Calvinism – Total Hereditary Depravity

A theory that is very closely associated with the theory of foreordination and predestination is the doctrine of hereditary total depravity. Many honest and sincere people have been led to believe that since the fall of Adam every living soul is born with a corrupt nature, that is to say that every person on earth is born under condemnation of heaven. Regarding this theory one creed states that all persons are “born positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse” (J. M. Pendlton, Art. 3, in Church Manual designed for Baptist Churches). It is affirmed that those who sin, and there are none who do not sin, bear evidence that all men have a corrupt nature. According to this theory, if Adam had a corrupt nature he must have inherited it from his father. Now, since Adam was a “son of God,” that would make God corrupt m nature. This is a mistake!

Inherit Sins of Adam?

Adam sinned through temptation. God cannot be tempted. God cannot sin. Adam sinned through temptation like men sin today. Satan first appealed to him through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vain glory of life. Satan said, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” The woman, who obviously understood God, replied: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” The subtle tempter then falsely declared: “Ye shall not die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

The temptation was alluring and far reaching. It appealed to the lust of the flesh and the eyes, “was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes.” It appealed to the vain glory and pride of life. “A tree to be desired to make one wise,” was the appeal.

Adam and Eve, deceived by Satan, through distrust disobeyed God and became the first sinners. The first man and woman, through their own choice and volition became the first sinners. Their sins were not inherited. Neither were they foreordained and predestined by an unchangeable decree of God that they should become sinners. If Adam and Eve were foreordained and unchangeably predestined by God to sin against God, then they were irresponsible and God was responsible for their sins. According to this theory, if they had not sinned then they would have changed the “unchangeable” decree of God; and since they did sin they did so without choice in the matter, therefore, God is responsible for sin in the world. This is a false premise and false conclusions!

It must scripturally be understood that Adam was a creature of volition and so is every human being born on this earth. Adam acquired his sins by choice and not by inheritance. God forbade the eating of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden. Adam and Eve had a choice. They could obey God by refusing to eat, and live. Or, they could choose to eat and die.

Adam’s sin was not something he inherited from his father, neither were his sins transmitted to his children. The doctrine of hereditary total depravity asserts that every child, every infant born into this world, is totally depraved, wholly sinful by nature, having inherited the sins of his parents, even the sins of Adam. The theory falsely assumes that Adam’s nature was corrupted by sin and all men inherit a corrupted and sinful nature from

Adam. Surely, we must understand that the law of procreation, the law of birth, is from God and for the perpetuity of the human race. Could one possibly believe that God, through procreation, brings a baby, a human being, into this world with corrupted nature, which leads him to sin, without choice, and then punishes him for sinning, which he could not avoid? This false theory, affirmed in several religious creeds, pronounces the infant at birth under “just condemnation” by reason of his inherited corrupt nature.

Babies, Children of the Devil?

Are babies born of the devil? One author states: “That man is totally depraved is evident from his being a child of the devil — fathered by the devil, of the same moral nature, without salvation, destined to the same hell to which the devil is destined” (Dr. W. A. Jarrell, a Missionary Baptist, in his Gospel In Water, pp. 251, 252). On page 260 of the same book the author declares: “Inasmuch as children partake of the nature of their parents, and Satan is totally depraved, it is very certain that all infants and children are totally depraved, being born of their father, the Devil.” It is difficult to understand how any father or mother could believe this false theory.

God declares, “All souls are mine” (Ezekiel 18:4). The advocates of the theory of hereditary total depravity assert that all souls at birth are children of the devil. What a contrast!

A passage of Scripture often cited as alleged proof of hereditary depravity is Psalms 51:5 in which it is stated: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” From this Bible statement it is concluded that David was born in sin; as an infant, he was born totally depraved. This is a false conclusion!

There are two parts to this statement of David. One: he speaks of the condition of his mother; not himself: “In sin did my mother conceive me.” Two: David speaks of himself: “I was brought forth in iniquity.” David did not say that he was born with a corrupt, sinful nature. The Bible says that people were born in a language (Acts 2:8). This obviously does not mean that they were born speaking a certain language, but were born into a country of a certain language. David’s statement that he was born “in iniquity” simply means that he was born into a world of iniquity; he was brought forth into a world where sin prevails.

Sinners By Inherited Nature?

It is false to conclude that infants inherit sins from their parents, therefore, are born into the world depraved sinners. Of Jacob and Esau it was said, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil . . .”(Rom. 9:11). From this statement it is evident that they were not sinners before they were born. They became sinners after they were born, when they began to do “evil.” Their sins were not inherited. Before they were born they were innocent, free from sin, having done no “evil.”

