The Letter “T”
• Total Depravity – Chapter one starts out giving this definition.
“Total depravity means that every part of a natural man, the whole and total being, is corrupt and incapable of doing any good thing that would please God. Simply stated, this first doctrine says, “Man is a sinner”.” [i]The question that must be answered is: How far did Adam fall?
Are men simply less good than they once were?
Are humans utterly ruined because of Adam's rebellion?[ii]
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Yet, Adam lived for hundreds of years after that fatal choice. Was God mistaken? No. Adam died spiritually at that very instant. He was not just bruised spiritually; he was dead in sin. Then he began dying physically as a result of his spiritual decay.[iii]So what does that mean for us?
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- (Rom 5:12)
Adam is spoken of in theological circles as being the “federal Head” of all mankind. What that means is that God holds every man and woman guilty of Adam's offense. We are all born into Adam's bloodline and we are all his descendants. Hence, we are all the fallen children of the first rebels. Their fall, and the resulting change of spiritual nature, is imputed to each of us. We are not born spiritually neutral. We are born rebels against the command of God, and like our parents, we are helpless to resist the judgment of the Almighty.[iv]
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom 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. (Eph 2:1-3)
Men are born dead in trespasses and sins. Not wounded. Not staggering. Not doing the best they can – just stone, cold dead. A dead man is totally incapable of helping himself. Consider Lazarus. Could he help himself get up from the grave?...
Not only are we born into this depraved state and incapable of changing our lot, we are not able to resist sin! Scripture calls us “bond slaves” to sin. We are sold out to it! It owns us. And as salves, we will certainly do our master's bidding.[v]Jesus spoke of man's inability to come to him or even “see” or “hear” him.
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (Matt 7:18)
You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” (John 7:34)
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
These verses leave no option for any to make a choice or decide to accept the Truth.
Men can only react according to their complete inability.[vi]
Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom 8:7) KJV
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:8)KJVTo sum things up, total depravity describes our fallen, sinful nature. Because of Adam's sin we are all now spiritually dead unable to please God or even respond to him. We are in a state of rebellion and will remain that way unless God himself first comes and changes our very nature. Giving life to the dead.
Man is utterly helpless and lost in himself and will ultimately face God's wrath as a result of their sin against him.
This is simply a short primer on this doctrine. If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to read Jim McClarty's By Grace Alone for yourself. You can read it online for free here.
Next up Unconditional Election.
All scripture taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.