Thursday, May 23, 2013


total-depravity-pinot-noir-2007.jpg (563×713)

As we said earlier, the T in TULIP stands for total depravity.  This means that the nature of man was changed by the sin of Adam so that we became unable to make good decisions in our lives. 

Therefore, according to this concept, God has to give us the will to act before we can come to Him.  He has to give us the faith before we can come to Him.  He has to show us we are selected for salvation by some subjective experience so that we can know we are chosen for salvation.  This concept was developed by Augustine.  Here is part of his argument taken from: THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARY COLLECTIONS; THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS;FIRST SERIES, VOLUME 3;by Philip Schaff, editor; TRANSLATED BY PROFESSOR J F. SHAW, LONDONDERRY.
Thence, after his sin, he was driven into exile, and by his sin the whole race of which he was the root was corrupted in him, and thereby subjected to the penalty of death. And so it happens that all descended from him, and from the woman who had led him into sin, and was condemned at the same time with him, — being the offspring of carnal lust on which the same punishment of disobedience was visited, — were tainted with the original sin, and were by it drawn through divers errors and sufferings into that last and endless punishment which they suffer in common with the fallen angels, their corrupters and masters, and the partakers of their doom. And thus “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” By “the world” the apostle, of course, means in this place the whole human race.

            But this part of the human race to which God has promised pardon and a share in His eternal kingdom, can they be restored through the merit of their own works? God forbid. For what good work can a lost man perform, except so far as he has been delivered from perdition? Can they do anything by the free determination of their own will? Again I say, God forbid. For it was by the evil use of his free-will that man destroyed both it and himself. For, as a man who kills himself must, of course, be alive when he kills himself, but after he has killed himself ceases to live, and cannot restore himself to life; so, when man by his own free-will sinned, then sin being victorious over him, the freedom of his will was lost. “For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” This is the judgment of the Apostle Peter. And as it is certainly true, what kind of liberty, I ask, can the bond-slave possess, except when it pleases him to sin? For he is freely in bondage who does with pleasure the will of his master. Accordingly, he who is the servant of sin is free to sin. And hence he will not be free to do right, until, being freed from sin, he shall begin to be the servant of righteousness. And this is true liberty, for he has pleasure in the righteous deed; and it is at the same time a holy bondage, for he is obedient to the will of God. But whence comes this liberty to do right to the man who is in bondage and sold under sin, except he be redeemed by Him who has said, “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?” And before this redemption is wrought in a man, when he is not yet free to do what is right, how can he talk of the freedom of his will and his good works, except he be inflated by that foolish pride of boasting which the apostle restrains when he says, “By grace are ye saved, through faith.”

            And lest men should arrogate to themselves the merit of their own faith at least, not understanding that this too is the gift of God, this same apostle, who says in another place that he had “obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful,” here also adds: “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” And test it should be thought that good works will be wanting in those who believe, he adds further: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We shall be made truly free, then, when God fashions us, that is, forms and creases us anew, not as men — for He has done that already — but as good men, which His grace is now doing, that we may be a new creation in Christ Jesus, according as it is said: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” For God had already created his heart, so far as the physical structure of the human heart is concerned; but the psalmist prays for the renewal of the life which was still lingering in his heart.

