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Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Exit Here; the Reasoning behind the Doctrine of Total Depravity

I. Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
III. They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by original generation.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. 

Whether you agree with this section of the Westminster Confession of Faith or not ( or any of it for that matter ), if you're a Bible-believing Christian, you must admit that Adam & Eve DID sin ( grievously ) & unwittingly unleashed a 'world' of trouble on their descendants! That this corruption persists to this day, even in the nature of the regenerated, is the question we must ask ourselves; if this 'fallen' nature persists in those who have been regenerated, then did Christ come in vain?! Are we not, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'a new creation' ( II Corinthians 5:17 )? The argument that the WCF outlines ( in bold above ) seems rather obvious in many cases, but is it really that simple; can or should we blame our failures on something over which we have no control: have we no responsibility to bear in the matter?

The doctrine of total depravity, along with being one of the five pillars of Calvinism, is one of the hallmarks of the orthodox Christian faith. Without the necessity of blaming our failures on some storied 'fallen nature', the redemption that Jesus brought seems almost unnecessary. If we did not inherit this corruption from the first Adam, then where is the need for rescue from the depravity of this world? On the other hand, though, if the Anointed One, the last Adam, did not save His people from their sins, then what veracity can we glean from statements such as that above? Since Jesus DID save His people from corruption, then what were the fashioners of the WCF thinking when they penned those words?!

The doctrine in question here is based upon the false notion that somehow man was able to irrevocably mar the Creator God's natural good Creation; to even suggest that is to put mere humanity ( not to mention this 'Satan' ) on par  with the Creator; this may not be! To suggest that mankind is fated to live with this corrupted nature until they die or Jesus comes back, whichever comes first, is to say that the Messiah of Israel failed in His original mission & must return in the selfsame Body to rule & reign on the earth. This of course, will be AFTER He burns up this present world in all its wickedness!

While this doctrine DOES seem to be supported by manifold proof-texts from Scripture, Jeremiah 17:9 for instance, when read in their proper & original context, we can see that they're not speaking of those who have entered the New Covenant, but of those that labored under that first covenant, Israel according to the flesh! Because the Messiah rescued His people from their distresses under that first covenant & ushered in the New, we no longer suffer from that corruption. Sure, through the weakness of the flesh, we still fail to keep His instructions at all times, but we have been given Strength in the Spirit & in that Spirit we live & breath & have our being; we are not depraved or corrupt, we are a New Creation & that means no more corruption ( or else Jesus failed )!

'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.' This passage ( I Corinthians 15:19 ) is probably one of the orthodox Christian's most quoted ones. The idea behind this is what is known as 'the Hope of Heaven', that someday Jesus will return & rescue His people ( AGAIN? ) from the mess they have made & transport them to a place where there will be no more tears, suffering or dying; this doctrine leaves us with basically no responsibility & renders us powerless, even with the Strength of the Spirit! We are NOT powerless; we are indwelt by the Divine & whether one wants to dicker about the separation of Church & State, Body & Soul or not, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit!

The escapist notion that we must leave this humanity behind in order to enter God's good graces ( 'Heaven' ) must be wholly discarded! We ARE a New Creation & thus no longer corrupted by the weakness of the flesh. No doubt our Heavenly Father, as we are, is saddened by our failures, but it is not our failures that determine our New Standing; it is rather the Spirit within that has given us the Strength, though we do not always use it, to persevere in do what is right, just & good.

The Sign was given, the Exodus occurred & the People of the Creator God WERE rescued from their corruption, from the depravity of the first Adam! Through this True Exodus, of which that first from Egypt was significant, Jesus led His People out of darkness & into the Light of His Presence, forever.  Forevermore, may we be known, not as Totally Depraved, but as the People of the Presence, for that Sign occurred in the first century A.D. & we are no longer on the 'highway to hell'!

Charles Haddon Shank

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