Psalm 14:1-3 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no-one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no-one who does good, not even one.
One of the good things that has come out of the present ‘lockdown’ resulting from the current pandemic is that it has forced me to read some books! I am embarrassed by how many books I have collected over the years and put neatly on my bookshelves, but have never got around to reading!
One of these is ‘After Darkness, Light’, a set of essays in honour of R.C.Sproul. It has reminded me of the absolute necessity for us to have our thinking right with regard to what the Synod of Dort understood concerning ‘Total Depravity’. If we don’t get this right it corrupts our views on every other aspect of God’s saving grace.
The Psalmist makes it quite clear that the sin we have ALL inherited from Adam renders our depravity before a holy God, TOTAL. The adverb ‘total’ does not refer to the ‘depth’ of our depravity (ie we are NOT all as BAD as we could be), but it does refer to the ‘extent’ of our depravity (ie there is no part of our persona that is unaffected by sin).
Our WILL is so affected by sin that, although it is REAL, it is NOT FREE. Our FEELINGS and our MINDS/INTELLECTS are so affected by sin that they cannot be trusted to lead us into God’s truth. Our MOTIVES are so affected by sin that even if we manage to do something honourable and commendable there remains within us a tendency to glorify ourselves instead of giving GOD ALL the glory (cf what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16).
The conclusion that the Synod of Dort came to was that EVERYTHING to do with our salvation has its source in GOD ALONE and is for HIS GLORY ALONE. My faith in Christ is not something that I offer to God, but something that the HOLY SPIRIT produces in me, by ‘MAKING ME ALIVE in Christ, even while I was DEAD in my trespasses and sins’ (see Ephesians 2:1-5, where Paul is quite all-encompassing in his declaration of the problem). This is why Jesus told the good-living, devoted Pharisee, Nicodemus, “you must be BORN AGAIN” (John 3:1-7). Birth is something that happens TO us WITHOUT any contribution on our part. It is only by God’s UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION and IRRESISTIBLE GRACE that we can come to Christ (cf Romans 9:10-13). Let us all humble ourselves before our gracious, loving, faithful, sovereign God, and not allow pride in our hearts to stop us from embracing such comforting truths in his Word.