These are points that we will cover in this section:
- Define the term depravity.
- Show the distinction between physical and moral depravity.
- The definition of physical depravity.
- The definition of moral depravity.
- The physical and moral depravity of man.
- After the beginning of moral agency and before regeneration, mankind’s moral depravity is universal.
- During the time between the beginning of moral agency and regeneration, the depravity of mankind is universal.
- What accounts for the universal moral depravity of unregenerate moral agents?
Define the term depravity.
The word comes from a Latin word de and pravus. Pravus means “crooked.” The prefix de is intensive. The complete word depravo means “very crooked.” It does not really imply constitutional crookedness but the sense of having become crooked. The term does not imply original structural corruption but that which has departed from right or straight more with the feeling of deterioration or fall from a former state of moral or physical perfection. It always means a departure from a state of original integrity. It means departure from conformity to the laws of being for the one who is the subject of depravity. We don’t call a person depraved who still conforms to the laws of his being, physical and moral, only to the one that has departed from those laws, whether they are physical or moral.
Show the distinction between physical and moral depravity.
Physical depravity really means a departure from the laws of health where healthy organic action is not sustained. It could mean body or mind but it has nothing to do with depravity of free moral action. When physical depravity is associated with the mind, often there is a link with something in the body that is diseased, lapsed, fallen, or in a degenerate state which has an effect upon the mind. Physical depravity refers to the actual substance of the body and not to the actions of the will and as such has no moral character. Moral depravity can have a hand in causing physical depravity as we will see later, but on the face it has no actual moral character in and of itself. The reason for this is that physical issues are voluntary for the most part, especially when it comes to disease and other physical sicknesses. This means that they are not necessarily sin, though sin may cause physical problems.
When we speak of moral depravity, on the other hand, we are speaking of the depravity of the free will, not as a faculty of the soul, but in relation to its free action. Moral depravity is the violation of moral law. It is a depravity of choice, a choice which is at odds with moral law and moral right. Moral depravity is synonymous with sin or selfishness. Moral depravity is a violation of moral law; it has moral character.
The definition of physical depravity.
- It is an organized substance. Any biological organism can become depraved. Depravity is a possible state for any biological organism.
- The mind can be depraved in a physical sense. As easily as the body can become physically depraved by disease, just so the mind can become depraved in the same way, caused by biological problems. When a person’s mind is damaged physically no one can expect them to act normally. Some people have injuries that affect their minds and others are born with physical deficiencies that cause the mind to function in an abnormal way. The nerves and five senses can be damaged in the same way so that the normal cravings of appetite or other functions of the sense of feeling do not work properly. An example of moral depravity that affects physical depravity is a person that has been on drugs and it causes them to lose certain physical senses like the sense of touch, hearing, smell, taste, or even normal emotions that other people have. A person may engage in so much immoral pornography that their normal sexual senses become deadened to what a virtuous person would be in a marriage relationship. This is another example of physical depravity being affected by moral depravity. The human body and mind are certainly physically depraved and susceptible to disease and decay but this has no moral consequences since it has nothing to do with moral character since it is involuntary, physical.
The definition of moral depravity.
- Moral depravity has nothing to do with substance or biological organisms. Moral law does not dictate over involuntary states of the mind and body.
- Moral depravity is not any involuntary act or state of mind; it could not be a violation of moral law unless there were wrong ultimate intentions. Moral law legislates over free and intelligent choice.
- Moral depravity has nothing to do with acts of the will from the unintelligent. Mentally challenged people do not have the ability to understand moral choices in many cases. Moral agency implies moral obligation which implies moral agency which further implies intelligence or knowledge of moral relations. It is the development of the idea of duty and knowledge of what that duty is. Simply put, a person cannot do wrong when they don’t have the ability to comprehend mentally that they are doing wrong, or right for that matter.
- When moral law is violated it is moral depravity. As we have seen previously, moral law only requires love, only love, to both God and man. This love is good willing, choice of an end, a good end; it is choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe. Mentally challenged persons can love god and the universe. They may have physical depravity but many times their spirit and conscience is quite acute. Moral depravity is sin, which is a violation of moral law. Sinful choice is a willful choice of self indulgence or self-gratification in defiance of the law of love. It does not care to know God for selfish reasons. Self is definitely its end.
- Moral depravity has nothing to do with any attribute of nature or constitution; it is not a fallen state of nature; it is not physical, it is moral depravity, depravity of choice.
- It has nothing to do with the original and essential parts of the body or mind or of any involuntary action of mind or body.
- Moral depravity has nothing to do with anything that causes a wrong choice because moral law is good-willing only. Nothing besides acts of the will can constitute either a violation or obedience of moral law. Outward actions and involuntary thoughts and feelings could be said to possess a certain moral character because they are produced by the will. But in the strictest sense, only choice or intention is what makes up moral character. We have said that sin does not, if we define it properly, consist in wicked actions or in the choice of sin and misery as the ultimate end and for its own sake. Rather, sin consists in selfishness, or self-gratification as the final end. The strictest definition that we can give of moral depravity is strictly only selfish ultimate intention from which many other things evolve. We don’t define sin as a sinful nature with constitutional sinfulness. If we did that then sin would be involuntary. A dog barks and wags his tale as part of his nature. He could not meow like a cat even if he tried. He would not try because it is not his nature. If sin were part of our nature it would not be a choice and we would not be guilty of breaking the moral law and God would be charging us with something that we can’t avoid doing. Claiming that sin is part of a sinful nature is saying that sin is involuntary and there is no choice involved in committing sin. Rather, sin is a spirit of self-seeking; it is a voluntary and entire consecration to gratification of self; it is selfish ultimate intention; it is the choice of the wrong end of life; sin is moral depravity because it is a violation of moral law. Sin is the refusal of a moral being to consecrate the whole being to the highest well-being of God and of the universe and obedience to moral law, while all the while consecrating the life to gratification of self instead. When a person has selfish intentions they are committed to a selfish state and they make efforts to secure self-gratification as the ultimate end of their lives. These efforts are part of the outward life of a selfish man. Moral depravity is not a sinful nature but a sinful voluntary state of the heart. This is why the Bible says that we are to believe in the heart to be saved. Until we change our ultimate intentions we don’t believe with the heart. Moral depravity is a sinfully committed state of the will to self-indulgence. It is not a sinful nature but a sinful heart, a sinful ultimate aim, a sinful ultimate intention. The Greek word, amartia, which is rendered sin in the English Bible, means to miss the mark. Sin is the wrong aim or intention. It is aiming at or intending self-gratification as the ultimate and supreme end of life rather than aiming as the moral law requires, at the highest good of universal being, knowing God as the end of life. Moral depravity is best defined in the verse:1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The unsaved are without the Holy Spirit which is available to all who ask so no one can say that a natural man has a nature that cannot be changed because he can easily be changed by being born again which as we said above, gives us a new heart. Normally when someone describes the “sin nature,” it is not a nature that is unable to be changed, but what the Bible describes here as the “natural man.”
The physical and moral depravity of man.
