Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 14, 1957
NUMBER 28, PAGE 7,13c

Arguments For "Total Depravity" Considered, -- No. II.

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Ky.

In our last article we began to consider some of the proof texts given by a Baptist preacher in defense of the theory of inherited total depravity. We now continue with our review of some scriptures he presented in defense of his position.

In Rom. 5:12 Paul says, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." This passage is thought to teach that all are guilty of Adam's sin. In a previous article we mentioned Augustine as the man who developed the theory of inherited depravity which had first been introduced by Irenaeus and Tertullian. Rom. 5:12 is the text from which Augustine took his departure. He had the Latin Vulgate translation of the Scriptures, which erroneously translates the last phrase in this verse, i. e., the phrase "for that all have sinned."

Augustine had but slight familiarity with the Greek language and, consequently, commonly confined himself to the Latin Vulgate. The phrase in the Greek is "eph ho pantes hemarton," and is erroneously translated into the Latin as "in quo omnes peccaverunt." Augustine referred the words, "in quo" to Adam (the "one man") in the beginning of the verse, which is far too remote; but the Greek expression must be taken as neuter gender and as a conjunction in the sense of, "on the ground that, or because, all have sinned." (History of the Christian Church, Phillip Schaff, Vol. 3, p 829). Thus, a faulty translation of this verse of scripture led into the development of an entire scheme of philosophy. In the course of our study for the previous articles we have seen several false theories which have sprung out of his erroneous idea of inherited total depravity.

But, one asks, what does Rom. 5:12 mean? Can I understand it without being a Greek scholar? Certainly you can. if you will stop for a few moments and think. This passage does not teach the idea of inherited depravity. In order to teach that, it would have to say that Adam's guilt passed upon all men. It only states that "death" passed upon all men. The reason why Calvinists infer that "death" involves "guilt" is that they cannot see the difference between "guilt" and consequences. Because we suffer as a result of Adam's sin, many have thought that we must be guilty of Adam's sin. There is a vast difference between being Guilty of a sin and suffering because of sin. In 1 Pet. 3:18 we read that "Christ also hath once suffered for sins," but no one will say that he was guilty of sins. We must suffer the penalty of death as a result of Adam's sin, but this does not mean that we are guilty of Adam's sin. We may suffer as the result of a man's drunkenness, but that doesn't make us drunkards. Many an innocent child has suffered as a result of having a drunkard for a father, but the child never touched a drop of liquor in his life.

John 5:12 does not teach that we are born guilty of Adam's sin, but it does teach that there is a terrible result of this sin. It rendered man mortal! In Heb. 9:27 we read, "And as it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment." This appointment to death was not made, however, until man had sinned. It corrupted the human race. Not that we are born with a corrupted soul, but we have followed the sins of others; we have walked in the way of folly set by our associates. We are corrupted only when we have walked in the way of transgression and thus sinned against God.

Some think that Rom. 5:12 says that all were unconditionally made sinners by Adam's sin. But, notice verses 18 and 19, "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Now, notice! If all men were made sinners unconditionally as a result of Adam's sin, all are saved unconditionally as a result of Christ's death. If not, why not?? This passage does not say how they were made sinners. It is assumption to say that they were made sinners by inheritance. Neither guilt nor personal righteousness can be transferred from one person to another, but the consequences of either may, to some extent, fall upon others. By his sin, Adam brought about conditions that make every person subject to temptation. In this way he made sinners. Thomas Paine made infidels; but that does not mean that his infidelity was imputed to others, or that they did not become infidels by their own free choice. Christ became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8), and that act of obedience makes many people righteous. As Adam's disobedience did not make the many sinners without their choice, so neither does the obedience of Christ make the many righteous without their choice.

Over in 1 Cor. 15:22, we find a passage along the same line as that of Rom. 5:12. Paul says, "for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." The expression, "for as in Adam all die," certainly means that all die as a consequence of that act of transgression committed by Adam. Now, if death resulted from sin on the sole ground of implication in it, then implication must be representation in it. We certainly are not implied in it on the ground of personal actual sin. Sin by representation does not imply guilt, as actual personal sin does. It may both justify and demand the appointment of a penalty, as in the case here, but no more. Hence, no one of Adam's posterity will be held responsible for Adam's sin. After death, he has suffered the consequences of Adam's sin, and his responsibility before God will be on the ground of personal, actual sin.

To illustrate that there may be Implication by representation. turn to Heb. 7:9-10. There it is said that Levi, before he was born and while "he was yet in the loins of his father," "paid tithes" to Melchizedek. How did he pay tithes to Melchizedek? Well, Levi was a descendant of Abraham. He was yet unborn at the time that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. Hence, the only way that Levi could have paid tithes to Melchizedek was by being represented in his father Abraham. The entire race was, in a sense, represented in the sin of Adam, and suffer death as a consequence of it. But, the Bible does not teach that all men are guilty of Adam's sin, having had it imputed unto them. To preach such is to engage in "foolish preaching."

I Cor. 15:22 doesn't teach the depravity of man's soul, but states "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." What man lost in Adam, he gains in Christ. If man lost spiritual life in Adam, and from henceforth all have been born totally depraved, this passage demands us to conclude that all men will gain spiritual life. If we interpret it to refer to spiritual death as a result of Adam's sin, we will have to admit to the doctrine of Universalism, which even my criticizer will not defend. There are too many passages in the Bible teaching us that not all men will be saved, such as Matt. 7 :13-14.

Picture with me the resurrection and the judgment scene. Before the throne of Christ stand all men, both good and bad. They have all been raised from the dead, having regained in Christ what was lost in Adam. The righteous have regained life from the dead; so have the wicked. Now they stand at the judgment seat to be judged — for what? For their own conduct. Those who have faithfully served the Lord will be permitted to enter into the joys of the Lord. Those who have disobeyed him will be told to depart "into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41.)

All advocates for the theory of total depravity are at a loss to tell us when the Adamic sin will be forgiven. Is it when Jesus made the atonement? Then, none are guilty now. Is it when the sinner is pardoned? Then, how can some maintain that depravity stays thru life? Is it at death? We have no proof. What are the conditions, if any? Is it in an intermediate state? If so, why can't other sins be forgiven there? Is it at the final judgment? If so, the sinner is not being judged for his own sins, but for Adam's sins, not for the sins of his own body, but for the sins of Adam's body. Is inherited depravity not pardoned at all? If not, will the Christian be damned for Adam's sin, having been pardoned of his own sins? Or, will he go to heaven totally depraved?

To preach "inherited total depravity" is to engage in "foolish preaching."