Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tripping TULIP: Part 2 Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Here’s what GraceNET has to say: The Scriptures clearly teach that the effects of sin have extended to all parts of our being, rendering us incapable of spiritual understanding and love towards God. Despite the heading of this first article, it does not indicate that all people are as wicked as they could possibly be in all areas of belief and practice. However, sin has so fully and deeply affected our lives that, spiritually speaking, we are in a totally hopeless condition, unable to do anything to get ourselves out of this fallen state.

Our natural spiritual incapacity prevents us from being able to respond by our own strength to the call of the gospel message, yet this does not remove our guilt. We choose to follow the natural inclinations of our depraved hearts because when left to ourselves that is all we want to do.

Scripture references: Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30; John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44; John6:65; John 3:18.

My Initial Thoughts on TULIP’s Total Depravity: It is clear that mankind has become depraved. This happened when Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree Knowledge of Good and Evil. Gen 3 Previously mankind was in a state of innocence, but now we have gained the knowledge of good and evil. To prevent us from becoming like God in ourselves we were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and separated from the Tree of Life.

Gen 3:22-24
And Jehovah Elohim said, Behold, Man is become as one of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever...! Therefore Jehovah Elohim sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. And he drove out Man; and he set the Cherubim, and the flame of the flashing sword, toward the east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

It is absolutely apparent that sin entered the world at the moment of Adam’s first sin. This has left all men as less than perfect. We have all fallen short of the Glory of God. Therefore we cannot fellowship with Him. What fellowship does light have with darkness? None. This is why we need to be saved, because we have lost our fellowship with God.

What is not said at or of the fall of man is that mankind lost all knowledge of good, or that we can no longer see good, or ask for help, or want salvation.

My issues with the point called Total depravity is that mankind is not “totally depraved” or “totally in-able” we have both the knowledge of good, and of evil. We are able to do good things; even those without faith do good in the world. We are able to see our need for Salvation, when the Spirit convicts and convinces us as is His promised ministry to the world. Not once in Scripture are we told that man is unable to perceive God’s goodness, and our need of Him. In fact Romans 1 tells us flat out that no one is blameless because we have all seen and known the attributes of God through the revelation of Creation all around us and we have made a conscious choice not to worship God. This results in us being given over to depravity. This is the complete opposite of being so depraved that we cannot observe God.

Let’s explore the scripture references provided to support this doctrine by GraceNET:

Ephesians 4:18
This is the middle verse of Paul’s instruction to Believers that they should not walk the same way that Gentiles (those who are separate from God) walk. It does describe the unbeliever as depraved but does not indicate the person is “totally depraved” or “totally unable.” Verse 17 says that these Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, it does not say that they have no ability to choose not to, just that they do. Thus, this verse offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

1 Corinthians 2:14
This verse clearly says that things of a Spiritual nature are spiritually discerned. However, Paul is addressing saved Christians, Verse 1, and going back to the basics with them because they have not grown and are not basing their lives on the solid foundation of the Gospel. Paul is not saying that unsaved people cannot believe the Gospel as presented, Paul is saying people who’s minds have not been transformed cannot understand the deeper things of God. He is speaking to people who are not developing in the faith and telling them why he can’t tell them the greater things of God. This is the same sort of situation we read in Hebrews 5 & 6. While this verse taken by itself and out of context appears to support the doctrine of Total depravity, when it is read in context it obviously does not.

Romans 1:30
The author obviously wanted to include more verses than just this. This verse is just some of the list of sins that Paul says God gives people over to when they reject Him. Verse 28. This section of Romans 1 is a restatement of what is established in verses 20 -21.

