Total Depravity

20 Sep

This used to be legitimate entertainment. We aren’t far from the same today.

Total depravity.

It’s the doctrine that says that because of our father Adam’s sin, we are all sinful beings from birth. Every human sins and is totally affected by sin. This is how the Bible explains it in Romans 3:10-19,

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

It’s not a popular teaching. Most humans like to believe they are basically good with some character flaws, if that. There are even some inside the Church who fall prey to this kind of thinking and begin to question the goodness of a God who would send people who are “basically good” to an eternal Hell.

What I find most baffling about this is that outside of a religious context, humans freely condemn themselves when they are honest. Take this article from the secular site Listverse,

“Have you noticed that most history books divide eras among major social, political, or disastrous events and that the lion’s share of these are wars? In 200,000 years of the modern human species’ history (our personal history), the only thing we’ve been able to do consistently well is kill each other. All animals fight, but only humans wage war. We are the only species that has ever existed on Earth to have attempted the elimination of entire species. And we are always getting better at it, always pushing scientific knowledge, and almost always one of the first things for which science is put to use is the invention of new methods of murder.

We do it so well that we cannot even face ourselves when we consider it. We devise euphemisms, especially in time of war: it’s not murder – it’s combat, or “defending our freedom,” “target neutralization,” “justifiable homicide,” “soldiery,” “just following orders.”

The human is the only animal ever known to be capable of revenge, hatred, or sadism, and we are intimate with all three. We kill for every reason.

Black powder was originally invented by Chinese alchemists looking for the elixir of life, then used as a means to set off fireworks for amusement. That didn’t last long. Now it is more commonly called gunpowder.

The Wright Brothers pioneered human aviation for the purpose of enabling aerial warfare, because in their opinion this would make national invasions impossible, and would thus negate all warfare in the first place. Wishful thinking. Tesla envisioned his “death beam” for the same purpose. Einstein had no idea his Special Theory of Relativity could be used to split atoms for the purpose of killing people. When Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi explained to him what was being done at The Manhattan Project, he burst into tears.

Consider all the kindhearted, nonviolent people through the ages, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. What do we do to them? Hate them, harm them, kill them out of spite.

The human is an unnatural animal because of all this. It does not fit into any environment, except perhaps the urban environment. We think of ourselves as predators, usually with a sense of pride. Nevertheless, on even terms, the human would not stand half a chance in a fight to the death with most of the other entries on this list. But that only incites us to pick the fight, and we do so by the one method in which we have no equals: thinking. Given the proper preparation (typically guns), we are more than a match for any other organism on this list. And that fills us with malicious and/or “sporting” glee.”
Listverse, 10 Deadliest Animals by Flamehorse

Romans 2:14-15 says

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

We are all rebels against God. Our rebellion against all that is good and right is before our very eyes on the news every day. We make excuses and attempt to justify our own evils, but our recognition of others only serves to prove we are, as a race, evil to the core. The only hope we have is found in Jesus Christ. He paid the price on the Cross for all rebels and God proved it by raising Him from the dead. Anyone who has the Son has life, anyone who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I leave you with this from


Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Soteriology


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4 responses to “Total Depravity

  1. Mark White

    September 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Its ironic; two years ago and I would have whole-heartedly agreed with everything in this article. The logic is superb, unquestionable even, of the whole TULIP system. There is just one problem. You must ignore or re-interpret certain verses to maintain this nice, neat theological system (and would an infinite God really make a theological system we can categorize and explain so simply?)

    Let me give you a few thoughts to mull over, not because I want to encourage a debate, but because I think you are a fellow truth-seeker. This is one of many things which ultimately changed my mind about total depravity.

    God created the world and called it “good” in the beginning. (from Genesis chapter 1):
    -God calls the light “good.”
    -God calls the waters/land “good.”
    -God calls the grass/herbs/fruit “good.”
    -God called the sun/moon and division of day/night “good.”
    -God called all the sea creatures and birds “good.”
    -God called the things which walk on the earth “good.”

    Six times he calls creation “good.” Then God makes man and what does he say for man? “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness… then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was VERY GOOD.” Six times the world is called good, and on the seventh, it is very good. Seven is a very significant number in the Bible and refers to wholeness, completeness, perfection, etc.

    “Yes yes, but in the fall man lost that goodness completely,” you will say. Did he? I was surprised to learn that this extreme version of the Augustinian view believed by most Roman Catholics and Protestants alike—namely, that sin is sort of a genetic stain passed on through sexual reproduction—is not found in the ancient Fathers of the Church, East and West, nor in Augustine’s contemporaries in the East. Like Origen before him, Augustine deviated from the traditional orthodoxy (although to a MUCH lesser extent than Origen) of the Church in a few regards, but in other aspects he spot-on.