            And further, should any one be inclined to boast, not indeed of his works, but of the freedom of his will, as if the first merit belonged to him, this very liberty of good action being given to him as a reward he had earned, let him listen to this same preacher of grace, when he says: “For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His own good pleasure;” and in another place: “So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Now as, undoubtedly, if a man is of the age to use his reason, he cannot believe, hope, love, unless he will to do so, nor obtain the prize of the high calling of God unless he voluntarily run for it; in what sense is it “not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” except that, as it is written, “the preparation of the heart is from the Lord?” Otherwise, if it is said, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” because it is of both, that is, both of the will of man and of the mercy of God, so that we are to understand the saying, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” as if it meant the will of man alone is not sufficient, if the mercy of God go not with it, — then it will follow that the mercy of God alone is not sufficient, if the will of man go not with it; and therefore, if we may rightly say, “it is not of man that willeth, but of God that showeth mercy,” because the will of man by itself is not enough, why may we not also rightly put it in the converse way: “It is not of God that showeth mercy, but of man that willeth,” because the mercy of God by itself does not suffice? Surely, if no Christian will dare to say this, “It is not of God that showeth mercy, but of man that willeth,” lest he should openly contradict the apostle, it follows that the true interpretation of the saying, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” is that the whole work belongs to God, who both makes the will of man righteous, and thus prepares it for assistance, and assists it when it is prepared. For the man’s righteousness of will precedes many of God’s gifts, but not all; and it must itself be included among those which it does not precede. We read in Holy Scripture, both that God’s mercy “shall meet me,” and that His mercy “shall follow me.” It goes before the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing to make his will effectual. Why are we taught to pray for our enemies, who are plainly unwilling to lead a holy life, unless that God may work willingness in them? And why are we ourselves taught to ask that may receive, unless that He who has created in us the wish, may Himself satisfy the wish We pray, then, for our enemies, that the mercy of God may prevent them, as it has prevented us: we pray for ourselves that His mercy may follow us.

            And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: “All our days are passed away in Thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told.” Of which wrath also Job says: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” He does not say it will come, but it “abideth on him.” For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: “We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. Wherefore the apostle says: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name “anger,” a word transferred by analogy from human emotions. But our being reconciled to God through a Mediator, and receiving the Holy Spirit, so that we who were enemies are made sons (“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”): this is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(end of excerpts from Augustine’s teaching)

While it is obvious that many of the conclusions that Augustine has drawn have a basis in scripture, it is important to notice that he makes God responsible for everything, even the operation of our human will.  This may take us away from what the scriptures teach us about personal responsibility and use of our free will.  Augustine says that even faith and the ability to exercise our free will are gifts from God.  In one sense this is true, because God created us in the beginning and gave us the capacity to make choices between good and evil.  But in making us able to choose between good and evil, God gave us personal responsibility for making the choices of life.  Here are three stories taken from my collection of articles for the NJP which illustrate this point.


Cain, Adam's oldest son, killed his brother Abel.  Cain was angry  because God accepted Abel's sacrifice of the best of his lambs, but God rejected Cain's sacrifice of some grain from his field.
God asked Cain, "Why are you angry? -- If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."  (Genesis 4:6-7, NKJ)
But Cain ignored God's advice, and killed his brother.  Cain became the father of an ungodly line of people who were all destroyed in the flood.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abel offered to God a pleasing sacrifice by faith.  (Heb 11:4)  Since faith comes by hearing God's word, (Rom 10:17) we know that God had told Cain and Abel that He wanted a sacrifice of the first and best of the lambs.  But apparently Cain thought it was not fair for him to have to offer a lamb since he was a grain farmer.  He brought what he believed was a proper offering and became angry when God did not accept his sacrifice.
Cain became a murderer by choice, and Abel became a saint by choice.  Today we should respect the witness of Abel, and offer God our lives as a living sacrifice, just as He has requested.  (Rom 12:1)
Cain showed that we cannot become sanctified by our own plan or our own works of righteousness.  God only accepts what is according to His will and commandment.  We should not think that we can substitute our own ideas for what God has clearly told us.
Some people seem to think that God should conform to their desires and to their opinions.  This must have been how Cain was thinking.  He chose rebellion and his anger controlled his actions so that he murdered his brother and was exiled from his family.
Today every person who knows the difference between good and evil is faced with the choice of obeying God for justification or rebelling against God for condemnation.  We choose whether to be a saint or a sinner.
Jesus died on the cross at Calvary to pay the price for every one's sins.  He took our terrible sins upon Himself and offered Himself as a sacrifice pleasing to his Father. (Isaiah 53)  Whoever believes in Jesus can become sanctified.  (John 3:14-18)
But we have a choice.  Some men love evil and are not willing to submit to the will of God.  God calls us by the message about His Son Jesus Christ to obey the gospel and offer our lives as a living sacrifice in His service.  Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  (Heb 5:9).
Jesus commanded that those who believed the gospel were to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.  (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38)  But some people believe that baptism is not needed for salvation, since salvation and sanctification is a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  However a real faith is one that submits to the will of God. 
We need to remember that Jesus is the one who commanded baptism.  Baptism is God's work; a demonstration of our faith in the atoning death of Jesus, a sharing in His burial, and a trusting in His resurrection. (Rom 6:3-6).  The submission of our will to God by our choice makes baptism of value.  (Colossians 2:12, 1 Peter 3:21). 
We must be careful not to rebel against God as Cain did, but show our faith in God as Abel who respected the commandment of God.  Abel obeyed God and was justified; Cain rebelled against God and was condemned.  What is your choice?  Saint or sinner?


