Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

T is for Total Depravity

This is the second in a series of articles dealing with the proper definitions of Calvinistic theological terms. I will take each of the Canons of Dort, the 5 points of Calvinism as they are called, and define each one so that my readers will know what we Calvinists are saying when we use these terms.

The Five Points of Calvinism are remembered in English by the acrostic T-U-L-I-P. They stand for ...

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

Over the next few articles I will define each one in turn. When I am finished, I plan on doing a few articles reflecting on the practical outcomes of these doctrines in our Christian lives.

Total depravity, simply, means that sin infects and affects all of a person's being. Because of Adam's fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, mankind is born separated from God. This is called "spiritual death."

Here is a definition for you ... death = separation. When your spirit separates from your physical body, you are physically dead. When your spirit is separated from God, you are spiritually dead.

We are born separated from God. Indeed, we are conceived separated from God. David wrote "In sin I was conceived..." (Psalm 51:6). In this state of spiritual death, we are blind, deaf, hardened, unfeeling, carnal, at enmity with, in fact, every way standing against the things of God. We are not alive to God. We cannot hear His voice. His word is meaningless to us. We have no understanding of spiritual things. And this deadness is total. Our minds, wills, emotions, intent of heart, our bodies, our psyche, every part of us ... the totality of our being ... is dead to the things of God. There is not a single holy spiritual impulse in us.

All that we do spiritually, while in this state, is vain, empty, and at enmity with God. We create idols and serve them. Or we deify ourselves and serve our own lusts and desires. When we are confronted with the true word of God, it is either foolishness or a stumbling block to us.

The result of this is that we are totally unable to come to God on our own. We can't find God. In fact, we don't want to. Unless God somehow changes us, we never on our own would come to Him. That is why Jesus said that "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Unless the Father draws us to Christ, we can't come to Jesus. It just isn't in us. This result is called "Total Inability."

Total depravity is important for the Christian to understand for two main reasons. First, it teaches us our need for a savior. We are separated from God. We have no hope on our own to come to God by anything we do since everything we do is stained with sin. We aren't even able to have a godly thought. In short, we have nothing in and of ourselves to offer God for our salvation. If we are going to be made right with God, we need a savior to do it for us. And this brings me to the second reason, it shows us that we need to put all our dependence on God alone. If we are going to saved, it is God who must do it. It is His works we need. It is His righteousness and perfection we need. Our faith is not in what we do to make it to heaven, but in what God has done for us.

In the Bible, God always brings people to a place of total dependence on Him. Picture Israel at the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army closing in. Only God could have opened the Red Sea for Israel. Only God could have defeated Pharaoh's army. Israel saw "the salvation of the Lord" that day. Or picture Lazarus dead in the tomb. He was helpless to raise himself from the dead. Only the voice of the God-man Jesus Christ could call Lazarus to life. Our salvation never comes from what we do for ourselves, but always in response to what God has done for us.

When Calvinists talk about the doctrine of total depravity, this is what we are talking about. Man's total infestation of sin and man's total inability to come to God by anything he does for himself. The Calvinists finds himself to be the brother or the sister of the sinner in the Jerusalem street who, when he was awakened to his true spiritual condition, put his face in the dust and would not even look up to heaven. He prayed with the only prayer such a person has to offer God ... "God, be merciful to me ... a sinner." (Luke 18:13).

In the next article ... Unconditional Election.


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