My Critique of Calvinism: PART II – Total Depravity

My Critique of Calvinism: PART II – Total Depravity June 10, 2019

I once watched an anti-abortion documentary called the 180 Movie. The host interviewed several people asking questions regarding Nazi-Germany and the Holocaust. One of the questions the interviewer asked was,

“If you could kill Adolf Hitler when he was a child or in his mother’s womb, would you do it?”

The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ for many of the ones he interviewed. Some even admitted to not only being willing to kill him, but his mother and the rest of his family as well. These people claimed to bear no qualms over killing a newborn baby if they knew one day it was going to be responsible for the deaths of many.

Is free-will irrelevant when it comes to a person pre-meditating a violent act? Should a person, let alone his family, be punished for the sins of his thoughts before the sins of his actions? Some would argue that the sins of the mind are equally as harmful as sins committed out in the open. Some examples in Scripture,

“But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28 RSV

“Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:15 RSV

In the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report, the central theme of the movie is about whether free will can exist if the future is known and set in stone. Using a machine that uses three psychics called ‘precogs’ who determined which individuals were premeditating criminal activity, the authorities would dispatch and arrest any supposed perpetrators before a crime would take place. The main protagonist played by Tom Cruise later finds himself on the run because of a crime he did not commit.

If God were to robotically work in the same manner as the machine in Minority Report, does this mean the sins of our mind should be punished in the same manner as our physical actions? Or was Jesus using hyperbole in His descriptions of how thoughts of lust and hate lead to destructive outward actions?

Was Hitler already guilty of mass murder long before he wrote Mein Kampf? If that is the case, does this mean Hitler was ordained by God to massacre the Jews? Or is it possible that maybe Hitler had many opportunities throughout his life to recant from his hatred, choose a different path, or to be convinced otherwise? C.S. Lewis quoted in his writing,

“If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
– Mere Christianity

“If God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear — and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity — when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of God is worth simply nothing — may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.”
– The Problem of Pain

In the Book of Genesis, the curse of Original Sin overshadowed humanity after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. Calvinists, along with varying Protestant denominations believe that humanity is completely depraved to the point where free will is irrelevant and any form of righteous deeds without faith are like using dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). What also strikes me is when I read passages like this, supposedly during a time when human depravity was so far-gone:

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LordThese are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.” – Genesis 6:8-9

I agree that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (as affirmed in Romans 3:10, 3:23, 6:23). But what I don’t subscribe to is the idea that all sins are equal (as reflected on in John 19:11, 1 John 5:16-17). God’s grace certainly allows us to recognize our shortcomings as human beings, but we need free will to give consent for Him to work that grace in our lives. If God originally created us in His image and for good purposes (Genesis 1:26-31, 2:18-24), I like to imagine the depravity of Original Sin is not so great as to diminish our value as human beings, nor our capacity to choose for ourselves.

For these reasons, I reject Total Depravity.

Next: Part III – Unconditional Election

Previous: Part I – Introduction

Browse Our Archives