Another passage of scripture of concern in this matter is Eph. 2:1-3: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

From this Bible quotation it is erroneously concluded by many sincere folk that all people are born sinners, and, by “nature,” are children of the devil. It must be observed, however, that the inspired writer declared that those people addressed had been “dead.” Could it be possible they were born dead? Certainly not! They were dead because of their trespasses and sins.” They were dead because they “walked according to the course of this world.” They were dead because they were directed by a “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” the Bible says they were not born dead in sin; but they became dead in sins because of their disobedience to God.

These people, to whom Paul directed these divine truths, were not depraved infants, but they were of such maturity and accountability that they e hose to walk “according to the course of this world.” Could one possibly conceive of a sweet, innocent baby disobeying God, when he is totally incapable of obeying or disobeying anyone? Could one possibly imagine an infant, or a child, being guilty of “walking” in the course of this world of sin, including drunkenness, adultery, theft, malice, hate, idolatry, murder and other acts of unrighteousness and ungodliness which are referred to as “works of flesh”? (Read Gal. 5:19-20).

Sinners by Choice

Adam sinned, not because he inherited sins from his father, God but because he “walked according to the course of the world,” which included the “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Satan, the prince of this world, was the great deceiver. Could one possibly imagine the inspired apostle John, addressing babies as, “My little children” who were born in sin, totally depraved by nature and dead in sin’? It is unbelievable!

Dead in Sin?

Those who were addressed as being dead in sin (Eph. 2:2, 3), were separated from God by reason of their own choice of transgressions and worldliness. The apostle John explains what it means to walk “according to the course of this world” by his admonitions to Christians in these words:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15, 16).

The apostle Paul declared in Eph. 5:1, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” If children were born of the devil, totally depraved, then it must be concluded that God inspired the apostle to declare that those who follow God are children of the Devil. This is truly a false theory!

“Dead in sin” refers to a relationship and not to a state of one when he is born into this world. As of Old Testament times, so it is today, man’s own sins separate him from God. Jehovah, through the prophet, declared: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you . . .” (Isa. 59:2).

By Nature Children of Wrath

But someone inquires, “Did not Paul say that man is by nature a sinner?” It is not so. This is a false conclusion. Paul did say to the Ephesians that they were “by nature children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3). The term “nature” in this Scripture cannot mean innate nature of man. The Bible declares that man, by nature honors God, not that man is by nature totally depraved. In Romans 2:14, 15, Paul wrote: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves. . .

Of the law of Moses it was said to be “holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous and good.” The Gentiles were said to do by “nature” the things of the law, therefore it is in error to say that man is by nature a sinner, totally inclined to do evil. Man is by nature good because man basically, does things which are right even without a written law to command the right or prohibit the wrong. The apostle declared of the Gentiles that God gave them a conscience so that they by “nature” might do the “things of the law,” not evil.

When Paul declared to the Ephesians that they were “by nature” children of wrath, he was referring to their relationship with God, being dead in sin, while in their unconverted state. Both the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were once in an alienated relationship with God, therefore, the objects of God’s wrath, because they were yet in sin, not having obeyed the gospel of Christ.

If Totally Depraved — Cannot Obey God

The doctrine of “hereditary total depravity” declares that man is totally passive in regeneration. The late Dr. Ben M. Bogard, a Baptist minister, declared, “The depraved sinner cannot act except by Enabling Grace of God through the spirit” (Total Depravity, p. 13).

Dr. Jarrell, a Baptist author, said: “The necessity of repentance and faith after regeneration is very obvious” (Gospel In Water, p. 509). The theory of “inherent total depravity” makes man totally under the power of the devil, with no choice, nor ability to reject Satan and obey God. The sinner is so depraved that he “cannot act except by enabling grace of God through the spirit,” we are told. The theory then, of necessity, leads to the false conclusion that man is incapable of “repentance and faith” until “after regeneration.”

Depraved Soul Regenerated Without Faith?

If this religious theory were true, then the Bible is false when declaring: “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). The Lord was in error when He commanded, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). If this theory of total inherited depravity were true and “repentance and faith after regeneration” is a necessity, then the Holy Spirit misguided the apostle Peter when he commanded: “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

If a man were already “regenerated,” why should he be told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins; or, to be regenerated? How could a person possibly be regenerated without first believing in the Lord? The Bible declares that man cannot please God without faith, Heb. 11:6, therefore, if faith follows regeneration, as affirmed by the advocates of hereditary total depravity, then man is regenerated without pleasing God.

