Thursday, June 29, 2006

Total Depravity - Kieran’s 1000 word rebuttal

When Steve and I entered this debate our opponents agreed to affirm the doctrine of total hereditary depravity. In his opening salvo, however, Micah attempted to shift the issue. “Total Depravity does not mean that every person will be as bad as they can be, but that the effects of the fall affect them physically, and spiritually.” In affirming that man is not as depraved as he can be, Micah repudiates the London Confession. For it teaches not merely that man is depraved in all the parts, but that all parts are “wholly defiled.” More importantly, he surrenders the debate! Sorry Micah, but to argue that the total (physical and spiritual) man is depraved is not equivalent to arguing that man is totally depraved. In the expression “the total man is depraved” “total” is an adjective, modifying “man,” telling how much of the man is depraved – every part of his humanity. In the expression “man is totally depraved” “totally” is an adverb of degree, modifying “depraved;” telling how depraved man is – totally depraved. Can't you see that to argue that the total man is depraved but can still grow worse is to argue that the total man is depraved but not totally depraved? Only a man who is partially depraved can grow worse.

Mark said: “Papasmurph doesn’t offer any Scripture stating that infants have a good nature, an innocent nature….” Re-read my first paper and notice especially points D and E under the heading: “This Doctrine is Unscriptural Because …” Scriptures were presented, you simply refused to deal with them.[i]

But what about their proof texts? Remember first what they are obliged to prove! The debate is not about whether men sin, are depraved on account of their own iniquity, begin to sin at an early age or even if some are totally depraved. If this debate were about such things it would not have taken place. This debate is about whether men (because of the sin of Adam) are born with a nature that is totally depraved.

Their strongest texts have been Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22, but neither passage is speaking about whether infants are born totally depraved. Furthermore, the death that is being contemplated in both passages is physical and not spiritual. (Re-read Steve’s first paper – The Fall, paragraphs 4-7 – and our response to their first and fourth questions for an explanation of this conclusion.) As Steve rightly pointed out, if we die spiritually because of Adam’s sin “then as night follows day” Romans 5:18-19 teaches universal salvation. For whatever “the many” lost unconditionally “through [Adam’s] disobedience” they regained unconditionally “through the obedience of [Christ]. Moreover, with regards to 1 Cor 15:22 if "in Adam all die" means all die spiritually, then it follows that "in Christ all shall be made alive " means that all will be given spiritual life and once again we have universal salvation.[ii]

While Calvinists say that even in the womb men are in a condition of depravity Scripture says: (Ecclesiastes 7:29) “… God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.” Like Adam we enter the world having “no knowledge of good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39) and in fellowship with God. Like Adam we gain this knowledge and forfeit this fellowship through transgression (Genesis 3:22). Like him we “go astray” from God (Psalm 58:3), “turn aside” from Him and “become useless.” (Romans 3:12) Admittedly, this happens early in life, but as far as the divine record is concerned Eve too sinned the first time that Satan tempted her through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (Gen 3:6). Since that time Satan has tempted all the descendants of Adam (including Jesus) through the same avenues (1 John 2:15-16; Matt 4:1-11). Like Adam and Eve we do not sin because we are sinners, but we are sinners because succumb to temptation and sin. (James 1:13-15)

But what about Psalms 51:5? Calvinists fail to differentiate between the thing born and the conditions surrounding the birth. David doesn’t say: I was born in sin. Yet, had said this, it would still not mean that he was born having inherited total depravity from his mother. The fact that we are born IN something does not mean that we are THAT thing. David is not talking about the thing born, but rather about the conditions surrounding his birth. “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” This is the Psalmist's description of the circumstances of his birth; it has nothing at all to do with the nature with which he came into the world.

Micah wrote: “Christ was born of woman, but was not descended from Adam.” Contrast this with Luke 3:23-38 where Jesus’ lineage is traced from his mother to Adam. Jesus is a descendant of Adam! Calvinism notwithstanding!

Micah wrote that Adam was created “not ‘totally righteous.’” If words mean anything, Micah is saying God created Adam partially unrighteous. But why take such a position? Because we asked: how could God’s word be more powerful than Satan’s since, according to Calvin's doctrine, God’s word is unable to penetrate the heart of a totally depraved person unless He first works a miracle on his heart to receive that word. For Satan’s word, without a prior miracle, was able to penetrate the heart of a totally righteous person leading her to sin. If a totally depraved individual requires a direct working of the Spirit on his heart to empower him to receive the word of God, why wouldn’t a totally righteous person require a direct work of the devil on his heart to empower him to obey his word? Is the devil’s word more powerful than God’s? According to Calvinism, “Yes!” Our opponents denial, notwithstanding.


Total word count 986

[i] Mark had opportunity to address these arguments in his first paper but chose to ignore them. Thus, unless they to respond to them in this round they lose their right to respond in the final paper. For it would leave Steve and I without an opportunity to offer a rebuttal.

[ii] We made this argument previously and are merely restating it here. Therefore, unless Micah and Mark respond to it this round they lose the right to respond in their final paper. In the final paper the only NEW arguments that can be made are those written in response to NEW arguments made in this paper

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