The first point of the BIBLE answer to the TULIP is that of Basic Ability. According to the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity, every individual is born in a condition so completely enslaved to sin that he cannot even repent and seek forgiveness unless God first regenerates his soul and causes him to be born again. Most of those who reject this doctrine do so by claiming that God has given every man a measure of prevenient grace which enables all men to freely choose to accept salvation, but I would like to take a different approach.
Throughout Scripture, there are many passages which speak of men being unable to communicate with God because of their sinfulness. Consider the following passages for example:
Psalm 66:18 – If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
Proverbs 28:9 – He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Isaiah 1:15 – And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
Isaiah 59:2 – But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Jeremiah 11:11 – Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
Ezekiel 8:18 – Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.
Micah 3:4 – Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.
Zechariah 7:13 – Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:
Luke 13:25 – When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
James 4:3 – Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Dozens of similar passages could be presented, and at first glance, verses like these seem to indicate that men actually are incapable of repenting. Each of them speaks of men crying out to God and not receiving the answers that they sought. Nevertheless, these passages, and all of those like them, actually refute the argument of total depravity.
How can verses about men crying out to God to no avail be a refutation of total depravity? The answer is very simple. Every single one of these passages records the fact that sinful men have the ability to cry out to God. I will discuss God’s refusal to answer these prayers in another section. (Hint: notice God's use of the words “will not” instead of “cannot.”) The main thing to keep in mind at this point is that the Bible itself says that wicked and unregenerate men actually can call out to God for deliverance. All men have the basic ability to pray and ask God for forgiveness even if they are unregenerate sinners.
Read more in this series:
The BIBLE and the TULIP
Basic Ability vs. Total Depravity
Individual Soul Liberty vs. Unconditional Election
Benevolent Atonement vs. Limited Atonement
Limited Mercy vs. Irresistible Grace (coming soon)
Eternal Security vs. Perseverance of the Saints (coming soon)
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
Contact Us if you would like to schedule Bill to speak to your church, group, or club.
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)