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The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, Of Sin, And of the Punishment Thereof - Commentary

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Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, Of Sin, And of the Punishment Thereof

What is Total Depravity? Are men as bad as they can be? What is Original Sin? Are we born sinners? What is Federal Headship?

This chapter contains brief comments on the doctrines of Original Sin, Federal Headship and Total Depravity.

§1 Man Was Created Upright And Perfect, But They Fell

  1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; 1 Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, 2 which God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory. 3
    1. Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 5:12a, 14-15; Gen. 2:17; 4:25-5:3[1]
    2. Gen. 3:1-7; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14
    3. Rom. 11:32-34; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Chron. 21:1; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Sam. 16:10; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28

God made all things “very good” (Gen. 1:31), including man. He gave a righteous law, the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). Had he kept it past his time of probation, it would have been unto life. And God threatened death upon the breath thereof, which passed down to all of Adam’s children. But Adam and Eve did not long abide in this honour. They fell by the subtlety of the serpent who subdued and deceived Eve (1Tim. 2:14). In turn, Eve seduced Adam to eat of the tree which he willfully did and transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them (Gen. 3:6). Even this was not outside of God’s providence and decree (as chapter 5:4 says). But was ordained and permitted according to His wise and holy counsel. God had a purpose in ordaining and permitting the Fall, which was for His own glory, which is the purpose and end of all things which He has ordained.

Our Confession is in agreement with Ecclesiastes 7:29 where it is said that man was created upright, but “they” (man) sought out many (evil) schemes. Adam and Eve received a direct command from God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17), which (perhaps) caused the knowledge and experience of a new kind of morality, namely evil morality. There was nothing in the fruit that did that, but it was God’s way of testing them. The Confession is clear that Adam out of his own will took of the tree and transgressed. He was not coerced against his will and desire, neither was Eve. Of this command, we read in Genesis 2:16-17:

Gen. 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

Here, this command is directly given to Adam before the creation of Eve. Whether Eve knew of this command directly from God or not, I am unsure. But I have no doubt that she knew that she should not eat of the tree. Adam had one requirement: if he obeyed he would earn eternal life for himself and his posterity, if not he and his descendants after him will be born sinful and be condemned–they will die (see chapter 7 on the Covenant of Works). Adam, in the Garden of Eden, stood in the stead of all people that would come...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

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The T Is First

In formulating the Doctrines of Grace or the Five Points of Calvinism, the Calvinists actually formulated these in answer to the five points of Arminianism. The five points stand and fall together. They are interconnected and dependent upon each other. Although some may object to the terms used, all the doctrines of the five points are indeed biblical, we believe. The five points are known with the acrostic TULIP:

  1. Total Depravity (see chapter 6)
  2. Unconditional Election
  3. Limited Atonement (see our case in chapter 8)
  4. Irresistible Grace (see chapter 10)
  5. Perseverance of the Saints (see chapter 17)

There is a logical direction toward which these doctrines move. First, people are depraved, cut off from the life of God and are unable to come to Him. That’s the way that God sees them and He has chosen them as fallen sons in Adam. That is unconditional election. Then comes the Son who pays their debt. The Spirit applies the work of the Son and they are kept forever for and by God. Total Depravity is defined as:

Because of the Fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature. Therefore, he will not –indeed, he cannot—choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ. Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not salvation, but itself a part of God’s gift of salvation. It is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.[22]

The five points go from one who is utterly, radically depraved, to one who is made holy and blameless because of Christ’s atoning death and kept safe forever in the arms of God. So, in thinking about election we must presuppose the depravity and fall of man. When God chose, He chose those who would by Adam’s Fall, fall into sin, misery, and depravity. We are told that He chose them to be “holy and blameless” (Eph. 1:4), presupposing that we were not holy and blameless. When thinking and speaking of Unconditional Election, we do not have in mind the election of people who were good, but the election of people who were fallen in Adam and on their way to Hell, if God did not intervene. If there was no election, no one would be saved, because man cannot and desires not to come to God, without the special and gracious work of God in his heart. This point is taken into consideration in the 6th chapter of the Confession.

