I remember very shortly after being saved I was witnessing to a friend. She was the kind of person who was ‘rational’, ‘logical’ and ‘mathematical.’ Since Paul witnessed to Gentiles by starting with the creation, I did too. Sadly, she dismissed Genesis’ creation account because obviously, the light being created as Genesis 1:3 could not have come before the sun’s creation, as Genesis 1:14. Obviously. Therefore the creation account must be wrong.
So I skipped ahead and told her about Eve’s and Adam’s sin in the garden. I shared that after the sin had occurred, their very biology was now polluted and cursed, and all subsequent children, such as murderous Cain, were totally depraved since birth. Therefore we do not do right and are excluded from God’s heaven- unless we repent and ask Jesus to forgive.
That didn’t get a logical reaction. It got an emotional one. She heatedly rejected the notion that children and babies are totally depraved. She fervently argued against the concept that babies and children naturally do wrong. Even associating the word sin with baby caused a visceral reaction in her.
That was 11 years ago and I never forgot.
First some definitions. Total depravity does not mean that everyone, including children, are as bad as they can be all the time. There’s your Hitlers and there’s your Mother Teresas. Both are in hell now BTW.
Total depravity is about the original sin and how it affects us today. It speaks to the extent of our sin, our sin nature, and our complete inability to do anything for God that will be pleasing to Him. Some people such as John MacArthur prefer the term “absolute inability” rather than total depravity. John MacArthur said of the concept,
“…we are so hopelessly and thoroughly wicked that not one of us could ever truly love God unless God Himself enabled us to do so. That is the doctrine of total depravity in a nutshell. It means that we are totally unable to save ourselves.”
Charles Spurgeon said of total depravity,
By original sin we mean the evil quality which characterizes man’s natural disposition and will. We call this sin of nature original, because each fallen man is born with it, and because it is the source or origin in each man of his actual transgressions. By calling it total, we do not mean that men are from their youth as bad as they can be. Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Nor do we mean that they have no social virtues toward their fellowmen in which they are sincere. … What our Confession says is, “That they have wholly lost ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation.”
In 1985 John Piper said of total depravity,
Total Depravity Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior
Now, surely babies aren’t totally depraved? They’re so cute and such a blank slate and not even able to comprehend what sin is. Right?
There is a cottage industry of Americas Funniest Videos (AFV) that show the “cute” things babies, toddlers, and kids do. The audience laughs and titters and applauds, and goes “awww.” But it’s not funny. These clips from AFV have been wow-ing and charming and entertaining audiences for 25 years. Yes, AFV is 25 years old. But when I see clips like this, it only makes me sad, because they are a 25 year chronicle of our sin nature.
This clip won. It is in the top pantheon of best loved clips.
Why waste a good tantrum when no one is around to see it?
This toddler is absolutely totally aware of what he is doing. He knows how to present screams and anguish to maximum effect, and knows when it’s useless to continue. He is manipulating the adults. He is lying.
Not so innocent, eh?
But some may protest, how about babies. Little, little babies, they surely don’t know right from wrong. They don’t lie, manipulate, or do things in secret?! How could you think they are totally depraved and have a heart full of sin.
Here, 18-month-old twins play, scream, and jump with each other during nap time. The mom heard the noise and turned on the baby monitor so she could talk to them.
The second the twins hear the mom’s voice, they drop. They know they are supposed to be sleeping and weren’t. They knew they were disobeying the higher authority.
Total depravity is in us, it is our very nature. It goes from corner to corner in all areas of our mind, heart, strength,and soul. There is no “flawed thinking.” There is no untainted corner of our mind whereupon one day we will suddenly become spiritual and be able to retreat to that pure corner and “choose Jesus.” We are fallen creatures completely unable to do right in God’s eyes. We need Him.
Thank God He knows this. God sent His Son to live the life we cannot, due to our complete inability to be righteous. Born of woman and from the Father in heaven, He lived the sinless life we could not. He was hated, spit on, mocked, stripped, beaten and hung from a tree. He endured God’s wrath for sin. He took it- our punishment. Then He died.
Pleased with His Son’s life, and His death, and God’s wrath exhausted upon the Son, He raised Jesus to life and ascended Him to heaven. Now, anyone who cannot and never will do right in God’s eyes, but who are at enmity with Him and are His enemy, can come through the Door, who is Jesus. He is the Door to life, and if confessing and repenting to Jesus, He will forgive and they may enter heaven through Him.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Our sin nature is so total, even babies show it. But if we have the faith of a child and repent, He will grant everlasting life. He sends the Spirit to dwell in us and give us His power to resist sin. He grows us in Christ’s likeness.
At the resurrection of the saints He will blessedly remove us from the presence of sin. Imagine a world where every conversation will be holy. Where every emotion will be perfect. Where there are no hidden agendas, no secret sins, no hypocrisy. Where we worship Jesus perfectly. Where our motives are pure and no one is manipulated, lied to, or pressured. No depravity, and total ability.
What a day that will be. Thank you Jesus, for saving your elect.