I am going to write approximately five posts, one for each point of the TULIP, providing an alternative sort of reified version of the TULIP; per Evangelical Calvinist lights. This will be the first installment where I will attempt to develop an explanation for the T or Total Depravity per a Christ conditioned understanding. As the first installment of this series let me also explain what the TULIP stands for, for those unaware. Total Depravity Unconditional Election Limited Atonement Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints.
According to The Canons of Dort Total Depravity entails the following:
Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature
Human beings were originally created in the image of God and were furnished in mind with a true and sound knowledge of the Creator and things spiritual, in will and heart with righteousness, and in all emotions with purity; indeed, the whole human being was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil’s instigation and by their own free will, they deprived themselves of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place they brought upon themselves blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in their minds; perversity, defiance, and hardness in their hearts and wills; and finally impurity in all their emotions.
Article 2: The Spread of Corruption
Human beings brought forth children of the same nature as themselves after the fall. That is to say, being corrupt they brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God’s just judgment, from Adam and Eve to all their descendants—except for Christ alone—not by way of imitation (as in former times the Pelagians would have it) but by way of the propagation of their perverted nature.
Article 3: Total Inability
Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.1
As an Evangelical Calvinist I can affirm all of the above, and even go further in an Athanasian way; in regard to the sub and dissolving human being as that entered into a ruptured relationship with God post-lapse. But as an Evangelical Calvinist I don’t see fallen humanity in abstraction from Jesus Christ’s humanity as Deus incarnandus (‘the God to be incarnate’). In other words, as an Evangelical Calvinist I think these things from a Christ conditioned supralapsarianism wherein fallen humanity was accounted for by God, logically and chronologically prior to humanity come to existence at all. That is to say, I affirm the depth dimension of fallen humanity, it is just that I think that the humanity Christ was to assume already was ready to deal with that, so to speak. This is not to say that I believe that sin was or is essential to what human being entails. But it is to say that Christ’s humanity, the one He would assume and personalize as Jesus Christ (an /-enhypostasis), was fittingly ready to do so with the aim of re-conciling all of humanity in His humanity for them.
At a very basic level the aforementioned does not discount what classically obtained at the fall of humanity. Evangelical Calvinists maintain that humanity, at an even deeper level than the Canons articulate, was so submerged into subhumanity, that the only one who could reverse such a tragedy was the Theanthropos (Godman), Jesus Christ. The requirement was not simply a forensic decision, and by virtue of that humanity was re-fellowshipped with God; the requirement was that humanity needs-be re-created in such a way that they might be genuinely human again—from the inside/out. But this re-humanization isn’t simply a reditus or return to ‘paradise lost’; for the Evangelical Calvinist it is an apocalyptic elevation wherein humanity is taken to where God had always intended to take humanity through the incarnation of the Second Person. In other words, as the Apostle Paul argues, the second Adam is greater than the first Adam; as corollary, the fellowship re-created humanity has come to have with God, as mediated through the resurrected humanity of Jesus Christ, is greater than what Adam and Eve only experienced as inchoate humans whose destinies were always already intended to be elevated through participatio Christi.
In principle, Evangelical Calvinist can go along with the classical Calvinist idea that humanity is desperately lost, and inhabitants of a bondaged will. But we don’t think this sort of lostness in terms of an abstract humanity, as if we can think these things from below, so to speak. Evangelical Calvinists maintain, at least this one does, that just as knowledge of God, in general, is slavishly conditioned by a principial Christ concentration; likewise, knowledge of what it means to be human, and as such, fallen human, can only be thought from Christ’s humanity for all. Just as He assumed flesh (assumptio carnis), it is in this reality wherein the actual depth dimension of sin becomes ‘knowable.’ In other words, the fact that it required God to become human in Christ to ‘save’ us from ourselves, in this it should become apparent at just this point that humanity, outwith Christ, and God’s unilateral movement for us therefrom, was absolutely lost in the death of our trespasses and sins. So, for the Evangelical Calvinist, from this Christ-spectacled vantage point, fallen humanity was total. In other words, what the incarnation of God reveals is that humanity was something like a wandering star for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. This is the depth of what Christ took on when He entered our fallen humanity and took it for Himself. That is, there was no hope in the ‘far country’ of the dead-humanity apart from God’s genuine humanity confronting us with the Light of His Word in Jesus Christ. Only His Word as that took on flesh could speak to these dead bones by the spiration of the Spirit and bring new life; new humanity; a humanity where there had come to be none until His unilateral and gracious movement for us in Jesus Christ.
2 thoughts on “An Evangelical Calvinist Christ Conditioned Account of Total Depravity”
I hold to the Total Depravity of mankind due to the fall of Adam. I do not understand Adam as being Holy before the fall. Paul writes he was a living soul, a natural man and not a spiritual man. Would like some clarification on mands Holinest before the fall. Lord Bless
‘Natural man’ in Paul is ALWAYS in reference to fallen man, so I don’t follow you there. Adam and Eve prior to the Fall walked with God, this requires that they were “holy.” So I’m not really following your lines here.
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