Neither Reformed Nor Free Will - Part 1
Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.
The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick (Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, "In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?" The answer is, "He cannot. Therefore God must predestine."
Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48 ); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23).
Humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that we cannot chose to come to God on our own. We are capable of choosing to accept salvation or reject it without any influence from God.
Contrasted to total or partial depravity, I believe in inherent evil. This does not mean man is incapable of doing any good—just look at those unbelievers who do many charitable works, who, as described in the parable, said, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many marvelous works?”
Not only did these people whom the Lord condemned do “good” works, they even did it in the name of Christ.
However, in the case of Calvinism, the use of total depravity is used in relation to salvation. It is said that man cannot seek or desire God in an unsaved state. “Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:” (Proverbs 1:28, context 1:23-33). If unsaved people cannon seek or desire God, then how could they call upon and seek God, but not find Him or an answer?
Note: This also ties in to unconditional election, in which unsaved people cannot seek God if they aren’t the elect, so only the elect can seek God. However, in this passage, we have some people seeking God without an answer. Does this preclude election? I shall get into this a bit more in a later post.
We also have the famous “choice” passages. “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” (1st Kings 18:21). Immediately following that passage is the confrontation on Mount Carmel. Other well-known passages are Deuteronomy chapters 29 and 30 and Joshua 24:1-28.
So is man evil? Yes, he is inherently evil—in that his natural tendency is to sin and be evil. Is he capable of turning to God? Yes…but only because “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3).
In other words, while it is the prerogative of God to give every man the measure of faith necessary for belief, man still has the prerogative to turn away from his rejection of God to a saving belief in God through a miraculous process called salvation. I do not minimize God’s role in salvation—without the measure of faith bestowed on every man, without the marvelous grace of God, without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, which made it all possible—I would have nothing. But remember, while man may be inherently evil, he is made in the image of God, and as such, has the choice between evil and good (reference Adam and Eve in the garden). While man may choose evil (and does), and through the wickedness of his heart may seem totally deprived, God has given every man the responsibility for his sinfulness through the choice each one of us makes.
To say that man is totally depraved is to cheat man of being human. Satan is totally depraved. Demons are totally depraved. God created humans as autonomous beings—in His image, but as separate beings. The virtue of being autonomous is the act of choice. And as humans, we know by nature what is good and evil, so therefore when we do evil, we have chosen to do that, and so thus it is that when we stand before God, we have no excuse, because we have made the ultimate choice in either rejecting or accepting the atonement God offers us.
If, however, we were truly totally depraved, the basis for condemning sinners would be a false sort of justice. That would be like condemning someone for eating food. Eating is something we can’t help but do—either that or die. Total depravity assumes that man can’t help but be evil, and that he can’t be anything but evil unless God intervenes. In other words, man being evil is like man eating food. Only in death is man freed from eating or evil.
Let me put it forth mathematically…
If man is totally evil:
Man = Evil
And God hates Evil:
Godhate = Evil
Then what is the result?
Godhate = Man
That doesn’t ring true with the Bible. How could a loving God hate man whom He created because of the way He created him?
But…I don’t believe man isn’t evil…
Instead, the equation looks like this:
Man = Evil + Soul + Spirit + Etc…
Godhate = Evil
And you have…
Man = Godhate + Soul + Spirit + etc.
No longer does God hate man categorically, entirely, and without reason. God hates sin and evil, but not the sinner. And the reason we need the covering of the Blood is for good reason. While God may not hate man, he does hate the evil that is part of us, as you saw in my equation above, therefore we need to expunge that evil through the cleansing Blood of the Lamb so that Godhate no longer resides on us.
In conclusion…man is sinful, but by choice. Man can come to God, but only through grace, which God freely bestows (Romans 5, esp. 8, 15, 18 ). God influences and calls all sinners to come, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1st Timothy 2:3-4), but not all come.