- No living person has perfect health in the whole world even though some come close. Mankind has become more and more impaired from thousands of years of sinful practices that have passed physical defects down to generations to follow so that intemperance has definitely caused shortness of human life, a physiological fact. Man is physically depraved.
- Because the body is physically depraved and the mind depends upon the body for all its senses and function, a body which is more or less physically depraved or diseased, it follows that the mind will also be physically depraved in its manifestations. Appetites, passions, and tendencies of life have been indulged and the conscience has been seared by selfishness. Selfishness is the choice to gratify desires and feelings which produce the types of activities and wickedness that we see on a daily basis. We see drunks, gluttons, gamblers, sexual abusers, and many other types of depravities from people that cannot control the appetite for self-gratification. The whole mind and body is depraved.
- Moral depravity is a fact of human experience and is clearly seen throughout history. No living person would doubt that man is morally depraved. The Bible declares this in many places. It is such a widely known fact that were anyone to call it into question they would be thought mentally deranged. This is one of the most notorious facts in history. Human depravity has been around since human existence. The first boy in the world killed his brother. Moral depravity was in the first family. Every human being knows this to be a true fact, it is an a priori truth.
After the beginning of moral agency and before regeneration, mankind’s moral depravity is universal.
While there may be some that get saved the very first time that they realize that they are sinners, yet every living person is, from the time that they know they are sinners to the time that they become regenerated or saved, morally depraved. Their total mind set before the Holy Spirit comes in is totally and only for self-gratification. Let’s look at what the Bible says:
In some places it says that the wicked possess a common wicked heart or character.
“And 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.” (Genesis 6:5) “This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)
The Bible declares it a universal necessity that men be regenerated, saved.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
It states that there is a universal moral depravity of all unsaved men.
“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under 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. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:9-20)
- The history of the world proves moral depravity; it is a shameless chronicle of human wickedness.
- There has never been a human being since the fall of Adam and Eve that was not selfish, obeying his feelings rather than the conscience of his spirit while he lived to please himself. This is the universal observation of all men.
- Let me appeal to all who are unsaved and know that they do not know God. You know in your heart of hearts that you live for selfishness, you please yourselves and you cannot consciously deny that this is the true state of your heart.
During the time between the beginning of moral agency and regeneration, the depravity of mankind is universal.
What is it exactly that causes men to be morally depraved? What is it that causes them to have not even a mixture of goodness or virtue so that they never in any degree or instance exercise true love to God and to man? Yet this depravity appears the moment a person understands moral agency and continues until regeneration. We do not say that they may not make an outward show at times or have serious inward feelings at other times. A morally depraved individual may even perform and experience many of the same things as a Christian but the problem is that too many make outward actions into virtue. The truth is that true benevolence is the entire consecration of the heart and life to God and to the good of being so that before a person is saved, regenerated, he cannot be in this state for even one moment or he would be changed.
When we finally realize that salvation consists in the consecration of the entire heart to God and to the good of being, then we can see that the unregenerate are not in this state at all. Many philosophers will admit that the unsaved do some things that are virtuous but they don’t realize that true virtue is only in the heart, the seat of ultimate intentions. What most speak of when they say the unsaved show virtue is only actions that appear virtuous on the outside but those actions do not show the true state of the heart and the ultimate intention.
Some philosophers of the past, Henry Tappan as an example, affirm that a sinner can have a selfish ultimate intention but have virtuous volitions may be put forth causing right actions. The question is this: is the action really virtuous if the ultimate intention is really selfish after all? We know that no one can be totally sold out to God and to self at the same time, it is just impossible. A Christian may have some actions that are in the flesh but his ultimate intention remains fixed. A sinner may do some things which seem virtuous, but the heart is still sinful. The difference is the heart. Both have opposite ultimate ends in view.
- The mind cannot will without an end and since all choice is about the end in view, the end or the means to the end cannot be chosen without the particular end in view. So the difference is that the virtuous person may “fall seven times but rise up again” and yet the sinner may make a show of virtue but in the end, “the dog returns to his own vomit.” The ultimate choice of the heart will always win out.
- The heart has an ultimate end in view at all times, one chosen as the ruling ultimate choice so that until another ultimate end is chosen, no one can say that a momentary flash of virtue proves that a sinner is regenerated or visa versa. So it follows that as long as a sinner remains unrepentant and selfish it is impossible for him to put forth holy volitions or actions since the root is still that of selfish ends. The only way that the sinner can truly change is to change their heart to an end that seeks to glorify God and put others first. This is why sinners are considered unregenerate and totally depraved and that the Bible calls upon them to repent and change their heart, even to make themselves a new heart because they can never do anything that is acceptable to God while they continue to exercise a heart filled with wicked self-gratification as their ultimate end. Take a look back at the attributes of selfishness and you will see what the true moral attribute was in all of these examples, selfishness:
Selfishness cannot and will not co-exist with virtue or benevolence.
No actions that exist while the heart is selfish, no matter how virtuous they seem, are truly anything more than selfishness at the core.
Selfishness shows no love to God but, in fact, is just the opposite in desiring nothing more than entire opposition to the will of God.
Selfishness is the mortal enemy of God as shown in the crime of crucifying Jesus Christ on the cross.
Selfishness is supreme opposition to God.
Every selfish person is as wicked as the light that he has which has prompted him to turn to God and yet he has refused, choosing rather to keep self-interests as his ultimate end in life. The person may be a church member and even a preacher in the pulpit but still the outward life is only an act while the inward life is one of self-gratification. Why do we hear of so many ministers that are being exposed for secret lives of gross sins? So many times the righteous act that people put on is really only a selfish desire to appear holy on the outside while the heart is still totally selfish and wicked. The bottom line is that no matter what the outward actions of a man may be, it is the heart that God sees and it is the heart that reveals the ultimate intention. Selfishness, no matter what the virtuous acts may falsely show, is still a heart of self-gratification, even when it comes to performing religious acts and practices. Sadly enough many religious people do their religious charade only as a selfish way of gaining gratification and it has nothing at all to do with knowing God or of desiring the best for all the universe. It is a sham! It is total depravity!
What accounts for the universal moral depravity of unregenerate moral agents?
Here we will take a completely different road than that which Charles Finney took because there are things which he did not discuss, namely the spirit of a man, that form some of the conclusions that we come to in this area of discussion. The question is asked, what forms the position that a man is in before regeneration and it can only be explained in a quite different way than even was explained by Charles Finney.
When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and they had communication with God, they had a spirit that was alive, it knew God. The temptation came and Adam and Eve sinned which made their spirit die. This is not to say that they could not know God again, but it meant that sin had corrupted the ability of man to communicate with God. They did not change their human nature in a physical way as Charles Finney readily admits. They were forced out of the Garden which meant that they could no longer speak face to face with God. Jesus would need to come and make atonement for sin before God could deal directly with sinners except through a priest as we see throughout the whole Old Testament of the Bible. When Jesus died and ascended to Heaven with the blood of the testament which he sprinkled on the heavenly mercy seat, He opened the way for sinners to commune directly with God without going through a priest as we see in the book of Hebrews in the Bible.
