“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no on 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.” Romans 3: 10b-18
I don’t know if anyone could have put this better or more blunt. Paul is quoting Old Testament scripture, addressing the hot topic of mans depravity. He is talking about total depravity of man, the wickedness that lives inside each man and women that results in sin. What is total depravity? We can sum it up in three statements:
1.) ALL humans are depraved. There is not one person alive, or once alive, or going to be alive before Christ’s second coming, who does not sin or is not corrupted or wicked. There is no “innocence” either; even when a baby is born, they sin. All are depraved.
2.) All of our existence is filled with wickedness. Even when we perform a good task, or think rightfully about something, we are doing this with a deceitful heart. We are usually doing this good deed to accomplish something for ourselves.
3.) All of man is wicked, there is no part of man that is good. The whole of man is wicked.
If you need or want scriptural references for these three statements I urge you to re-read the beginning of this blog post – it might open your eyes! Let’s also look at the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“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
We can see here that Paul is telling them (us) that they are “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” This tells me two things: (1) that we are, from our beginning, people who are full of anger and malice, and (2) that this is the case for all of mankind. I think that those points are pretty easy to see and pull out of the Scripture.
This does not mean that humans are as evil as they could be, but that any good that man does is by nature faulty in its premise, false in motive, and weak in its implementation, and there are no natural capacities that can revert this condition.
What does this all mean? I see one blanket statement in Scripture that defines total depravity for me: “no one seeks for God.” (Psalm 14: 1-3 & Romans 3: 11). So if we don’t seek God, what do we seek? Fame, money, success, cars, a house, a wife, an A on our last exam, a degree, a job, a dog, a white picket fence, community, friends, a sense of belonging, etc. And why do we seek these things? Comfort. We are trying to fill a hole that we think will make us more comfortable. Where does this come from? Original sin, a term that has been developed to tell us of the fall in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned, thus bringing sin into the world and thus disconnecting us from God. Before that, the world was perfect, I mean PERFECT, man roamed free in the garden with God and all that God did and created he called “good”. The thought of that just brings me to tears, how wonderful a thought! We can’t even imagine what it was like because there is nothing this side of heaven that is even close. So with original sin we get total depravity.
But that’s not the end, no – if it were, what a sad life we would all be living right now. Because man will not chose God on his own will, God must chose man, he must elect, predestine, or call individuals to salvation since fallen man does not want to, and is indeed incapable of, choosing God. We can not choose God, therefore God must choose us!
That brings me to the second part of the Ephesians quote, the part I left out, but thankfully God did not:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2: 4-6
Notice that it is God that does this all. Not once do we see, ‘and man decided to follow God’ or ‘man being rich in mercy’ – no, BUT GOD, being the all-loving, all-knowing, all-purposeful God that he is, sent us Christ, to absorb our sins.
Total depravity is very real and very humbling. To know that no matter what I do, in all my ‘goodness’ I can not seek after God, that God has called me. I’ll be interested in what kind of discussion this presents, but nonetheless, I look forward to it. Remember I do not claim to be an expert on Calvinism, TULIP, total depravity, the Bible, or really much of anything, except sin.
Here are some other parts in scripture that talk about total depravity, have a look if you will:
Psalm 14: 1-3
John 3: 3,5
John 6: 44
Romans 1: 28-32
Romans 3: 9-19
Romans 6: 16-19
Romans 8: 7-8
Ephesians 2: 1-5