Unconditional Election From Scripture

After laying the basis for man’s utter depravity—the fact that He cannot and will not come to God (Rom. 3:11; 8:7-8), the Five Points of Calvinism move to Unconditional Election, which as I have pointed out above by quoting some theologians, it is God’s free decision to choose out of the fallen race of Adam, before creating the world, some who would not receive their just punishment, but instead will be saved from God’s righteous wrath on the basis of Christ’s work. While a case for absolute divine election can be made if one goes to church history, but that is not much of interest to me. The Scripture teaches it, church history confirms it. The Scripture is the only standard for the truth and we should go into this inquiry about election to the God-breathed Scripture as the highest and infallible au...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

...ure feel pain when our bodies are wounded; we see things when there is light and our eyes are opened; if we jump from above we necessarily will go downward. This has nothing to do with the desires of our hearts or our inclinations. It is crucial to understand the difference between moral and natural necessity. Moral necessity supports and does not undermine human freedom because it provides the soul with the expression of its own nature. By that, I mean that our actions and choices truly reflect and come from our hearts. People would have no difficulty with this concept only if humans were not sinful. But this concept is attacked when we couple moral necessity with Total Depravity (see chapter 6). As the natural man is dead in sin and is following Satan’s will, so it is impossible for him, not because of anything that has to do with his body but because of his desires, to do that which is pleasing in God’s sight (e.g., Rom. 8:7-8; Heb. 11:6; Rom. 14:23). Moral necessity is simply the certainty of the connection between cause (the motive, which determines the will) and effect (the choice). Again, we remind ourselves, when we use the word necessity we exclude any idea of contrary will or opposition.

Edwards defines natural inability in this way:

we are said to be naturally unable to do a thing, when we cannot do it if we will, because what is most commonly called nature does not allow of it, or because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic [external, outside] to the Will… [22]

I can will and desire to fly, but I don’t have the natural ability to fly. I don’t have wings, for example. Thus, I am unable naturally to fly. But on the other hand,

Moral Inability consists not in any of these things [of natural inability]; but either in the want [lack] of inclination; or the strength of a contrary inclination; or the want [lack] of sufficient motives in view, to induce and excite the act of the Will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary[22]

Moral inability, like moral necessity, has to do with the heart. It is a defect from within and not without as it might be with natural necessity. Moral inability may be illustrated not in the case of a gunman threatening a man unable to walk; but asking a favor from a person who hates you. There is no defect in their ear or brain to understand your request, rather the defect is in the lack of love or graciousness and the contrary inclination of hatred toward you. Thus, he is unable to do this favor for you but may do it for someone else. This is a very simple example. When we come to the things of God, the situation is similar. We have already discussed Total Depravity in chapter 6 of the 1689, especially in paragraph 4. The only difficulty at this point is that the subject has to do with eternal things. It has to do with Heaven and Hell and that’s why people have difficulty with moral inability and moral necessity coupled with Total Depravity. Man does not lack the heart, the understanding or the brains to love and submit to God, but what he lacks is the desire, which in Adam we all had, but we also fell in him and lost it.

Edwards observes that the will which is determined by the strongest motive always has an inability. Even God is morally unable to do certain things. The Bible says, for example, that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). That is a moral inability and yet we praise Him for that. Likewise, the same Bible which records that God cannot lie, also says...

Total depravity, Radical corruption - Scripture List


Total Depravity, Radical corruption

Man is dead in sin, completely and radically impacted by the Fall, the enemy of God, incapable of saving himself. This does not mean that man is as evil as he could be. Nor does it mean that the image of God is destroyed, or that the will is done away with. Instead, it refers to the all pervasiveness of the effects of sin, and the fact that man is, outside of Christ, the enemy of God.[1]

Because of the Fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature. Therefore, he will not –indeed, he cannot—choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ. Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not salvation, but itself a part of God’s gift of salvation. It is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.[2]

For a case see here.

Man is sinful, evil, unrighteous

Gn 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Gn 8:21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

Job 14:1-4 “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. 2 He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. 3 And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you? 4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.

Job 15:14-16 What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? 15 Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; ​16 how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!

Ps 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Ps 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

Ps 130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

Ps 143:2Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

Prov 20:9Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?

Ecc 9:3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Isa 64:6We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Jer 13:23Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Mt 7:17-18 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Mt 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

