Why We Hold To Calvinism: Understanding Total Depravity (Part 1)

This first point of the acronym is really essential to understanding the entire system. It has been said that Calvinism really stands upon each prior point as they build a systematic approach of looking at the Bible soteriologically. That is to say that the logic of the system stands or falls as a whole. If Total Depravity is not how the Bible describes the condition of man then there is no reason for Unconditional Election or any other part of the TULIP  to follow. What is necessary to begin our discussion with then is a biblical survey of the will of man.

A Definition of Freedom: 

What needs to be stated right from the start is that at no point historically has Calvinism (or Reformed Theology) ever claimed that man does not have a will.  This is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the view by Dave Hunt, Norman Geisler, Chuck Smith, and many others who claim otherwise.  From Augustine,  to Luther, Calvin, and Edwards there has always been a vital discussion of how the will of man relates to the will of our sovereign God. Explanations and defenses of their views may be offered elsewhere but for now allow a straightforward examination of some biblical passages to form our view.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else guard your heart for from it flow the well springs of life”. Luke 6:45 says “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Furthermore, Ezekiel states that the reason Israel is going to turn back to God from their rebellion is because He will give them a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” This theme can be found in numerous places through the book of Ezekiel alone (11:19, 18:31,). Take even a cursory reading of Ezekiel 28 and you will find that the very reason Satan (described as the King of Tyre) is shown to be in rebellion against God is because of his heart. Ten times this is is repeated in the chapter alone! Strongs concordance here says that the hebrew word for “heart” which is “leb” (and comes from the word lebab) can also be described as ones ” inner man, mind, will”. What we find then is that the Bible says that it is the heart that ultimately decides which decision a person will be inclined to follow. Even the word “inclined” however implies nothing more then a mere preference. Perhaps a stronger word is in order. The desires of the heart are what a person will end up acting out. More could be said on this, but for now allow this to be our definition of freedom as described by the Bible.

Freewill: “A free act is one in which a person acts in accordance with the desires of his heart”.

With this groundwork laid on what true free will is the next logical step to take is to ask the question “How does the Bible describe the heart of man?”

The Condition of Man’s Heart:

Lets start at the beginning in Genesis. Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. Now I grew up with the view somehow formed that this was only a pre flood condition and after Noah survived the flood somehow all of mankind was more like him. Genesis 8:21 laid this view to rest though when it stated after the flood that “when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.”  Consider the consequence of this. The reason God gives for not wiping out the world again is because even though He had done so once mankind could not change.  Of course this wasn’t new to God, but it does provide us with a powerful example of how mankind is described in its natural state. Notice this condition is both universal as it is internal.

The next text to examine is Ephesians chapter 4. Here you will find Paul exhorting the Christians at the church in Ephesus to walk together in unity as members of the Body of Christ. His argument for this is that we have found a new life in Christ that leads us to act and live differently then the way we were before. In verse 17 he compares this against the way the Gentiles act which is in “the futility of their minds” against the Lord. Why is this the case? Because of their hearts. Verse 18 says “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Once again we find the the Greek word for “heart” used here, which is kardia, is identified by Strongs concordance to be “2588 kardía – heart; “the affective center of our being” and the capacity of moral preference”.

Allow one more example before we conclude this brief study. Take a look at Matthew 12:34-35. It says “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” Once again, we see Jesus himself clearly state that the sin of a man arises straight out of the heart itself. What can be concluded from this is that the natural man will act in accordance with “the abundance of the heart”. See Mark 7:21 and Matthew 5:19 for the same argument.

In summary:

First of all realize that this is nothing near the scope of verses or depth that could have been used. Rather this post was used for a rather particular purpose of making two points. Defining the biblical view of mans free will and explaining how the Bible shows this view to be one in which mankind always chooses sin. In summary then we can see two points.

1. The Bible says that it is the heart of man that make his decisions.
2. It also says that every thought and intention in the natural mans heart is evil.

Conclusion? Man will always “freely” choose sin.

Alternately, it could be stated as follows:

P1. If the heart of man is the source of man’s choices then man’s free choice will be one in which they act in accordance with their hearts desires
P2. Man’s heart desires sin alone and continually.
C. Man’s heart will never choose God.

Why spend so much time on this? The deeper understanding we have of the depths of our own depravity the greater we can see the beauty of God’s power in saving us from our state.  God’s glory is magnified by the miraculous saving of sinners that never would have come to him on their own. His power is the reason we believe and His power is the only reason we have been changed. This will be explored more in the next post.

-praisethekingofglory