Total Depravity – Is It Not Biblical ?

The reason some people don’t talk about Jesus, is that they believe they are good and have no need of a savior, no need of being regenerated.

Yet, it was not to a social outcast, criminal or drunkard, but to a religious, law-abiding man that Christ addressed the command, “You must be born again” (John 3:1-7).  Some persons who possess a certain moral goodness and are therefore, seemingly, self-righteous, do not realize any need of regeneration. They believe that only drunkards, thieves, murderers, harlots, and co., need to be born again. I have heard it said, that a woman, whose parents were missionaries, declared that she did not need to be born again because she was born right the first time and simply needed to continue being good.  Well, this is far from the truth.

The necessity of regeneration for all grew out of the depravity of man’s nature.

The natural man is “dead in trespasses and sins . . . alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 2:1; 4:18) because his iniquities have separated him from God (Isaiah 59:2).  “There is none righteous, no, not one . . . For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23).

Yet, some would say that the doctrine of total depravity is unbiblical, that the Bible does not teach as such.

However, the Bible clearly teaches …

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

“The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:2, 3).

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The doctrine of  total depravity is therefore, an acknowledgement that the Bible teaches, that as a result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:6) every part of man – his mind, will, emotions and flesh – have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “… all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).   Furthermore, it acknowledges that the Bible teaches that we sin because we are sinners by nature.  Indeed, as Jesus says “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18).

The total depravity of man is seen throughout the Bible.

Man’s heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) and the thoughts of his heart are “continually evil” (Genesis 6:5).

The Bible also teaches us that man is born dead in transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-5). The Bible teaches that because unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5), he is held captive by a love for sin (John 3:19; John 8:34) so that he will not seek God (Romans 3:10-11) because he loves the darkness (John 3:19) and does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore men suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to willfully live in sin. Because they are totally depraved this sinful lifestyle seems right to men (Proverbs 14:12) so they reject the Gospel of Christ as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so.” (Romans 8:7).

The Apostle Paul summarizes the total depravity of man in Romans 3:9-18.   He begins this passage by saying that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.”  This means that man is under the control of sin or is controlled by his sin nature (his natural tendency to sin).

The fact that unregenerate people are controlled by their selfish, sinful tendencies should not come as a surprise to any parent. What parent has to teach their children to be selfish, to covet what someone else has or to lie?   Those actions come naturally from the child’s sin nature. Instead the parent must devote much time to teaching the child the importance of telling the truth, of sharing instead of being selfish, of obeying instead of rebelling, and so on.

Then in the rest of this passage Paul quotes extensively from the Old Testament in explaining how sinful man really is:

  1. no one is without sin
  2. no one seeks after God
  3. there is no one who is good
  4. their speech is corrupted by sin
  5. their actions are corrupted by sin
  6. and above all they have no fear of God.

Thus, when one considers these few verses it becomes abundantly clear the Bible does indeed teach that fallen man is “totally depraved” because sin affects all of him including his mind, will and emotions, so that “There is none who does good, no not one” (Romans 3:12).

Clearly, it is Biblical.