Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 24, 1952

Answering The "Total Depravity" Arguments

Franklin T. Puckett, Calico Rock, Arkansas

Those who argue so strongly for inherited total depravity seem to have little understanding actually of what "depravity" means. But the word signifies corruption, degeneration, debasement, and that resulting from man's own free choice. Men are of "corrupt minds" because they have corrupted their minds; they have debased themselves. Sin is a transgression of the law, and when men do commit sin, they become sinners; they are then unrighteous.


Clearly antagonistic to the idea of any inherited depravity is the Biblical description of babies as "innocents." They are so called a number of times, notably in Jeremiah 19:4, and also by the same prophet in chapter 2:24. In this latter passage Jeremiah charges the people with binding upon their skirts the blood of the poor innocents referring particularly and specifically to their sacrifice of children. At the time of their being sacrificed these infants were "innocent." Does that sound like they were "totally depraved"? The two descriptions are simply incompatible.

Not only so, but Jesus himself said, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3) Are we to become "totally depraved" in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven? Whatever the children are, we must become like them. Again, Zechariah says that it is God who "formeth the spirit of man." (12:1) Does God form an unclean, depraved thing in man? Since God is the "father of spirits' '(Heb. 12:9), are we to suppose that he begets depraved, degenerate, corrupt beings? Since "like begets like" that doctrine would prove that God himself is depraved!

But since God is pure and holy, and he is the Father of our spirits, it must inevitably follow that that which God begets is likewise pure and holy, and not depraved. Jesus declared of little children that, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." And Ezekiel taught that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father. (18:20) If these things are to be accepted, we must once and forever throw overboard the foolish and hurtful idea of an inherited depravity. It is no so.


The gospel plan of salvation is a scheme of redemption. But to redeem is to buy back, to recover; and the redeemer is the only one who buys back or recovers something. He is the original owner of the property. Jesus Christ is our redeemer, and sinners are the thing redeemed. Now if they are born into a state of depravity, and the Lord redeems them, what can it mean but that he brings them back to their original state—a state of depravity! He came to "us all from iniquity," and "we are not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the blood of Christ." Redemption is in Christ; we are bought back by his blood. Man belonged unto the Lord when he was born into the world; he forfeited his life and his estate through sin. And Jesus then "redeemed" him and so brought him back to the condition he was in before he went astray.

Reconciliation must be made with God. But the word reconciliation carries with it the idea of making friends again. The little prefix "re" declares that. We are to make friends with God again. But if we are born away from God, depraved and alienated, how can we say that our making friends with God means we are friends AGAIN? It would not be "again" but would be for the first time if we had never been friends before.

Then consider the word regenerate. We are regenerated. That means to "generate" again, or to be born a second time. We can not "re"generate that which was not first "generated" and then "degenerated." If man were born totally depraved, then he degenerated from that depravity, and when he is "re"generated, it simply means that he is restored to his original status—total depravity! He comes back to the same level which he occupied before his degeneration. His regeneration would do nothing more than bring him back to the state of total depravity.

The teaching of the scripture is clear on this subject. We are born into this world pure and innocent and holy, with spirits like unto the "father of spirits" who begot us. In the process of time, man degenerates and goes astray; he becomes a sinner, corrupt and depraved because of his transgressions. Through Christ he is redeemed, brought back, reconciled, and regenerated. Thus by his obedience he comes once again into God's favor. This is the gospel scheme of redemption. This is God's plan; this is that which the Savior has made possible by his death. We are brought back to God by the love of Christ, our sins are covered by his blood, and by his stripes we are healed.

This doctrine of inherited total depravity has brought untold misery and heartache to the children of men. Through the centuries it has become the basis of other false doctrines. It has destroyed peace and happiness. It has blinded men's eyes to the simple truth of the love of God. It is antagonistic to every thing the Bible teaches concerning God and his love for us. It is a base slander on the character of our heavenly Father. And we can be grateful to God that the most enlightened men of our day, even in those denominations which set forth the hideous falsehood in their creeds, are refusing to accept or to endorse the base and wicked falsehood.