Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Loving Depravity

Spent some time today listening again to John MacArthur's message from T4G last week. The topic was focused on the doctrine of total depravity, especially the total inability and unwillingness of sinful people to repent and trust Christ apart from the sovereign grace of God in regeneration. As I listened I really noticed Dr. MacArthur's tone, which was different than his usual powerful proclamation. He sounded much more fatherly, more meek and understated than normal. Given the topic and his audience, his heart for the Gospel and for pastors really came through.

As I heard him go over Biblical passage after passage and systematically describe the dreadful state of fallen humans, I found myself trying to listen from the perspective of the unbelieving world. What would those in the secular media or academia or even liberal mainline churches make of this seeming diatribe against humanity? Surely the response from believers in the innate goodness of man would be repulsed by this message to the utmost. Most definitely it would be seen and heard as a terrible thing, expressing hopelessness and hatred for mankind. How else could such a message be received by those apart from Christ? It is after all a damning message.

This made me think further - why do we Reformed Christians love this doctrine so? What is it about the total lack of righteousness and the complete corruption of human mind and will and emotion that is so glorious? Is it in fact unloving toward our fellow man to embrace and hold forth this teaching? No, not at all. In fact, it would be patently unloving to not hold fast and hold forth this truth to the world that is enslaved by it. For it's only in the darkness of understanding the depth of one's true sinful state that the light of the cross and the Gospel of Christ shine like a beacon. No one has any reason to trust Jesus Christ unless they first realize the depth of their depravity. We hold this doctrine dear because it is the first step on the road to eternal life in Christ.

But it is also the most God-glorifying doctrine imaginable, when viewed in light of the grace of God in sovereignly granting repentance and salvation to those who are utterly unable and unwilling to believe on their own. It's this doctrine of total depravity that removes any and all claim that we as His people might have regarding our contribution to our salvation. It affirms, in fact requires, that salvation is wholly a work of God. From first to last, from beginning to end. It's this doctrine of depravity and inability that forms the basis for the other great doctrines of grace. It necessitates God's irresistible grace in bringing me to faith in Christ. It glory's in the truth of God's redemption of a particular people for Himself, apart from any merit they may think they have. It requires that God's power is what will keep me in righteous relationship with Him for eternity. This is why I find myself not repulsed by teaching on the depraved nature of man, but rather drawn to praise and worship Him. A right understanding of man's inability, and especially my own inability before He called me forth to new life, leads to a right understanding of the awesome grace of God. That's why I love depravity.

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