Rom 1:20
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

It is clear that people “know God” through Creation, but reject Him and so He gives them over to the sins they desire. Thus, this quote does not offer any support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

John 15:25
Verse 24 says that the people had “seen” but rejected. Verse 25 says this happened so that the prophecy would be true – that people hated Him without cause.
Salvation isn’t about us loving God. We don’t love Him and then are saved because of that love. We realize our need, call on Him who is revealed in the Gospel and we are saved, then we love Him because He first loved us. This is a very common error in Calvinism. The presupposition that a person must be made good in some way for them to receive God. Romans 4 says that God justifies the “ungodly” sinner by Grace, through faith apart from works.
Since Salvation is not earned through loving God, and this section also shows that the people were able to “see” what God was doing and Who He is it offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Luke 19:14
This verse is very much like John 15:25 same concepts apply.

John 5:40
Verse 39 shows that these people were seeking after God, but rejecting His Son. They were unwilling to come to Him for life. It is a rebuke of their unwillingness. They clearly could see Who He is because they said they would not have Him to reign over them. This just says they were unwilling, not that they were unable. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Isaiah 5:20
Verse 19 talks about people knowing God’s counsel. Verse 24 says that the people rejected the Law of God and despised His Word. This is rejection, not being unable to receive. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Titus 1:15
This just says to the unbelieving all things are impure. It says that the mind and conscience of the unbeliever are defiled. The word ‘defiled’ means “tainted” not utterly evil, or Totally Depraved. Thus this verse does not add support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Deuteronomy 32:18
This says the unsaved person is unmindful of Christ (The Rock). It also says that the people had “forgotten” the Father. Both of these are about not taking heed of something they know. It doesn’t speak of inability, it speaks of rejection. Thus it does not give support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Hebrews 2:1
This verse speaks of the salvation we have received. Of course the unbeliever has not received it… this does not mean the unbeliever is unable to receive it nor does it even suggest such a thing. Thus this verse does not give support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

John 12:39
This is with regard to Him being Messiah the Prince, not with regard to Salvation. The Prophecy of disbelief written in Isa 53 is about the nation of Israel not receiving Messiah but instead having Him crucified. They were not prevented from believing in Him for Salvation, they were prevented from receiving their King. The reader who is not aware of the difference will say there is none. This blindness came when Israel finally rejected Him. This final rejection is found in Mat 12. Mat 13 starts with Him leaving the house and sitting by the sea. This is the beginning of Christ’s ministry to the rest of the world.
Since this blindness was specific, and intentionally imposed by God for a purpose and not the state of Humanity, and not with regard to Salvation it does not support the doctrine of Total Depravity.

John 6:44 John 6:65
John 12:32 says that Christ’s crucifixion drew all to Him. Not “of all peoples” but “all” to Him. No one can come to Salvation unless we are drawn, because we cannot come to Christ unless He has been sacrificed in our place. Propitiation and Atonement have to happen. It is true that the Spirit of God has the ministry of Convicting and Convincing people of the truth of the Gospel. God is the pursuer, not the other way around.
In my opinion these verses are the strongest case that can be made for inability. They do not speak of an inability to believe the Gospel however, but an inability to come to Christ. All men must be drawn, and all are by the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is the “power of God unto Salvation” it is what draws.

John 3:18
This is just a restatement of the truth that if one doesn’t believe they are not going to be saved. This offers no support to the doctrine of Total Depravity.
The Doctrine of Total Depravity says that man is so evil that he cannot even see that God is good and want Him. It says that we are unable to respond to the truth of the Gospel. The logical addition to this doctrine is that people need to be regenerated (Born Again) first in order that they will be able to believe. This has a multitude of problems but I will stay away from that right now as it was not brought up in either article.
I have not even gone into the Scriptures that tell the Gospel is for all men. The verses cited as support for this doctrine fall far short of supporting, even indirectly, Total Depravity.
I have also recently spent a lot of time in Ps 107 which shows “fools” and those “in darkness” call on God and are saved.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Total Depravity: This is the fundamental doctrine of TULIP. This very short and simple look at this doctrine shows that it is false. The problem mankind has is not that he lakes some goodness with which to reach God, it’s that he is not perfect. Since we are not perfect, we have fallen short of the Glory of God and all our righteousness is like filthy rags. There is not perfection outside of God, as Jesus said none are “good” except God, so we cannot have fellowship with Him unless we are baptized into Him.


lordstrophy said...