...eral head means to be a representative for a group of people. In the case of Adam, it is for all those who descended from him (aside from the Lord Jesus Christ, see above). In the case of Christ, He is the federal head of all believers. For all who are in the covenant of which He is the mediator. Adam’s one trespass, i.e., eating from the forbidden fruit, brought condemnation and damnation upon all whom he represented in the Garden, i.e., all men. This is the doctrine of Adam’s federal headship and it has implications upon a lot of things including Total Depravity (see chapter 6 of the confession, especially paragraphs 1-2). But Christ’s one act of righteousness, which is best seen to represent His perfect obedience throughout His life is the source of justification and life for all men. Obviously, it does not mean that justification and life have come upon every single human being without exception. But it means that He earned, and His obedience leads to, the justification and life for all who are in Him. As He is the representative of the elect alone. He represents the people for whom He died. As the High Priest, He offers the sacrifice on behalf of the people in His covenant. He prays for those in the covenant. He mediates for those in the covenant. He intercedes for those in the covenant. In v. 19, Paul focuses on the group of people for whom Christ purchased life and justification for. Here he calls them “the many.” As we had Adam as our federal head that means that we were under God’s wrath and condemnation, but God by sending His Son who obeyed in our place and for us has made us righteous. The text says that just like the disobedience of Adam led to the condemnation of “the many”, so likewise Christ’s obedience will lead to the justification of “the many.” In v. 19, Paul speaks of one group, i.e., “the many” and he speaks about their condemnation under Adam and their later justification under Christ.

The necessity of Christ’s active obedience is explained by Wayne Grudem, in this manner—

If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of Adam and Eve before they had done anything good or bad and before they had passed a time of probation successfully. To be established in righteousness forever and to have their fellowship with God made sure forever, Adam and Eve had to obey God perfectly over a period of time. Then God would have looked on their faithful obedience with pleasure and delight, and they would have lived with him in fellowship forever.

For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s “active obedience,” while his suffering and dying for our sins is called his “passive obedience.” Paul says his goal is that he may be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of [his] own based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9). It is not just moral neutrality that Paul knows he needs from Christ (that is, a clean slate with sins forgiven), but a positive moral righteousness. And he knows that that cannot come from himself, but must come through faith in Christ. Similarly, Paul says that Christ has been made “o...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

...does not seek God (Rom. 3:11),
  • cannot believe in God (John 10:24-26; 12:37-41; ),
  • cannot come to Christ (John 6:44),
  • the desires and intentions of his heart are evil (Gen. 6:5; 8:21),
  • deceitful and desperately sick heart (Jer. 17:9),
  • all things he does are sinful (Rom. 14:23; Isa. 64:6),
  • cannot accept the things of the Spirit and is unable to understand (1 Cor. 2:14),
  • darkened in his understanding (Eph. 4:17-19),
  • cannot please God (Rom. 8:5-8).
  • You can find more verses in this Scripture List of Total Depravity or see chapter 6 of the Confession. This is a summary and not an exhaustive list of the biblical testimony about fallen man. 

    Now back to the new birth. Those who believe that faith precedes regeneration must first deal with the explicit passages which deny that fallen man can do anything spiritually positive (e.g., Col. 2:14; Rom. 8:7-8; John 6:44). The question we must ask is, “Does God delight and is He pleased with repentance?” and then the negation of that in Romans 8:7-8. Fallen man, says Paul cannot—does not have the ability—to please God and submit to His Law. Is loving God above all else and your neighbor as yourself not the summary of the Law and start of true repentance? Is not the realization that we are hopeless, have sinned against God and need His forgiveness Christianity 101? Is that not pleasing to God and His Law? Yet, that is exactly what those in the flesh are unable to do. The Greek δύναμαι (dunamai, G1410) is defined as “to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favorable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom”[10]. Fallen man has a moral inability (see this also), which we argued for in chapter 9 on Free Will.

    Can we really say that the man who cannot please God, the one who cannot accept the things of the Spirit Who regenerates man and is unable (δύναμαι, dunamai) to understand (Col. 2:14), and the one who cannot (δύναμαιdunamai) come to Christ (John 6:44) is the same who believes and takes the step to believe? One cannot consistently hold these two together. Furthermore, did we not argue that faith, in fact, was a gift above? What becomes of these verses?

    This is why I believe that it is more consistent with the testimony of Scripture to hold that regeneration, in fact, does precede and gives rise to faith. This would explain the fact why we are now able to believe and put our faith in Christ.

    In regeneration, the Sovereign and gracious Spirit of the Almighty gives us a new heart and a new spirit, in a word he makes us new. We become new creations, no longer hostile to God, but now desire the things of God. Our nature is changed. We are made spiritually alive and thus will love the things of God and will believe in God. We are no longer, in the words of 1 Corinthians 2:14, natural people, but spiritual people—indwelt and led by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11-13, 15). Our situation prior to regeneration and faith is similar to that of Lazarus. He was stinking in the grave for 4 days. He had no power to raise himself up from the grave. He did not take the first step nor the last step, or any step in between. He was wholly passive through the whole process of him being made alive again. The Lord of glory, the Giver of life Himself, raised him up. There was absolutely no choice of his involved in all of this. When the Lord said, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43). He could not do anything but come out. The Lor...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

    ...ly God’s choice from all eternity to select out people whom He will in time give that faith which justifies.