When a person comes to Christ in repentance and faith, coming to know God and making the best end and scope of life God and others, they make their spirit alive again because Jesus comes into the life and lives in our mortal body. The whole point of all these discussions is that moral law is to know God. When a person is born into the world they do not know God, they only know what we call self-preservation which if taken to extreme becomes self-gratification. It is only when they are confronted with a choice to know God or to remain in their selfish condition that we can say that a person makes the same choice that Adam and Eve made. That has nothing to do with human nature or sinful nature. Sin is defined as to miss the mark of the end and scope of life, which is God. So if a person is born into the world and does things that are part of physical depravity because they are human beings and early on learn to gratify self, it does not follow that rejecting God’s offer of salvation and coming to know God is part of human nature. There is no one in all of creation that is unable to know God because they are hindered by their own nature in some way.
The truth is that sin is not really sin until God has touched a person’s life and they have knowingly rejected his love. That is when moral depravity begins in the first place. The Bible says that “to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” We have already discussed this in detail in previous chapters. The point that Finney and I have been making in the writing of this book is that people make excuses for their sin by saying that it is part of their nature. If that were true we could argue that homosexuals are right in saying that they were born with desires to love the same sex. God calls this an abomination. As such it could not be human nature, it is a choice, an evil one at that.
When it comes to sin and human nature, human beings seek to gratify self in ways that are not sinful at times. To eat because a person is hungry is not sin, but it is gratifying self in a way, fulfilling an appetite. There are other appetites that are also part of human nature but they are not sinful unless they are done for a basic love of self and in opposition to all that is revealed from God. The point is that no one has any reason to refuse God in any way. There is no constitutional appetite that makes a person hate the love of God and hate his fellow man. There is nothing that is part of human nature that is so powerful that it would prevent a person from experiencing the love of Christ.
The best explanation of what some think of as being human nature is that all who are born into the world are born with a nature of self preservation which is not necessarily sinful. A child left to himself will try to do that which is natural and it takes teaching from parents to cause them to do what is right. A dog will protect himself and seek for food and even desire to mate as part of a dog’s nature. That is not sin. Humans are no different. It is not sin to do that which is natural. It is when a child is taught to do right and then they make a decision to disobey that they are beginning to do what is called sin. Then they develop a habit of disobedience which grows and grows to a point that they are knowingly sinning against God. That is when they know they are morally depraved.
For those that claim men are born with the nature of a sinner take a look at Adam and Eve in the Bible. Could we take the position that they had the nature of a sinner since they had a desire for food and the temptation came to them to disobey God and then they chose to disobey God because self-gratification was more important to them than obeying and knowing god? No, they had no more of a sinful nature than anyone else in the world does. We all have the same nature and opportunities that Adam and Eve had. Watchman Nee in his book “The Normal Christian Life” and also in “The Spiritual Man” speaks of the oneness of human life. In that he sites a war that occurred in China between two very powerful families. The question is asked, if the one family had been eliminated back in history then where would we be. The answer is that we would all be dead (speaking of his own family who were Chinese.) The reason is that the lives of those in later generations are tied up in the lives of those that come before because of the oneness of human life. The Bible also talks about how the sins of the father are passed down to the children of the third and fourth generation. It all comes back to the oneness of human life and the fact that what Adam did exposed the fact that becoming holy or sinful is a choice for all of us just as it was for Adam and Eve.
We are not born sinners because our parents were sinners any more than we are born Christians because our parents are Christians or Islamic because our parents are Islamic or any other religion. It does, however, occur that children learn from their parents and they do what they are taught. They learn habits that are a part of their culture. We see children on T.V. sitting in Islamic schools praying and cursing Israel because they are taught to do so. No one can say that it is part of their human nature to curse Jews, it is something that is learned by association with those around them. It is the same with the sinful nature that some claim is part of human life. It does not exist. Every person has a right to make choices and the choice that sends them to hell is ultimately the choice to disobey God just as Adam and Eve did. We don’t go to hell because of Adam’s sin, we go there because of our rejection of Jesus Christ. All the other sins that we commit as part of self-gratification mean nothing unless they are done in purposeful opposition to God and to knowledge that we have in our spirit. The Bible correctly says it this way: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)
The argument really comes from those who teach constitutional depravity. They are Calvinists. They hold to the doctrine of TULIP. It may be explained in this way:
Total Depravity – man has the nature of a sinner and he cannot do good or make right choices.
Unconditional Election – God chooses who he wants to be saved and man can do nothing.
Limited Atonement – Jesus died only for the elect that God has chosen not for the whole world.
Irresistible Grace – When God chooses the elect to be saved they cannot resist God’s decree.
Perseverance of Saints – Once chosen by God they cannot be lost, wicked or not.
I have put together the following chart to explain the difference between Calvin, Arminius and Bible:
|Tulip||John Calvin with foundation laid by Augustine||John Wesley with foundation laid by Arminius||Bible with foundation laid by Jesus Christ|
|T||Total Depravity-Human beings are so affected by the negative consequences of original sin that they are incapable of being righteous, and are always and unchangeably sinful; totally enslaved by sin so they can only choose evil.||Deprivation -Human beings are sinful and without God, incapable (deprived) on their own of being righteous, however, they are not irredeemably sinful and can be transformed by God’s Grace; God’s convenient grace restores to humanity the free will.||Spiritual Death -When Adam sinned, he died in his spirit and passed this spiritual death on the whole human race (Romans 5:12) but his will was never dead; in fact, the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil was a fruit that represented deciding for yourself what was right or wrong which made the will of man supreme and the will of God non-existent in man’s choices. Man became dead in trespasses and sins but till had the ability to choose to accept God’s plan and solution.|
|U||Unconditional Election -Since human beings cannot choose for themselves, God by His eternal decree has chosen or elected some to be counted as righteous, without any conditions being placed on that election.||Conditional Election -God has chosen that all humanity be righteous by his grace, yet has called us to respond to that grace by exercising our God-restored human freedom as a condition of fulfilling election.||Election According to ForeknowledgeGod was not willing that any should perish but because He gave man the ability to choose at creation and Adam never lost that ability, therefore all have the opportunity to choose Christ. Since God in His foreknowledge knew who would choose Christ, he elected that they should be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Election is based upon foreknowledge.|
|L||Limited Atonement -The effects of the Atonement, by which God forgave sinful humanity, are limited only those whom He has chosen, the elect.||Unlimited AtonementThe effects of the Atonement are freely available to all those whom He has chosen, which includes all of humanity – “whosoever will.”||Unlimited Offer of AtonementSince God only chooses those that receive Christ, He has offered the atonement to “whosoever will” but the only part of humanity that will be covered are those that accept the offer. It is neither limited nor unlimited but effective only to those that believe.|
|I||Irresistible Grace -The Grace that God extends to human beings to effect their election cannot be refused, since it has been decreed by God.||Resistible Grace -God’s Grace is free and offered without merit, however, human beings have been granted freedom by God and can refuse His Grace.||God’s Grace -God’s Grace when offered to the unsaved, is free to any who receive Christ. Once Christ is received, God’s continued Grace is irresistible since we have committed ourselves to Him and He will keep that which committed unto him against “that day” and will Justify us freely by this grace. This grace extends to being chastised for if we be without chastisement, we are not sons. God will use whatever means of Grace is necessary to keep us by His Grace.|
|P||Perseverance of the Saints -Since God has decreed the elect, and they cannot resist grace, they are unconditionally and eternally secure in that election.||Assurance and Security -There is security in God’s Grace that allows assurance of salvation, but since security is in relation to continued faithfulness, we can defiantly reject God even after we are saved.||Eternal Security -Since God has predestined the believer to be conformed to the Image of Christ and since salvation is called “Eternal Life,” a true believer will be eternally secure and will not lose his salvation because we are kept by the power of God. A believer can never be disinherited according to the law of the adoption of sons. Only those who are “Tares,” not real believers will be lost because they were never quickened by the Holy Spirit. They may, like Judas, have looked like Christians but in the end they had no oil in their lamps and could not come into the feast.|
The first letter of each point spells the acrostic – TUPIP. As anyone can see from this acrostic much of what we discuss in these chapters is to combat this false doctrine from John Calvin. We have been saying that moral law is making right choices and that no one is incapable of turning to God. We could answer all of the above in the following simple way:
- There is no such thing as constitutional depravity for all have a free will to choose and there is nothing in the nature of man that keeps him from answering the call of God through the love of Jesus Christ and responding to the disinterested love that sent Jesus to the cross for sinners. No person is so morally depraved that they cannot instantly repent and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
- We have shown that Jesus died for all mankind and that man makes choices. There is nothing moral about God making the choice for a moral agent or why would he be moral at all. Election is nothing more than God knowing in his vast foreknowledge who will be saved and then making preparations to give them a chance based upon that foreknowledge.