Furthermore, if this theory were true, then man is regenerated, born again, saved from his sins, without ever having repented of his sins, for the false theory claims that repentance and faith are of necessity “after regeneration.” What a conflict with the command of our Lord when he declared, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Babies Born in Sin Could Not Be Reconciled to God

If the doctrine of hereditary total depravity were true, man could not be reconciled to God through conversion. Let us briefly consider the matter of reconciliation. In 2 Cor. 5:18-20 Paul, the apostle, to whom had been committed the “word of reconciliation,” exhorted: “Be ye reconciled unto God.”

The word “reconcile” implies a separation and a reunion. The word means “to bring back to harmony.” The prefix, “re,” means “back; back to an original or former state or position” (Webster’s Dictionary). For example, a husband and wife may become separated; and, afterwards, they may become reconciled; that is, to be restored to their former relationship. They go back to their state, or relationship, that existed before the separation.

Now see this! Suppose an infant is born in sin, born of the devil. If he ever departs from that state, being a child of the devil, which way could he go? The answer is, to God. To depart from the devil is to go to God. To depart from God is to go to the devil. Now what happens when reconciliation occurs?

Let us suppose an infant born into this world is a child of the devil, as affirmed by some religious creeds. When he departs from his original state, or relationship, the only opposite direction to go is to God. Now, if he does receive the “word of reconciliation,” to whom is he reconciled?” There is but one answer. If he is restored to his former relationship, returned to the former, or original union, he is brought back to the devil.

To preach the word of reconciliation, to restore one to his original state, therefore, would be to make him twice a child of the devil, rather than a child of God. This would be the inevitable conclusion, if the doctrine of hereditary total depravity were true. This is a false conclusion!

Paul, the apostle, declared that God had given to him the ministry of reconciliation, the means of the reconciliation being the word of God. The truth of the matter is, every soul, every infant born into this world, is born without sin, free from sin, innocent of any guilt of sin, and is in complete and perfect fellowship with God. When, by reason of accountability and his own choice, he sins, he becomes separated from toil. Man’s own sins separate himself from God (Isa. 59:2). Man becomes a sinner by reason of transgression, thus the “word of reconciliation,” is taught the sinner, and the sinner responds by faith and obedience to the Lord, he becomes reconciled unto God; he is restored to that unity and fellowship with God which existed when he was born into this world.

Every man is born a free moral agent and he may choose his own destiny. Salvation and reconciliation are in Christ.

Are Infants Who Die Lost?

Are little children lost who die in infancy? If all infants born into the world are totally sinful, having inherited their sins from their parents, if one dies in infancy, will that child go to Heaven or go to Hell? If an infant is totally depraved and he dies in infancy, his defilement must cause him to be lost in torment, or go to Heaven with his defiled and sinful nature.

But the advocates of the theory of hereditary total depravity seek to theoretically avoid the dilemma by asserting that “elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh with and where, and how he pleaseth” (Presbyterian Confession of faith, Chapter 10:Sec. 3).

Surely, the fallacy of such unscriptural reasoning is easily ascertained. Question: What happens to the non-elect infant who dies? Or, do only the “elect infants” die? One of two conclusions is inevitable! The only infants who die are the “elect infants;” or, the non-elect infants who die must spend eternity in hell. Can one truly believe that a sweet, innocent baby must spend eternity in torment?

It should, furthermore, be observed that this theory of the direct operation of the Spirit upon the depraved infant who dies, in order to save the infant from hell, leaves the infant, who does not die, totally a depraved creature. Is it not strange that this theory claims that Christ, by the Spirit, removes the depraved, sinful nature of the dying infant, but allows the living infants to remain totally depraved? Could one possibly conclude that Christ considered little children to be sinful, even totally depraved, when he publicly blessed them? In Luke 18:15, 16 it is recorded:

“And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” If the doctrine of hereditary sin were true, then Jesus should have said: “Forbid them not for these little children have corrupt, totally depraved souls and we must prevail upon the Spirit to burn out their sinful, Adamic nature before they die.” If all these things were true, then Jesus was saying His kingdom was to be composed of subjects, wholly and completely defiled, body and soul, totally depraved in sin, because of children he said, “Of such is the kingdom of God.”

One Baptist author stated: “Infants dying in infancy must by some process known or unknown, be freed from depravity — morally renewed or regenerated, or they can never be saved — never participate hl the joys of heaven” (Jeter’s Campbellism Re-examined, pp. 51, 52).

Mr. Jeter furthermore declared: “I shall now proceed to show that, in the case of dying infants and idiots, regeneration takes place by the agency of the Spirit, without the Word” (Ibid., p. 49).

