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Total Depravity (The “T” in TULIP)

Posted on : 10-20-2007 | By : Andy | In : Calvinism / Arminianism, religion, TEDS


First of all, if you haven’t read it yet, please read my opening remarks and disclaimers on these posts on Calvinism. It’s worth it, trust me.

Total depravity as purported by Calvinists, states that there’s nothing we do that’s “good” at all. We’re totally depraved, and thus cannot bring anything good from ourselves. The big proof text? Romans 14:23, which states “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin”.

Excuse me when I scream “CONTEXT!!!!”

Paul is talking about eating food dedicated to idols, and other questionable practices that, if done with the wrong motives, can be sin. He’s not talking about every single act imaginable.

Let me clarify. When I eat breakfast in the morning, I do not do so out of faith. I do so out of hunger, or habit. According to Piper’s reasoning, eating breakfast in such a matter would be considered sin.

Or how about going a little deeper? The main point of Total Depravity is that it means we can’t be the origin of saving faith, for that faith can only come from the Grace of God. If then, our faith doesn’t come from faith (for how could it?) this reasoning would make that faith itself sin. Kind of twisted, huh?

The intended point is that man cannot even come up with the faith required to accept God’s grace, because they’re entirely against him. Therefore, Salvation originates entirely in God, and “free will” has nothing to do with it.

I personally don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I look at it this way:

  1. We are flawed, sinful creatures, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t do good
  2. What good we may do, however, can’t earn us favor in God’s eyes, because they are stained with our other sins (Is 64:6)
  3. Just like Adam and Eve, despite being perfect beings, were able to sin even though that wasn’t “in their nature”, so we as humans have the capacity to make right choices, even if we are fundamentally evil

The whole bit about men being condemned regardless of what they do is fine by me—once man has fallen the only way to remove the guilt of sin is death (Rom 6:23)—but using this reasoning to prove we can’t have faith without God forcing us to, is a weak argument at best.