pain that is unimaginable, he had a much worse torture. And it came from His own Father. But Jesus wanted it more than anything. He looked through that cross to the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). And God's will was to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10). So believe. Be saved today. He is willing to do it. You can't. He can.
"it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."
* If you were offended by this article, I am sorry, but it most likely wasn't me doing the offending. Jesus said that the truth will offend. In our modern day, people are do zealous about being seekers of the truth, but they never want to be people who have found the truth. Let's be people who find the truth and share it with others. We only have one life to live. Live it well...with eternity in mind.
* If you are personally struggling with issues of this kind, I would LOVE to be able to help in any way that I'm able. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are more than welcome!