Total Depravity Is Evangelicalism’s Leaky Tire

If we think of depravity in terms of what we do instead of who we are, then it is not surprising that the “good news” becomes “good works”

“I have noticed that many people speak of depravity in terms of what we do. In explaining depravity of man they talk of homosexuality, murder, slander, etc. I don’t think this is helpful. Instead of speaking first of what we do we should instead speak of who we are. We are depraved, therefore we do sinful things.”

 

What does it mean to say that someone is totally depraved? In short it means that humanity is dead in sin. We are neither willing nor able to merit God’s favor by acts of righteousness for we are all unrighteous (Rom. 3:10-19, 23; Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 1:21; Tit. 3:3). This does not mean that people cannot do any good things–there is relative good (i.e. helping the old lady across the street)—however, we cannot and do not do good things before God apart from Christ. As the Heidelberg Catechism says, we by nature are prone to hate God and neighbor, and daily increase our debt.

I have noticed that many people speak of depravity in terms of what we do. In explaining depravity of man they talk of homosexuality, murder, slander, etc. I don’t think this is helpful. Instead of speaking first of what we do we should instead speak of who we are. We are depraved, therefore we do sinful things.

I think this is the logic that Paul follows in Ephesians 2:

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.” (Ephesians 2:1–3)

Now notice, Paul says you were dead. This is spiritually speaking–he is speaking of a person who is spiritually dead. Now what does he do? He fleshes that out by speaking of the world, flesh, and the devil. He then brackets it in by saying that our nature is that of inheriting wrath. What does this mean? It means that our sin, or depravity, flows out of a nature that is fallen.

You see the same type of thing in Colossians:

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” (Colossians 1:21)

Alienation, hostility in mind, and then the expression of evil deeds. The deeds come out of the status of alienation.

At this point you might say, “OK, I give. This makes sense. You are right–admittedly slicing hairs a bit–but right still.”

But it is not splitting hairs. This is why: it becomes a gospel issue.

See, if we think of depravity in terms of what we do instead of who we are, then it is not surprising that the “good news” becomes “good works”. Think about it, is this not the explanation for all of the moralistic preaching that has built Moralanity instead of Christianity.

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