Total Depravity Denies the Gospel, God’s Power to Save

The Bible teaches that the “gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 1 :16). The Bible says nothing about Christ sending the Holy Spirit directly to an infant, or anyone else, to save him from sin. The Bible says the gospel is the power of God to save the believer. Question: Could an infant possibly be a believer? The answer is obvious! Could an infant be taught the gospel? No infant is capable of being taught the gospel, or, believing the gospel. Yet, the Bible plainly teaches that these are essential conditions of salvation.

To the Romans Paul wrote: “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher” (ROM 10:14).

The apostle, furthermore, wrote to the Corinthians that it “pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).

Let us reason together. If every person born into the world were born totally depraved, and that by an unchangeable decree, he is foreordained and predestined to be born totally depraved in sin, why should the gospel be preached to him and how could the gospel be the “power of God unto salvation”? This is a false theory!

Man is a creature of volition, with a heart to believe or disbelieve the gospel of Christ. To the man who does choose to believe and obey the gospel he shall be saved. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” our Lord said in Mark 16:16. Otherwise, the person who chooses to disbelieve and disobey the gospel shall be lost. Christ declared: “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The apostle Paul warned, concerning Christ’s coming and man’s choice of destiny:

“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8).

Total Depravity Denies Purification

The theory of hereditary total depravity denies that the gospel of Christ purifies one’s soul through his obedience to the gospel. The Presbyterian Confession affirms that “this corruption of nature, during this life doth remain in those who are regenerated” (Chapter 6 Sec0.5,p.41).

The Bible says that the apostle Peter addressed fellow Christians as: “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the gospel and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as unto us, and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7-9). The same apostle also declared: “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth” (1 Peter 1:22).

The inspired apostle declared that those who have obeyed the gospel and obtained forgiveness of sins, have had their souls purified. The theory of hereditary depravity contends that “this corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those who are regenerated.” What a contrast!

Question: If the theory of inheritance of nature were true, what about the matter of an infant inheriting a ”purified” heart from his Christian parents whose hearts had been purified? If one could inherit a corrupt nature from the wicked, why could not one inherit a purified, clean heart from a regenerated soul? But this is a mistake! Neither a state of sinfulness, or righteousness, is inherited.

No man has any sins, except his own. In New Testament times Peter commanded: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). It was their sins which were to be blotted out; not the sins of Adam, nor their parents.

In the day of Judgment every individual person will be judged according to his works; not the deeds of Adam, nor the deeds of one’s own parents. The apostle Paul speaks most conclusively about this when he wrote: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Surely, this statement cannot be misunderstood by one who desires the truth.

In the day of judgment every person will be judged according to the deeds “done in his body, according to the things be bath done, whether it be good or bad “!

Babies Know to do Good?

Those who advocate the theory that babies are born sinners, totally depraved, would do well to consider the divine statement of James: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4: 17).

Question: Does an infant know to do good? Where is the person who would actually affirm that an infant is a sinner because he does not do that which he knows to be good?

The baby is not a sinner. He does not yet know to do good or evil! (Read Rom. 9:11).

This doctrine did not originate with Christ for it was he who compared the spiritual conditions of those who enter the kingdom of God to the original purity of little children (Matt. 18:3). If babies are born sinners then Paul exhorted Christians to be sinners. To the church at Corinth he wrote: “In malice be ye babes” (1 Cor. 14:20).

The apostle James denies the doctrine of inherent original sin by affirming that sin originates in temptation, is conceived in lust, and is brought forth sin (James 1 :13-15). Who would affirm that babies are tempted and “is drawn away of his lusts, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin”?

The theory of hereditary total depravity denies the fact that sin is acquired. If inherited, then sin is not acquired, therefore, Adam and Eve inherited their sins from God. If acquired characteristics of parents are transmitted to children, then children are irresponsible and parents are totally responsible for the sins of their children. Actually no one is responsible, but God, therefore, there is no such thing as sin, according to the false theory of inherited sin.

Paul wrote to Timothy that “evil men, and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13). If man is born totally depraved, how could he possibly “wax worse and worse”? Furthermore, if he is already totally depraved, how could he be “seduced”?

Christ told Nicodemus. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). If man is born a total sinner, by natural birth, must he be a total sinner when born into the kingdom of God? According to the theory, the new birth would make one twofold a child of the devil rather than a child of God!

The prophet Ezekiel declared that sins are not inherited but man is responsible for his own sins: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his transgressions that he hath committed shall be remembered against him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked? saith the Lord Jehovah; and not rather that he should return from his way, and live?” (Ezek. 18:20-23).

Every responsible person must choose his own destiny. In the long ago Joshua declared: “Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the god of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

The question is, where do you choose to spend eternity?