- We have discussed in previous chapters how God has provided an atonement for all mankind and there is no one that cannot readily accept the free gift of salvation. Atonement is not limited, it is free to all who will receive it by faith.
- Grace from God is free but not irresistible. If that were the case man would not be a moral agent at all, he would be a robot. What kind of God would it be that makes a man totally depraved then chooses only some to be saved which he pays for with a limited atonement and then crams his religion down their throat thus making them into a group of religious robots? Wrong! Grace is full and it is free to all who choose of their own free will to receive the wonderful love and salvation of God.
- Perseverance of saints is a true doctrine and we will see in further chapters that a true repentance is one that lasts throughout life. If there is anyone that feigns salvation or repentance and then in time they revert back to their old ways it is only obvious that they were not really saved after all, only reformed. Perseverance is partly from a choice of disinterested benevolence and not holding back on God and also partly from the indwelling Holy Spirit who will not allow one of his children to be lost. Jesus said that he thanked the father that he had lost none of his disciples. This is what perseverance is all about.
So when it comes to moral depravity, the root of it all is sin. Man was created innocent. He was neither sinful nor righteous. Man was a moral being given the opportunity to make choices to either obey God and choose the love of God and the good of the universe as an end or to choose self-gratification as an end. Adam found out immediately that the curse of sin was placed upon the world. So the race of men that come from Adam are basically deficient, not sinful in nature. They are deficient because they need to choose to know God and to will the best end for God and others as the ultimate end of life. This choice comes only from a knowledge of God in his mercy which Adam did not know until after he had sinned and God offered an animal sacrifice in symbolism to mark the coming of the Holy One, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of mankind. When God brought the animal and provided clothing from the skins and then prophesied about the coming one that would bruise the head of the serpent, the Devil, Adam responded by teaching his offspring to offer a sacrifice and to look for the coming Messiah which was prophesied and looked for from the first man until Jesus came in the flesh. The Bible talks about the result of all of this in Genesis: “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 4:25-26) We can see that when Eve had another son for the slain Abel that he was called Seth – compensation or substitute. No doubt Eve thought that her son would be the Messiah who would pay for the sins of the world. It was Abraham who willingly offered his son Isaac and God stopped him in the act that was a symbol of the coming of Christ and the faith that we all have in Jesus the sacrifice. When the family of Adam began calling upon the name of the Lord it was that they wished to know the God of mercy and salvation. We have almost the same words in the book of Romans: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
So the only thing that we can truly claim as being moral depravity is the sin of choosing selfishness over the bliss of knowing God. In that, there is no sin nature that prevents anyone from choosing to receive the precious gift that has been so freely offered to all.
“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (1 Peter 2:6)
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” (1 Peter 2:4)
So when we think of the subject of what accounts for the moral depravity of moral agents we need only look at the life of a young child from birth to the day that he is saved and we can see the development of moral depravity in that life.
- A child is born and until the age of what many theologians call accountability is considered innocent as Adam and Eve were in the Garden. In that stage the baby has no knowledge of sin or of God and his moral standards. The child only cries for his parents for the basic needs of food and changing or to help when he or she is sick.
- As the child grows, the basic instinct of self-preservation will develop into what we have discussed as self-gratification in many ways. However, as yet it is not sinful since the child does not know that certain things are wrong until disciplined by parents which does not amount to any more than the training of a pet who will do certain things to avoid punishment or to receive reward. This also shows that the moral part of the child is being developed.
- The child grows still further and learn to communicate and also learns that some choices are not right because his parents say they are not right. As yet, he only is aware of doing that which causes concern from his parents, quite basic and not necessarily sinful.
- The child then grows to a point where he does something that he knows is wrong and he does it maliciously in direct opposition to the wishes of his parents but chooses this path because he prefers self-gratification to obedience. This now begins to develop and as yet the child has not sinned as far as the Bible is concerned.
- Now comes a day when the truth of God is introduced to the child in either a conversation at home, or at school, or in some other way. When the child learns that there is a God and he senses in his conscience that God is watching him and yet he still chooses self-gratification in opposition to God, then the child has reached the age of accountability and his moral depravity is just beginning to grow.
- This pattern continues as new revelations of God and further decisions to reject his conscience cause the child to grow to a teenager and then to an adult still developing the moral depravity in the heart.
- Some times a person, whether child, teen, or adult makes an attempt to know God and to repent but it is merely a selfish way to appease a guilty conscience and still continue in self-indulgence while thinking that they are safe from judgment.
- The whole time of a person’s life that continues in selfishness, whether religious or not, keeps the moral depravity growing and growing until it becomes a hard and fast habit that is very hard to break and will one day take them to hell.
- The only time that moral depravity is broken is when a person comes to see their total depravity before God and they come in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ who died for them and they view the atonement as never before as meant for them and yet God loves them enough to forgive their sin if they will surrender all to Jesus both now and forever. When they finally have confidence to give up their self-gratification mindset and make living for Jesus and others the end for which they live as they receive the Holy Spirit into their lives, they become saved and moral depravity is ended forever.
10. There never was a day during the life of any individual when they had a constitutional inability to know God if they would only repent and believe. To fail to receive the grace of God has to be a choice unless a person is mentally challenged or ill or a baby. No other reason can be given for any person on the face of the earth to miss the glorious gift of salvation freely offered by Jesus to every man.
11. This does not make void the statement in the Bible that says that as by one man many were made sinners. It does not disagree with the fact of physical depravity or of the weakness of the flesh.
