Calvinism – Refuting the Total Depravity Arguments

by Franklin T. Puckett; Calico Rock, Arkansas

If the doctrine of “inherited total depravity” be true, and man is totally dead in sin, unable to do anything for himself (cannot hear, cannot believe, cannot obey) until God operates on him, then God is a respecter of persons. It places the complete responsibility upon God for the damnation of every soul who is lost, and makes God alone to be the direct author of every lost soul’s ruin. If the whole of mankind is totally depraved, so completely dead that not one individual can hear, think, say, or do one single thing pleasing to God until and unless God “operates” upon him, then God alone is responsible for every man on whom he does not operate.

If a building were burning down, and a man happened to be in it who was tied hand and foot, chained to a post in such a way that he could not move, could not cry out, could not do one thing under heaven to bring about or even facilitate his rescue, and anther man, knowing of his condition, rushed into the building and carried the helpless man out in his arms, would you say the helpless man had saved himself? Of course not. His rescuer had saved him. Those who teach inherited total depravity give this as a true picture of the way in which God saves us. We are the ones who are in the building which is burning down, we are tied, chained, and helpless. And it is God who rushes into the inferno and snatches us from the burning fire.

But that isn’t quite all of the picture. Actually, there are two men in that building, both of them in the same condition, tied, chained, and helpless. A man rushes into the building, picks up one of the men and carries him out, hut leaves thc other man in his helpless and doomed condition. He has plenty of time and opportunity to save the second man also. He has the strength to do it; but he simply says, “I do not want to save that second man; it is my desire and my will that he perish in the flames.” Would not that make the rescuer responsible for the death

of the man? But this is the picture the Calvinists present of God; they tell us God saves one man and refuses to save another. Both men are helpless and in the same condition. But God shows respect to one and saves him, while at the same time he refuses to save the other. Friends, that is not my idea of a loving heavenly Father — but that is the doctrine of Calvinism. That is the idea back of their teaching on the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. The Final Judgment

Get a picture of the final judgment seat. The king is upon his throne, and the nations of the earth are gathered before him, that the people may be separated, some going to the right hand and some to the left. To those on the left hand the king says, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” They ask, “Why must we depart, sir?” The king replies, “Because you are the children of the devil, you are depraved, your heart is as black as midnight.” They ask, “But, sir, have we not always had this nature; were we not born with it”? “Yes,” the king replies, “you were born with it. You were born into this world a child of the devil and depraved, and that is the very reason why you cannot enter into heaven.”

Then the doomed ones ask, “But, sir, what about these over here on the right? Were they not also born into the world depraved and children of the devil”? The king replies, “Yes, they too were born into tne world depraved and children of the devil.” “And did you save them?” “Yes, I saved them.” “Could they do anything toward thc saving of themselves?” “No,” the king replies, “There was not one thing under heaven they could do; I did it all. I operated miraculously on their hearts. I determined from all eternity that I would save them and not save you. And there is nothing you can do about it.” “But why save them and refuse to save us? We were born in exactly the same condition as they were; it is no fault of ours that that was so.”

Friends, about the only answer the Calvinist can make to this is to say, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” That is the teaching of Calvinism, but that is not the teaching of the Bible relative to the final judgment of Christ. This doctrine makes God alone responsible for the damnation of every soul who is ever lost; it removes thc responsibility entirely from the shoulders of man, and places it squarely upon God. It declares God chose to save some, and decided not to save some others: and hence God, not man, is the one who is responsible. My Bible does not so set forth the eternal character of a divine Father. Jeremiah 13:23

Another argument along this line is often advanced from Jeremiah 13 :23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots”? The prophet is here talking about the condition of Israel upon the eve of her captivity. And this one sentence from the story is about all that is read by these proponents of false doctrine. They conclude that since the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots, then neither can man change his nature. They fail to understand that it is not man’s nature that needs to be changed, but his conduct, his manner of life. He will have the same human nature after his conversion that he had before; but he will control and direct that nature, and will not let it control and dominate him.

But let us take a look at the argument. They say that since the Ethiopian is helpless to change his skin and the leopard helpless to change his spots, then man is helpless to do anything toward his soul’s salvation. He has to wait on God. Well, now, is the leopard responsible for not changing his spots? Of course not. And is the Ethiopian responsible for not changing his skin? Obviously not. Then, according to this logic, neither is the sinner responsible for not changing his way. That once again places the responsibility squarely on God.

If the Calvinists will read the verse before, and two or three verses following, he will see exactly what Jeremiah was talking about. Why is this statement uttered concerning Israel? “For the greatness of shine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.” Why is this trouble coming. upon Israel? Because of her iniquity. “Therefore will I scatter them, as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness. This is thy lot, the portion measured from me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.” So, they had forgotten God; they had trusted in falsehood; they had performed works of iniquity. And in that condition of sinfulness, wrought by their own wayward conduct and not by natural birth, they could not change their ways; for they would not hear the truth. They had been taught to do evil, for the rest of the verse says, “Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” The man who is taught to do evil, and is accustomed to doing evil, can no more do good than can the leopard change his spots or the Ethiopian his skin, as long as he turns away his ear from hearing the truth. That is the contention and plea of Jeremiah. The responsibility is put squarely on the peopple; not on God. If they refused to hear, they were doomed. But it was up to them whether they would hear or not.