Calvinism: From God or Man? #5 Examining Total Hereditary Depravity
As we begin today studying more about the theory of Calvinism, we will look into the idea of Total Hereditary Depravity. Now some will say, “why do you call it a theory?” I call it a theory because that is all that it is. It is a Theory about God that some people believe based upon the teachings of Augustine and revived again by John Calvin.
I will not take the time today to go into each of the 5 tenants of Calvinism except to simply mention them by name. First is Total Hereditary Depravity. Second is Unconditional Election, then comes Limited Atonement, then Irresistable Grace. Finally the Calvinistic theory closes out with the Perseverance of the Saints.
This study will look into detail about the first of the 5 steps of Calvinism and see what the Bible says about it.
Total Hereditary Depravity
We begin with a quote from the Presbyterian Confession of Faith so that the Calvinist does not say “you have misrepresented us.”
"By this sin (eating the forbidden fruit PV) they (Adam and Eve PV) fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions."
So we are clear on that, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Now, here we are thousands of years later and I am guilty of that sin.
So the Calvinist says: because of Adam's sin they have passed their sin from their individual souls to the soul of Cain and Abel, and Seth, to Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, all of them; vile, horrible sinners, because of Adam and even to your soul and mine. All the way down the line and when I was born, my soul was guilty of the sin of Adam and Eve.
They use scriptures to try to support their Theory and so in a moment we will see those scriptures. But, make no mistake about it, through no fault of our own, according to the Calvinist, we are wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body. We are opposed to all good, wholly inclined to evil. Notice too what the verse says. “we are made disabled.” We will see later that because of this depravity that we have inherited from Adam we cannot have a good thought. We cannot even consider God. That we are absolutely incapable of coming to God if God doesn’t MAKE us come to him.
But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Really we need to read one more quote from the Calvinist to help us understand a picture of their God.
Again from the Confession of Faith, chapter 3. We read:
“"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and fore-ordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving him thereunto." (Confession of Faith, chap. 3, sections. 3, 4, 5.)
Election and Damnation will be discussed later. I bring this up so that we have a clearer picture of the Calvinist’s God.
He has ordained every single thing that has ever happened. This tells us He even ordained the Angels to sin and leave their first estate. Therefore, according to their own confession of Faith, as we will show, Adam and Eve’s sin pleased God because it showed his glory and grace. If he ordained all things then he should be pleased when people sin because he has ordained or caused it to happen.
The word “Ordain” according to Webster’s dictionary is “To establish by appointment, decree, or law.” God, according to the Calvinist, has decreed or made it a law that everything that happens is happening because He is making it happen.
Now here is how we will proceed through this study. First, we will ask some important questions that need answers as far as “depravity” goes. For instance; we will ask questions such as does sin please God? if yes, why does it? If not, why not? What about infants? Are they forever lost? And we will ask the question do we really inherit sin?
We will then need to find out if we inherit our Soul from our parents or does it come from God. Then we will examine the passages of Scripture that the Calvinists use to try to prove their theory.
So let us start with a series of Questions today:
Is God pleased by Man’s sin?
First, since God ordained all things that have come to pass was he pleased in the sin of Adam and Eve? Notice the Calvinist’s answer:
“This, their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory." (Confession of Faith Chap. vi, sec. 1.)
Notice the change in wording here. “according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit… to permit!? Not permit according to Calvin’s teaching but to ordain!
We saw already that God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”
And it came to pass that they ate the fruit that God told them not to eat. They were ordained by the very hand of God to eat that fruit if God ordains all things that come to pass.
So how is it that God is pleased when people violate his law? Isn’t it a strange picture of God that he would rejoice in man becoming “opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil?” How does it feel to serve a God who tells people not to do a certain thing, but then he by his wise counsel ordains them to do that very thing? And then when they break his law and are subjected to punishment for the breaking of God’s law, this pleases God!?
Is that what the Bible teaches? Is God pleased when men sin?
5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 5:5-6)
It broke his heart that man had become sinners like they had. But how did it break his heart? Wasn’t that exactly what he ordained to happen? Didn’t God make them do this? How do we reconcile this Calvinistic idea?
According the their teachings God gives man commands and tells them not to break those commands, but then he ordains them to break those commands. And then this man is vile and disgusting, faced with death and misery both now and eternally.
How can anyone believe that and then read Jesus’ words in John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Folks, I suggest to you today, that the same way that Adam was guilty of his sin; you and I are guilty of our own sin. Not because we inherited it but that we desire it of our own lust.
James says in chapter 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Question 2: What about the infants?
Those tiny babies who come out of the womb or even those that die before they come out of the womb. Think this through: If a child dies and yet he inherits his sinful soul from his sinful parents, then it follows that every child that dies will go to hell. There is no other logical conclusion that could be reached.
So to get around this idea, the Calvinist has come up with this thought: the Presbyterian Creed book says in chapter 10 “elect infants, dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when and where and how he pleaseth.”
Isn’t that convenient. They offer no scripture to support their theory just when a problem arises for them they can just proclaim, “oh, God will figure it out.” They expect that people should just swallow it up and accept it because it’s written in their confession of faith book.