Discussion of some verses that others use to prove a sinful nature! Let’s look at the following:
- “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:” (Genesis 5:3) There is nothing here that proves the fact that either Adam or Seth had a sin nature. They both had similar DNA as science will prove and they both had a moral nature. They had a cursed world and the temptations were similar and the flesh was now under the curse as well.
- “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” (Job 14:4) Again, nothing about this proves a sinful nature. The only conclusion that one can draw is that the sinful do not by birth beget holy beings. No one is holy without making a choice to be holy, birth has nothing to do with it as this verse states. Again, men are moral by nature and able to make moral choices. Birth has nothing to do with the choices that are made. This can easily be seen in the history of the Bible where so many times Godly kings begat wicked sons. Then again, wicked kings begat godly sons. The point is that each one made his own choices and it had nothing to do with their birth.
- “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14) The truth about this and the previous quote from Job is that the persons doing the speaking were wrong before God and their statements were erroneous. They were actually trying to prove a sin nature and also trying to convict Job of sin that he had not committed before God. The point still remains that the way a person is born does not make him righteous, only when he comes to know God as Job had obviously done. Read the last chapter and you can see how God asked them to repent and offer sacrifices to righteous Job who walked with God daily.
- “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5) Nothing is wrong with the statement that the parents of a person are sinners and there is nothing here to prove a sinful nature. The verse does not refer to the child, only the mother and as we know already, the birth of a person does not make him either a sinner or righteous. Each person makes that decision individually.
- “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” (Psalms 58:3) Well, you say, that verse proves a sinful nature! Really? Examine it closely! How many babies do you know that begin to speak the day that they are born? If so, then how many of them come out speaking lies as this verse says? None! This is allegorical to say that when children reach the age that they understand that they are moral and able to make decisions to do good or evil that they begin to make selfish decisions almost immediately which includes lies. This in no way proves a sinful nature, only that children are have moral natures and make sinful choices early in life.
- “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) We could not agree more. Again, this proves that a person is not born righteous. It also does not prove that a person is born a sinner. It only proves that a person does not become righteous until they are born again as other verses in John 3 testify. Also, we have never argued against a depraved flesh.
- “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:3) Again, read what it says. Are we to say that God is wrathful against us from the day that we are born regardless of our moral choices? No! God has wrath against transgressions, selfishness. This verse is only saying what others above say, that we are children of parents who are sinners and potentially under the wrath of God. As the Bible says, “All have sinned…” If you read the verses previous to this you can see that the only way a person is quickened is not by physical birth but by being born spiritually. You can also see that the condemnation is against self-gratification which a person sees being done by his or her parents.
In all these verses and in many others in the Bible there is nothing to suggest anything more than a depraved flesh and a moral nature that is not hindered from choosing to know God. If it were any other way, God would be guilty of creating a sinful nature and we would justly demand that salvation be provided for every unfortunate calamity in the human race because sin is not our fault. Is it any wonder that the church is so confused today? We need to get away from theological evolution and get back to the position of God that man was made in the image of God who does not have a sinful nature. We need to see why God says that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He never says that human nature is sinful anywhere. The question we all need to ask is this: are we going to obey God in the spirit or obey the flesh with our moral nature that can choose, like Adam and Eve, either to become self-indulgent, or to know God want the best end for God and others. It is our choice!
We will examine some arguments that support the position that human nature is sinful in itself.
Those who believe that the human nature is sinful and define that as moral depravity try to make the point that sin is the effect of a sinful human nature and because of that, human nature is sinful. The answer is that sin is an abuse of free agency and we can account for it by stating that there is a universality of temptation to all mankind. If we allowed that position to stand we would be compelled to ask the question, how did Adam and Eve sin? Was it their sinful nature that caused them to choose of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Also, how did angels sin before they and Satan were cast out of heaven? Did they also have a sinful nature? Either sin does not imply that nature is in itself sinful, or Adam and Eve and also angels that fell had sinful natures before they fell before God.
If sin were an effect of some kind then we would be looking for the cause. A free will is fully capable of being a cause in the midst of temptation so that we don’t need to explain sin as occurring because man has a sinful constitution. Believing in a sinful nature is on the border of believing in evolution. If we hold to the evolutionary theory we would think that we are only a more advanced form of animal and as such what we do is part of our nature, like a dog or a cat or a monkey. We have allowed the sinful nature position to play right into the hands of evolutionists and weakened our position as Christians. What we fail to realize is that when people grow up and self-gratification becomes a way of life then they develop habits that may seem to be a sinful nature but it is nothing more than bad habits from repeated sinful self-gratification which is never broken until a person comes to know God and the love of God, called disinterested benevolence.
Some say that just because a person has an appetite for something like food means that there is a constitutional craving for sin when it is merely a craving for food. We reject this philosophy because it would mean that all physical cravings are sinful when it is only the moral choice at the time that is sinful. When Adam and Eve sinned they did not have a sinful nature only a moral nature. Angels in heaven that sinned did not have a sinful nature and yet they chose to sin and were judged by God. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6) We see the action of Adam and Eve in sinning for the very first time. There was no craving for sin even though eating the fruit was sinful. The sin consisted in consenting to gratify the appetite for food in a manner forbidden by God. The reason that they wanted the forbidden food was that they wanted food and knowledge, why? It was for self-gratification. Those who teach that there is a sinful constitution in man try to say that there is something within that leads him to seek sinful desires. They say that the desire for sin causes man to yield to the temptation to sin. If that is true, then Adam and Eve had a sinful constitution and they only responded to the temptation because God created them with a sinful constitution, right? Wrong! The only thing that answers to the temptation is the craving for something like food which is not sin. It is the reason that the fulfillment of a normal desire is sought that makes it a sin. In the case of Adam and Eve, the craving for food was not a sinful desire. Also, a craving for knowledge is not a sinful desire. It is when one craves for these things in direct opposition to the command of God and for a selfish gratification as an end with no thought to glorifying God as an end. If it were true that sinners love sin for its own sake then total depravity would secure perfect blessedness. A sinner would say, “Evil, be thou my good.” People who claim that men have a sinful nature claim that all the appetites, passions, desires, and propensities which are constitutional and totally involuntary are sinful in themselves. If this is true then Adam and Eve were made with a sinful nature because they possessed these same appetites passions and desires before they fell into sin. Also, Christ possessed these same passions, appetites and desires or he was not a man. Though these appetites, passions and desires are the occasion of sin when one falls into temptation, they are not part of a sinful nature. Temptation is when the will is asked to seek unlawful indulgence in an appetite or desire in an unlawful way. But, you may ask, why is it that these passions and appetites are not sinful in themselves?
