Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 9, 1958
NUMBER 35, PAGE 8-9b

Arguments For "Total Depravity" Considered IV.

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Ky.

With this article we shall conclude this series, having considered the passages suggested by a Baptist preacher of Campbellsville, Ky. who tried to sustain the depravity theory.

With regard to infant damnation, our friend said that a child comes into the world in a lost condition. His theory says that the precious child is a depraved little sinner. He is so depraved that he cannot do one single thing pleasing to God. I remember hearing Mr. Hoyt Chastain, a Missionary Baptist preacher from Arkansas, say in debate with Bro. W. Curtis Porter in Memphis, Tenn. a few years back that when a baby cries he is telling a lie! His proof was Psa. 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born speaking lies." Acts 3:2 is usually read in this connection to show that "from the womb" means "from birth." But take a look at Psa. 58:3. The text says they "go astray," not that they were "born astray." It would have to say "born astray" to teach inherited depravity. Also notice that those wicked ones have to be old enough to "speak lies." Mr. Chastain thought the infant "speaks a lie" when he cries. Bro. Porter pointed out that Mr. Chastain evidently didn't know the difference between a lie and the colic!

Furthermore, in Psa. 58:6, God is exhorted to "break their teeth." Do infants have teeth? The fact that God is exhorted to "break their teeth" indicates that he was not talking about newborn babes. Psalm 58 is talking about people who "go astray," who can "speak lies," and who have "teeth." They may go astray early in life, but they are not born totally depraved.

Another passage commonly used to contend for the theory of inherited depravity is Psa. 51:5. When I was speaking on this subject over WTCO some months ago, a lady told me that she would like for me to discuss this passage for she would like to hear what I had to say about it. The verse says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." This is one of the favorite proof texts among Calvinists. But it is far from teaching that a child is born a sinner. Calvinists fail to distinguish between the thing born and the circumstances surrounding the birth. David did not say, "I was born a sinner," nor does he say, "I was born in sin." Even if he had said, "I was born in sin," it would not necessarily mean that he was born inheriting total depravity from his mother. The fact that we are born in something doesn't mean that we are that thing. Jesus was born in a stable, but he wasn't a stable. He was cradled in a manger, but that doesn't mean he was a bale of hay. The place of one's birth does not determine what he is.

David is not talking about the thing born, but about the conditions surrounding his birth. "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" is the Psalmist's description of the circumstances of his birth; it has nothing at all to do with the nature with which he came into the world. Even if his mother had been the vilest of sinners, her sin would have had nothing to do with the character or inherited guilt of her child.

If every child comes into the world in a lost condition, as asserted by our friend, all infants are damned. Now, I realize that our friend does not say that every infant dying in infancy will be lost in hell, but it is the logical outcome of the doctrine of depravity. However, to give him credit for rejecting the consequence of infant damnation, let me hasten to say that he has a plan of salvation to provide for children dying in infancy. He says that an "infant dying before he reaches the age of accountability is saved and will certainly be there when we get to heaven." He refers to David's statement after the death of his first child by Bathsheba, "While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who knows whether Jehovah will not be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead. Wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." (2 Sam. 12:22-23). After discussing the fact that those dying in infancy will be finally in heaven, he asserted, "But, in that heart there is the nature of sin. God's grace can reach into that heart." Thus, he provides salvation by grace alone, without faith, to every child who dies in infancy. To every child who reaches the age of accountability, he thinks God requires faith of him. According to his theory, it would be better if every child died in infancy. For God's grace would "reach into that heart" and save him. I believe that God's grace "can reach into" every heart of every lost sinner, but it does not do it. Not because of the inability of God's grace, but because of the stubbornness of man.

Our friend has no authority for his special plan of salvation for children dying in infancy, as it is not men-toned in the Word of God. It comes from his desire to vindicate a Righteous God from the charge of condemning infants to a devil's hell as a result of inherited depravity. His very nature revolts against such an idea, and he must philosophize his theology to make provision for a special plan of salvation for children dying in infancy. If he would only give up the foolish notion of inherited depravity, he would be able to see that the child is "safe," S-A-F-E, not lost, and does not need to be saved. Jesus said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." The kingdom of heaven is composed of such as little children. All will admit that no sinful creature can enter into the kingdom of heaven. Hence, we conclude that little children are not lost, but are safe.

Our friend also said he couldn't definitely fix the "age of accountability," but that the child "begins to live the life of a child of the devil at the age of accountability." Like our friend, I would define the age of accountability as being the age at which a young person realizes that he sins, and is lost before God. But, I want you to notice that he has a person born a child of the devil, but doesn't begin to "live the life of a child of the devil" until he reaches the age of accountability. Hence, he has a child of the devil who doesn't live the life of the child of the devil. What kind of life does he live? Does he live the life of a child of God? If so, why does he want to continue calling him a "child of the devil"? If he lives neither the life of a "child of the devil" nor the life of a "child of God." what kind of life does he live?

Before closing, I would like to consider one final passage frequently quoted to prove the theory of inherited depravity. Rom. 8:6-7 says, "For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Making the emphatic assertion that the "carnal mind" here means the unconverted man, they dwell at length on the idea that he is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can he.

But, who is the "carnal mind" here in view? The ASV throws some light on the matter when it reads, "For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace . . . ." So, the carnal mind to which Paul refers is the mind that seeks after unholy and unrighteous things. Such a man is walking contrary to the will of God. He is not subject to God's law; indeed, just so long as he continues to mind the things of the flesh, he cannot be reconciled to God. He must crucify the flesh with the lusts and passions thereof in order to be acceptable to God. Verses 4 and 5 show that he "walks" after the flesh, and is not born into his sinful nature. He is responsible for his sins; he is not born in them. He is in that condition because he deliberately chooses; he walks after the flesh because he wants to walk after the flesh.

Calvinists tell us that the Adamic sin is the thing that brought this total depravity into the world. This "original sin" we are told is responsible for all other sins. Every actual transgression has its origin and cause in the Adamic transgression. Now if that be true, what caused Adam to sin? If the Adamic transgression is responsible for every actual sin, what caused Adam to actually sin? He did not have any inherited depravity! And if all sin is caused by inherited depravity, we have Adam sinning without any cause.

The truth is that Adam was a free moral agent. Adam could choose to obey God, or he could choose to disobey God. God did not make him a mere machine; he created him a free moral agent, with full freedom to do right or to do wrong. And every man born into the world today is likewise a free moral agent, who can choose to obey God or choose to disobey God. Inherited sin is not responsible for the choice he makes; the man himself is held accountable before God, because God knows he has the ability to either obey or disobey.