Q&A 10: What Do You Think About Total Depravity?

Question: What do you think about total depravity?


Having been asked about my own perspective on Calvinism, I think it would be helpful for me to walk through what are known as the 5 points or the classic acronym TULIP. I should note that I spoke to this issue some years ago in an SBC Life article. That article can be accessed at danielakin.com . My views have not changed in any real sense since I wrote that article. In fact, my views have not changed concerning the issue of Calvinism since I began teaching at Criswell College back in 1988.

When it comes to the issue of total depravity, I simply cannot see how anyone can read the Bible and not come to understand that we come into this world with a fallen sin nature that we soon follow with moral culpable acts of disobedience against our God. Romans 3 is so crystal clear on this. There is none righteous no not one. There is none who seeks after God. In other words we come into this world with a sin nature that is bent toward and determined to sin. To say it another way, I believe every molecule in our body is infected with the disease and the germ of sin. If God did not take the initiative in reaching out to us through the ministry of His Spirit and the Word, no one would take a single step in the direction of God. We are at the very core of our being rebellious sinners who wish to idolize ourselves in arrogance and pride. Therefore, when it comes to the doctrine of total depravity, I believe that the Bible is crystal clear.

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  1. Bob Cleveland   •  

    If the natural man cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit, then I’d imagine that same man would be unable to comprehend righteousness, in the spiritual sense. Lacking that spiritual insight, what possible standard of comparison could the natural man have, to determine righteousness?

    Simple. Other people. Which yields the “I’m as good as anybody else” position when asked about one’s hope of the afterlife.

  2. Chris Krycho   •  

    Dr. Akin, I’ve enjoyed reading this series. I read through the PDF you linked, and appreciated your approach. I did catch what I strongly suspect is a typo that you might want to fix, though! On page 9, under point 6, you wrote, “Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our
    Southern Baptist family” [emphasis added]. I’m guessing you meant something else… Antinomians? Something else? Obviously, there are lots of Arminians in the SBC, and though I am distinctly not among their number, I’m also pretty confident that you and I agree that they are welcome!

  3. Danny Akin   •  

    Chris, thank you. I had in mind classic Arminians who reject eternal security or perseverance of the saints. Since we confess the truth of that doctrine with great passion those who reject it I would think would experience some uncomfortableness in our family. They certainly will not be appointed by the IMB or NAMB since those we send out must affirm the BF&M 2000. Nor would they be hired to teach in any of our seminaries. Still, I am happy for them to attend our churches where hopefully they will hear the Word and become convinced that we are indeed eternally secure because we are “kept by the power of God.” On a personal level I would be happy for a classic Arminian to join my church though I would not put them in teaching or leadership positions. I love what Jerry Vines has said in this context, “Christ by His work on the cross obtained our salvation and by His intercessory work in heaven maintains our salvation!” PTL! What a Savior!!!

  4. Chris Krycho   •  

    I appreciate the clarification. I suspect that there are far more 4-point Arminians in the SBC than 4-point Calvinists, and many SBC believers I know colloquially use “Arminian” to refer to that 4-point view, so I was surprised by your statement. Thanks for taking the time to respond. :)

  5. Larry Cockerham   •  

    I enjoyed reading your pdf on the five points of Calvinism. I am teaching this to my church, starting with the history of Calvinism. I do have one question concerning one particular teaching; that “everyone is an elect”. Does this come from Karl Barth’s teaching? It seems that others also had similar views (Herschel Hobbs, etc.)that influenced SBC teachings on this subject.

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