- First because they are involuntary and because of that they are not part of moral character because moral character is voluntary choice. They are not part of sinful nature any more than the fruit that Eve ate was sinful in itself. Having a desire for knowledge or food is unintelligent, involuntary and they are not part of moral character. A moral agent is responsible for his emotions, desires, etc. so far as they are under direct control of his will and no further. The thing that he is most responsible for is how he gratifies his involuntary desires. If a person indulges desires in accordance with the law of God, he is not doing wrong just because of the desire, he is doing right because he is doing right. If, however, he makes these desires the end for which he lives and for which he makes his choices, he is committing sin. If a man desires to have a marital relation with his wife and instead goes out, rapes and kills an innocent girl to fulfill the desire it is not because the desire for the relation is wrong but because he chose to fulfill the desirer in a way that was against the moral law for nothing else but pure self-gratification.
- Some claim that the fact that infants get sick and even die before they have even committed one sin proves that they have a sinful nature. This is preposterous! Consider the following:
- One cannot use this to prove that infants have a sinful nature that causes suffering and death any more than they can prove it for animals. Animals have committed no sin. This actually proves nothing.
- A physical suffering in infants or in anyone in the human race only proves physical depravity. God did curse the ground and we die because of sin. Our bodies are physically depraved because of the curse of sin and that is why the laws of health and life are affected by the fall. Some argue that if infants don’t have a sinful nature then they don’t need to be sanctified in order to go to heaven. Here is the answer:
- The argument assumes that if they are not sinful that they are therefore holy but infants are neither sinful nor holy until they actually become moral agents which they do when they either obey or disobey moral law. No one can go to heaven without being made holy or being sanctified.
- The assumption is made here that before one can be holy there must have been sinfulness. Think about Adam and Angels, were they sinful before they became sanctified by God? This argument assumes that unless a moral agent is a sinner he does not need the Holy Spirit to make him holy. It is assumed that if they did not have a sinful nature they could be holy without the holy Spirit. This misses part of what the moral law is all about, knowing God. Suppose that they have no moral character and that they are neither holy nor sinful. Can they become holy without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit? Who will guarantee that they will?
- Some even use the circumcision of a baby as evidence of a sinful nature showing that they are morally depraved from birth and needing this rite! How ridiculous! While there may be a spiritual application about being saved from the dominion of the flesh in this rite, it is more for the parents to give then stern warning to watch over the child and to lead them from birth to follow God and to pray that the child becomes holy himself. Babies were circumcised to show that they are moral agents at a young age but the rite has to be preformed at that age as much for physical and medical reasons as it is for spiritual or moral reasons. The reasons are more that there was a medical need to do it at an early age and with it God had something moral and spiritual that made it even more special and important to the parents.
- Again, the proponents of sinful nature say that infants need a sinful nature so that if they die as infants they can be saved by the grace of Christ. That could not be true. Infants could not be sent to hell because God could never send innocent children to a place for the guilty, in hell. It would be morally impossible for God to do such a thing. It takes just as much grace to save them from becoming sinners as it would to save them from a sinful constitution. Grace is unmerited favor and if a child has a sinful nature it would only be a misfortune, not a crime according to this false theory and yet sin is a crime so the child could not have committed a crime to get the sinful natured and the grace to allow him to miss hell and go to heaven. Why is it not grace for an infant to die before he even becomes a moral agent by taking him away from the circumstances that will make him a sinner and the Holy Spirit takes him to heaven? They certainly don’t need the atonement since they have never sinned. It certainly is grace if innocent children go to heaven.
- Is it not grace that keeps us from sinning? Yes it is! Why cannot it also be grace that keeps infants from sinning? It does so by snatching them away to heaven before they come into temptation.
- The one thing that can truly be said is that if infants are rescued at all, and they surely are rescued by God, it is because of the benevolence of God that saved them from circumstances that would result in temptation and then in certain and eternal death so that by the grace of God they are made heirs of eternal life. We know that the character of God is that he wants the best end for all in the universe. Based upon that character, infants will go to heaven being saved by the grace of God.
We deny that the human constitution is morally depraved for the following reasons:
- There is no proof to support this theory.
- Sin cannot possibly be a quality of the substance of soul or body since it involves choice or intention. It is simply not a substance!
- To say that sin is an attribute or quality of a substance is contrary to the way God defines sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” It consists in a refusal to love God and our neighbor which means loving self supremely.
- To say that human nature is constitutional sinful would be charging God with being the author of sin since he is the former of the human constitution. To say that God did not do it directly but that sin is conveyed by generation from Adam, who became sinful himself, only takes it one step back and still charges God with creating the laws that caused this to happen.
- The next question that has to be asked if man has a sinful nature is how did Adam and Eve get their sinful nature? Did they get it when they committed the first sin? Or, did God change their nature as a penalty for sin? Did he create a substance in Adam that passes to all men, material, or spiritual, that is sinful? They say that it is not soul or body but that Satan mixed sin with the human nature like mixing water and wine. They say it is something accidental that comes into human nature. They never say that it is not wrong action but that it is an accident that fixes itself to the nature of our substance. Then what is it? It is not substance and not action! It is not matter and not spirit! Is it a poison? A virus? A cancer? One can see how ridiculous this theory is.
- The greatest problem with constitutional sinfulness is that it makes all sin, original and actual more of a calamity than a crime. When a person says that sin is a part of our constitutional nature, who can possibly make them feel that is a crime? No one! It would seem like nonsense if you think of it as a calamity! No wonder so many people don’t realize the seriousness of their position before a holy God. If the nature is sinful in such a way that actions are sinful then sin in action is only a calamity and it cannot be a crime. People will have the attitude that gay people have when they say that they were born with the desires of being gay. They say that as if it were some type of calamity and they can’t help the way that they were born and so to make them guilty of what they are makes a person prejudiced against them. Now we are placing blame on anyone that is against the sin of homosexuality as prejudice. Why? Because we have swallowed this position that a sinful nature is part of human nature. Man is off the hook is he has a sinful nature because he has committed no crime since the will had nothing to do with his sin.
- The doctrine of a sinful nature represents sin as a disease and obedience to God’s law impossible until the nature is changed by the sovereign and physical agency of the Holy Spirit while the moral subject remains passive.
- When people hold to this position they consider repentance impossible, with or without the grace of God, unless we use no reasoning at all. How could someone repent by condemning their sinful nature or for actions that they could not help but perform from that nature? This doctrine of a sinful nature, original sin, and necessary sinful actions makes the government of God, salvation by Jesus Christ, and all the doctrines of the gospel a complete farce. With this position the law of God is tyranny and the gospel is an insult to unfortunate persons who cannot help their state of sin.
- They talk of two kinds of sin, original-constitutional and actual-sin of substance or action. Yet the Bible only recognizes one kind of sin which is disobedience to the law.
- This position makes the sinful nature a physical cause of our actual sin.
- This position represents a type of sin which will not be punished on judgment day and yet the Bible talks about deeds done in the body and not the constitution as what is brought to judgment.
- This position puts sinners into a self-justifying and God-condemning spirit. A person must be a living in a fantasy to blame himself for Adam’s sin and also to blame himself for having a sinful nature and then condemn himself for the sins that came from that sinful nature. How could he ever consider himself guilty before God?
- This position is what causes people to help the murderer and the gays and other types of sinners. They actually pity them and excuse them rather than blaming them for making self-gratification the best end of their life.
