First off, here is a pretty exhaustive list of biblical support for the doctrine of total depravity, which I see as the cornerstone and foundation of the Calvinist perspective. You should, at least, give a quick look at the breadth of the list. It’s impressive.
Like I said in my previous post, it’s all about the lens you view things through. For me, I look at those verses and see something totally different from what the Calvinist does. I come to different conclusions, because I start from a different point of view.
Granted, there are some passages that are still confusing and I struggle to completely harmonize them with the core of what I believe. And it’s an honest struggle. But this is true for the honest Calvinist, also.
Since the doctrine of total depravity is a foundational starting point of Calvinist doctrine, I’ll start there.
I believe in the doctrine of total depravity.
- Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
- Titus 1:15-16 – …to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
- Romans 7:18 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
I believe the Bible teaches that human beings are all born corrupted and depraved by original sin. I believe we live in a world that is fundamentally flawed and influenced by sin and evil on every level. I believe that Jesus died to set us free from sin and death and give us the fullness of life that was corrupted when sin entered the Garden.
In spite of that, I believe people can still do good. Even those who clearly do not believe in God. The Bible teaches that every person is the handiwork of God, created in his image and bearing the substance of his creative essence. Everybody.
The history of mankind has been painted by the work and effort of engineers and doctors and teachers and lawyers and philosophers and moms and dads and all other shapes and sizes of humans. And all of them have been depraved and flawed and corrupted by sin.
But they could still do good. They could treat people kindly. They could think and reason and emote and act selflessly, at least in a limited way. That’s because they are, in essence, God’s handiwork. There is something of God’s image in everybody…no matter how good or bad we behave.
But I don’t believe in the doctrine of total inability.
As I understand it, central to Calvinist belief is the understanding that because people are completely depraved, we are also completely unable to respond to God of our own volition…unable to respond to God by faith, unless God makes it happen. Here is a passage that apparently supports this view:
- John 6:44,65 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
I see that, but for me, that is not the complete lens. Later in John, Jesus says this:
- John 12:31-33 – Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
All people are drawn to Christ, but not all will trust Christ as Savior. Every person will make his own decision to trust Christ or to reject Him. The Bible makes it clear that all people have light. John 1:9 says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” Romans 1:19,20 says that every sinner has been called through the creation about him. And Romans 2:11-16 teaches that every depraved person is called through their conscience, even when they have not heard the Word of God.
It’s the lens I see through. Even in our depraved, sinful state, people still have the freedom (the will) to respond. For me, it’s not a matter of whether or not you can follow Jesus, but whether or not you will follow Jesus.
Revelation 22:17 is an invitation at the very end of the Bible. It says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
If it is really true that no person has the ability to come to Christ unless God makes (predestines) them come, then why would Jesus confront their obstinance and unbelief in John 5:40:
“These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” It’s because freedom, choice, human will and responsibility are real entities, and not simply the act of going through predetermined motions.
Again, this is my lens, my filter…even as compelling as the so-called Calvinist texts can be.