    6. Lastly, we see that a connection is made between v. 39 and 40 about the ones given and the ones now (present tense) believing. Those who were given by the Father in v. 39 are the ones looking (present tense) to the Son and believing (present tense) in Him. Their being given by the Father ensures that they will have abiding faith through which they will be saved. Furthermore, in v. 40 we see the free offer of the gospel. The gospel is proclaimed to all creation and everyone is called to behold and believe in the Son, knowing also from the Scriptures about the truth of Total Depravity that no one will seek the Son. But we know also that whoever looks upon the Son and believes in Him, will do so as a result of being given by the Father to the Son, and not as a result of human will or effort. Therefore, v. 40 is a call to everyone to look and believe in the Son, and not to say in the state of unbelief, “I don’t see evidence of election in me” or “I don’t think I’m elect, so it doesn’t matter”. Rather, the call of v. 40 is to everyone to look upon the Son and believe in Him and in that way you will know whether you’re elect or not. Those who look and adore the Son prove their election by their faith. Those who reject and spurn the Son until death, prove their reprobation by their rejection.

    John 10:27-29 – No one will snatch them

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

    1. First of all, we again encounter the idea of the Father giving a specific people to the Son in v. 29 as we did in chapter 6 above. The believers here are designated as the sheep of Jesus the Shepherd. They are His, why? Because the Father has given them to Him. They hear His voice, why? Because He is their Shepherd and they follow no other. They follow Him, why? Because He is their Good Shepherd and the sheep recognize the voice of their Shepherd and they follow Him. The elect are Jesus the Shepherd’s possessions and He is the One Who seeks out the sheep when they’ve gone astray. He has this charge, as we saw from John 6.

    2. The sheep are given eternal life by the Son. They are given eternal life in the present time, not after death or after Judgment Day. Eternal life begins on this side of eternity. It is the sheep who are specifically given eternal life, which does not primarily describe the length, but rather the quality of life. Eternal life is described in terms of knowing and having a relationship with God, and does not merely refer to unending life after the grave, although it does also refer to that, but we also know that the Bible speaks of eternal life as a present possession of believers on this side of eternity (e.g., John 3:16; 5:13). But more on this point below in the next section.

    3. The sheep are given eternal life and then another thing follows, namely the fact that they will never perish. The same group is still under discussion. The same sheep who were given by the Father, are given eternal life and we are assured that “they will never perish.” The expression οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou me apolontai eis ton aiona) may be translated with “shall certainly not perish for ever”. The HSCB ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 29: Of Baptism - Commentary

    ...ficance Of Baptism

    We have argued above that baptism essentially signifies union with Christ, and is it not appropriate that only those who are actually united to Christ, be the subjects of the ordinance? Obviously, we cannot see into people’s hearts, but we can listen to what they say and how they live, and on the basis of that baptize them. They may deceive us, but they will not deceive God, and their condemnation is just. But we should not willingly administer the ordinance of baptism to those we have no reason to believe to possess that which is signified—union with Christ. We have no reason to believe that infants have faith or are united with Christ (Total Depravity anyone?). They may, in fact, come to faith when they’re older, but as they remain, we have no reason to believe that they are proper subjects of this solemn ordinance. We see from our Lord’s direct commission (Matt. 28:19) as well as practice (John 4:1-2), that discipleship and faith precede public profession in baptism. This is also the exact pattern which His apostles followed in Acts as we have seen.

    Could it be said of infants, when baptism is administered to them, that they are united with Christ in his death, are buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-5)? Obviously, we cannot, but that is the significance of baptism. How can anyone be united to Christ without being saved? How can anyone cease being united to Him? We know that nothing can separate those united to Him by faith, unless we believe that we can fall away from faith. We must find a distinct meaning for baptism, which is not true of all who have that ordinance administered to them if we want to maintain infant baptism. There is a certain way and a certain requirement when adult members are baptized and there is a certain way and another requirement for infants to be baptized. This is something never hinted at in the Holy Scriptures. Good paedobaptists would require a profession of faith from adults as any Baptist would. But the precepts and examples of baptism in the Bible are apparently not enough to exclude anything other than believers’ baptism.