God finished the creation in six days, looked it over, and said "It is very good." (Gen. 1:31)  He had made mankind in His own image, in the likeness of God.  Man was perfect in the day God created him.  God looked him over and said "It is very good."
But man did not remain good very long.  He chose to do as he pleased rather than obeying God who had made him. Adam and Eve were tempted by their human desires; things that looked good to them, things that appealed to their fleshly appetites, and the desire to exalt themselves. 
A little child born into the world today is like Adam and Eve in the beginning, perfect and innocent before God.  When that child becomes aware of good and evil and chooses to do evil, it is just like when Adam and Eve decided to eat the forbidden fruit.  Every person becomes a sinner by choice, and the bad choosing began with Adam and Eve.
Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  (Rom. 3:23; 5:12)  But Jesus came to redeem or buy back sinners into a perfect relationship with God like Adam had in the beginning. 
When we say that Jesus came to redeem us we admit that we had a good relationship with God before we became sinners, that is, when we were innocent little children.  To redeem means to buy back or to pay the ransom price.  This shows that we once belonged to God before we became sinners.  (1 Peter 1:17-25)
Jesus told His disciples to allow little children to come to Him, because of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Obviously He would not have said this if little children are sinners. 
James, brother of our Lord Jesus, said this about sin; "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire and enticed.  Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fullgrown, brings forth death." (James 1:13-15, NKJ)
John, best friend and apostle of Jesus, said this, "Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lusts of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NKJ)
We became sinners by choice when we learned the knowledge of good and evil and chose to do evil.  We can become children of God when we choose to accept the redemption of the blood of Christ through the gospel. 
A sinner who hears the gospel is both able to believe it and obey it, because God never asks us to do anything impossible.  No man has to wait on God for his salvation, but he must accept the free gift of salvation that is in Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16)

Augustine’s concept of total depravity expresses the idea that man can not make a choice to receive salvation.  But the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus died so that who ever believes may have salvation.  The gospel is to be preached to every person, and the one who believes will be saved.  God is not a respecter of persons, but is willing that everyone be saved.  The gospel is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.  God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 
But the idea of total depravity denies man’s ability by his free will to understand that he is a sinner, to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, to repent of sins, and to decide that he wants to obey the gospel.  However, in recognition of the need for man to show in some way that God has chosen them for salvation, followers of Augustine have developed the sinner’s prayer response where a statement is made accepting Christ as savior. 
But Jesus said that repentance and remission of sins should be preached beginning at Jerusalem.  And Peter stood in Jerusalem and clearly stated that those who desire salvation should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins.  Acts 2:38 is in the Bible, along with Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-19, and many other scriptures teaching the importance of baptism as a decision of man’s free will to come to Christ and be united with Him by obeying the gospel.  Ridicule of those who refer to these passages as teachers of water regeneration is usually not justified.   

