Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 13, 1951

Answering The "Total Depravity" Arguments

Franklin T. Puckett, Calico Rock, Arkansas

Those who teach the inherited total depravity of the whole human race talk much about the "carnal" mind, and insist that the unconverted man is a carnal man. One of their favorite passages is Romans 8:6, 7, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Making the emphatic assertion that the "carnal" mind here means the unconverted man, they dwell at length on the idea that he is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be!

But who is the "carnal" mind here in view? The marginal reading throws some light on the matter when it says "the minding of the flesh." So the carnal mind to which Paul refers is the mind that seeks after unholy and unrighteous things. Such a man, while minding the things of the flesh, is walking contrary to the law of God. He is not subject to God's law; indeed, just so long as he continues to mind the things of the flesh, he cannot be reconciled to God. He must crucify the flesh with the lusts and passions thereof in order to be acceptable to God.

That man of whom he is talking is clearly responsible for his own actions is evident from the verses immediately preceding the one quoted. In verses 4 and 5, "they that are in the flesh" does not mean merely the natural man, but means those who "mind the things of the flesh." In contrast to that, those who are spiritually minded are the ones who "mind the things of the Spirit." So the carnally minded man is a man whose mind, thoughts, desires, affections are set on carnal things, and he walks after such things. That man is walking contrary to the law of God; he is not saved, and he can never be saved until he changes his ways. But he is responsible for his own actions, he is not born that way! He is in that condition because of his own deliberate choice and desire; he walks after the flesh because he wants to walk after the flesh.

Adam's Sin

The Calvinists tell us that the Adamic sin is the thing that brought this total depravity into the world. This "original sin," we are told is responsible for all other sins. Every actual transgression has its origin and cause in the Adamic transgression. But now if that be true, what caused Adam to sin? If the Adamic transgression is responsible for every actual sin, what caused Adam to actually transgress? He did not have any inherited depravity! And if all sin is caused by "inherited depravity," then we have Adam sinning without any cause; that is a result or an effect with no cause.

The truth is that Adam was a free moral agent. Adam could choose to obey God, or he could choose to disobey God. God did not make him a mere machine; he created him a free moral agent, with full freedom to do right or to do wrong. And every man born into the world today is likewise a free moral agent, who can choose to obey God or choose to disobey God. Inherited sin is not responsible for the choice he makes; the man himself is held accountable before God, because God knows he has the ability either to obey or to disobey.

But occasionally we are told that the evil things that crop up in us are evidence of our inherited depravity. Anger is sometimes cited as an example: a man can be angry; his anger shows the Adamic depravity of his heart. If he were not inherently totally depraved he would not become angry.

Is there any evidence, however, that anger is a sin? Is there anything wrong or sinful in one's becoming angry? It is only when anger is misapplied or uncontrolled that it becomes sinful. The Bible teaches us that God was angry. (Exodus 32:10; Psalm 7:11) If anger is a proof of total depravity, then God was totally depraved, for he got angry! Are men going to argue that God is morally corrupt?

Then again we are told that weeping and crying are indications of depravity. But Jesus wept. If weeping is evidence of inherent sin, then Jesus was sinful; for at the grave of Lazarus, he wept. I was once in a discussion with a man named C. J. Weaver, and he was seeking to prove that men are born into this world inherently de-proved; and that this Adamic depravity must be removed through a second definite work of grace, entire sanctification. A baby began to cry in the audience, and Weaver said, "Now there's proof that children are born with a depraved nature; the crying of that baby is evidence. Why does a child cry? Why does it fight and stretch? Why does it kick, and beat it's mother's breast. Because of inherited depravity"!

I told Mr. Weaver he hadn't learned the difference between inherited depravity and the stomachache! He didn't know why babies cry; they cry because of some physical discomfort, not because of being born totally depraved. I further pressed him with the fact that Jesus wept; hence if weeping is an evidence of depravity, Jesus was depraved. He was finally forced to the conclusion that Jesus was depraved, but had been cleansed by sanctification! Such is the blasphemy to which a false doctrine will lead those who try to defend it.