    It is admitted by our Presbyterian brethren that baptism does not save, nor does any infant become a Christian by being baptized. Rather, they enter into the Covenant of Grace in an external manner and enjoy its external blessings. Strictly speaking, they teach that because they are in the covenant, they ought to receive its sign and seal. Yet we deny such membership in the Covenant of Grace. We’ve spoken about covenant membership in the New Covenant in many chapters and we will speak of it again below.

    All who belong to the covenant are regenerated and Spirit-dwelt believers. Church membership does not equal membership in the New Covenant. There are many who are church members, but are sons of perdition and not members of the New Covenant in any way. They may enjoy the blessings of being with believers and under the teaching of the Word of God, but that doesn’t make them members, in any sense, of the New Covenant, because I believe that the New Covenant doesn’t have multiple ways of membership. They are members of a local church and in a sense part of the community of the people of God insofar as the local church is regarded as “the community of the people of God.” But their membership in that community does not place them in the New Covenant. They see the blessings and glories of the New Covenant, yet th...

    Irresistible Grace, Effectual Calling - Scripture List

    ...y still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

    More in “Total Depravity, Radical corruption” & “Sovereignty over the reprobate.”

    This content is taken from this document

    [1] I believe that Irresistible Grace is the logical conclusion to Unconditional Election, so, many of the verses for Unconditional Election apply also for Irresistible Grace, since God has set to save His elect, who can annul His purpose? (Isa 14:27)

    [2] James White, The Potter’s Freedom (New Revised Edition 2009) p. 40

    [3] “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” Ed. 2, pp. 7.

    [4] Isa 54:13

    [5] C.f. Ps 14:7; Ps 53:6; Isa 59:20-21; Jn 4:22; Heb 8:8-12

    [6] C.f. Isa 27:9; Rom 9:4; Heb 8:12

    [7] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved..


    A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

    ...ich is in work in us when regeneration happens, in that we are passive. Synergism on the other hand teaches that man and God cooperate to bring the salvation of man. Arminians may not like the word synergism, but it describes what they believe. They believe that God does everything that He can to bring men to Himself, and He wants all men to come, but yet some refuse to come. Therefore, the will of man is that which effectuates salvation. The Augustinians disagreed.

    Jacob Arminius

    Later in the 16th century came Jacob Arminius who studied in Geneva (Calvin’s city) and was a Calvinist, but later came to doubt his Calvinism. He agreed with Calvinism about Total Depravity, but where he differed was the nature of grace. Many of the statements of Arminius about human depravity, could be amen’d by Calvinists, but not those about the nature of grace. Basically, he believed that grace was resistible. It was necessary, but not essential in the sense that for anyone to be saved he needs grace, yet grace alone can’t do it, it must cooperate with man for its effectiveness. Man can resist the grace of God.

    He also believed the common belief even of our day that the election of God was based on who would believe or not believe like the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.

    The Augustinians & the Reformed

    This book was written to defend and clarify the Augustinian doctrine of free will, which is the Reformed doctrine of free will. Here I want to survey some of the theologians and their thoughts concerning free will. Let’s start with Augustine.

    Augustine of Hippo

    Augustine was the ardent opponent of Pelagius. He was the one who answered and challenged Pelagius and it was because of his prayer that Pelagius was outraged. They are so radically different from each other.

    Augustine believed and taught the doctrine of Original Sin. The doctrine teaches that because of Adam’s disobedience and because Adam was the representative of the whole human race (the root of the tree), therefore by his disobedience the whole human race was thrown into misery and sin. He stood in the place of those born of men and women. He believed that death (both spiritual and physical) was the punishment of the disobedience of our first parents.

    He taught that all men have free will (liberum arbitrium). What they lacked was liberty (libertas). Augustine defined free will as the power to make free choices without any compulsion from the outside. In that sense every person has free will and is free to do as he pleases. What man in the Fall has lost is libertas. Augustine (and RC) understands libertas as the ability do that which is required of us. God commands man to be holy and obey Him, but since the Fall man has not been able to do that because he lost the libertas to will to that which is good. Because as Jonathan Edwards later would clearly say is that man choses according to his pleasure and desires, the only problem is that the Scriptures everywhere describe our desires as sinful. Man is free do all that he desires (liberum arbitrium), but in the Fall he has lost his desire to do good (libertas).

    At this point RC introduces some helpful Latin phrases (I love the fact that he many times explains what words mean):

    • Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
    • Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This obviously Adam and Eve did.
    • Non posse non peccare is the impossibi...