    The concept of the fall is one of those things in which people have taken one Church Father and ran with his own particular viewpoint without considering what the undivided Church as a whole taught. And this view is now believed by practically everybody, Roman Catholic or Protestant, Arminian or Calvinist. St. Paul calls “the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” (1 Tim 3:15) not any one individual, no matter how wise or knowledgeable he is (and ironically, not even the Scriptures themselves—but the Church).

    In contrast, the Fathers of the Church almost universally taught this view: when man sinned, he lost the “likeness” of God, but not the “image.” All men bear the image of God, and that is indestructible. Through prayer, fasting, and good works, man can cooperate with the grace of God and slowly begin to regain that “likeness.” But all men bear the image, no matter how terrible they may behave. Hence, man cannot be totally depraved by nature (although he may make himself that way by choice—which is a reversible condition), because he is made in God’s image, who is Goodness itself.

    All men feel the effects of Adam’s ancestral sin, and by him sin entered the world, and so all men now are inclined to sin, but it is not passed on to his descendants in a way in which they would be responsible for Adam’s sin. This is in fact what the Prophet Ezekiel says in 18:20 – “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

    In other words, we all feel the effects of Adam’s sin (as does all creation), and in a way it is passed down to all of us, but do not bear the GUILT of Adam’s sin, as in the common western view.

    Sorry for the super long response I like to write a lot! I hope I have perked your interest and you decide to read the Church Fathers (including but not limited to Augustine!) and explore what they have to say on the subject.

    • jasoncohoon

      September 21, 2014 at 10:43 am


      First, I appreciate your candor and politeness in this matter. I do not wish a debate either, but permit me to address your objections.

      I am constantly re-examining my position on Scripture. My origins are in the Church of Christ, a Christian sect that believes in salvation by works (with a dash of grace), baptismal regeneration, and in general a near-pelagian view of soteriology. Through my spiritual journey with the Holy Spirit and the Word, I’ve come to reject those teachings. (Talk about irony!)

      I want you to know that I do believe all humans still bear the image of God. This is why it is a sin to kill another human (well, one reason). Humans were and still are special to God. But I believe that image is marred and distorted by sin. We are evil which a Church father once defined as the “privation of good.” That is, humans are sinful because we are lacking the perfection God requires in all His creations. The consequence of this privation of God’s perfection is found in detail in Romans chapter one. It lays out the progression of humanity’s sinful march through history (one that the poster from Listverse captures beautifully, though a non-believer).

      Now before I state my own case, we both need to understand that a fundamental difference in our beliefs will prevent us from reaching a common ground on this issue. Your sect of Christianity holds the writings and teachings of the Church fathers is much higher regard than I do. To me, they are the opinions of men. They can be good or bad and rejected at will. They are only useful inasmuch as they align with Scripture. As best as I understand it, you would disagree and hold their views almost as high (or perhaps as high) as Scripture itself. Because of this fundamental difference, we may have a tough time coming to an understanding.

      In regards to TULIP, it’s a tired acronym that should be retired. Firstly, TULIP was only created by Reformed leaders as a response to the Arminian five points. They do not give a full scope of the idea of Reformed Theology, not by a long shot. So it is not accurate to assume that Reformed teachers are trying to contain the doctrines of an infinite God into such a small package. We are not. There are whole catechisms devoted to understanding the ins and outs of Reformed doctrine, and any good Reformer will tell you that even with all our collected wisdom we are still dealing with great mysteries we may never fully understand.

      That said, I can honestly tell you that I don’t believe in total depravity because of Augustine, but because of the Bible. I believe the Bible speaks clearly to the issue of humanity’s sinfulness and need of a Savior and that salvation is a free gift by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and now Lord willing I will submit my evidence.

      Romans 5
      12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

      15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

      18Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

      1st Corinthians 15
      21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

      Romans 11
      28As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may nowe receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

      Psalm 51:5
      Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

      Adam’s sin cursed all mankind. Romans 5:19 says we all became sinners because of Adam’s one transgression. I don’t know how that could be logically interpreted any other way.

      As for the doctrine salvation can be earned through works, the Bible excludes it.

      Ephesians 2
      1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in 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— 3among 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.b 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

      Salvation is not by works, but by grace through faith. Note also that Paul says humans are by nature, “children of wrath.” Humans post-fall are evil (lacking God’s required perfection) by nature.

