Man’s Condition


This was just intended to be a response to Andrew’s previous post, but as it grew a bit lengthy, I thought to generate a follow-up post regarding Dr. Patterson’s comments about total depravity at the “John 3:16 Conference”. I hope that SBF readers may find something useful for contemplation here as well as in the fine observations Andrew is providing. I know that we both encourage further discussion and civil debate among readers.


Man’s depravity according to Dr. Patterson is not total, and so he should not refer to it as such. If we can hear and appreciate the preaching of the gospel (the “helicopter blades” in the analogy), our intellect is not fallen, and if we desire to be saved from our condition (the sea), then our will is not fallen. So then the fall and thus our depravity are not total. It is of concern to see leaders in the SBC desiring to hold on to some language which appeases Baptists’ sense of man’s misery in sin and the need for God’s grace, but then muddying the issue with an unbiblical elevation of fallen man’s abilities. As Calvin said of early church fathers who erred regarding free will:

To avoid delivering any principle deemed absurd in the common opinion of mankind, they made it their study, therefore, to compromise between the doctrine of the Scripture and the dogmas of the philosophers.


One huge problem with the sailor analogy is that it’s quite obvious to the sailor that he’s in danger and needs saving. However, in the spiritual realm, the natural man has no sense of this. He “loves the darkness”, and spiritual things are “foolishness to him”. It was said that he can just barely hear, and so he can respond. That concept does not appear to be biblical. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” seems more appropriate. When God opens ears, the message is loud and clear, and is embraced by the hearer; when He doesn’t, he remains completely deaf.


It is awful to use the scripture about Abraham’s age and feebleness, which was in regard to fathering children, as a case for the ability to believe despite spiritual deadness. I appeal to any who use this reference as such to please stop such an embarrassing misuse of scripture. Further discussion could be provided, but really should not be necessary in this case. It’s an absurd argument.


Dr. Patterson apparently claimed that we are not guilty except through our own transgression. What then does it mean that we are “by nature children of wrath”? Why did David say “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”?


Our guilt was imputed to us before we did anything. One of the best ways to see this truth is to examine the “as” and “just as” comparisons in Romans 5. Of course, merely a reading of 5:18 shows us “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Does condemnation not imply guilt?


But beyond that, back to the direct comparison the scripture is drawing: In Christ, the second Adam, are we righteous by our actual deeds? No. Was the righteousness passed down to us via our lineage? No. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us – we are declared righteous – even though still sinners, as Luther observed. So likewise, Adam’s guilt is not ours only when we actually transgress, nor was it merely passed down through our ancestors, but it was imputed to us as a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. Simply stated, all men in their natural state are declared guilty by God due to the guilt of Adam, and all of God’s elect are declared righteous due to the righteousness of Christ. This is quite surely the biblical perspective, and very different from that presented at this regrettable conference.



Explore posts in the same categories: Darrin, John 3:16 Conference, Soteriology

5 Comments on “Man’s Condition”

  1. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    This is a very Arminian position, one which Edwards destroyed. Virtue is a condition, and so to say one is depraved makes all that the tree produces depraved.

    Abraham’s condition was one of deadness, not just weakness. The comparison is Sarah who is unable to conceive. God makes Abraham to come to life, is the picture of faith that is given. Isaac is the seed, the promise bearer, and it is in Isaac that Abraham has newness of life, i.e. he is born again in the Son. Abraham goes on to have a half dozen or so more children, a picture of the fruitfilled life of a believer. The whole point, again, is not that Abraham has some ability, but rather, he has none, and until life is imputed to him, and that being the righteous seed, no righteous fruit can be produced, be it trust, repentance, or confession.

    Patterson’s position is Pelagian, that is, God will not accept the mixed cup, so the decision must come either from an inherent goodness, or neutrality. Righteousness mixed with unrighteousness is an abomination, it misses the perfection required the sacrifice which is acceptable. Then, the only place that a right sacrifice of the heart and lips can be offered is from that goodness, or as H. H. Hobbs would define, an innocence, neutrality. But, in reality, since Patterson and the rest of his ilk do not believe that it is good works, they profer that the decision is made from a neutral base. In any case it is the Pelagian heresy. True enough, it is a modified veiw, but then again, as R.C. Spoul points out, no matter what the disguise, whether a mixed nature, one that is depraved but not condemned, one that is capable but weakened, in the end virtue is produced by the individual. Rather than being by grace that one is saved, it is by the product of works.

    Virtue, that is a righteous nature is given to us. The righteousness is not our own even at that. What is done is what is proper to the nature, the imputation of its character is by God’s declaration, good. What the Pelagians of the SBC have never got, is that their reality cannot separate itself from the sacramentalism of the RCC, nor that of the circumcision of the law. Because in the end, it is that tiny bit of residual ability to perform good works that makes the difference between heaven and hell, and not the finished works of Christ.

    John Hendryx explains that taking the L out of Tulip, destroys Christ. At the same time, take any one of the other four away, and you destroy the L. Ergo, the reason for J316C, is, contrary to Allen’s claim, to force Calvinism from the SBC. Either the Pelaginism of Allen et al stands, or their house of cards falls. They know it.

    We hope that the SBC wakes up to its heresies. Then again, how many others have gone their way and ended up without a head.

    Those at the J316C, simply do not get it. Their political fight has blinded them to the very sins that they commit. Self-justification, by Patterson’s own admission, is how they repent and that is no repentance at all.

  2. Darrin Says:

    Hello, Thomas – I think we are in complete agreement, but please let me know if I’ve stated something sloppily or ambiguously. I don’t want to leave any readers wondering. I assume the Arminian position you’re referring to is from the conference, not in what I wrote. Otherwise, I really miscommunicated!
    I agree that a picture of God giving life where none is otherwise possible can be drawn from the case of Abraham and Sarah. My issue is with any who use this to say a man can have faith before spiritual regeneration.
    Of course the thrust of Romans 4 is justification through faith, not of works. And from the scriptures we know that even this faith is the gift of God – all is of grace.

  3. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    No, I don’t think you stated anything sloppily, and I hope I didn’t convey that I was correcting you. The term Arminianism is one of the positions in dispute. Why is it that they want to be called non-Calvinist as opposed to modified Arminian. Wade Burleson has blogged on this and mentions Hobbs was a classical Arminian exept for the P and Hobbs was and is a central part of the J316 theology.

    I went off, I suppose into another subject. Each of the presenters were expressing in some form or fashion their distinct Arminianisms. I find it unfortunate that they do not tell their audience what ‘school’ colors they wear.

    What I was pointing out of Abraham was to compliment what you were saying. The text is not implying that Abraham was partially dead, it is indicating, the word is necreoo, being dead. It is not feebleness, but deedness, which contradicts Patterson’s assertion. Absolutely, regeneration precedes faith. That is the picture with Abraham. Hebrews is defining for us faith as it works out of those who have the promise of new life.

    No probems with what you wrote. I come here to learn…… and to spout off 😉

  4. Churchy Says:

    Darrin, Thomas and others:

    Thanks for taking the time (yet again) to show it is one thing to ASSERT that one believes in Total Depravity (or anything for that matter) and another to carry that out consistently within someone’s theology/worldview.

    I think James White says that the clearest definition of losing a debate is when all you can do is assert your position without a meaningful explanation… after being cross-examined.

    Their responses are growing old.

    Yours are not.

    The Word does not return void.

  5. P.D. Nelson Says:

    Well written Darrin the Emperor(s) has no clothes and you have pointed it out. Keep up the good work.

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