A number of years ago when this writer was scheduled to speak on a lectureship in Texas, I took some 75 copies of a book I had written on the subject of Calvinism. Although I sold quite a few of them, I was very surprised to overhear another speaker, who did not know I was nearby, say that brethren had really already written enough on that subject, and he doubted that this book added little if anything to the subject. I am not writing this article to defend, or even to judge, my work in that book, but to strenuously disagree with the notion that enough has been written on the subject.
There are a fairly large number of talking head political conservatives who apparently perceive themselves as experts in the matter of religious doctrine. These persons often make the mistake of identifying anyone who disagrees with their belief in the Calvinistic doctrine of depravity (or original sin as the Catholics call it) as members of that group designated as secular humanists who maintain belief in the doctrine of the perfectibility of man by man. All the while, these pseudo-defenders of religious people are drinkers, users of profanity, gamblers, in adulterous marriages, and preachers of tolerance toward those who differ with their personal beliefs or who are living in perverted lifestyles.
One of the two most obvious dastardly damages done by the doctrine of Calvinistic depravity is that it spreads the notion that one cannot help but to sin, and that it really does not matter if one sins, because if he has claimed Christ as his Savior, heaven is in his future no matter how he lives. This error has resulted in an American population claiming to be Christians, but who live every bit as much like a child of the devil as the most atheistic hedonist around. John wrote:
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:7-8).
Not everyone who is in religious error lives a life characterized by a regular practice of sin, but enough do that they contribute to religious people being made a laughing stock among those who are marginally or totally irreligious. Why was Moses willing to suffer affliction with the people of God (Heb. 11:25) rather than choosing to enjoy the pleasures of sin? Because he was no Old Testament version of a Calvinist! Both Protestantism and Catholicism, because of the doctrines of total depravity or original sin, are just plain hypocrites who know not God, and who refuse to acknowledge the truth that those who are the people of God are dead to sin (Rom. 6:1-2). They are not walking after the law of the Spirit, but after the law of the flesh (8:1-2), which is: you sin, you die. When we witness the debauched lives resulting at least partially from the doctrine of depravity, it is very alarming that even some members of the churches of Christ are moving in the direction of Calvinism.
The other dastardly damage done by the doctrine of depravity is that it stands in the way of people accepting the terms of pardon as set forth in the New Testament. Most people embrace the falsehood of salvation by faith alone, because they accept the untrue proposition that people are born so depraved that they are incapable of contributing anything toward their salvation. Why do people reject God’s command to be baptized for the remission of sins? With many, likely most, it is because they believe in hereditary depravity. Brethren, if we seek greater response to the requirements of the Gospel by men, just showing the verses that teach the efficacy of baptism is not enough, we have to convince them that idea of inheriting a sinful nature from Adam and Eve is as foreign to Scripture as a thing can be.
Man can choose who he serves (Jos. 24:15). Jesus said no man can serve two masters (Mat. 6:24), and He said those words on the heels of the words that a man decides for himself and acts upon the decision, to lay up his treasure either in heaven or upon the earth (6:20). The apostle Paul turned to the Gentiles because the Jews put the Word of God from themselves, and thereby judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46). Those Jews were obviously not powerless to obey the Gospel, but unwilling to do so.
In the cases of obstinate Jews in John 8, the receptive Samaritans and the Ethiopian in Acts 8, the Corinthians in Acts 18, men have the capacity to choose to believe or not believe. If they have the ability to believe, they have the ability to choose to obey or not obey in putting Christ on in baptism (Gal. 3:26-27). Have depravity proponents never read that a group of disciples in Ephesus believed, but had never even heard that the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 19:1-2)? Paul knew to ask unto what they were baptized, and when they answered unto John’s baptism, he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. It was not until after they were baptized that Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them (19:3-6).
There is not a hint that anyone inherits a sinful nature (i.e., depravity) from one’s parents, or their parents from their parents, and all the way back to Adam and Eve.
Calvinists argue for a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon a sinner’s heart to convict and convert him. Catholics baptize infants to remove the stain of original sin. Not only can it not be both ways, it cannot be either way, because both are foreign to what the Bible teaches about the nature of man, and man’s individual responsibility to hear the Word of God and to believe it.
There is one great contradiction in the doctrine of depravity that its adherents cannot answer. If it is the case that baptism cannot be essential to salvation, because God has already done everything necessary for salvation, and man cannot do anything toward it anyway, then why is he required, indeed, how can he, have faith? Even if he has faith, since he can contribute nothing toward salvation, why can faith be essential? What a tangled web the doctrines of men do weave!
The dastardly doctrine of depravity is definitely devastating, but it is popular. Its popularity is enhanced by the insidious implications that one has to do nothing to be saved, and he can do whatever he wants to do and remain saved. There was an occasion in the history of man when he assumed he could do whatever he wanted to do. God sent a universal flood and washed those sinners away. Jesus used the flood to describe how it will be when He comes in judgment (Mat. 24:38-39). How sad, tragic, surprising, and devastating it will be to Calvinistic sinners who find themselves in the lake of fire and brimstone, because their doctrine hindered them from obeying the Gospel and encouraged them to live (as the contemporary saying goes) like the devil.