Depravity is child's play

As a child I was often silent or a girl of few words. I was an observer. At recess if it was outdoors I'd stand under the tree on the side of the playground and watch. If it was indoors I'd read and covertly watch. I'd do the same in High School, observe, observe, observe- trying to figure out...people.

The overarching conclusion I came to, no matter my age, is that "people are mean."

Did I grow up in the Chicago Projects or Fort Apache the Bronx where I saw unspeakable things? No. Did I grow up abused or abandoned so that my perspective has now been permanently tainted? No. I grew up in the wealthiest town in my state with two parents for most of my childhood and all the creature comforts one could want, plus wealthy extras like luxury vehicles, boats, a pool, country club, extended vacations, and occasionally, a maid. My perspective should have been the opposite.

So how, at a tender age, did I come to the conclusion that people are mean? By simply watching them, what they do, how they speak, and how they treat each other, over and over and over. The pattern is clear. People are mean.

Now, if you are in the camp that believes "people are mostly good!" or even "people are mostly good, deep down..." you hold the opposite view of the years of my observations and more importantly, the opposite view of what God's word tells us people are like. No, people aren't mostly good. People are mean. Here are just a few verses which remind us of our true nature and our true relationship with God.

Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-5, Romans 3:10-11, John 3:19, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 1:18, Proverbs 14:12, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Romans 8:7.

I'm all grown up now but I'm still an observer. I am a teacher's aide (AKA para-professional). I spend my work day in classrooms and on playgrounds and in cafeterias watching children. Did you ever notice children playing puppets? They start out all nice and good, and the puppets are doing normal things, but the "play" almost instantly descends into one puppet biting the head off another, or the puppets fighting. If boys are playing dinosaurs, it won't take long before one dinosaur bites the head off something whether it's another dinosaur or a toy soldier or the other kid's finger. Though many children are sweet or nice or kind, their sin-nature eventually reveals itself.

The Doctrine of "Total Depravity" is one that people who think we're mostly good, or even partly good, find odious. Total depravity is a misnomer in that one way people who lack knowledge of it interpret it to mean that all people are completely depraved all the time. That isn't what total depravity means. It means,
The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality -- his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being. (source)
A better term is "Total Inability." This means that because our sin nature has extended to all part of us in everr nook and cranny, this fact prevents us from being able to respond to the things of God on our own, in any way. Of course, this doctrine is at "total" odds against Arminianism, which its adherents claim we are able to "choose God". Of course that's "total" absurdity. Read this short essay by R. C. Sproul to see why. Or see this below from a different source,
The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). (source)
Just watch kids, you'll see. The simplicity of the child's faith is on display but equally is their wicked heart quickly seen. The miracle and wonder is that while we were still sinners, Jesus loved us.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).

That while our hearts were darkened and we followed evil and reveled in it, Jesus died for us.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

He knows we are totally unable to "choose Christ" or "decide for Jesus" so He made a way. He declared us justified, He gave us a new heart, and He sent the Spirit to conform us to Him. We were totally unable. Yet HE IS TOTALLY ABLE. And He is all we need.


  1. Thank you for affirming the truth of total depravity, it's not a popular doctrine people want to embrace.

    1. Thank you for the thanks you, Mary. I agree, the doctrine is misunderstood, ignored, and marginalized. And this is just the time when we need it the most. I figure, get the affirmation of it into the public square as much as possible.

  2. Thank you for a "truth-reminder," dear Elizabeth. I believe what is most hurtful is recalling the times I let my emotions become entangled with "earthly" issues that overwhelmed my unredeemed flesh. I stand firmly upon Romans 7:13-25.

    Kay Cude

    Kay Cude

  3. "Of course, this doctrine is at "total" odds against Arminianism, which its adherents claim we are able to "choose God"."

    I don't think the above statement is an accurate portrayal of Arminian theology, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, he gets misprepresented often. Here's Arminius in his own words on Total Depravity:

    But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.”

    Arminius, J., Complete Works of Arminius, Volume 1, Public Disputations of Arminius, Disputation 11 (On the Free Will of Man and its Powers) Declaration of the Sentiments 5:3

  4. Whoops, sorry! I think I did that twice. And I forgot to say how much I appreciate your work.

    1. Hi Mindy,

      Thank you so kindly for reading and for your encouragement! I truly appreciate both.

      I was speaking of Arminianism, not Jacob Arminius. The main tenets of Arminianism outlined in 1610 as articulated by followers of Jacob Arminius (who died in 1609) are contained in the Articles of Remonstrance. These are 5 tenets dissenting leaders drew up repudiating Calvin's 5 tenets. Article 4 of the Arminian Articles reject the concept of irresistible grace, contending that mankind has the free will to resist God's grace.

      Free will to choose or reject God is a position the Synod of Dort rejected in 1618-19, as were the other 4 articles. Arminians hold to this position today and is a major theological divide between the two camps.

  5. Oh, I'm not making any argument in the Arminian/Calvinist debate. As a relatively new believer, I didn't even know this debate existed until recently (and I was shocked). I am still studying the scriptures and reading material from both camps to understand. But in doing that I have discovered that both sides hold to Total Depravity (Article 3 of the Remonstrance):
    That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me ye can do nothing.”

    So Total Depravity is NOT at "total" odds with Arminiansm, at least in my limited understanding.

    Thanks for being a diligent and discerning servant of our Lord!


    1. Hi Mindy,

      Than you for being such a good student of theology and historical men who promoted it!

      The difference is subtle but it is there. And add to that the historical Arminianism I mentioned being rejected at Dort, and the current version of Arminianism, which I'll get to below. Jacob Arminius affirmed a spiritual helplessness but got around that by his doctrine of prevenient grace. From a noted Arminian scholar of Jacob Arminius:

      "Arminius affirmed human spiritual helplessness but denied total depravity because of prevenient grace,"

      Thsiis from GotQuestions: "Arminianism: Arminians believe Adam’s sin has resulted in the rest of mankind inheriting a propensity to sin, commonly referred to as having a “sin nature.” This sin nature causes us to sin in the same way that a cat’s nature causes it to meow—it comes naturally. According to this view, man cannot stop sinning on his own; that is why God gives a universal grace to all to enable us to stop. In Arminianism, this grace is called prevenient grace. According to this view, we are not held accountable for Adam’s sin, just our own. This teaching runs contrary to the fact that all bear the punishment for sin, even though all may not have sinned in a manner similar to Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12-18). Nor is the teaching of prevenient grace explicitly found in Scripture."

      The current version of Arminianism is less subtle as the gap has widened. Arminians - in general- believe that humans were NOT totally saturated with a sin-nature at the Fall, that there exists in us a nook or cranny of ability to choose Jesus. In other words, that we are only partially depraved. Or Max the Miracle worker said in The Princess Bride, Calvinists say we are all dead, Arminians say we are only mostly dead, and there is a big difference between all dead and mostly dead.

      These questions are important because they explore God's sovereignty, mans's responsibility, and our sin nature. Good luck with your continued studies


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