I read your posts on TULIP and was wondering if you have listened to anyone speak on this subject or if you have just read things from the internet and such....I mean this with all sincerity because as I read scripture I understand that it speaks of God choosing and hardening and it also speaks to mans responsibility...I have listened to both sides (election and looking down the tunnel of time) and was wondering if you were interested in hearing it explained? I know some people have just decided on a position and do not really care to hear what the other position is....I post on this section because when I study total depravity I do not get that men are as evil as they possibly can be just that they we are evil enough to not seek after God...I really do not have a list of scrpiture right now but I know none seek after Him, no not one, mans heart is continually evil etc...alot of people that agree with some points of tulip have been ardently opposed until studying the scripture...just curious if you would want the link?

Kevl said...

Hello Lord's Trophy, (neat handle)

Thanks for your comment. Yes I've listened to, and met with sensible TULIP proponents.

The content of your post seems to suggest that you didn't read my full series on TULIP, but I could very well be mistaken. Blog comments are notorious for misunderstanding.

In my experience when a Calvinist talks about studying the Scriptures about the doctrines of Calvinism what they really mean is studying Calvinism.

For example you said

I have listened to both sides (election and looking down the tunnel of time)....

You use the term Election to describe your position, and then describe the other. So there is the Calvinistic (Biblical) Doctrine and then there is the other understanding. See the problem?

You may note that throughout the article I have addressed all the common TULIP proof-texts.

Please post the link, I'll look at it as I have opportunity. I'm a student of the Scriptures - not a system of theology.

Please don't expect a long article response to it. If I were to be convinced by it that would be something I would post.

Of course, please be aware, if the content of the link is offensive I'll delete the link to it.


lordstrophy said...

LOL...sorry, when i said both sides I really meant that I have only heard it explained as election and looking down the tunnel of time, not aware of another stance...maybe i should have said predestination and tunnel looking...i cant say calvinism vs arminianism bc I do not know enough about either.
I read all of your tulip posts but I didnt read them with the intention of ever really responding to them...I do look at other views on the issue of election, predestination...I came here via Jeans blogs a while back and this morning I listened to a sermon that talked about total depravity NOT meaning that man is as bad as he could possibly made me think of your blog so I came back and re-read what you wrote about the topic....i dont think of myself as calvinistic as I do not know how many points I would be, LOL...I believe God is sovereign over all things including salvation and that we are dead, as in can do nothing dead, until the time that God draws us near to Him through the Holy Spirit in response to the gospel being preached to us....I just heard the message this morning and thought of you so the link i am offering is just to some sermons by Steve Lawson, I listen to alot of his stuff as well as S. Lewis Johnson, RC Sproul, John Piper etc....James White is also pretty good...just didnt know if you had heard any of them and disagreed...i see where you went through each scripture and I did have a different take on some of them but believe me when I say that I am not even trying to act like I would know more than some of the gifted teachers that God has provided for us so I could never explain as they do....I havent studied myself with TULIP but I am with it on total depravity or total inability as I have heard it called...I am not a scholar by far just sincerely wanted to share these sermons if you are interested...I dont know what you mean by "system of theology"...
I dont know how to add a link so I am doing this the only way I know how...hope it works!

I havent been through your entire site so direct me to this answer if its already posted and in the mean time I will look...what are your thoughts on salvation in reference to election and predestination?...
thanks for your time and hope the sermons serve you well, to draw closer to what you believe or see a different perspective....God Bless!

Kevl said...

Hi again. :)

I've been in front of this computer for about 10.5 hours now... had a hardware failure and had to replace a bunch of stuff. I'm mostly back up and running but having some more hardware issues.

Will respond to you Sunday or Monday.

