Jones on Total Depravity

A former Calvinist examines Total Depravity:

The Genesis Account

This loss of ability to receive spiritual truth is one of the consequences of Original Sin, we are told. If this is true, we would surely expect to find some mention of it in the Genesis account. Yet there is no record there of God imposing this curse of Total Inability on man’s nature. There are other curses listed. God pronounced the death sentence, which He defined as a return to the dust (Gen. 3:19). Such language obviously denotes a physical death, not a loss of spiritual ability or a death to God.

God decreed the presence of “thorns and thistles” to make toil more difficult (v.18). He told the woman that she must endure great pain in childbearing (v.16). Both of these curses are trivial compared to what would be the most debilitating curse of all: the removal of all ability to respond to God. Of this we haven’t the slightest mention. George Burnap comments:

“If this doctrine is true, God did not tell man the true penalty, neither the truth, nor the whole truth, nor a hundredth part of the truth. To have told the whole truth, according to this hypothesis, He should have said, ‘Because ye have done this, cursed be that moral nature which I have given you. Henceforth such is the change I make in your natures: that ye shall be, and your offspring, infinitely odious and hateful in my sight. The moment their souls shall go forth from my hand…if they are suffered to live, such shall be the diseased constitution of their moral natures: that they shall have no freedom to do one single good action, but everything they do shall be sin….What an awful blot would such a curse be on the first pages of Scripture!”6

It is true that death passed upon all men through the First Adam. His expulsion from the Garden with its Tree of Life removed him from the source of immortality and made death certain. This is also true of his posterity. But the transmission of Total Inability toward God is nowhere conveyed in the text.

Two primary texts adduced to prove the doctrine of Original Sin (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15) say nothing about Total Inability. Nowhere are we told that an invincible tendency to resist God was imparted to the race through the offense of one. If there were a place we would expect to find the doctrine, it would be in one of those passages dealing with the relationship between Adam and his descendants. But there is not a trace of such teaching there.

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