Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion — God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written specifically to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.


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Theological Term of the Week

total depravity
The doctrine that the inherent corruption of humankind “extends to every part of our nature, to all the faculties and powers of both soul and body; and that there is no spiritual good, that is, good in relation to God, in the sinner at all, but only perversion.”1

  • From scripture:
    [B]oth Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
    11 no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
    12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12 ESV)
    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body  and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)
  • From the Second Helvetic Confession, Chapters 8 & 9:

    Sin. By sin we understand that innate corruption of man which has been derived or propagated in us all from our first parents, by which we, immersed in perverse desires and averse to all good are inclined to all evil. Full of all wickedness, distrust, contempt and hatred of God, we are unable to do or even to think anything good of ourselves.

    What Man Was After the Fall. Then we are to consider what man was after the fall. To be sure, his reason was not taken from him, nor was he deprived of will, and he was not entirely changed into a stone or a tree. But they were so altered and weakened that they no longer can do what they could before the fall. For the understanding is darkened, and the will which was free has become an enslaved will. Now it serves sin, not unwillingly but willingly. And indeed, it is called a will, not an unwill(ing).
  • From Concise Theology by J. I. Packer:

    The phrase total depravity is commonly used to make explicit the implications of original sin. It signifies a corruption of our moral and spiritual nature that is total not in degree (for no one is as bad as he or she might be) but in extent. It declares that no part of us is untouched by sin, and therefore no action of ours is as good as it should be, and consequently nothing in us or about us ever appears meritorious in God’s eyes. We cannot earn God’s favor, no matter what we do; unless grace saves us, we are lost.

    Total depravity entails total inability, that is, the state of not having it in oneself to respond to God and his Word in a sincere and wholehearted way (John 6:44; Rom. 8:7-8). Paul calls this unresponsiveness of the fallen heart a state of death (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13), and the Westminster Confession says: “Man by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto”
  • From Living for God’s Glory by Joel Beeke:
    [T]otal depravity means that sin is tragically inclusive, i.e., it dreadfully impacts every part of us. There is something terribly wrong not only with who we are inwardly, but with every aspect of our being. No element of our personality is less affected by sin than any other. Our intellects, our consciences, our emotions, our ambitions, our wills, which are the citadels of our souls, are all enslaved to sin by nature…. 
    Total depravity means that when God scrutinizes the human heart, affections, conscience, will, or any part of the body, He finds every part damaged and polluted by sin. Apart from saving grace, every part is alienated from God and actively pursuing sin. If the Spirit teaches us this experientially, we will understand Jonathan Edwards’ confession: “When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.”

Learn more:

  1. Total Depravity - is it Biblical?
  2. Victor Shepherd: What Do the Protestant Reformers Mean by “Total Depravity”?
  3. John Sampson: Total Depravity
  4. John Reisinger: Total Depravity, part 1, part 2
  5. Phil Johnson: What You Need to Know about Depravity (mp3)
  6. Previously at this blog: Why I Love the Doctrine of Total Depravity

1Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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Reader Comments (1)

If anyone has doubts about the depravity of man, read this article: It should remove all doubt.

November 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJules @ Everyday Mommy

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