TULIP: Total Hereditary Depravity, 1

Intro | Total Hereditary Depravity 1 | Total Hereditary Depravity 2 | Unconditional Election 1 | Unconditional Election 2 | Limited Atonement 1 | Limited Atonement 2 | Irresistible Grace 1 | Irresistible Grace 2 | Perseverance of the Saints 1 | Perseverance of the Saints 2tulip

by William J. Stewart

This first doctrine of Calvinism deals with man’s relationship to sin. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), but Calvin’s doctrine goes beyond this. Total Hereditary Depravity (THD) says that every person is born in sin; spiritually corrupt because of Adam’s sin. We read in the Westminster Confession of Faith that Adam and Eve:

…being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VI)

Notice what the apostle Paul wrote about our relationship to sin and death:

…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… (Romans 5:12)

Paul wasn’t a Calvinist. He didn’t teach that spiritual death came upon all because of Adam’s sin. Paul said that death has spread to all men, because all sinned. Adam is not responsible for our spiritual death, we are. This concept of original sin does not come from the Bible, but from a man. The prophet Ezekiel wrote on behalf of the LORD:

…all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

There are many things, including some diseases, which are hereditary, but sin is not. The prophet goes on to reveal that a son does not inherit his father’s righteousness (Ezekiel 18:5-13) or his father’s wickedness (Ezekiel 18:14-17).

The Calvinist reasons that since Adam is our universal father, the guilt and fallen state of his sin should come upon us. Notice again from Ezekiel:

Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:19-20)

The people of Ezekiel’s day used the same reasoning the Calvinists do. The answer is the same, whether then or now—the son shall not bear the guilt of the father. The guilt of Adam’s sin DOES NOT come upon us.

This doctrine of Original Sin has led many in the religious world to teach the need for infant baptism. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism:

…is a sacrament which accomplishes several things, the first of which is the remission of sin, both original sin and actual sin—only original sin in the case of infants and young children, since they are incapable of actual sin; and both original and actual sin in the case of older persons. (catholic.com/tracts)

Indeed, the Bible teaches that baptism is for the remission of sin (Acts 2:38). The Bible defines sin as a transgression of law (1 John 3:4) or failing to do what we ought to do (James 4:17). There is no mention of “Original Sin” anywhere in the Bible. However, the Catholics (and others), reasoning that we are born guilty of Adam’s sin (THD), desire to baptism infants, to wash them of this phantom sin. Their baptism amounts to nothing more than a public bath for the child. No sin is remitted, for they have no sin to be forgiven of.

If THD were true, then David’s first son by Bathsheba would have been condemned to hell. Recall, the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba. He revealed that the child would die (2 Samuel 12:14). The text tells us:

…the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. … Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. (2 Samuel 12:15-16, 18)

The child died one day before he would have been circumcised. He died outside of the covenant God had established with His people. If he had a corrupt nature and was dead in sin, then his eternal abode would be hell. After the child’s death, David washed himself and worshiped the Lord. When his confused servants asked about his actions, he explained:

While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. (2 Samuel 12:22-23)

Either David determined that he would join his son in hell, and he was at peace with such a decision, or he believed that he would go to heaven, and his son would be there.

As Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven, He stated:

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. (Mark 10:14-15)

It appears that Jesus didn’t know that children are “…utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil…” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VI). Surely, if the Lord knew that, he wouldn’t have used them to describe those who are in His kingdom.

Who is more likely to understand the inherent nature of man, a 16th century theologian or Jesus, the Creator and Saviour? By his doctrine, John Calvin has called Paul, Ezekiel, David, and the Lord liars! There are more Scriptures we could look at which show the error of THD, but what we have seen ought to suffice.

Next week, we will look at texts used by the Calvinist to support the doctrine of Original Sin.

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