In response to the post “Death by Degrees?” a commenter named Brad posed the following objections:
Does this really matter?
Can’t we all agree that so much of the world needs help, and the only way to help anyone is with the love of Jesus?
Does it really matter how depraved we think the world is, as long as we agree that without Jesus they need our love?
This debate — what a fantastic way to waste 5 hours of some probably intelligent people’s time, as well as the time of however many people might listen.
Think of the value of that time. Think of the things that God could do through us during that time to bring his reality to others rather than deciding who’s more right about this or that.
I guess I don’t understand how this is vital to anything, or even important — meaningless talk and debate.
Initially, my thought when reading the above comment was to wonder why, given his low view of this conversation, Brad would want to waste precious moments of his life even addressing such a useless issue. But then I realized that the points he raised are serious and are probably common.
So, what does it matter if people living after Genesis 3 are Totally depraved by nature? Why should we be willing to debate this issue?
First, if I am correct in my assertion that the Bible clearly teaches this Total depravity, then this is a doctrine that God has chosen to reveal to Man; if it is an important enough issue for God that He would firmly and repeatedly teach it in the pages of Scripture, then we should be willing to learn it and defend it.
Second, as presented in Scripture, Total depravity is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel. In passages such as Romans 3, Ephesians 2, and Colossians 1, specific aspects of Total depravity are mentioned as part of summaries of the gospel message. In Romans 3, the idea that no one seeks God or performs righteous deeds is basic to the Good News of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. In Ephesians 2, the realization that we are naturally dead in trespasses and sins is fundamental to the Good News of salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. In Colossians 1, the teaching that we are naturally alienated from God and hostile in mind to Him is crucial to the Good News of reconciliation to God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.
If we believe that there are seekers, or that people can perform righteous deeds, we leave room for a false gospel of works righteousness, or, at best, focus our gospel presentation on trying to attract seekers rather than proclaiming the Savior who justifies the ungodly. If we believe that people are only “mostly dead,” then we may try to apply medicine- preaching messages influenced by self-help philosophy or therapeutic psychology- instead of proclaiming the resurrecting power of God’s grace in Christ. If we believe that people only have a barrier of misunderstanding between themselves and God, rather than realizing that they are actively divorcing themselves from His love and are making war against Him by thinking thoughts that dishonor Him, then we will fail to warn of God’s impending judgment and fail to give a clear presentation of the reconciliation available through the Cross.
It is my sincere hope that Brad or anyone else who may wonder why Total depravity is important would reflect upon the passages I have mentioned- passages that are key to understanding this doctrine. I pray that Christians would reflect on how the New Testament writings present the Good News of who Jesus is and what He has done and would consider how Christ is glorified when His character is contrasted with the sinful character of other men and when His work is demonstrated to be the exact righteousness, resurrection, and reconciliation that totally depraved sinners need.