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The Doctrines of Grace: TULIP Revisited
by Carol Berubee

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Total Depravity, Part II

Our Sinful Actions
Ephesians 2:3
"...among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."

The unregenerate simply act in accordance with their nature, which is sinful, and are bound by sin.

Titus 1:15
"To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled."

The doctrine of total depravity says that all parts of man are affected by sin. The mind and conscience of the unregenerate are defiled.

Ephesians 4:17-19
"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."

Here, we see that the mind is corrupt, the understanding is darkened, and the heart is blind to the truth. This is not to say that sinful man can never be pleasant or generous or intelligent or kind. Man can love with an earthly love. Man can accomplish many things that may benefit society. However, in this world that is passing away, none of those things are lasting. None of those things are pleasing to God.

Works of righteousness are as filthy rags if they are done outside of faith. Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Even the Christian who does "good" works may come to realize that his works were not good after all. They may have been good by man's standards, but if they were not set forth by God for us to do, then they will be burned up (1 Corinthians 3). They count not as righteousness in God's eyes even though they look good in man's eyes. How much more worthless, then, is man's attempt to please God when that man is not a believer. The unregenerate man cannot please God in his works because without faith, no one can please God (Romans 8:8; Hebrews 11:6). The question is, then, where does that faith come from? Can the unregenerate man have faith toward God?

As we have seen, man is born in sin, his heart is wicked, his ways are evil, and he is blind to the things of God. Therefore, saving faith, which is pure goodness, cannot come from man; it must come from God. Man can have faith in himself, and he can have faith in his fellow man, but neither of those conditions constitutes faith toward, and in, God. It is clear in the Scriptures that simply believing that God exists is not enough; indeed, even believing that Christ died on the cross for sinners is not enough if it is only an acknowledgement of "facts," but is absent a heart bowed to Him (Romans 10:9-10). A man must put his trust in God and His work on the cross; he must exercise faith in Christ, such that he is no longer his own, but is owned by Christ. Where does this faith come from?

Man has long tried to find his way to a god, or to appease a god, but he does not seek after the one true God unless, and until, God awakens, or regenerates, him. Then, and only then, can the man dead in sins believe God. It must be a work of God to regenerate a dead man, just as Lazarus could not regenerate himself but could only come forth by the power of God. But does man join his faith with the grace of God to produce saving faith? Did Lazarus join his will power with God's power to regenerate himself? Of course, not. Just as Lazarus was physically dead and, therefore, could not regenerate himself, man is spiritually dead and, therefore, cannot regenerate his spirit.

Man is responsible to exercise faith and follow God, but where does that faith come from? It is the gift of God, that no man may boast (Ephesians 2). The saved man cannot boast that he "made a decision" for Christ. The saved man cannot look around him, see all the lost souls, and reason that they should just "wake up and make a decision" as he did. Only with regeneration could a man rightly see the things of God, for the natural man cannot perceive the Kingdom of God, or understand the things of God.

God must be the one who gives us faith. The depraved man, bound in sin, cannot and will not, seek the one true God (Romans 3). It is only when God regenerates a man that he can then understand the things of God; it is then that he realizes he has faith.

We depart here from the traditional "Calvinist" teaching that there is a string of events that are chronological, such that first a man is born again by the Spirit, and then he exercises faith to believe the Gospel, and then he repents, and then he is saved, receiving eternal life. This is not Biblical, but it is also not logical. We ask: Can a person who is born again NOT have eternal life? Impossible. And if a man is born again, why would be subsequently need to be given faith to believe the Gospel? If he's already saved (due to his being born again), what would be the point of having to then believe the Gospel to be saved? Illogical.

We believe that all of these events are simultaneous, at least as far as man can understand. The moment one is born again (regenerated), he his saved, he has eternal life. God uses the preaching of His Word as the means to regenerate. It is the moment a person believes God that he is born again; it is the moment he is born again that he believes God. This is a supernatural work of God that we here cannot pretend to fully grasp. Let others assert that they can map out a timeline; we cannot and will go only so far as what we see revealed in Scripture.

Common Questions
You may be asking how we can say that a sinner cannot choose God when the Bible very clearly commands men everywhere to "choose life" and to repent. Let us not confuse responsibility with ability. Let us remember that no one deserves to live. If God were to exercise only His justice, then no one would be saved. The whole world is condemned already (John 3:18); everyone everywhere deserves nothing but Hell. In Adam, all die (1 Corinthians 15:22). Without God's love and grace and mercy, no one would be spared an eternity in Hell. The Bible is also clear that all men everywhere do have a conscience and they do have a knowledge of God as revealed in His creation. But all men everywhere have turned aside from that knowledge, further evidence of the pervasiveness of sin and the depravity of man (Romans 1).

When God commands all men to repent, to choose life, we must realize that God's will often entails commands that man cannot keep. For example, God commanded the Jews to keep His Commandments, but we all know that no one can keep the Commandments. We know that God gave the Commandments to serve as a mirror into our dark souls. The Commandments show us how sinful we are. When God commands men everywhere to repent, one of two things happens: Either this is the moment, when a person hears the Gospel, that he does repent (God having used His Word to regenerate that person); or, the person continues to reject God as he has always done, only now, with added light (having heard the Gospel), he will be judged (sentenced) accordingly.

So, now you ask: How is it fair that God holds man responsible for something that man had no control over? It's not my fault that Adam sinned, so why I am responsible? The answer is that Adam is our "federal head." In him, we all sinned. If we argue against that, then we must also argue against Christ's position over the Christian as our new "federal head." When Christ died to save His people, He became their new Head. The Christian is under His Headship. Just as the unregenerate under Adam is "in Adam" and separate from God, the Christian is "in Christ" and in union with God. The Christian is justified by God, even though the Christian did nothing to deserve it. The Christian has no righteousness of his own, yet he gladly receives a declaration of righteousness as one who is in Christ.

You may think it's not fair that all men are responsible for Adam's sin, but according to that reasoning, you must also agree that it's "not fair" that Christians are declared righteousness, something that is certainly not of our doing. Paul tells us in Romans 5 that in Adam, all die, but in Christ, all live. Let us receive God's word that all men are depraved and are responsible, just as we receive His word that all who are in Christ are declared righteous and forgiven.

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