A Dialogue on Total Depravity

The topic we have before us is very important because we are living in this generation where there is a shallow understanding of the weight of sin and how this sin affects humankind. Salvation is reduced into the simple formula as ABC and that if you repeat a prayer from someone then you are saved as if we in ourselves can decide to register our names in the book of life.

So the topic in this discussion is the condition of man in its fallen state. What is man’s condition in the eyes of God and is our diagnosis about what we are accurate from the testimony as described in scripture?

But before we start here are a few clarifications…

  • The doctrine of Total Depravity does not mean that all men are equally bad.
  • The doctrine of Total Depravity does not teach that man is as wicked as he could possibly be.
  • The doctrine of Total depravity does not mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right and wrong.
  • The doctrine of Total Depravity does not mean that every sinner is devoid of all of the qualities that are both pleasing to men and useful to society when those qualities are judged only by a human standard. We also call this civil good.
  • We maintain our position that man in his unregenerate state can still do good work but that good work is as filthy rags before God (Isa 64:6).

What is the doctrine of Total Depravity?

“The doctrine of Total Depravity/Inability declares that since the fallen man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation.”

It is in this sense that man since the fall “is utterly disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” He possesses a fixed bias of the will against God and instinctively and willingly turns to evil. The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volitions, but an inability to exercise holy volitions willingly.

In matters of his salvation, the unregenerate man is not at liberty to choose between good and evil (as if he is in a neutral state), but only to choose between greater and lesser evil, which is not properly free will.

Man is a free agent (that’s true and that his choices are real) but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. 

How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him? This is the inability of the will under which man labors.” – Loraine Boettner

The Testimony of Scripture

So let us examine if the Scripture Supports the doctrine of Total Depravity. And this excerpt is from Jeremy Walker’s Book called “Anchored In Grace.

“The testimony of Scripture must be, for Christians, the defining truth. This is where we begin seeking a final answer to every question addressed therein. What does the Word of God say about the human heart? What does the Bible reveal about our natural state or fallen condition? It describes it in various terms. Here they are:

  • Deadness. Scripture describes our natural condition as one of deadness. Paul concludes the part of his reasoning with the Roman Christians by telling them that, “therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Paul traces our condition to its fountain in the sin of Adam. All mankind, descending from Adam by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. All our sinning is traced back to the sinful nature we inherited from our first father. Ours is a hereditary condition and a dreadful one. Everyone, Christian or otherwise, is by nature “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Death—spiritual death—is revealed by our pattern of existence marked by trespasses and sins. It is a state of utter spiritual lifelessness.
  • Rebellion. The Bible also describes our condition as one of rebellion. Again, writing to the Romans, Paul says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). We exist, by nature, in a state of hostility toward God, neither willing nor able to live in accordance with his holy law. In ourselves, it must be said of us just as it was of many Jews in Christ’s day, “you are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (John 8:44). It is the devil’s falsehoods we believe and his will we embrace while rejecting God’s truth and God’s will (Ephesians 2:2).
  • Enslavement. Again, the Scriptures describe us as in a state of enslavement. Jesus makes it an axiomatic principle that “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). That is, a life marked by persistent, thoroughgoing, unrepentant sin in the life of man is enslaved to sin. Paul similarly personifies lust when writing to Titus. He looks back with sorrow, describing how “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). The apostle also describes those who do not yet know the truth as trapped in “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). Our sins are the devil’s snares, means by which he brings us into his vicious captivity. He is our fierce and heartless foe, who loves to have us under his oppressive and destructive government. The behavior of the unconverted man or woman reveals that our fallen desires are our cruel masters. We are as bound to commit sin as water is to flow downhill.
  • Blindness and deafness. Further, we are described in terms of spiritual blindness and deafness. We see but do not perceive; we hear but do not understand (Mark 4:12). Our best and most brilliant thinkers, even those who consider themselves theologians, if left to their own wisdom, are blind leaders of the blind, so that both fall into the ditch (Luke 6:39). We have no spiritual sense and awareness by nature.
  • Inability. Again, there is a horrible inability in us: “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The truth of God is “foolishness” to the natural man. Despite some sense of eternity, he lacks the spiritual discernment to grasp truly spiritual—we might properly say, Spiritual—things. He lacks the capacity to know better and acts accordingly: This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:17–19) Indeed, even if he could see the way, he does not have the ability to do what is acceptable to God: “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). Jeremiah asks the question that traps every sinner. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). Christ himself makes clear the inability of the unresponsive heart of the sinner to move toward God: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
  • Sinfulness. This whole description is rooted in the reality of sinfulness. Here is the root of the matter. We are sinners by nature, “brought forth in iniquity” and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). The entire human race stands under the divine indictment that “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Our transgression is thoroughly instinctive, for “the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). Those words describe both the root and the fruit of our condition. Lawlessness is woven into our hearts (1 John 3:4) and lawless deeds result. Christ shows the horror of such hearts, even while the outward man might be carrying out deeds of extravagant religiosity: Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21–23). John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.

According to RC Sproul, Jesus frequently described this condition with images drawn from nature. Just as a corrupt tree yields corrupt fruit, so sin flows out of a corrupt human nature. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Since the fall human nature has been corrupt. We are born with a sinful nature. Our acts of sin flow out of this corrupted nature.

And I would like to end this opening with this passage: Romans 3:10-12 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.


“Such is the consistent, almost relentless, testimony of Scripture. We are by nature dead, rebellious, enslaved, senseless, incapable sinners. It is an awful but honest portrait of the unconverted heart.” – Jeremy Walker

Questions we need to ask ourselves:

  1. Is repenting of one’s sin and believing in God something natural to man in his fallen state?
  2. Is loving God something natural to man in his fallen state?
  3. Is seeking God natural to man in his fallen state?
  4. Is righteousness natural to man in his fallen state?

If the answer to these questions is NO! Then what must happen to a man so that he can repent, believe, love, seek and be right with God?

I say we need the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel in order for us to come to faith without which no one can please God.


*The reader can watch the complete dialogue here.

Published by Jordan Ravanes

The host of the Christian Worldview Project

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