The Pastor\’s Pen

An Independent Baptist Preacher\’s Musings and Observations

Total Depravity or Total Inability

Posted by Pastor Szekely on November 19, 2006

I have some idea as to why there are Baptists who would call themselves Calvinists…but if you’re a true Baptist, how can you also be a Calvinist? It’s my thought that many Baptists get sucked in to calling themselves Calvinists without really knowing what Calvinism is, and they are afraid to say or don’t know how to explain that man must respond by reception or rejection when God initiates the call to salvation.

Baptist, are you ready to call yourself a Calvinist? I am not a Calvinist…nor am I an Arminianist…I am a Baptist. One characteristic of a true Baptist is that the Bible is not the final authority, but it is the only authority. How does Calvinism and TULIP philosophy line up with what the Bible says?

Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 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.” The Bible clearly tells us that there’s nothing good in man’s heart to merit any saving grace. There’s not a spark of goodness in anyone of us to gain favor with God for eternal life! I believe the Bible when it tells me that man is totally depraved.

But when a Calvinist says he believes in total depravity, he believes in far more than what the Bible says. Calvinism’s definition of Total Depravity is one of Total Inability. Calvinism says that a man is spiritually dead: Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins”…and if a man is spiritually dead, he is totally unable to believe on Christ…and that’s total inability. Calvinism is saying that man’s depravity makes him totally unable to receive OR to reject Christ.

In John 6:44 the Lord Jesus said, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” Calvinists point to verses like this one to say that without God, [an elect] man is totally unable to receive Christ. We Baptists believe that God is the INITIATOR in a person’s life unto salvation: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of…” 2 Cor 7:10. God has to initiate because man is desperately wicked and not seeking after Him.

But the question of vs44 is: When God says that “no man can come unto me, except the Father…draw him”…does that mean that man is forced and has no choice but to come, or after God initiates, man responds? Are we Baptists going to believe that God’s Grace is irresistible…that God forces His Grace upon a man, whether he wants it or not?

“Well, if man could reject God’s Grace…doesn’t that frustrate the will of God, making God not Sovereign, or Supreme?” God’s will is that “whosoever believeth” on His universal atonement through the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved! That’s God’s will. God did not elect some to go to Heaven…and if you will hold to this, you’ll have to admit then that God elected others to go to Hell…just like Calvin said.

I’ve gotten away from the theme of this post. All 5 pillars of Calvinism are faulty, and I pray that I’d be able to expound on this in the future. But the Bible teaches total depravity of man, but IT DOES NOT TEACH total inability…it’s not a matter of whether or not a person can come to Christ; it’s a matter of whether or not that person will come to Christ. For example:

John 5:39-40, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life”. Not that they could not come unto Christ that they might have life, but that they would not.

Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” The Lord didn’t say “ye could not”; He said “ye would not”. It wasn’t a matter of whether or not they could; it was a matter of whether they would.

I understand that this is only a brief explanation, but I pray that it would be a help unto us as Baptists. Calvin was a reformed Catholic {that’s what I call Protestants, because that’s what they are}. Calvin, like Luther, wanted to at first reform the Catholic Church. I also think it’s interesting to note that Calvin never gave a testimony of the new birth, but rather he identified with his Catholic infant baptism to carry him through for salvation: Institutes, IV says, “At whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified once for the whole life“. Also it says, “By baptism we are engrafted into the body of Christ…infants are to be baptized…children of Christians, as they are immediately on their birth received by God as heirs of the covenant, are also to be admitted to baptism“.

I will not be a Calvinist, and I will not follow Calvin and his reformed Catholic teaching. We don’t need an “ism”, we need Christ and His Word…that’s Who I want to follow!


9 Responses to “Total Depravity or Total Inability”

  1. Kathy said

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the rest of the T.U.L.I.P. It is very difficult to find a Baptist take on this that doesn’t come from a “Reformed” view.


  2. Bro. Szekely said

    Thank you for your inquiry, Kathy…I will go through a summary on the rest of the faulty foundational pillars of Calvinism.

    Stay tuned…and again, thanks for inquiring!

    Lord Bless,
    Bro. Szekely

  3. Samer Adra said

    Amen… It annoys me that Calvinism calls it “Total Depravity” and takes that to mean they can’t even believe when God draws them and grants them repentance–so, as you said, it ought to be called “Total Inability.”

  4. Bro. Szekely said

    G’day Bro. Samer ~ Thank you for your reply! Also, I’ve been to your blog, ~ In fact, I’m now listening to the message, “ten shekels and a shirt”.

    Great stuff you have there! I’m looking forward to spending more time at the site…I added it to my blog roll.

    Keep on keepin’ on ~ see you at Online Baptist ~ I pray all is well with you in finishing your college studies ~ Lord bless!

  5. Bill Jackson said

    If a person except the Bible as the word of God, he would except that total depravity means, that God has to come to the sinner, convect him, open his heart, give him the faith to believe, Bill Jackson

  6. I agree…I truly believe the Bible tells us that man is totally depraved…but IT DOES NOT TEACH that man is totally inable to come to Christ. As I say above, it’s not a matter of whether or not a person CAN come to Christ; it’s a matter of whether or not that person WILL come to Christ when God comes to that sinner and convicts him.

    Thanks for the comments, Bill!

    Lord bless!

    • Five Point Baptist said

      Bro. Szekely, you say that the Bible “does not teach that man is totally inable to come to Christ.” Yet, in John 6: 44, Jesus said, “No man CAN come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him….” Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the word “can” refer to ability? This is an explicit statement that our Lord gives regarding man’s natural inability to come to saving faith apart from the Father’s sovereign drawing of the sinner to Christ. This doctrine is also inferred by Paul, when in Phil. 1: 29, he states, “For unto you it is GIVEN in the behalf of Christ, NOT ONLY TO BELIEVE ON HIM, but also to suffer for His sake.”

      Man’s will is wholly depraved and as a result, he is unwilling and unable to come to Christ apart from a work of God. If this is not true, man is not dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), but merely sickened in sin. But thanks to God, we are born again not by the “will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD” (Jn. 1: 13). And again, in I Cor. 1: 30, “But OF HIM are ye in Christ Jesus…” I praise God that Christ is the AUTHOR of our faith, not ourselves (Heb. 12: 2), for I know that without Him, I was unwilling and unable to come to faith.

      Soli Deo Gloria!

  7. Jonathan Edwards said

    I think its helpful to note that historical baptists have generally been Calvinistic leaning. Just look up the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith…they authors of that confession were clearly calvinistic and they were baptists. It’s too bad that Finney’s devestating theology is still affecting baptists today to the point where we don’t acknowledge the fruits of our origninal sin.

    • Fun-da-MENTAL said

      I think that we’re finally seeing Baptist churches return to their roots. Many IFB churches are shrinking because their members are seeing the shallowness of Finney’s teaching (i.e. easy believism) and their churches’ theology. Its funny that although IFB churches call themselves “old fashioned,” they’re really not at all. I’m glad to see IFB churches tackling the issue of total depravity.

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