Thanks for the link,

lordstrophy said...

no problem, like i said, you really dont have to respond or anything, I really did just want to share! good luck with your computer, i didnt understand a word you said in that post about it! LOL! :)

Anonymous said...

The whole of TULIP stands or falls on the first 2 points. 1. Gods total soveriegnity in salvation and his purpose in saving an elect to bring himself glorey. The second point total depravity.The term total depravity is commonly used to make clear the implications of original sin. The reformed understanding is that it signifies a corruption of our moral and spiritual nature that is total not in degree but in extent. This is where many arminians mis-understand, the reformed position holds that by degree we mean that no one is as bad as he or she might be.No action is as good as it should be, and consequently nothing in us is ever pleasing to God. We cannot earn Gods favour, no matter what we do; unless grace saves us, we are lost.
Total depravity entails total inability, that is, the state of not being able to respond to God and to his word.John 6:44 makes this clear as does Rom 8:7-8. Paul calls this unresponsiveness of the heart a state of death Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13. Ourhearts are in bondage to sin and only Gods grace can free us from that slavery. This is what Paul taught in Rom 6:16-23, only the freed will choose righteousness.

Kevl said...

Hello Anon,

Thanks for your comment. You've described Total Depravity in the same way the article does. It holds up inside the TULIP system, but does not hold up to a plain reading of the Bible.

Mankind able to believe, and we are responsible to do so.

Man is not saved through pleasing God. Man is not saved by, or through, doing good.

Faith is completely without merit - Romans 4. (Rom 4:16 explicitly)

I would be very interested in someone proving this statement without the use of anything except the Bible.

Paul calls this unresponsiveness of the heart a state of death Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13.

This statement "dead in sin" gets used for a lot of things, but precious few people actually bother to use the Bible, let alone the passages the statements are used in, to define them.

I know what this person says, and I know what that commentary says, and I know what this other system of theology says.

I would be interested if one could put away all the theological "helps" one has, and define what dead in sin (or trespasses) means using only the Bible.


PaulC said...

"Mankind able to believe, and we are responsible to do so". I think that you meant Kev that man is able to believe? Kev can you answer from Jn 6:44 What in this context does "coming" to "me" mean. My understanding is that it means believing in Christ. Can anyone believe? No not unless they are drawn by the Father.The order is clear, the father draws, we come, and Jesus will raise us up at the last day.When you see a person described as spiritually dead or a slave to sin what do you see.Can something that is dead respond? Does a slave have free will? These are all very clear metaphors of those who are at emnity to God. Why did God feel that the Israelites, in the book of Ezekial,needed new hearts and a new spirit before they would be able to obey all his commandments? Why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that he could not even SEE the kingdom of heaven let alone enter it unless he was born again or regenerated by Gods Spirit? The overwhelming evidence from the bible alone points to total inability.

Kevl said...

Hi Paul, you typify what I've come to expect from Calvinists.

The points you raise in this comment today were already answered in comments I posted to you yesterday.

People need the New Nature in order to obey and truly love because all are fallen beings, that's why... however, Believing the Gospel is not "Obeying commands" or "doing good" or anything like that... it is receiving what God has done for us.

Apparently you think that something that is dead can do anything but believe... they can sin and rebell but they cannot believe? That's an awfully lively dead man you talk about...

What's more I asked you to explain how you can get this from the Text appart from your theology yesterday and you have failed to do so.

Where in the Gospel do we find the requirement to "SEE" the Kingdom in order to be saved? Does the Scripture say "look and live" (like the Lord explained in John 3 from the very same passage you are discussing) or does it say "live and look"?

I've enjoyed our discussion Paul, but you're following the same pattern I've seen repeated ad nauseum. You jump from topic to topic... from one proof text to the next.. and never actually engage in discussion.

This sort of thing "works" when a preacher (intentionally not capitalized) is trying to win over a crowd to their theology... it doesn't work here.