Why I Am A Calvinist: Total Inability
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” - Romans 3:9–10
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. - John 6:44
When I started to pay attention to the teachings of the word on the nature of man I was surprised at the disconnect between some theologians of past and present and the teachings of the Bible regarding the nature of man. To me it seems quite clear. But when you begin to add into the mix of interpretation extra biblical philosophical foundations the reason for organizations and individuals to deny this truth becomes understandable, if still improper. If, for instance, you believe that mankind must have Libertarian Free Will you must at least minimize the affects of this doctrine to prevent it from encroaching on your non-negotiable philosophy. And this example is far from a neutral consideration. The debate between Libertarian Free Will and Compatibilism can, and routinely does, become rather heated, demonstrating the emotional attachment that people have to their side being right. This, like many other doctrines, is not a neutral issue. This is not like two strangers walking up to a painting and speculating on the exact color that the artist used. This is personal.
Anyone who approaches a debate and then learns the arguments from both sides will always intuitively take a side and then begin to work out why that side is correct. This happens whether or not the person is aware of such an event. This is because many of the issues that the Bible addresses deal with fundamental aspects of human experience. Once a person approaches the Bible for the first time they bring with them a worldview that immediately begins to set rules for what that person is allowed to accept. This is not to say that a person cannot overcome this desire to reject clear teachings of the word in favor of alternate ones that comport with the persons worldview. But depending on the doctrine the desire can be pretty strong. Worldview shifts do occur when a foundational idea is rejected. This shift takes time and the structure that rested on that foundational idea has to be rebuilt. During this rebuilding the person might begin to reevaluate many assumptions that they once had because of this now rejected foundational idea. But this process is normally not easy.
My Case From Scripture
To understand the issue at hand we need to first take into account what the scriptures say about the nature of man. The Bible, when speaking of man in his natural state, let’s us know that we are enslaved to sin (John 8:34). In this state of bondage we are not slaves against our will but slaves because of our wills. Jesus tells us this: “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:17). This passage was in the context of determining the nature of a false teacher. Jesus' method was simply to let the false teacher expose themselves by their desires and actions. They cannot help but reject God because they are sinful to the heart. They are like this: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “ (Jeremiah 17:9) But then the question naturally becomes; do we seek for God?
Man Does Not Naturally Seek for God
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
- Romans 3:9–20 ESV
In this passage Paul paints a dark picture of humanity with words from the Old testament. In this passage Paul is laying the groundwork for the Gospel and is looking at this issue from a divine perspective. As Paul is setting up the Gospel of grace in this passage he removes from our minds the possibility that we might seek and find God with an earnest heart on our own and thus earn salvation apart from grace. This is because in our natural state we do not ever exhibit this quality. We are naturally in the flesh set against God. Paul tells us later on in Romans: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:7). For those who are in the flesh their minds cannot be set on the Spirit. In Ephesians 2 Paul tells us that we who are saved by grace were by nature children of wrath, we were in the flesh and Spiritually dead. In our spiritual deadness we are only ever in the flesh in a moral sense. And this is not that we were placed in his wrath just by our actions alone but that we are there by nature. Furthermore David traces this nature back to his birth: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5).
Man Does Not Do (True) Good
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. - Romans 7:17–18
This does not mean that we are always as bad as we can be. Indeed the unbeliever can do things that are considered good actions like feeding the hungry or taking care of orphans. But the moral quality of these actions can be found in the heart behind them. In Isaiah 64:6 we read: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” In this passage the author hits on the heart of the issue. Even when we try to do good things we are doing them for the wrong reward. The good and proper reward is that we bring honor and glory, and thus increase our closeness to, God. To this point John Piper writes:
In Romans 7:18 Paul says, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” This is a radical confession of the truth that in our rebellion nothing we think or feel is good. It is all part of our rebellion. The fact that Paul qualifies his depravity with the words, “that is, in my flesh,” shows that he is willing to affirm the good of anything that the Spirit of God produces in him (Rom. 15:18). “Flesh” refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God’s Spirit. So, what Paul is saying in Romans 7:18 is that apart from the work of God’s Spirit all we think and feel and do is not good. - John Piper, Five Points
Mans Sin Brings Infinite Wrath
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1–3
So in our depraved state we do not do any meritorious good and we do not seek for God because we naturally hate him. This hate can take on the form of indifference or of actual loathing but it is hate nevertheless. And we see that this is all rooted in our natures which are evil to the heart. Where did this come from? We inherited our sin nature from Adam: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:9)
To discern the state of man we must first turn to the scriptures. But anyone who has done a modicum of historic research knows the horror of mankind. The blood of sin that soaks all of our hands soaks the pages of our history books. If we turn to the Romans we see people tortured and hung out to die on crosses. If we turn to the Mongols we see living people stacked like cords of logs in great piles, the middle ones of these poor souls being crushed to death.
From this state of utter rebellion we are deserving of infinite wrath. What are we to do?
This is a pretty bleak picture of mankind. Is there any hope for us? The bible seems to paint a picture of people who could not possibly be saved from God’s wrath. How could it be that such sinners would be spared God’s wrath? In the next post I will be dealing with the God’s work of salvation in the sinners life and how that sinner came to the point of repentance and faith in Jesus for the remission of his sins. I will be speaking of the nature of election.
Series Table of Contents:
Reason 1-Part 1: Total Inability
Reason 1-Part 2: Unconditional Election
Reason 1-Part 3: Definite Atonement
Reason 1-Part 4: Powerful Grace
Reason 1-Part 5: Perseverance of the Saints
Reason 1-Part 6 Objections
Reason 2: The Philosophical Failure of Libertarian Free Will.
Reason 3-Part 1: Compatibilism, the true nature of mankind's will according to the Bible.
Reason 3-Part 2: Compatibilism, the true nature of mankind's will according to sound Philosophy.
Why does all this matter?