What did our Lord say about Children in Luke 18:15-16?
15And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16But 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.
Now let’s get the picture. These “little reprobate babies,” these “vile creatures” who are “wholly inclined to evil, and against all good.” are placed before Jesus. The apostles rebuke the whole situation and Jesus says… no, allow these children to come to me, for such is the kingdom of God.
So, we have to conclude with one of two options;
- Children are not born in sin. They are not evil as the Calvinist says. Or
- The Kingdom of God is full of vile and filthy souls - full of sin, wholly inclined to evil.
It is that very false doctrine that leads to the idea that babies should be baptized. This is the very reason why people baptize their babies. It is to take away the sin that they “inherited” from their fathers.
What about infants whose parents are pure?
I have another question for the Calvinist. Do Christians who have purified their souls; when they have children do those children inherit the sin of their parents or do they inherit pure souls? Again the Presbyterian confession of faith will help us to see the Calvinist God.
Chapter 6 section 5. “this corruption of nature during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated.”
There you have it! Even when Peter says, “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the Truth.” – in Calvinistic reality, no man can purify his soul because the Calvinist says that this corruption remains even with those who are regenerated.
So much for Jesus description of : “blessed are the pure in heart” – Because the Calvinist says we cannot be pure in heart. For how could we have a pure heart and carry the “Corruption of Adam” with us the remainder of our lives?
Now, we need to understand also about the Calvinistic theory, that God has placed not only the consequence of Adam’s sin upon man, he has placed the guilt of Adams sin upon us as well.
See there is a difference in suffering the consequence of our father’s sin and the guilt of it. According to the Calvinist, the guilt of Adam’s sin has been imputed to us all.
So what is the difference in the guilt and the consequence?
Let’s illustrate it like this: A father might go out one night and get drunk and then in his drunken and sinful state go and pick his child up from a ballgame. He could be driving his child back from a ballgame, they might get in a terrible car wreck because of his drunkenness. The child could be horribly disfigured, lose a limb or even die. Now, the child is suffering as a consequence of the sin of the father, but he is not guilty of the drunkenness of his father. Everyone understands and acknowledges the truthfulness of this. Unless, you are a Calvinist.
The Calvinist would have to say, “yes he is.” He is just as guilty as his father. He would further have to state that even if the child had not yet been born the child would still be guilty of the drunkenness of his father.
While we acknowledge that we may indeed inherit the consequences of sin; we firmly deny that we are guilty of it.
Adam sinned in the garden. Remember he had the ability to live forever. He had a right to the tree of life. As long as he ate of that tree he could live forever. But when he sinned, he lost that ability. He was removed from that garden and that tree.
You and I are suffering the consequence of Adam’s sin. We all will die. But, I submit to you today that I am not guilty of Adam’s sin. How do I know that I am not. Because God makes it clear in His word that we do NOT inherit the sin of our Fathers.
Ezekiel 18:19-20 says “Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. 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.
God has so written that,we do not inherit sin from those who went before. But, the soul that sins is guilty of his own sins.
The Calvinist doesn’t properly understand the nature of sin nor does he understand the nature of the soul, if he believes we inherit either one from our parents.
First, sin according to John, in 1 John 3:4, “sin is a transgression of the law.”
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Allowing God to define what sin is for us we have what we need to prove the point.
Sin is transgressing a law of God. God says “do not murder.” But a man goes out and murders someone. 10 years later, this same man has a child. Did that child commit murder? Remember, sin is a transgression of the law. Did the child commit murder? Did that child transgress God’s law?
God says no! God says the child shall not bear the sin of the father, neither the father bear the sin of the son.
According to the Bible Sin is never shown to be a hereditary trait, but is always shown as an evil action of the guilty party himself.
Yes, as we stated earlier, we suffer the consequence for Adam’s sin. At one point he was able to live forever because he had a right to the tree of life. Notice Genesis 3:22-24
22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Now, because of his sin, we all taste of death. None of us have the right to the tree of life anymore. When we are born we are already starting the march toward death. Not because of the guilt of the sin of Adam, but as the consequence of his sin, we no longer have the right to the tree of life.
Notice Hebrews 2:14-16
14Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Here is the whole reason for the Old Testament. From now on, instead of death holding people in fear, these people were so afraid of dying, - because death was seemingly final. Year after year, constantly marching towards death, marching, marching, marching… always towards death. Notice vs 15
15And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Notice 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Yes, Adam sinned and because of his sin, God removed the tree of life from mankind. But, I am not guilty of Adam’s sin. And now, because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead I am not even fearful of death. Because now death is a new beginning. A beginning to the faithful. Death is the doorway to a better life.
Do we inherit our souls from our Parents?
I submit to you that if I inherit my soul from my parents and my parents are sinful then it is possible that I inherit at least a part of the sinfulness of my parents soul. But the question is: do I inherit my soul or my spirit from my parents?
Notice what the Hebrews writer says in Hebrews 12:9
9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
This tells me that while our bodies are inherited from our parents; there is one Father of spirits and that Father is God.
The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
God forms the spirit of man inside his body. Not my parents.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 says :
7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Who gave me my spirit? God did.
