Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1957
NUMBER 32, PAGE 6-7b

Arguments For "Total Depravity" Considered

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Ky.

The subject of total depravity is the core of many of the theological positions of what is called "Orthodox" Christianity. Since it is such a fundamental error, we are giving several articles in consideration of some scriptures put forth by a Baptist preacher.

Our friend feels that Rom. 3:19 shows that man is lost, evil, and in a corrupt condition before God; but this passage does not sustain his position. Paul said, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." Paul says nothing here concerning inherited depravity, nor does he even refer to Adam's sin. This passage is probably seized upon because it contains the expression, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." Now, the question is, what stopped every mouth, and what made all the world guilty before God? Was it inherited total depravity? This passage says nothing about it. This passage says that the law (of Moses) was given to make the Jews guilty before God, as well as the Gentiles. Paul had been quoting from the Old Testament. What he had quoted were words directed to the Jews. They were guilty of the crimes mentioned in the quotations, hence, "that every mouth may be stopped," refers to the fact that all might so feel their guilt as to be unable to answer back or make any defense. The Jews could not deny the things said by their own inspired prophets. Thus, their own prophets stopped the mouths of the Jews by showing that they were guilty of the same sins committed by the Gentiles. The expression, "and all the world may become guilty before God" indicates that Paul is proving from the Jewish scriptures that the Jew was under the judgment of God, as much as were the Gentiles. There is nothing in the passage which even hints that they stood guilty before God because of inherited depravity. In verse 12, Paul had said that they had "all gone out of the way." How could they have "gone out of the way" if they had not first been in the way? To take a passage out of its context and misapply it is to engage in "foolish preaching."

Not only did this preacher say that all the world stood guilty before God, he also said they were the sons of the Devil. I am reminded of a statement made by John Wesley in his Sermons, Vol. 2, page 266, "In Adam all died, all human kind, all the children of men who were in Adam's loins. The natural consequences of this is that every, one descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin; entirely void of the image of God, of all the righteousness and holiness wherein Adam was created. Instead of this every man born into the world now bears the image of the devil, in pride and self-will; the image of the beast. in sensual appetites and desires." In his work on Original Sins, page 340. he says, "We are condemned before we have done good or evil; under the curse ere we know what it is." Dr. W. A. Jarrel, a Missionary Baptist, some years ago in his book, Gospel in Water, wrote "that man is totally depraved is evident from his being a child of the devil — fathered by the devil of the same moral nature."(Pages 251-252.) And, at this late date, our Baptist friend affirms that man comes into this world the child of the Devil. My Bible tells me that "We are also his offspring," and Paul was not talking about the Devil, but the "unknown God," whom the Athenians ignorantly worshipped. (Cf. Acts 17:28.) I will take Paul's word, rather than. that of any Baptist preacher.

But, let's give attention to the description of man, this child of the devil, who is so evil, corrupt, and in a lost condition before God. Our friend says, "His understanding is defiled (Eph. 4:18), his heart is defiled (Jer. 17:9-10), his mind and conscience is defiled (Gen. 6:5), and his flesh and spirit is defiled." (2 Cor. 7:1.) He then went on to assert that the "child comes into the world in a lost condition." His assertion, I vigorously deny! Eph. 4:18 says nothing about the understanding of man being defiled because of Adamic sin, or inherited depravity. Paul does say that they were alienated because of the ignorance in them "because of the blindness of their heart," and that they had "given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." Hence, the blindness of their thinking was not a result of Adam's transgression, but of their own inclination to enter into sin. They "gave themselves over" to sin; how could they give themselves over into sin, if they were already bearing the "image of the devil" when they came into the world? How could they give themselves over to sin if they had been sinners from the beginning?

Jer. 17:9-10 is associated with Gen. 6:5 in an attempt to prove inherited depravity, but considering them in context will show they do not so teach. Gen. 6:5 refers to the wicked people before the flood who had refused to follow God's way and had multiplied evil. However, in the midst of all that wickedness there was a man who was not wicked, and who walked before God as a perfect man. Noah was "a righteous man, and perfect in his generations." (Gen. 6:9.) Verses 11 and 12 tell us, "And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence, And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth." Did he say it was corrupt as a result of Adam's sin? No, he said that "all flesh had corrupted their way" upon the earth. In 1 Pet. 3:19-20 we find the suggestion that God pleaded with the rest of the race through the preaching of Noah, trying to bring them unto repentance. They could have turned from their evil ways if they had wanted to. Their evil thoughts could have been turned into righteous thoughts; their evil ways could have changed into righteous ways! It was in their power to direct their thoughts. Prov. 23:7 tells us, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," but the fact remains that he has the power to direct his thoughts. Thus, when we turn to Jer. 17:9-10 we must remember the same principle. In fact, the prophet goes on to illustrate in verse 11, "As the partridge that sitteth on eggs which she hath not laid, so is he that getteth riches, and not by right; in the midst of his days they shall leave him, and at his end he shall be a fool." The partridge is easily deceived. Some other kind of bird can lay eggs in her nest and the foolish old partridge described by Jeremiah would hatch opt her eggs, thinking she was hatching little partridges. And right in the midst of her regular incubation period, the strange eggs, which she had deceived into hatching, would come forth and get away from her. Thus. "the heart is deceitful above all things . . . ." It is of such nature that it can be easily deceived, as illustrated by the prophet himself. The New Testament warns us several times, "Be not deceived..."

2 Cor. 7:1 is introduced to show that man's flesh and spirit are both defiled. But notice that Paul is talking to Christians. He tells them to cleanse themselves of all "defilement of the flesh and spirit." Thus, you have a Christian with a defiled spirit. That is the wrong verse for any Calvinistic preacher to introduce. If he uses it on the subject of depravity, it will meet him coming back on the subject of apostasy. I wonder how this spirit and body became defiled after the individuals to whom Paul referred had become Christians. Could it be that they had never heard of Calvinism, with its theories of inherited total depravity and the impossibility of apostasy? I feel confident that is right!

None of the passages presented has shown that the child is born into this world inheriting total depravity. Hence, to say that a "child comes into the world in a lost condition" is to engage in "foolish preaching." Jesus said. "Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." If the child comes into the world in a "lost condition," the kingdom of heaven is composed of people "in a lost condition." If not, why not?

In a future article we shall consider some more "foolish preaching" on the theory of inherited total depravity.