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January 9, 2010


By Victoria Day

 Labels, anachronisms.  They really upset some people unnecessarily.  The words Calvinist or Arminian seems to bring out the least charitable reaction. 

Recently a brother on a Christian forum claimed that there was no scriptural evidence for the depravity of man.  Immediately many verses came to mind and this article was born.  

But all labels aside, Calvin’s theology is based on Scripture, some that I will cite in this article. 

Let’s take a look at the ‘T’ in T.U.L.I.P. from a common sense perspective.  It is important to understand what “total depravity” means as some in opposition accuse it to be unscriptural.  We’ll begin with the most powerful example of why men are not “good” and work our way down.  Why in the eyes of the world they are, and why the Word of God says they are not.

“And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19 NASB)

No one is good but God alone.  God said it; I believe it; that settles it.  If we claim that man is anything but a sinner then Christ died needlessly.  What audacity to think that we could claim goodness when even Jesus, in His humanity, did not.


“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 NASB)

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 NASB)

The above verse is interesting on two points.  He recognized “what was in man” and he was not entrusting Himself to those even who believed in His name!  This was before the New Covenant was established and before the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers.   However, the Apostle Paul tells us in the present tense:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Romans 7:18 NASB)

What does this verse mean other than men are totally depraved, which simply means they have no righteousness within themselves in the flesh, but in the Spirit?  Well…that’s the key to righteousness, isn’t it?

Can God declare us righteous?  Yes.  Can we declare ourselves righteous?  No.  Without Christ, even the good works we do are like “filthy rags” to God.

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6 NASB)

Although the above verse applies to Israel, it can also apply to fallen man in general and points to the only remedy for our sins.  Isaiah 53 tells us:

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”  (Isaiah 53:6 NASB)

That being said, can men do good although they are unsaved?  Of course.  They can be kind, generous, loving.  Does the good they do have eternal value?  Not unless it’s done through the Righteous One, Jesus. 


Another part of the TD doctrine is that because of man’s depravity, he is unable to save himself.  This makes sense because according to the following verse, it would be impossible.

“Now we [believers] have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 NASB)

Questions to ponder:

What is a “natural man?”

How can one who “doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit” be saved? 

Aren’t we all ‘natural men’ before salvation?

Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian or somewhere in between, if you don’t submit to the truth of what God says about man, you will not understand the righteousness of Christ.  God alone is good.  Where does it leave us?  Well, for one thing, if you have experienced the goodness of God through the salvation of Christ, you are now a new man with a new heart and the righteousness you have before God is not your own, but His. 

God sees your FAITH as righteousness and sees you as His child because of the righteousness of His Son.

One Comment leave one →
  1. christianclarityreview permalink
    January 9, 2010 10:36 pm

    Calvinists aren’t supposed to win the way Arminians want to win arguments. Don’t be discouraged because you don’t get Arminian looking results. Be very encouraged!

    God doesn’t fight through us the way Satan fights through them or for the same goals.

    Ephesians 6:12 because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies.


    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

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