Strawman Monday: If Not Total Depravity, then What?

5 Nov

Strawman Monday: If Not Total Depravity, then What?

Romans 7:19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Last week I wrote about my belief in total depravity, as put forth as the “T” in the Calvinist “TULIP” acronym.

This week, I thought to see what the contrasting part of Arminianism is.  Interestingly, the five points of Arminianism (down below and in the link) don’t deny total depravity head on. As their argument against total depravity, they insert the doctrine of “free will” which says that man is not so fallen that he cannot choose God of his own volition.

In future weeks (when I get back from a two week business trip), I plan to look at Ephesians 2 in both ways, the Calvinist one and the Arminian one.  Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit not only makes a person aware of his need for salvation (through common grace) but actually provides the special grace needed to get him across the finish line to salvation before the person plays a role in the process at all, while Arminians believe common grace, available to all, draws the person to choose Christ, at which time the Holy Spirit begins working in his life via special grace.

Since I am still studying up on the contrasts here, I am going to leave the topic for now.

But what is interesting to me about the total depravity doctrine is that it provides us (at least me) with much less despair about the fact that, as Paul said in Romans 7, “the good I would do, I do not do.”  While fully intending to serve God and man, I fall so miserably short sometimes that, if I believed that all kinds of good was inherent to human nature, I would have a hard time not giving up on myself as a lost cause.

I would also have a hard time explaining why saved people around me can be so callous to other saved people around me.

If we didn’t have a pretty strong sin nature, how would we explain the strength of our self-interest, even after salvation?

You know what I mean, don’ t you?  You have seen this as often as I have.  The way that Christians pick on other blood bought Christians, separating themselves into groups of “us vs. them” over very minor issues that often have nothing to do with the Bible.  And then defend that behavior, from a very self-defensive posture, when they would not be able to defend it from the Word at all.

What is that all about?  Why are so many of us intent on holding ourselves up as paragons of virtue to other people instead of holding up Christ and His glory over us all?

To me, it is becoming natural to think, “If something glorifies Christ, I don’t mind if it diminishes me.”  It has been a long time coming, this attitude, but by God’s grace I am getting there.  I am starting to see things more in terms of me being created to bring Him glory and less in terms of me saving face before other human beings  Praise God for that–I am sure it is entirely His work in me.

I have told you all that I believe God has given us immense freedom and many choices in this world.  This is certainly the case after salvation takes place.  Before that, I had choices, too, but I was more enslaved to sin as well.

I am just not certain at the interplay of my choice with God’s grace in the salvation process.  It is indeed a great mystery.  It is a mystery I will look at more in future days.

Five Points of Arminianism

The five points of Arminianism (from Jacobus Arminius 1559-1609) are in contrast to the five points of Calvinism.  The Arminian five points are

  • Human Free Will – This states that though man is fallen, he is not incapacitated by the sinful nature and can freely choose God.  His will is not restricted and enslaved by his sinful nature.
  • Conditional Election – God chose people for salvation based on his foreknowledge where God looks into the future to see who would respond to the gospel message.
  • Universal Atonement – The position that Jesus bore the sin of everyone who ever lived.
  • Resistable Grace – The teaching that the grace of God can be resisted and finally beaten so as to reject salvation in Christ.
  • Fall from Grace – The Teaching that a person can fall from grace and lose his salvation.
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