- People that hold this doctrine cannot really urge repentance and submission to God since the sinner cannot feel that he is not to blame and that he cannot possibly comply with the demand to repent since he has a sinful nature and cannot do so. How could a person say that a sinner has a sinful nature and then blame them for doing what is naturally impossible to them, namely to repent of something of which they are not to blame. It is hard for sinners to blame their nature because their conduct was unavoidable. The only way that people who hold this theory as fact can truly try to convert a sinner is to talk about this theory without really believing it; otherwise they must excuse the sinner.
- The advocates of this position make the atonement of Christ an act of justice rather than one of grace. They make it an expedient to relieve the unfortunate rather than offering forgiveness to a horrible inexcusable sinner. They think of the sinner as hard core and God as under obligation to provide a way to escape the sinful nature that the sinner has in spite of himself, and also to escape from the sins that are the result of that nature which he could not help but perform. If this is all true then God must be the cruelest of beings, especially if he did not provide a way to escape. Unfortunately this is what people are truly saying when they teach original sin.
- Just the fact that Christ died in the place of sinners proves that God did not think of them as unfortunate but as criminals without excuse. Why should Christ die only for the misfortunes of men who could not help the way that they were born? No, he died to atone for their guilt, not for their misfortunes. If they are without an excuse for sin then they don’t have a sinful nature that makes their sin unavoidable. The whole law and the gospel both teach that man is without excuse for sin. That means that he cannot possibly have a sinful nature because he would then have an excuse for his sin.
- This doctrine has been a stumbling block to both the church and the world and is dishonorable to God. It is an abomination in the site of God and of human reasoning. It should be banished from every pulpit in the world as well as from every doctrine. This comes from heathen philosophy which came upon the Christian world from Augustine, a Roman Catholic. It is a stronghold of universalism that teaches that God will eventually save everyone and that no one goes to hell. No wonder, they think that God is responsible for sin and that he is duty bound to do something to get everyone into heaven. They reason, rightly so with this false position, that God would be unjust to send people that have a sinful nature to hell, and right they are. Anyone would agree with them if this doctrine is true. But it is not!
- Because of this doctrine of a sinful nature there is also a position that man cannot repent which is part of regeneration. The Universalist thinks of all men as eventually being saved because God is sovereign and omnipotent. He is almighty and he is love! Men are constitutionally depraved and unable to repent and so God cannot and will not send them to hell. They think that men do not deserve hell, that sin is a calamity, and that God can save them and ought to do so. The Universalist actually believes that all men will be saved a no one will go to hell. When this false dogma of a sinful nature is removed from thinking then both Calvinism and Universalism come crashing to the ground and men begin to realize that without repentance they have no hope of salvation.
The proper method for accounting for moral depravity!
Moral comes from a Latin word mos, manners. Depravity, as we saw previously, is from de and pravus, crooked. This would lead us to the term crooked manners or bad morals. Another word, amartia, is the Greek word for sin and means “to miss the mark.” It means to aim at the wrong end in life. This is what we have been saying regarding the moral law, a divine law. Let’s look at some things:
- We need to remember what has been settled regarding moral depravity.
- We need to look at the scripture to see what it says about moral depravity and sin.
- We need to see what the Bible says about how we account for the existence of sin.
We need to show how moral depravity is to be considered to be a fact.
Positions that have been settled regarding moral depravity.
- Moral depravity is nothing more than pure selfishness.
- Selfishness is the supreme choice of self-indulgence.
- Self-indulgence is to commit the will to the gratification of appetites and desires in direct opposition to the law of God and conscience.
- Sin, or moral depravity, is a unit and is always a state of self-gratification with different forms and means.
- Moral depravity is not a sinful nature.
- Actual transgressions do not come because of a sinful constitution.
- Sin is only actual transgression and nothing else is called sin.
The scriptural view of moral depravity, sin. We need to see if the Bible goes along with the natural theology as we have discussed it.
The Bible tells us, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4) “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” (1 John 5:17) Sin is unrighteousness and transgression of the law.
- The Bible makes the law the only standard for right and wrong so that to obey it is virtue and to disobey it is vice or sin. This is taught everywhere in the Bible, either it is assumed, implied, or expressed on virtually every page of the Bible.
- The Bible holds all men responsible for their voluntary actions and more particularly for their choices. One Bible expression sums it up quite well: “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” (2 Corinthians 8:12) The Bible says that God accepts the fact that we are willing to do his will whether we are able to execute our choices or not. He views a willing mind as supreme in relation to moral law.
- Sin, according to the Bible is something done or willfully omitted and it is never a part or attribute of the body or soul. There is nothing in the Bible when understood properly that would indicate constitutional sinfulness.
- The Bible clearly represents sin as deeds done in the body which will pass in review at the judgment.
Bible tells how to properly account for moral depravity.
- We can see from the narrative in the Garden of Eden where the first man and women decided to indulge themselves against the command of God for food and for knowledge, selfish interests. What they did is to yield the will to selfish impulses instead of the revealed will of God. The Bible says that Satan tempted Adam and Eve. It was temptation that brought about the first sin, not a sinful constitution.
- The Bible talks about sin entering the world and causing death of the body, which was physically depraved after sin. It says nothing, however, about the sin nature, only that death passed to all men after sin entered the world. Adam’s sin was the occasion, not the physical cause of all the sins of men in the world. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19-21) Here again one needs to read the whole verse. Can we say that because Jesus died for our sins that we can go to heaven merely by osmosis? Is it true that every man in the world is automatically saved after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? No! It is not! The only way that the death of Jesus can be applied to a person is by repentance and faith. It is a moral choice. In the same way, the only way that the sin of Adam can be applied to all mankind is by the opposite, by consciously making a decision to reject Jesus Christ and to view the intrinsic value of selfishness as the end of life rather than the glory of God and the good of the universe.
- The truth is that when Adam and Eve sinned their spirit died. That is not a constitutional sinful nature but a spirit that has lost contact with God. Rather than trying to make sin part of a sinful nature we need to be looking at the spiritual side of it. As it says in John 3: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) A dead spirit has nothing to do with constitutional sinfulness; it has something to do with having no communication with God. Every man that is born into the world has a dead spirit. That spirit needs to be made alive by the Holy Spirit of God. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:1-6) You will notice that disobedience is what makes us sinners and that we are by nature the children of wrath, speaking to the fact that our physical bodies are under the curse that causes us to die physically, yet it does not say that we have a sinful nature.
- The book of James tells the progression of how sin comes into a life. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15) As you can see here, James is clear that we cannot blame God for our temptation or sin. We would be doing that if we tried to say that man has a sin nature. It says that every man sins when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. It is the moral choice of every man and woman to sin. When it says man is tempted by his own lusts, the Greek word is epithumia which means desire. It shows man as yielding the will to a desire to gratify that lust or desire.
