God's sovereignty never operated to impede man's free exercise of his own will.

What the Roman Catholics call original sin, Calvinists and Arminian Protestants refer to as total inherited depravity.
Augustine, forerunner of the reformers, in the third century
contended for man's total depravity long before Calvin systematized the five points bearing his name.

Both men stressed divine sovereignty so much that this doctrine can rightly be called the soil in which the T-U-L-I-P of Calvinism flourishes. While the Bible teaches that God is sovereign over the human race, it also teaches that human beings retain free will even after the fall in Genesis three. God's sovereignty never operated in the area of salvation or sanctification to impede man's free exercise of volition. From the beginning of the gospel preaching in Acts two, man has been approached in preaching as active in salvation, not passive. He always has been directed to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized, as one possessing the capacity to respond in these ways. The Scriptures never have presented him as lacking the capacity, apart from some miraculous working by the Spirit of God, because of inherited sin. In fact when Jesus described the failure of the Jews to believe in His day, He said they had closed their own eyes in His application of Isaiah's prophecy (Matt. 13:15; Isa. 6:9,10). Close study of the Lord's condemnation reveales that their closing of their eyes resulted from the message proclaimed to them by the prophet Isaiah, just as those in the time of Jesus. The Lord's
employment of means (teaching, preaching, the Word) has
always stood between the sinner and his salvation, because
he has the capability to hear, believe, and respond to it. God has never operated in such powerful fashion that He circumvented man's will in the matter of salvation. In a recalcitrant sinner, it is a matter of "won't" not "can't" (Matt. 23:37).

It is rare today to hear people talk about "total depravity" or "original sin," but they do often speak of being "sinners by
nature" or of a "corrupt nature" or "sinful nature." Proponents of this doctrine, however, often teach it: we must equip ourselves to understand and refute it. After all, its importance is seen when we understand that it serves as the foundation of the entire system of Calvinism. Apart from it there would be no other
Calvinistic doctrine. In the disproving of it, the entire system falls because of its lack of foundation. Its significance also is seen in its progeny. The following doctrine/practice are directly traceable to the false notion of original sin; predestination, imputation of sin and righteousness, infant baptism, miraculous conversion by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is a dead letter apart from the Holy Spirit. No human responsibility in salvation, impossibility of apostasy, and Immaculate Conception. Each of these resulted from the misunderstanding of man's nature.


1. Inadequate Basis: This doctrine supposedly rests on the sinful nature of Adam, purportedly transmitted to all of his offspring, so totally (in all parts of their beings) corrupting their nature that there is total inability to serve God without the generating work of the Spirit. Most have argued that his sin is imputed to his offspring; our sins, to Jesus; and Christ's righteousness, to the elect (three imputations, none of which is Scriptural though our study does not cover the matter). Passages used for this doctrine (Psa. 51:5; 58:3; Eph. 2:3) fail of the objective. The first passage speaks poetically of David's sinful environment, while the second uses hyperbole to express the rapid entry of sin into one's life after birth. The third passage indicates the nature acquired by practice of sin as a habit, not some inherited nature requiring that one sin. The word for nature (phusis) is elsewhere used of Gentiles who did the things contained in the law before their conversion.Because the passages used to buttress this doctrine fail, there is no reason for its acceptance.

2. Contradicting Teaching in the Bible: Not only does the Bible fail to support this idea, but it also teaches principles contrary to it. In Matt. 18: 1-6 the Lord used a child to exemplify the humility necessary to enter the kingdom of God, adding that we must become like the child to enter the kingdom. If the child is guilty of original sin, then Jesus encouraged sinners to become depraved. What kind of conversion is this? In Lk. 18:16 Jesus' teaching is complemented. Here He said that to such little ones (figuratively standing for His disciples) belong the kingdom. To say this in view of depravity is to denigrate, disparage, and degrade the kingdom. The Bible actually teaches the innocence of children, not their depravity.

3. Definitions Of Sin: The Bible presents sin as what humans do or fail to do (1 Jno. 3:4; Jas. 4:17; Rom. 14:23). Never does the Bible speak of sin as what one inherits from another. Passages speaking of sin's influence on future generations, in either their punishment or their way of life, are cited in vain to prove such inherited depravity (Ex. 20:5).

4. Classifies God The Author Of Sin: Because the proponent of original sin believes that the spirit of the newborn is defiled
("total" depravity says all parts of the child are affected), then
those passages attributing the formation of the human spirit to God would actually make God the Author of Sin, if their contention about inherited sin be true (Zech. 12:1; Heb. 12:9).

5. Jesus Also Included: Even Jesus was depraved, for He was made like His brethren in all things (Heb. 2:14-18). Roman Catholicism has invented the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to provide for Jesus' purity by positing Mary's immaculate conception by her mother, but the Scriptures are silent about his matter of pure speculation! If Jesus were exempted form such depravity, then God would be a respecter of persons in conflict with the Bible claim (Rom. 2: 11).

By Bobby Graham in Biblical Insights, Vol. 5, No. 7,
July, 2005.

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