Tuesday, February 8

Why I Love the Doctrine of Total Depravity

I came to Christ when I was very young. For almost as long as I can remember, I have been a crooked arrow being made straight rather than a crooked arrow spinning wildly. My testimony doesn't start with "I was a teenaged prostitute drug-dealing felon, but God saved me." Nope. "I was a naughty five-year-old" is about the worst I can do.

And this is why I love the doctrine of total depravity. An honest look at it is the best antedote for pride. In case you don't know, coming to Christ as a youngster and being protected from some of the more easy to spot sins can be a recipe for pride, but the uncomfortable truth of total depravity is the great equalizer.

When Paul says
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another (Titus 3:3 NET)
the "we too" includes me. You may not have seen it, if you'd known me, because I certainly didn't have much of an opportunity to express those passions and desires fully in a visible way, but the seed that blossoms into evil and envy and hate was there germinating in my heart.

This includes me, too:
And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world's present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest... (Ephesians 2:1-3 NET)
Yep, there I was, in the evil band of those marching along the wrong path. I looked innocent enough, with my ringlets and ruffly dress and patent leather shoes, but what you couldn't see is that I, too, was being energized by a spirit ruled by the prince of the power of the air. Yet God, in his mercy, reached down and plucked me from the power of darkness and transferred me to the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 2:13 NET).

Total depravity is both the nastiest and loveliest of truths, because it's only by seeing exactly what I was that I can understand what has been done for me. Knowing the depth of God's love comes only as I fathom how far he had to stoop to grasp me.

[Update I: Beyond the Rim relates this truth to our attitude toward others.}

[Update II: And Tim adds to the discussion, too.]

[Update III: The Irvins join in too.]