Calvinism: Total Hereditary Depravity

Larry Ray Hafley
Pekin, Illinois

I. Introduction:

A. Definition of General Subject: Calvinism.

1. "A comprehensive theological system chiefly distinguished by its view of God and His relationship to man. The name of the system is derived from John Calvin's surname . . ." (The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 1).

2. ". . . Predestination and the Five Points are all essential elements of Calvinism . . ." (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 7).

3. "Calvin's name was given to a religious system of which he was truly the champion, but not the founder" (Franklin T. Puckett, The Christian And The New Calvinism, p. 1).

4. "The Calvinian system is built upon these basic foundation stones. Though all these doctrines had long been taught in various forms, Calvin . . . developed them into a theological five point system set forth in the well known acrostic T-U-L-I-P" (Ibid., p. 2).

5. The foundation stones, the well known acrostic of Calvinism:

a. T-otal Hereditary Depravity (Total Inability) - The sin of Adam corrupted the human race. We inherit the guilt and effects of this sin by "natural generation."

b. U-nconditional Election - since man is totally depraved, he cannot choose or will to be saved; therefore, God chose certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world without regard to conditions, character, or conduct, hence, arbitrarily.

c. L-imited Atonement (Particular Redemption) - This point teaches that Christ died for only a select, elect group. He did not die for all men; He did not die for the non-elect.

d. I-rresistible Grace (Effectual Calling) The elect (those for whom Christ died) are irresistibly called to salvation by the Spirit. The non-elect cannot hear or heed, "Nevertheless God continues to hold them responsible to respond to His call" (The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 3).

e. P-erseverance of the Saints - those for whom Christ died are eternally secure no matter what they do or do not do.

B. Definition of Particular Subject: Total Hereditary Depravity.

1. "Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.

"By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

"They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.

"From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

"This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated: and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and all the notions thereof, are truly and properly sin" (The Presbyterian Confession Of Faith, Chapter 6).

2. Total Hereditary Depravity:

a. Total - "complete in degree; absolute, thorough; as a total wreck or rout; a total loss" (Webster).

b. Hereditary - "of or passed down by heredity; designating or of a characteristic transmitted from generation to generation" (Webster).

c. Depravity - "corruption" (Webster).

d. "Total depravity; in theology, the doctrine that man's nature is innately bad and perverse because of original sin" (Webster).

II. Discussion:

A. General Observations from the Theory of Total Hereditary Depravity.

1. Calvinism says God sends His Spirit to regenerate some who are totally depraved, who cannot will to do right. But God never so acted.

a. Flood - All destroyed except Noah (Gen. 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:19; 2 Pet. 2:5).

b. Sodom and Gomorrah -- All lost except "righteous" Lot (2 Pet. 2:8).

c. Israel - All impenitent ones lost (Isa. 1:4-6; 5:24, 25).

d. Nineveh - None would have been saved if not penitent (Jonah).

2. Calvinism says we inherit corrupt nature of Adam, so why do not the children of the righteous inherit the righteousness of parents?

a. Job 14:4 - "Who can bring a clean (righteous) thing out of an unclean (depraved) thing?" is argument of Calvinist.

b. Why is not reverse true? "Who can bring an unclean (depraved) thing out of a clean (righteous) thing?"

3. Adam's state of depravity, which we allegedly inherit, makes us "utterly indisposed" toward good, and "wholly inclined" toward evil.

a. That explains why we sin, but why did Adam sin?

b. Adam was "totally hereditarily righteous" prior to this time, yet he chose to sin.

c. If he chose to sin while dead to sin, may we not also choose to do right while dead in sin?

4. Calvinism says we inherit by "natural generation" the guilt and death of Adam's sin.

a. If so, death of non-elect infants equals infant damnation.

(1) Eddie K. Garrett, Primitive Baptist, says non-elect infants do not die in infancy (Job 21:7).

(2) All babies in Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Amalek were elect!

b. Jesus' statement contradicts this view of "natural generation." See Matthew 18:3.

c. No statement of sin guilt or judgment scene condemnation ever depicts sin of Adam, original sin, as the cause of loss (Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 2:13; Matt. 25; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:10-15).

5. Calvinism says it is our nature to sin, but Paul says some Gentiles did "by nature" the things contained in the law (Rom. 2:14).

B. Passages Used To Prove Total Hereditary Depravity.

1. Genesis 6:5.

a. Earth was corrupt, "for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (Gen. 6:12).

b. Note "thoughts of his heart"; do infants think? If so, only evil?

2. Job 15:14-16.

a. Jesus "born of woman" (Gal. 4:4). Was He born depraved?

b. Are the "heavens" depraved (cf. v. 15)?

c. "Man," not a baby, "drinketh iniquity"; hence, he becomes defiled.

d. Job called these statements of Eliphaz "vain words" (Job 16:2).

3. Psalms 51:5.

a. Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger, but He was not a colt or a bale of hay.

b. Acts 2:8 - born in a tongue; where that language prevailed.

4. Psalms 58:3.

a. "From the womb," not in the womb.

b. They "go astray," not born astray.

c. "Speaking lies," babies do not speak lies or otherwise.

d. These refused to hear (Psa. 58:4, 5).

e. "Break their teeth, O God" is not a reference to babies.

f.. Righteous rejoice at their destruction (Psa. 58:10). Is this infant damnation?

5. Jeremiah 13:23.

a. These were "accustomed" or taught to do evil, not so born.

b. Note how Israel got into this condition in verses 10, 11, 25.

c. Ethiopian and leopard not only cannot change their condition, they are not responsible, not held accountable to do so.

d. These could not change because they refused to hear, but see Ezekiel 33:14-16.

6. Jeremiah 17:9.

a. These were those whose heart "departeth from the Lord" (Jer. 17:5).

b. They made their heart the way it was (Jer. 17:23; Zech. 7:11, 12; Matt. 13:15).

c. Responsibility for the heart is ours (Prov. 4:23).

7. Romans 3:10-18.

a. They "are gone (not born) out of the way."

b. This describes their present condition of depravity, not what was inherited.

c. Babies not contemplated in text; terms and actions are those of adults.

8. Romans 5:12-19.

a. "For that all have sinned" is "because all sinned" in NASB (v. 12).

b. Whether condemnation or justification is conditional is not stated in rest of text.

c. Justification is just as extensive as condemnation - universal salvation?

9. Ephesians 2:1-3.

a. These were "trespasses and sins" (plural), not "original sin."

b. These were sins which they "walked" in, not what they were born in.

c. By nature:

(1) Nature - "a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature" (Thayer).

(2) "Even as others," but how did "others" get that way? By hardening their hearts, by giving themselves over to sin (Eph. 4:17-19; 2 Pet. 2:14 - "an heart they have exercised with covetous practices").

III. Conclusion:

A. Evils of the doctrine of total hereditary depravity.

1. It takes responsibility for sin away from man (Jas. 1:13-15).

2. It gave rise to the doctrine and practice of infant baptism.

3. It contradicts the Scripture definition of sin.

4. It takes man's responsibility to hear and heed away from him.

5. It contradicts plain statements of Scripture (Ezek. 18:20).

B. All have sinned (Rom. 3:23). Have you been cleansed from your sins (Col. 2:11-13; Acts 2:38)?

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 13, pp. 392-393, 406
July 7, 1983