Now some might say well, yes, he gave the spirit but he does it through a natural means. Meaning that he gave the law that parents would be the one to give it. But, that doesn’t work. Remember when Jesus restored the man’s dead daughter. Gave her life again in Luke 8.
In Luke 8:55 he brings her back to life, and the Bible says: “her spirit came again, and she arose straight away.”
What do we learn from that? Where did her spirit come from? Her parents? No… Ecclesiastes, says the spirit comes from God. The simple fact of the matter is since God gives us our souls; since he is the father of spirits it is absolute error to claim that our souls are corrupted at birth. Because if they are, God is the one who corrupted them for he is the one who gave us our souls.
Calvinist’s Quibble about Anger and Children
Calvinists say, “you can see a child’s sinful nature when he gets angry.” Well, if anger is proof of sin, then Christ is a sinner for he was angry with those who would make his Father’s house a house of merchandise. And God is a sinner too because he told Moses his anger was hot against the children of Israel. In fact he says to the Psalmist in Psa. 7:11,God is angry with the wicked every day.”
So if a child’s being angry is proof of his sinful nature, then certainly Gods anger and Christs anger is proof that they are sinners as well.
Let us close this part of the study by looking at some of the passages of scripture that they use to “prove” that we are born in sin.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Does this passage prove that man was born in sin? No indeed. This is the Jews. He says in vs 2 that they had been given the oracles of God. Vs 8 says that they should have been doing good and not evil. Vs 12 says they had GONE OUT OF THE WAY. They once were in the way only now they had by their lifestyle gone out of the way. Because of their actions, they had become unprofitable.
They weren’t born that way. They chose to live that way.
Calvinist’s love this passage because they think they have their proof here. Of course they like only certain translations like the NIV in this passage. However, the NIV has done a terrible job with the translation of this, as well as many other passages.
The NIV says 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
But the accurate translations of the KJV and ASV render it
5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Well, I can see at least 3 options for this passage, and none of them have anything to do with the child being born a sinner.
- It is possible that he was simply stating that he was born into a sinful world. But that doesn’t mean he was born a sinner. As my friend Billy Bland says, “A person can be born in a potato patch, but that doesn’t make him a potato.
- It might be that the Psalmist is saying that he was the offspring of a sinful sexual relationship of his mother. Perhaps referencing Judah and Tamar. Judah and Tamar were the generation 10 before David, and according to the law of God, children born of sinful relations, could not enter the temple to the 10th generation. Which would have meant that David would have finally been able to enter into that temple. And say “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
- It might be even that he is using hyperbole here. That he had felt so sinful. That he was so disappointed in himself. That it is as if he couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t sinning. Of course we know that hyperbole is used many times though out scripture for exaggeration to prove a point. But we will not go off on that right now.
So there are at least 3 options and none of them have anything to do with David being born a sinner.
1Do ye indeed in silence speak righteousness? Do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? 2 Nay, in heart ye work wickedness; Ye weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth. 3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. 4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, 5 Which hearkeneth not to the voice of charmers, Charming never so wisely. 6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: Break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Jehovah.
So the argument goes, “see, the wicked are estranged from the womb.” Well let’s examine it shall we. First, it says, these people in their hearts work wickedness. Babies don’t work wickedness. Not only that it says they “go astray.” It doesn’t say that they inherit their sin; it says they “go astray.” Then it says from the moment they are born they are speaking lies.
Do you know any newborns who are capable of speaking lies? Not only that the Psalmist prays for God to “Break the teeth in their mouths.”
We know for a fact that babies aren’t born with teeth so obviously he is using a strong argument and the argument wasn’t about babies; it was about the judges and the congregation referenced in verse 1.
1 And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:
It says “by nature” they were children of wrath. By nature, not by birth.
Not one word is said about their bearing the guilt of Adam's sins. They were dead because of their own sins. Moreover, look at the verbs used by Paul to explain why they were in such a state.
They had walked according to the course of the world they were fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and thus they were by nature the children of wrath.
A form of the Greek word (phusis) is the word translated "by nature" in this passage. Thayer gives the following as one of the definitions: "a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature."
It was not anything that Adam had done that put them into such a state; it was their own doing. Their own sinful habits that did so. It was their practice/habit for so long that it became their nature.
The first point in the Theory of Calvinism has failed. Man is not born with a sinful nature. We do not inherit sinful souls from our parents. We are not, as the Calvinist says, unable to even consider God or think of good things.
Why did Christ command that the Gospel be preached among all nations and to every creature promising salvation to those who would believe and obey?"
He must have known, if this theory be true, that they could neither believe nor obey it. No, they could not even so much as will or desire their salvation or anything good connected therewith, to say nothing of doing anything to secure it.
And why did Christ threaten them with damnation if they did not believe it, when, according to the Calvinistic theory they have no more power to believe it than they have to create a universe?
The fact is God has never given a command to man that man was not able to follow. When Jesus says come unto me in Matt 11:28 Jesus knew that man had the ability to come.
And so today we have seen that Total Hereditary Depravity does not hold up to the teaching of the word of God.