The Meaning Of Depravity
Man*s want of original righteousness and of holy affections toward God, and the corruption of his moral nature by his bias toward evil is called depravity. Its existence is witnessed to by both Scripture and human experience. The teaching of Scripture that all men must be born again shows the universality of its existence.
The Extent Of Depravity
The scriptures speak of human nature as wholly depraved. However, the doctrine of *total depravity* is easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. It is important to know both what it does not mean and what it does mean.
From the negative standpoint, it does not mean that every sinner is devoid of all qualities pleasing to men; that he commits, or is prone to, every form of sin; or that he is as bitterly opposed to God as it is possible for him to be. Jesus recognized the existence of pleasing qualities in some individuals (Mark 10:21: Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.); he said that the scribes and Pharisees did some things God demanded (Matthew 23:23: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.); Paul asserted that some Gentiles do instinctively the things of the Law (Romans 2:14: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:); God told Abraham that the iniquity of the Amorites would grow worse (Genesis 15:16: But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.); and Paul says that evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13: But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.).
From the positive standpoint, it does mean that every sinner is totally destitute of that love to God which is the fundamental requirement of the law (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.; Matthew 22:37: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.); that he is supremely given to a preference of himself to God (2 Timothy 3:2-4: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;); that he has an aversion to God which on occasion becomes active enmity to him (Romans 8:7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.); that his every faculty is disordered and corrupted (Ephesians 4:18: Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart); that he has no thought, feeling, or deed of which God can fully approve (Romans 7:18: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.); and that he has entered upon a line of constant progress in depravity from which he can in no wise turn away in his own strength. (Romans 7:18: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.). Depravity has infected the whole man . . . mind, emotions and will.
Depravity has produced a total spiritual inability in the sinner in the sense that he cannot by his own volition change his character and life so as to make them conformable to the law of God, or change his fundamental preference of self and sin to supreme love for God, yet he has a certain amount of freedom left. He can, for instance, choose not to sin against the Holy Spirit, decide to commit the lesser sin rather than the greater, resist certain forms of temptation altogether, do certain outwardly good acts, though with improper and unspiritual motives, and even seek God from entirely selfish motives. Freedom of choice within these limits is not incompatible with complete bondage of the will in spiritual things. Inability consists not in the loss of any faculty of the soul, nor in the loss of free agency, for the sinner still determines his own acts, nor in mere disinclination to what is good, but in want of spiritual discernment, and therefore of proper affections. He cannot of his free will regenerate himself, repent, nor exercise saving faith (John 1:12, 13: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.) But the grace and Spirit of God are ready to enable him to repent and believe unto salvation.