- Paul and other writers talk of the carnal mind being a fleshly mind, mind the flesh, or minding the flesh. It makes the flesh as the seat of the desires and it makes the will as minding or obeying the flesh. The three great sources of temptation are the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is why the Apostle also talks about putting the old man to death. One of the greatest ways to have victory is to consider the flesh to be dead and to have a mindset that lives as if we no longer exist but through the power of Christ in us. We have the power through doing that to live free from sin. “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7) “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5) As you can see it is who we mind that determines our eternal destiny. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:12-16) It is obvious through this that the will is free to choose and there is no sinful nature. We have the flesh, true, but we have a choice between the flesh and the spirit so that human nature is really a moral nature as we have said and we have the ability to make the choice. We can see that even the Bible interprets sin as selfish lust. It nowhere claims that the sins are the result of a sinful nature where one cannot help but sin because of a constitutional problem. It represents all sin as a choice to obey lust rather than the Spirit of God, as we have been saying all along. One thing that makes a sinner have difficulty choosing the good of God and the universe is that no one can do that without the Holy Spirit influencing the human spirit. When a person refuses to draw nigh to God then they have no way of enlisting the help of the Holy Spirit.
Accounting for moral depravity.
- Moral depravity is the commitment of the will to gratification of fleshly lustful desires and to be governed by these desires instead of submitting to the law of God as it is revealed in the conscience, the law of love.
- From the moment a person is born they are constantly reacting to the various desires of the flesh and of the emotions to the point that they seen self-gratification even before they understand what they are doing. The feelings and appetites are not sinful as such. The very day that the conscience becomes aware that self-gratification is something chosen in opposition to love of God or others so that there is an awareness of sin, that is the day that a person becomes a moral agent. The problem comes that the will has begun to have a habit of yielding to the appetites and even parents must help train a young child to say no. That is not a sinful constitution but a flesh that is tempting the will to make a moral decision which we can all do freely with no hindrance at all. This habit of making choices becomes a history of sinful choices of sinners. This then grows and moral depravity is choice depravity because all the choices are from the same root, a self-gratification end. No wonder we call this “indwelling sin.” The Bible talks about this very clearly, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:14-25) We can see it here! As long as the ultimate choice is self-gratification, called sin, is the direction that a life is going as the ultimate goal in site, no amount of trying to do good will change the course of the life. It is all or nothing! God wants total surrender. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2) It is the renewing of the mind to a choice of God over self-gratification that makes the difference. We should also keep in mind that physical depravity has caused the body to be in an accentuated state of physical desires which constantly urge us to make self-gratification a choice of an end. This is moral depravity which is universal because temptation is universal. Sin in Adam and Eve was not yielding to a sinful nature but yielding to appetites that were not depraved. The prohibited indulgence overcame them and they allowed their will to consent to what God had prohibited. This then became more developed as they now had a curse on the ground and on their flesh which would eventually die. We all become morally depraved in the same way, not because of a sinful constitution but by forming habits of yielding to self-gratification.
- What we have as a simple explanation is this: man has a depraved flesh that tempts him through natural desires which are not sinful in themselves but can be sinful depending upon the choice made and the reason it is made. If a choice is made which opposes the clear revelation of God but the person wishes only to fulfill that desire at all cost and risk to his immortal soul, then he has chosen self-gratification, pure selfishness. The only escape is to obey the Holy Spirit and to come to know God. When you know Him, you love Him and you cannot love God and the flesh at the same time. When you die to the flesh, then you get the victory as it teaches in Romans 6 and Galatians 5:20.
Let’s sum up the truth on this subject in the next few paragraphs:
- Moral depravity came to Adam and Eve when they yielded innocent moral natures to a sinful choice against revealed knowledge from God. They made the desire for food and knowledge more important than the intrinsic value of knowing God and living for making him happy and glorified. They were persuaded by temptation and fell into the temptation.
- We can sum it all up as we did in the last chapter. A person is born into the world and he yields to physical appetites repeatedly until such yielding becomes habit. The more he obeys the desires and appetites, the more the habit develops. Even before a person has enough reasoning power to know it, he has built up a habit of self-gratification which is not sin as yet; it is only gratification of natural desires. There is essentially no resistance in the mind or in the mind of the spirit through the conscience at first. The demands of desire become more demanding and that continues so that there is no comprehension of moral obligation. Now there is some influence that comes into the life through the Holy Spirit on the human spirit through the conscience which indicates that wrong moral choices are being made. The will rejects this and clings to self-indulgence and not the person becomes a moral agent and has made a decision in direct opposition to the conscience of the spirit. The moral choice is opposed to God and for self-indulgence. As the light of the conscience is repeatedly ignored, the heart becomes more and more hard. Eventually the light that makes an attempt to enter the spirit is rejected completely. Selfish will thus continue to grow and corrupt itself until a person comes in contact with the Holy Spirit and the power of sin is broken, he dies to self, and yields to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gets born again. Now the power is broken. Once he was morally depraved, but now he is free.
- As I am writing this material and using much that comes from the great Revivalist Charles G. Finney, I am impressed to make a clarification. Charles Finney fully knew that spiritual knowledge would progress past what he taught and knew by the power of the Holy Spirit. One such bit of knowledge we have already introduced in the early part of this book. It is the part of a man that most theologians have neglected to recognize, the human spirit. While it is true, as Finney adequately describes, that there is nothing that would hinder any man from making the choice for God as we have described that choice, it is also true that man has a spiritual deficiency that cannot be rectified without coming to know God. That is why we have continually made mention that part of the moral law is fulfilled in coming to know God because to know Him is to love Him. The Bible has something to say about the reason that depraved man cannot comprehend certain things unless he comes to the cross. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) The reason is that when a man comes to know God, he is imparted with knowledge in his spirit that can only be known by one who knows God. The knowledge and comprehension that we have mentioned in previous pages refers to this state of a man without God. While there is no such thing as a sin nature, per se, there is a fallen state that occurred at the fall of Adam and Eve that put them in spiritual darkness such as can never be eliminated without a personal experience with Jesus Christ. More about this will be explained in the following chapter on regeneration.
- What we are saying here in conclusion is that the “natural man” mentioned in the Bible is the same as we have said, a person who has self-gratification as the intrinsic value in their life and that for which they live their lives. On the other hand knowing God is linking the spirit of man with the uncreated life of God in our spirit in such a unique way that the life is forever changed. Once that happens, then one can never live for self again, it is all for Christ and Him alone.
The Bible describes the natural process of obeying the desires of the flesh and not even knowing it is sin until the truth is revealed. Obeying the flesh is sin, obeying the spirit is life and peace.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:7-25)
Can you see it? Paul describes the typical person who does things that they don’t know to be wrong until the revelation of the commandment comes and then they realize that they are following fleshly desires and it is sin. Now, suddenly, that thing is a source of aggravation and discomfort. What is the solution, it comes through Jesus Christ the Lord.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:16-23)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:1-18)
Again, moral depravity is a habit of making wrong moral choices, namely choosing selfishness or self-gratification. It is a natural man who has not had his spirit quickened by the power of God. His spiritual comprehension is lacking without the Holy Spirit. He does, however, have the ability to come to God and turn with all his heart to God. The book of James describes the process quite well:
“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:6-10) “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13) “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:9-28) “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 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:” (John 1:11-12)
When the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of sin in the heart and the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ, a choice can be made to serve God or the flesh. It is proof positive that we have a moral nature with the ability to choose God or reject Him.