Calvinism: Total Depravity

We are in the 5th installment of our look at Calvinism. We’ve look at some common questions & misconceptions like “Since God is Sovereign, Should We Evangelize the Lost?”“Does Man Have a Free Will?”, and “Why Do Calvinists Follow a Man Instead of the Bible?” as well as a short look at the beginnings of Calvinism. Today I want to begin to look at the common acronym of T.U.L.I.P. that has its beginnings in Canons of Dordt. In short T.U.L.I.P. stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace & the Perseverance of the Saints. We start with Total Depravity.

For the most part, a majority of evangelicals would at least hold loosely to Total Depravity.  Total depravity speaks to every human beings spiritual condition. Ephesians 2:1-3 speaks to this doctrine clearly by saying we are “dead in the trespasses and sins.” It speaks to a state of spiritual death. Total depravity says we aren’t sinners just because we sin, but we sin because we’re sinners.

Many opponents of Calvinism will levy wrongfully, the charge, “Well if this is true we don’t have a ‘free will’ and nothing more than robots without any ability to choose on their own.” This wrong objection has two major problems. The first is a wrong understanding of free will which I dealt with already in the series.  The second is this is nothing more than an emotional argument to avoid difficult to swallow biblical truths. Most of us don’t want to deal with the biblical truth that outside of Jesus and His salvation, all of us, are in fact spiritually dead. That means completely lifeless.

Before I go further, I want to clarify what it is not. Total Depravity is not the idea that all humans are completely and utterly evil. As many Calvinist teachers would say, total depravity does not equal utter depravity. Total Depravity does not teach that we are all as evil as we could possibly be, but that in the fall in the garden, it affected us wholly. It affects our bodies, our hearts, our minds, the New Testament says that our whole being is in bondage to our sin. The famous reformer Martin Luther referred to this as “the bondage of the will.” In other words we will make “free choices” but sin and depravity has so enslaved our total being that without God intervening we will always choose what we have enslaved ourselves to choose, and that is sin. Not only will we not seek or choose righteousness, we will not seek or choose God on our own. Romans 3:10-18 makes this abundantly clear,

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. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

In our bondage and depravity we will never seek or choose God or His righteousness. This means that something or someone outside of us must set us free from the bondage of our will and our sin and to bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life. The only One who can set us free is God Himself. Which will lead us to our next point in the series… Unconditional Election.



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