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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Totally Depraved

I've always believed in the inherent goodness of man.
That is, until I looked a little further into the controvery of the Augustinian stance of Total Depravity vs. the Pelagian views of Inherent Goodness. In reading 'What is Reformed Theology' by R.C. Sproul, he explores the two, and makes a compelling argument for Depravity that I can't help but agree with... It resonates with my own perceptions of the condition of the wild beast that is Man's heart.
The monk Pelagius held tight to a Humanist view of free will; that God gave man free will and power to do good or bad, and the Law was given to discern between the two. He believed that people were inherently good, but strayed towards evil post-Fall. St. Augustine argued that scripture indicates that post-Fall, the human heart is entirely incapable of doing "good" (from a godly standpoint) and the Law was only given to make us realize the extent of our own sinfulness and the unattainable nature of righteousness. Pelagius stated that God would not demand perfection without giving us the means to attain it. Augustine stated that God demanded perfection so that we would relent our hope in self, knowing fully that our only hope is truly in Christ. Our own totally depraved state enhances appreciation for grace.

*Sproul makes a distinction I think is important to note, between utter depravity (being as wicked as possible) and total depravity (every aspect of being is in some way tainted).

Scripture, as well as real-life observations, would support the human condition of total depravity. Sproul addresses arguments about free will, saying that though man's will is free it is wholly bent towards disobedience and even enmity towards God. We may in fact do things that appear "good" from a human standpoint, but will always be colored by self-preservation, desire for praise, self-promotion, etc.
Romans 3:12 gives a blanket statement covering all of humanity, which may be taken literally or as a superlative. "No one does good, no not one."
Romans 7:7-25 supports that the Law is given to show us our sinfulness... and is followed by a context of grace and despair in our own power to fulfill the commands of a perfect Deity. For if we had it in our power to fulfill the Law, there would have been no reason for Jesus' sacrifice. For He said, "I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it."
There's something sort of freeing in relenting my belief that I could strive for righteousness. All the trying and failing always led to shame and frustration, pulling me farther from God. But depending on Jesus to be my righteousness and my daily bread pulled me closer, grateful and unashamed. The gratitude increased my love, and here's the kicker... my love increased my desire to be obedient. The system works, and though I believe Pelagius had a genuine walk with God I have to side with Augustine and Paul when I say, "Christ came to the world to save sinners... among whom I am the worst."

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