How shocking does this sound?
How shocking does this sound?
You may not want to visit Grace Baptist Church when I tell you what we believe. But we have very good reasons for believing it and I have very good reasons for telling you about it. So do read on!
Total depravity. It is certainly not the happiest name that has ever been given to a doctrine of the Bible. We never use it without having to explain what it isn’t. One of our great concerns is that people will see themselves as God sees them. There is just no measuring how important that is. That’s why we only use the language of total depravity with explanation. Otherwise it would be like holding up a mirror in which people wouldn’t recognise their own face.
So why use it? And what’s it about anyway? It sounds like the kind of thing you’re seeing when people do the wickedest things – like murder someone in cold blood. And it is. But it is also what we see when we look at ourselves – regardless of how young, how kind, how morally upright and good-living we are, how innocent of anything that would land us in jail. Total depravity is a universal characteristic. It is something, dear reader, that is true of you.
Does that sound shocking? Offensive? Over the top? Ridiculous? Let me explain – beginning (as always) with what we are not saying. And what we are not saying is that everyone is as bad as they could possibly be. No-one, in fact, is as bad as they could possibly be. Not even remotely. We are all capable of much greater evil than any we’ve ever been guilty of.
So what do we mean by total depravity? Just this: not a single part of our humanity is unaffected by sin. Think of a town so devastated by an earthquake that every last building has been damaged. So with sin. It has damaged and defiled the whole of human nature.
Take the conscience, for example. Do you know why people believe that as a matter of religious duty they ought to do the most atrocious things? Like blow themselves and others up? Their conscience has been distorted by sin. Or take the mind. On the most vital of all questions – like who is God and how can I get right with him? – so much of our thinking is seriously, fatally, astray. The impact of sin!
Or take the emotions. There are things that we love that we should not love and hate that we should not hate. Sin is the culprit. Or take the imagination. How frequently because of sin do we prostitute it to the vilest of ends! Or take the will. Why do we constantly choose to do what is evil and neglect to do what is right? You’ve guessed it – sin. Like a dye that has soaked into every fibre of a garment, sin has affected every part of us.
But if our depravity is total so also is the remedy. That’s why the gospel is such good news. It doesn’t just address a part of the problem. It deals with the whole. When Jesus, God’s Son, begins his saving work in someone’s life (and he’s willing to begin it in your life!) the renewal is as total as the depravity. Mind, will, conscience, imagination, emotions – they all begin a journey toward functioning as they ought. And nor does Jesus ever stop short. He carries on his work of renewal in the hearts of his people till every last vestige of sin is eradicated.
Feeling how terribly sin has damaged you? Jesus can make you whole!
Grace Baptist Church
777 W North Street
Carlisle, PA 17013