Calvinism – Inherited Depravity and its Fruit

by Franklin T. Puckett, Calico Rock, Arkansas

Growing out of the false doctrine of “inherited total depravity” are a number of popular errors. One of these errors is the doctrine of a second work of grace, what some are pleased to call entire sanctification. Certain Holiness groups teach this doctrine. It is their contention that salvation is the first work of grace, and sanctification is the second. They hold that when one is saved, he is forgiven of his past or alien sins, and this is the first work of grace; then. notwithstanding the fact that he has been forgiven, the Adamic taint of sin is still clinging to him, and before he can live free from sin he must have that Old Adamic taint eradicated from his nature. They teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit destroys this original taint, and that such baptism comes only to the children of God. This is sanctification, as they see it, or the second work of grace. Until we receive this second gift we will continue to sin, after we receive it we will be lifted above sin and live in perfection. It becomes then impossible for us to commit sin.

Of course, the Bible teaches nothing like this. It does not teach that the Adamic sin, or inherited depravity, is the cause of actual transgressions. Such is only an assumption. If inherited depravity is the cause of actual transgression, what caused Adam to sin? He did not have inherited depravity, yet he did actually transgress. Neither does the Bible teach “sanctification” as the Holiness people teach it. It teaches sanctification well enough; but nowhere does it teach that such comes as a second work of grace, or that it is wrought by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nor is there anything at all that teaches that sanctification is for the purpose of eradicating the evil nature and eliminating the Adamic depravity of man. All such notions are of human, not diving, origin. The Bible teaches that sanctification is a setting apart, a consecrating unto a holy use. This is the meaning of the word in Exodus, where God “sanctified” the seventh day. He set it apart for a holy use or holy purpose. We read that Mt. Sinai was “sanctified”; the tabernacle was “sanctified” the vessels of the tabernacle were “sanctified”: certain animals to he sacrificed were “sanctified.” All of which means simply that the day, the mount, the tabernacle, the vessels, and the animals were set apart or separated unto a holy purpose. There was certainly no “second work of grace” in such sanctifications.

Bible sanctification does not mean that one is lifted above sin and made perfect. Paul speaks (1 Corinthians 7) about unbelievers being sanctified. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband, else wore your children unclean, but now they are holy.” This shows clearly that Bible sanctification did not mean sinless perfection. Were these unbelievers 1iving sinlessly perfect lives? Of course not. The term simply means that those “sanctified” have been set apart unto a particular purpose. Certainly all of God’s children are so set apart, and not just a portion of them. Being sanctified or set apart, we are saints in the household of God. We were washed, we wore sanctified and justified: thus we stand separated unto God and dedicated unto his purpose. That sanctification embraces and includes every child of God, not just a small group. Direct Operation of the Spirit

Still another false teaching growing out of the doctrine of an inherited depravity is the error concerning the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in order to the breaking up of the evil nature of man so that he may be converted. It is taught that no sinner can be converted to the Lord without this direct, miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit. He is so completely dead in sin that God must reach down and take hold of him in a direct way. Man is so totally depraved that he can do nothing at all toward his conversion.

As a usual thing, when these teachers begin to talk about the total depravity of man, and the need of n direct operation of the Holy Spirit. they go to Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, and try to make much of it. Over in the 37th chapter, Ezekiel tells of how the Lord set him down in the midst of a valley which was full of bones, caused him to pass by them round about, and behold those bones were very dry. And the Lord said unto him, “Can these bones live?” And Ezekiel replied, “Thou knowest.” Then the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy unto these bones, and to tell them to hear the word of the Lord. And so he did, and the bones came together, and the sinew of the flesh came again, and skin covered the bones, but still there was no life. Then the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy unto the wind, “Prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”

Denominational teachers make much of this passage, emphasizing that it was not enough “to speak the word of the Lord” unto these dry bones, but that the “breath” or spirit of the Lord had to come upon them before they lived. Hence, they reach the conclusion that there must he both prophesying and the teaching of the word of the Lord, and in addition there must be also a direct operation of the Holy Spirit “breathing” upon the human heart. They contend that this story represents the condition of lost humanity, all dead in sin and requiring a special miraculous “breathing” to bring them again to life.

Such is a dismal misapplication of Ezekiel’s teaching. The prophet is not considering the nature of man, and he isn’t referring. to the human family at all. He is talking about Israel. If preachers would read the next two verses, they would see exactly how this passage should be applied. “Then said he unto me, son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” That tells us who the dry bones are —- not the entire race at all, but only the house of Israel. “Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost.” Why such language? The answer is simple. Israel was then in captivity, and was bemoaning such a fate. The Israelites were comparing themselves to those who had been cut asunder, and to dry bones. Because they say that, God used this figure of speech, or these figures of speech, to set before them their true condition. He says to Ezekiel, “Therefore prophesy unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” What is he talking about? Clearly it is about the return of Israel from her Babylonian captivity. He is not talking of the whole human race, or of sinners, at all; but about the return of his people from their bondage. That is all there is to it. The “valley of dry bones” argument is completely without foundation in scripture. It is a misuse of Ezekiel’s language.