      Romans 4
      1What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but believes inb him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works
      7“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
      and whose sins are covered;
      8blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

      A salvation by works is excluded. Paul explains that if salvation were by works, then it would not be a gift from God, but our due. That is, God would owe us salvation in this case. So there can be no salvation by works, but by believing in faith, which as Ephesians tells us, is a gift from God too.

      We have only one place of apparent contradiction, and that occurs in James 2:14-26, where James explains that faith without works is dead and cannot save. However, this is not a contradiction, but rather looking at the Abraham situation mentioned earlier in Romans 4 from a different angle. In Paul’s letter, he was addressing those who wrongly believed salvation was by works, and uses Abraham’s conversion as an example to prove that it is by grace through faith. In James’s letter, he was addressing those who wrongly believed that you could have faith without works. In James, he explains that Abraham was justified totally through his faith, but that after he was justified, that faith produced good works. Taking the whole counsel of God we learn that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but that saving faith goes on to produce good works. If no works are produced then the faith is “dead” (ie. not genuine). Good works are the result of salvation, not the cause of it.

      Ecclesiastes 7:20
      Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

      I used this instead of the popular verse in Romans to give some breadth. The point is the same. Even if you believe babies are without sin (which I disagree with), the fact is that all humans sin and therefore all humans are evil (again, defined as lacking God’s required perfection) and deserving of eternal condemnation.

      Psalm 49
      7Truly no man can ransom another,
      or give to God the price of his life,
      8for the ransom of their life is costly
      and can never suffice,
      9that he should live on forever
      and never see the pit.

      It is impossible for a person to earn their way into Heaven with God. The price of one’s sins are too much that we could ever repay them or make up for them. What is unclean cannot make itself clean again. Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ can anyone be made clean and righteous in God’s eyes.

      In conclusion, you and I are not likely to fully align on this because we approach the Word of God in very different ways. You accept the writings of the Church fathers as strong as Scripture, and I do not. Suffice to say on my part, that I believe the Bible teaches that all humans are born sinful and require a savior to be made right with God, Jesus Christ. I do not believe works can save a man nor maintain one’s salvation, but that the blood and work of Christ save to the uttermost from beginning to end.

      I have always appreciated the unique perspective you’ve brought to our discussions and I appreciate it.

      • Mark White

        September 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm

        (logging in with other email) I feel like if we respond to this post much more our text will become a tiny column haha. I don’t know how to widen it but oh well.

        I’m glad you pointed out that we are working on different “beginning assumptions.” I mention the Church Fathers because some of them like Polycarp and Clement and Ignatius were taught by the Apostles themselves, and probably had a pretty good idea of what the Apostles intended when they wrote what would later be complied into the New Testament. Let us remember that when St. Paul says that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (Tim 3:16) he is the same Apostle who instructs the Thessalonians: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) That is, both the oral and written instruction of the Apostles, which was passed on to their disciples, men like Timothy, Titus, Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement, who in turn passed on both the written and oral teaching to the next generation.

        I must confess, if these men “missed it,” I have very little hope of ever “rediscovering” the real meaning of the disciples of Christ by myself.
        I like to think that the Scriptures, Old and New, are like two brilliant jewels in the crown of “the Church of the living God,” which Holy Writ calls “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). But I would say that there are other precious stones in her crown, perhaps a bit smaller, or shining less brightly at times, but beautiful in their own unique way, like the Fathers, canons, councils, and the record of the lives of holy men.

        But I digress…

        It is interesting you mention Romans 5:12. In the original Greek, the verse reads (as it does in the KJV): “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—”

        However, in the some Latin translations (including the Vulgate), the latter part of the passage was translated as “in whom all sinned” instead of “because all sinned.” This translation led many Latin readers to understand the passage to mean that all men sinned IN Adam, and so death spread to all men; instead of the Greek understanding that death spread to all men, because all men have themselves sinned. That is, they thought the Scriptures taught that all men are sinners because they all share in Adam’s original sin, and are held guilty for that original sin, whether they sin on their own or not. And so even unborn babies would be held guilty for Adam’s sin, in this view. This is the thought process which underlies the doctrine of Total Depravity, to which I used to zealously defend.
        However, I would suggest than an alternative reading, based on the nuance of the Greek text, makes more sense. All men are sinners “because all sinned.” Certainly, sin “came into the world through one man, and death through sin,” and so all of creation was affected by this fall, every plant, animal, person, etc (see Rom 8:19-22). And our natures have certainly become fallen from that state of innocence which Adam once enjoyed.

