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Some Important Points Concerning Total Depravity*

Peter Ditzel

A picture of a sheep facing the camera. What is total depravity?
“All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way….”
Isaiah 53:6a

 

1. The “total” in total depravity does not mean that everyone is as corrupt as possible or that everyone is destitute of all moral virtues. It means that sin affects all of our thought, faculties, and activities to some extent so that no one is pure or righteous in anything (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19).

2. Total depravity began when Adam and Eve sinned; it can be seen in their changed nature—e.g., blaming others for their sin, deteriorating from friend of God to hiding from Him, and deviating from innocence regarding their nakedness to shame (Genesis 3:6–13); and it has been conveyed to all of their descendants (Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Isaiah 53:6).

3. Total depravity is seen in the prevalence of every kind of sin in the world (Galatians 5:17–21).

4. Total depravity is seen in the early manifestation of sin in children (Genesis 8:21; Psalm 58:3; Proverbs 22:15).

5. Total depravity is evidenced by unregenerate humanity’s total and universal disregard for God’s claims on everyone’s supreme reverence, love, and obedience (Romans 1:18–32; 8:5–8).

6. Total depravity is seen in humanity’s general rejection of Jesus Christ (John 1:11; Isaiah 53:3).

7. Depravity is incurable by man, and it leaves him completely dependent on God’s grace for salvation (Isaiah 64:6–7; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:3; Romans 1:17; 3:23–24; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:4–9).

8. God’s people in every age have given witness to their own depravity (Job 40:4; 42:6; Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:23–24; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Timothy 1:15).

*Adapted from various sources, especially Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:233–238.

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You may want to also read the article “No One Is Good.”

The New Birth

by Peter Ditzel

This is the second and last part of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

A close-up picture of John 3:5 from a print Bible. Being born again is the new birth or regeneration.
The Bible tells us that no human is naturally good. But there is hope. Jesus teaches that we must be born again, born of the Spirit.

Election and Calling

We’re going to talk about the new birth or regeneration called being born again. In the article, “No One Is Good” (which is part 1 of this series on Total Depravity), I asked, “If no one can choose Jesus Christ as Savior, how does He become one’s Savior?” Briefly, the answer is, we don’t choose Him, He chooses us.

We have no part in this choosing or election. It does not depend on our goodness, our cooperation, or our faith. In Romans 9, Paul is writing of God’s calling or choosing or election of Jacob and rejecting of Esau before they were even born: “For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls” (verse 11).

No One Is Good

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

In this article: Total depravity explained. An artist's rough sketch of a person sitting and holding his head in his hands dejectedly.
Jesus said no one is good but God (Matthew 19:17). Other Scriptures back this up. Why is this so, and what can be done about it?
The LORD looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God. They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is no one who does good, no, not one.

These two sentences, penned by David in Psalm 14:2–3, contain some powerful ideas. They say that none of the “children of men”—no one in all of humanity—does good, not even one. Now, if you read or watch the news you might be willing to admit that there are some bad characters in the world. But can it possibly be that no one does good? that everyone has “together become corrupt”? If this is true, if additional Scriptures support it, it might revolutionize your understanding of sin and salvation and even your entire worldview! In this article, you will find total depravity explained.