God put those scriptures in the Bible to be believed and obeyed.  But since Augustine and Calvin taught that a man who is totally depraved cannot make a good decision by his own human will, you will not hear a true Calvinist teaching that we accept Jesus as savior by repentance and baptism.  The Bible does teach that each person has the responsibility, when they hear the gospel, to believe and to come to Jesus for salvation.
Thousands attended the televised funeral in Paducah, Ky, Dec 5, 1997, of three Heath High School students who were gunned down by a classmate this week.  According to reports, Michael Cameal shot his fellow students as they finished praying in the school lobby.  Five others were wounded, including Missy Jenkins, who was left paralyzed from the waist down.
This is not the first time this year that a student has gone on a berserk rampage against his fellow students.  We must wonder what would possess someone to cause them to do such a terrible deed.  Is the individual responsible, or is society to blame?  A thoughtful study will lead to the conclusion that both the individual and society are to blame. 
When young people have been taught that it is not politically correct to pray in the school, and when a District Federal Judge orders that boards of education pass resolutions discouraging voluntary prayer, we should not be surprised when someone decides that attacking a prayer group would get them recognition.
And when the movies seen by our youth, and the video games they play, portray endless violence against people, we should not be surprised that we have those among us whose conscience does not work properly. 
Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, warned about the result of rejecting God and trusting in human wisdom.  He says that “Professing to be wise, they became fools,”  --- “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
And then it reads like today’s newspapers and television shows:  “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;  who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”  (Romans 1:21-32, NKJ)
We conclude that these things happen because individuals have rejected the knowledge that is of God and from God, revealed in the Bible and the history of the world.  Rejecting God’s truth, they decided to promote humanism, which is nothing more than a modern form of idolatry, the worship of mankind.
When people grow up in such a wicked environment as exists in the USA today, the preceding generations have to bear some responsibility.  God is merciful, but He does not overlook sin and rebellion.  As He said to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." Exod 34:6-7,  NKJ)
People are not wicked just because they have been born into a sinful world; they are wicked by their own choice.  But evil influence is passed from generation to generation, and it multiplies if the righteous do not take a stand against sin.  There is a battle going on, and all of us are on one side or the other, good or evil.  Thank God that the students at Heath High School are determined to continue their prayers at the beginning of the school day.  They can make a difference in our society.  Faith in God will deliver us from bondage to sin. 
Just as Michael Cameal made the choice to kill his fellow students, he could make the choice to turn to Christ and be forgiven.  God is willing for all who will to come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.  No one is excluded from His invitation. 

The Bible has too much to say about personal responsibility before God for us to try to hide behind the sins of Adam.  We sin in the same way Adam sinned, and we were created in the beginning capable of sin and accountable before God.  God gave law to demonstrate the accountability of mankind, and God will not overlook evil.  But He has provided the perfect solution for sin through Jesus Christ.  We have to use our human will to turn to Jesus through faith.  God does not force His salvation upon anyone.


  1. An error Calvinists make is thinking that faith is the gift spoken about in Ephesians 2:8-9. A plain reading of that verse shows that it's salvation, not faith that's the gift.

    "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast."

    First ask yourself, "When Paul wrote 'it is not from works' what was he talking about? In the context of his message we know that he was saying salvation is not from works. If Paul was saying salvation is not from works then we just need to back up and we see that salvation is the gift. As Paul wrote and you pointed out, "faith comes by hearing the Word of God."

    Another error is the belief, "MEN ARE NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS..." While that statement is true on it's face, their error is that they think that good works have nothing to with salvation at all. I'll come back to that but I first want to point out how Faith Only-ists underestimate the importance of context in scripture. In context Paul is addressing the issue of trying to obtain salvation by keeping the Law of Moses when he says "saved by faith and not by works" and he was not addressing good works, obedience to Jesus or faithfulness to Jesus. In (for example) Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul was speaking of circumcision when he wrote "not from works", not obedience to the Lord.

    In the parables that Jesus told in Matthew 25 those who were blessed were those who did the Lord's will and had faith. In the last parable specifically it was those who did good works who were saved. (For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’)

  2. Thanks, Steve. Please take a look at Steve's blog