        But I don’t think that means say we have fallen so far to have lost the ability to choose good or evil, for we are made in God’s image, who has free will. The Lord indeed asks us to choose: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut 30:19). I think it would be unfair of God to ask man to choose life when he is completely, utterly incapable of doing so.

        (I should point out as a word of caution I am NOT advocating a Pelagian system in which man is untouched by the fall, for that was rightly condemned as a false gospel, saying that a man might achieve salvation by his own merit apart from the grace of the Spirit)

        And if God is able to make all men receptive to his word (irresistible grace, to use a TULIP term), and he wants “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), why does he not (irresistibly) draw all men? For certainly, if men are totally depraved, no one can come to the Lord by themselves, unless the spirit begins the work of regeneration in them first; and if he does regenerate them, they will undoubtedly come to the Lord; so why does God not regenerate all men, if he wishes all to be saved? These were some of the verses that deeply troubled me when I ascribed to the Reformed doctrines. I could try to explain them away, but all I did was cloud the clear sense of the text.

        And Scripture speaks of some men who did in fact choose the path of life, even before the Spirit was given so liberally at Pentecost: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). I have read John Calvin’s Institutes and many of his Commentaries on the Scriptures, and I am certain one of his theological persuasion writing a book would never describe a fallen, sinful man as “perfect and upright.” I distinctly recall a moving passage from the Institutes about how, even though a man might do a work which appears ‘good’ outwardly, inwardly his motives are so horrid that his ‘good’ work is indeed a most horrendous abomination in the sight of God.

        In a sense, all men were made to be gods in the beginning (making the serpent’s words of a quick and easy path all the more seductive), and by God’s grace we shall be unified with the divine nature through Jesus Christ our Lord. As Saint Athanasius says, salvation is “becoming by grace what God is by nature” (De Incarnatione, I). Or Saint Peter, becoming “partakers of divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). I would say that Adam’s fall was not a change from absolute perfection into absolute wretchedness; rather it is sort of like a Jedi in Star Wars falling to the Dark Side: it is the quick and easy way, which promises immediate reward and gratification instead of the long, arduous path towards the light. Instead of learning to become united with the divine nature through the work of the spirit (that is, to become a true human being), Adam took what appeared to be the “shortcut,” which turned out to be a trap-door.

        I would say the image of God in every man is like a flame, and has the potential to burn brightly if properly fanned and fed. But if a man chooses to cover this flame, to stop the wind from blowing upon it, to not feed it with good wood, perhaps even throw dirt upon it, the flame will burn lower and lower, until it is nothing but red embers. But these embers may yet be stoked, and the wind will blow upon them, and the flame will begin to burn again.

        I hope your other readers came come away from this discussion feeling more educated about the subject of sin and man’s nature. I hope you will continue to post as I enjoy reading your content on here from time-to-time. I apologize again for the length of my reply. I should probably start my own blog instead of crashing other peoples’ haha. I enjoy talking about this sort of thing, and I hope we have both been enriched by the conversation, even if in the end we do not agree on all points.


      • jasoncohoon

        September 24, 2014 at 11:11 pm

        I understand where you are coming from with the Church fathers. I would also say that, of your list, I am aware only of Polycarp being an actual direct disciple of an apostle (John) and there is some debate if he was really as close to John as tradition claims he was.

        Then there is the very real fact that there were a lot of “fathers” in the early days of the Church who believed a lot of different things. The early Church was by no means united in all doctrines. Even the epistles reveal the early churches had “issues” to say the least. The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, wasn’t finalized for awhile. It took a couple hundred years for the Church to all agree that God is three distinct Persons. Up until that time, there were Church leaders, even bishops, who were Arians. It took time for fallible man to grasp a truly incomprehensible concept.

        Then there is also the fact that in the first Centuries the Church held to beliefs that we know to be wrong by Scripture. For example, the early Church took a very unholy view of sex as something inherently evil. Eventually it got to the point that many Church fathers were persuading godly people not to marry at all and remain celibate for life. Some men of the Church were so dedicated to this false teaching that some began to castrate themselves to avoid temptation. It wasn’t until much later (during Constantine’s reign) that the Church actually placed a ban on self-castration and had to back pedal from its anti-marriage stance.

        I honor the hard work, sacrifice and dedication the early Church fathers did for the Church, but they were men like you and me. Flawed and prone to sin. They could get it wrong just as easily as anyone. They were not super-humans.

