Christianity 201

June 1, 2014

The Depravity of Humankind

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  (KJV)

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.” (same passage, from The Message, w/ vs.10)

Job 5:7 Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.  (KJV)

But man is born to trouble as the sparks and the flames fly upward.  (same verse, Amplified)

This weekend we were talking about the theological idea of the depravity of man, and my youngest son, who has been studying these things this year, pointed out that while man is totally depraved he is never utterly depraved. This came out in a discussion as the proposition that some of the worst people history has offered were still made in God’s image, while some of the best people the world has ever seen still need a savior.

My son defined it this way:

Total depravity means every single part of you is affected by sin.
Utter depravity means every single part of you is destroyed by sin.

Man is born with a sin nature that must be dealt with. It permeates body, mind, emotions, and spirit; but is never beyond the redemptive grace of God. But man is also born with an innate capacity to respond to God’s offer of salvation. (Whether you believe this is a matter of election or free-will choice is immaterial here, what matters is the capacity to say yes to God.)

So, you’re probably thinking of some of the examples that came up in our discussion…

Could Judas or Adolph Hitler asked for and received the grace of God toward the end of life? Yes. It’s important when remembering the “last minute” salvation given to the one crucified with Jesus that day was a criminal. That’s the only identification we have of him.

Could Mother Teresa or Billy Graham rest on their own virtue and righteousness and miss somehow the need to be covered by the atoning blood of Calvary? Yes. Anyone could try to get their own their own merits and not be resting in what Christ has done for us.

We live in the tension between being born in sin and depravity yet not being so utterly depraved that we cannot respond to the grace and goodness of God.