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Total Depravity

Total Depravity is the first in the tulip acrostic of Calvinism, which by the way, was not developed by John Calvin.

Total depravity is one subject that does not have to look far and wide for, to find evidence of, its existence.  Tangible evidences abound all around us.

Total depravity is misunderstood by many; in fact, some believe it is sent by Satan.

Total depravity is denied by many; in fact, it is called a disease; it is not called by its proper name, sin.

Total depravity is denied by others who try to confuse and deceive by saying it is not absolute.  Their reasoning is: All parts of all men’s natures demonstrate some good.  And since all parts demonstrate some sin then we are able to say that man is totally depraved.  But, man is not absolutely, thoroughly depraved, and is able to feel good about his ability to do some good works.  My question to this reasoning is: “What part of ‘total depravity’ do you not understand?”

Depravity means corruption, wickedness, innate evil of unregenerate man!  To add the adjective total should leave no doubt as to the truth that there is no good whatsoever in the unregenerate.  On the basis of the clear teaching of Scripture in Jer. 17:9, Ps. 14, Romans 3:10-18 and Romans 7:18, our Heidelberg Catechism asks: “Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?” and answers: “Indeed we are, except we are regenerated.”

Total depravity is denied by those who speak of “innocent” babies, much like the ancient Pelagians, who insisted that men learn to sin by seeing others sin.  They do not reckon with Ps. 51:5. These believe that if we change the social conditions via housing, medical care, soup kitchens, education, etc. people would have good examples to imitate and as a result would be and do good.  It is true, that a baby does not sin in as many ways as an adult does since sin is performed according to degrees of self-esteem, and sin is relegated to a degree of circumstances dictated by environment and availability of many modern inventions.  Nevertheless, the unregenerate sins in everything he does.  Some simply do more than others.

Total depravity is also denied by those who believe that God makes it possible for unregenerate persons to do some good.  He can, as the Arminian teaches, accept Christ as his Savior, for example. He can also maybe do some good for others by use of his talents and/or other tangible materials.

All of this necessarily leads us to ask, “What of a good work?” Our Heidelberg Catechism is quite clear when it states in question and answer 91 that a work is good only if it 1. proceeds from a true faith (which you recall is a “certain knowledge” that holds God’s word to be true, and an “assured confidence” that the Holy Spirit works by the gospel in man’s heart); 2. is “performed according to the law of God”; and 3. is done to “His glory” and not “founded on our imagination or the institutions of men.”

Total depravity is an important doctrine for God’s people.  If we do not believe it, we cannot believe the truth of the sovereignty of God.  We then could also have no comfort in or assurance of our salvation.  Hold fast to this doctrine of Total Depravity, understand that you have been delivered from that total depravity by your Savior’s death, and by grace live a life of gratitude to Him for that deliverance from total depravity