        Shoot, even the apostles could get it wrong. There was the time recorded in Galatians where the apostle Peter played the hypocrite and Paul had to call him down. Then there was the council of Jerusalem in Acts where the apostles were seriously considering making circumcison mandatory of Gentiles before Paul stepped in and set them straight. Only when the Spirit was guiding them in public speaking (Matthew 10:19) and writing Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21) were the words of these men infallible. The rest of the time they too were normal human beings like you or me.

        But I digress, we could argue about historical accuracy and what council decided what and which Church father proposed which doctrine forever.

        As I’ve said, I once thought as you do now. No one could persuade me with clever arguements. It took the Holy Spirit. So let me leave you with a few thoughts and a resource.

        First, you said there were some men who did seek God. But the word says:

        Romans 3:11
        No one understands; no one seeks for God.

        How can this verse be true if there are some who do seek Him?

        You quote Deuteronomy when you make your case that God set before the Isrealites the choice of life and death. You say they had free will, and could have reasonbly chosen both, or God is not fair, but later in that same book God tells Moses,

        Deuteronomy 31
        And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.”

        So God gives the people a clear and just choice, then leans over and tells Moses, “Yeah, so they really won’t follow this and I will have to abandon them to their just fate.” So there you have it, God gives the people a choice knowing full well they will not make the right one.

        So why would God do this? To show those people (and us) that man cannot live righteously on his own. Given the best conditions possible, the Israelites still chose sin over God. Man will always choose sin over God.

        1st Corinthians 10
        For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

        Galatians 3
        Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

        Paul teaches in these passages that the Law (which includes not just the commandments but the entire first five books of the OT) was given to us as a teacher, to warn us of the fate of the stubborn Israelites and to point us towards our need of a Savior. The Law shows that man cannot be righteous apart from God doing a work in us first.

        1 Corinthians 2
        The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

        Man in his natural fallen state cannot accept the things of God. Cannot. The things of God are spiritually discerned.

        John 6
        Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
        So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

        I used to be a staunch Arminian. But this passage always ate at my spirit. Jesus says that no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws him. He also says that all that the Father gives to Him will come to Him, and whoever comes to Him He will never cast out. He also says anyone who the Father gives to Him He will not lose. As a staunch Arminian who believed in human free will and self determination, I could not reconcile this with my beliefs. I could duck, dodge, and rationalize away other verses, but not this one. It eventually led to my disarmament and my willingness to be taught by God to know the truth.

        One mistake many people make when confronting Reformed theology is that they assume that human free agency and divine sovreignty are incompatible. One must be right, the other wrong. But this is a false dichotomy. I believe humans have free will. I also believe in an almighty God who has preordained all things by His infallible sovreign will. You once said that Reformers put God in a box, but I say that it is the opposite. We are willing to believe the whole counsel of Scripture. God says He has written all our days down before one of them began, and that some men are destined for destruction and others for grace and reconcilliation. He also says it is our responsibility to repent and believe and that anyone who comes to Him will not be refused. All of this is true all at once.

        Someone once asked Sprugeon, one of the greatest preachers of the past, how he reconciled his pleas to the lost to choose Christ and his teachings that God chooses us. That is, how did he reconcile human free will and God’s sovreign will? He answered, “I don’t have to reconcile friends.”

        Speaking of Spurgeon,

        “Whatever may be said about freewill as a theory, it is never found as a matter of fact that any man, left to himself, ever woos his God, or pines after friendship with his Maker.“Oh,” says one, “but men are free agents.” I never thought that they were not, although I am not sure that it is much to their gain that they are. The glorious privilege of the freedom of the will has been terribly overrated: it is a dangerous heritage which has already lost us Paradise, and will lose us all hope of heaven unless the mighty grace of God shall interpose.”
        CS Spurgeon

        You also speak of the path of righteousness being “long and ardous,” yet the Bible says,

        1 John 5
        In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.

        John says anyone born of God doesn’t consider the trek “long and ardous” but rather loves and relishes the commands of God. Spurgeon puts it this way,

        “We do not repent in order to be saved, but we repent because we are saved. We do not loathe sin and, therefore, hope to be saved, but, because we are saved, we therefore loathe sin and turn altogether from it”
        CS Spurgeon

        Just some things to think about.

        I would also highly recommend reading this very small book (almost a long pamphelt really) called Evangelism and the Sovreignty of God. The first chapter is the crucial one (there are only two chapters).

        Lastly, I agree that you should probably start your own blog! Not that I mind our long winded conversations, but you have a talent for writing and a love of knowledge. Perhaps when you start blogging I can return the favor and hijack your posts too! Peace be with you brother.


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