What is Total Depravity?

One Calvinist explains: “If you want to study the T.U.L.I.P., try starting with the foundation, Total Depravity, and then work your way through the doctrines. Starting with Election is the surest way to get everything about Calvinism wrong....” (emphasis mine)

Of course, that’s flawed. According to Calvinism, it actually all starts with a decree. According to Calvinism, God decreed “whatsoever comes to pass,” and therefore Total Depravity would be part of “whatsoever comes to pass.” So it really all starts with a decree.

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “Why, then, is one person saved and another lost? The Arminian says the difference is to be found in man. … The Calvinist says that the difference is in God, for all men are equally in bondage to sin. Any differences in disposition is due to his work in the human heart. Thus since some are saved, it must be that God has elected them.” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.180-181, emphasis mine) 

Yes, Arminians do contend that the “difference” in why one person goes to Heaven and another goes to Hell, does depend upon the individual, otherwise if a person was created for Hell, then no one could tell that person, in this life or the next, that they didn’t have to be there, and that there was another way, and that they could have believed in Jesus and gone to Heaven instead. Arminians believe that God has already made His choice, and His decision, for His part anyway, is that He wants all men to repent, believe and become saved (1st Timothy 2:42nd Peter 3:9), and has provided Calvary as the provision for salvation, and the Gospel as the means to receive Him. One example of “choices determining consequences” is 1st Corinthians 10:13. God promises to provide the grace to escape temptation, and thus He has already made His decision, and the reason why one person takes the way of escape, while another does not, depends upon the individual.

​Calvinism is built upon the premise that fallen man is 
“too far gone for even God to be able to reach him 
[thus necessitating an Irresistible Grace].” However, 
ask the Calvinist, “Is it simply too difficult for God 
to enable an unregenerate sinner to receive Him, 
without using an Irresistible Grace?” If the Calvinist 
answers, “no,” then the Total Depravity argument 
becomes moot, and then it’s no longer a matter of 
man’s depravity, but man’s accountability, when 
enabled by God’s prevenient grace. However, most 
Calvinists reluctantly answer, “yes,” thus making God 
to be the one who has Total Inability, that is, the total 
inability to reach fallen man without resorting to an 
Irresistible Grace, and thus it is the Calvinist who is 
shown to be the one denigrating God’s power.

I find it very odd that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are able to score converts, but God is allegedly unable, apart from using an Irresistible Grace? Depravity is not what leads a person to the Watchtower, but rather persuasion (or as some might argue, deception), to their religious arguments. 

It is foolish for Calvinists to build a system of theology upon the premise of Total Depravity. Essentially, the system dictates that since man is totally depraved, he has no interest in the Gospel, and therefore, for anyone to become saved, God must implant an Irresistible Grace, and only those who are “elect” from before the foundation of the world, in the secret, eternal flock of the Father, are designated to receive such a grace. The problem is that by starting with man’s inability, the system is made into one big sand-castle. For what if God, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8Acts 26:14), the seeking and knocking of Jesus (Luke 19:10Revelation 3:20), and the power of the living and active Gospel (Romans 1:16Romans 10:17Hebrews 4:12) is able to enable an unregenerate person to receive Him? That’s why you would absolutely never want to start with man’s inability, but instead, always start with God’s ability. Calvinists would therefore need to decide whether they believe that God has the ability to overcome man’s depravity without having to resort to an Irresistible Grace, but just opts not to use it, or whether the whole thing really is beyond God’s ability. The latter position supposes a weakness in God, while the former position supposes a prerogative of God, but at the cost of conceding the potential of the Arminian argument on Prevenient Grace.

Calvinist, James White:  “The issue is whether enemies of God, slaves of sin, spiritually dead men, can by the exercise of their own enslaved, corrupted will, do what is right and good in God’s eyes and respond in faith so that God can then cause them to be born again?” (Debating Calvinism, p.220, emphasis mine)

Question: Can God enable such a person to be able to receive His grace? 

Calvinist answer: Yes. Regeneration. Preemptive New Birth. The Effectual Call. Irresistible Grace. Making them Born Again, first, in order to believe.

Question: Can God enable such a person to be able to receive His grace without an Irresistible Grace?

Calvinist answer: No. Man is too far gone.

Question: Did God decree Total Depravity?

Calvinist answer: Yes. God decreed everything. God decreed whatsoever comes to pass.

Question: So if God decreed Total Depravity, and God cannot otherwise enable such a person without resorting to an Irresistible Grace, then has God, in effect, created a rock so big that not even He can lift?

Calvinism is ultimately, therefore, the teaching that God has Total Inability to reach a person, apart from needing an Irresistible Grace.

I agree with this. God is able to reach the lost, unregenerate sinner, and His hands are not tied by the fallen state of man. God can. On the other hand, Calvinists say that God can’t, unless He uses an Irresistible Grace. If the Calvinists should say that God can, but just chooses to use an Irresistible Grace, then he had created the plausibility for the Arminian argument.

Do Calvinists go into graveyards and preach to tombstones? Well, figuratively, the Calvinists will say. Therefore, the Calvinists are using a literal tombstone to depict a figurative condition. Calvinists do the same thing with regard to Lazarus, as they take an instance of Jesus raising a man from the literal dead, in order to figuratize it as Jesus raising people spiritually from the dead, even though, of course, Larazus was already a believer, before he had died, but Calvinists don’t seem to let that fact get in their way. The other issue is the fact that the Bible describes spiritual deadness as lostness: “‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:32) Additionally, Paul describes spiritual deadness at Ephesians 2:11-16 in terms of separation. Furthermore, Jesus talked to people who are spiritually dead (i.e. separated) at Revelation 3:14, and the Holy goads and convicts those who are spiritually dead (compare with Acts 26:14). What the Calvinists are really up to is that they are committed to the doctrine of Unconditional Election, and Total Depravity is a necessary part of the equation, which they must defend, in order to protect their presumed election.

Question:  What is Total Depravity?

Answer:  It is one of the 5-Points of TULIP Calvinism. It deal with the effects of sin upon fallen man.