Bad or good the doctrine of total depravity is in the Bible. We will see later which one of these it is.  The doctrine does not say we are all mad evil animals but that all we do has to have some sin in it.  So nice people sin all the time in all they do just as the not-nice do.  Total depravity means that sin touches our whole being - in other words we want it to be always involved in what we do.  It means we are unable to find God unless he puts in an input and gives us his help, his grace.

The Bible plainly teaches the total depravity doctrine that unsaved people are capable only of sin when it says that salvation is a gift from God.

Jeremiah said that the heart is full of deceit and is wicked beyond belief (Jeremiah 17:9). According to him you can be surprised at how wicked you are if you take a good look at yourself.  Jesus paraphrased it in Luke 11:34 when he said, "Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When your eyes are healthy, your whole body is also full of light.  But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness."  The idea is that if you sin you become your sin and loose your moral vision and clarity and become wholly polluted.  How this man can claim to love sinners and hate sins when he sees the sinner as a cesspool is baffling.  He uses terms such as full of so make no mistake.  This is very dark stuff from a man with a callous heart. 

The apostle John declared that if he or anybody else says that there is no sin in themselves they are wrong at 1 John 1:8. Some say he is contradicting the notion that some people have that they have never sinned and is not thinking of people who claim to be freed from sin now and to be Catholic style saints. But he included himself and he certainly believed that repentance put you right with God but not completely right. The note on page 270 of the New American Bible says that the verse teaches that nobody can be completely free from sin.

David said that he was biased towards sin from his conception (Psalm 51:5). If we really are biased then we will sin rather than do good most of the time.

A number of times the Bible says that we are all sinful all the time unless we get saved (Job 15:15, 16; Job 25:4-6; Ecclesiastes 8:11, 9:3).

In Isaiah 64:6, the prophet says that we and all our right ways are filthy rags before God. He says we so he included himself too. And he would have lived like a holy man and he claimed to be totally evil.

Jeremiah 13:23 says that a leopard cannot change its spots or an Ethiopian his skin just like the evil cannot do good. Isn’t that a nice piece of cynicism from the God of the Jews and the Christians? Jeremiah is saying they would pretend to be good but are not.

The Book of Proverbs states that nobody can claim to be free from all sin (20:9). It uses the present tense and tells me that I can’t say now or anytime that my heart is clean from sin.

Paul at Titus 1:15,16 makes it clear that those who do not become proper Christians are to be considered to have nothing good at all in their minds or consciences and are worthless for any good work and are "detestable and loathsome".

The Bible says we all sin always (1 John 3:15) and that one sin is breaking every one of the commandments (James 2:10).

1 John 2:9-10 says that the man who hates his brother in Christ is in darkness and has his eyes blinded and doesn't see where he is going. This implies that there is no light in him at all only darkness and evil. Christians are not allowed to think of such a man as good in any way.

1 John 3:15 says that anybody who hates his brother is a murderer and eternal life dwells in no murderer's heart. This means that simply hating somebody makes you as bad as a murderer inside and that no murderer will have eternal life so its a very serious sin. This parallels Jesus' saying that whoever looks at a woman with desire commits adultery with her in his heart or thoughts as some translations put it in Matthew 5:28. Neither verse indicates that they are thinking of people who are planning to do anything. They are speaking of people who would murder and commit adultery if they got the chance and could get away with it.

Jesus sees the desire to have sex with a woman as adultery even if you or she are not married because for him fornication and adultery are the same sin under different names. The sin he is against is sex outside marriage which can take the form of fornication or adultery. So he can say that an unmarried pair having sex is still adultery. He said that whoever divorces his wife forces her to commit adultery (Matthew 5:32). The man can't say that his wife makes her own decisions once she leaves. When he gives her a divorce he is trying to force her to commit adultery by giving her the freedom to wed again. He sins in making an adulteress of her. If he does that just by divorcing her, then how much more is it a sin to simply think of having sex or to have sexual fantasies?

If God exists then it is possible for him to keep us from sin at least sometimes. If we have him then we will not sin because we will be so happy and will not want to spoil it. So, if we could achieve perfection in this world and have ever done it, we would not be here. We would be taken to Heaven lest we stain our white robes for as long as we cannot perceive God directly we can sin. So the doctrine of God infers that we are never free from sin. Our good works would be sins because a sinner cannot do real good.

The doctrine of human inability to love God without divine assistance comes out most clearly in Paul.

The third chapter of Romans is where the citation of Psalm 14, which says nobody does good and not one and all curse and hate etc, appears.  So it declares that there is not even a single righteous person, that nobody understands that they should love God alone and that nobody is truthful or honest. Even the good they do is dishonest and a lie for it is a mask. They are full of cursing and bitterness. Their kind words are bitter curses. For example, to praise one person while denigrating another in your heart is to really insult the one you praise for it is unjust discrimination and is asking her or him to approve. A person can claim to fear God and not do it right. A person who lives well out of fear of retribution is one who wants to sin and wills sin but who avoids it because of selfish fear.

The chapter emphasises that all means literally all. No one can argue that the alls are not literal on the grounds that all do not curse or lie or whatever for it is done internally when it is not obvious. The passage certainly teaches the total depravity of humanity because it mentions no exceptions and plainly says it means all.  The Psalms do refer to good people but that does not contradict this if it is the case that God intervenes and lifts you from the mire.

Scott Hahn a Catholic has argued the Psalm refers to those attacking God's people violently. The most obvious thing here is that most attackers are themselves victims and forced to do it.  Yet they are called all bad.

We are told by Catholics that Paul quotes directly from the Psalm and seems to be using it to say that no one does good. Scott Hahn argues that by reading the whole Psalm, Paul can't really be saying that because in his view, the Psalm is referring to the people who are against "His people" and not all of humanity.

Paul does not agree for he was careful to quote it in such a way as a reference to the whole human race.  Nothing in the quote says some not all.  If the Psalm was about attackers Paul is saying it is assuming the attackers are only doing what everybody else would do.  That is what he focuses on.  The attackers are an example of human depravity and all own that depravity.

As for the excuse that the Psalm is poetry remember that this does nothing to rob it of its force. 

Paul said that none of the Jews were able to be put right with God by keeping God’s Law because they could not observe it fully - Romans 3. If they were not totally depraved they would have been able to fulfil it at least for short periods. But when Paul said that God had to give another way of salvation, the way of faith, to do what Law keeping could not we know that according to him they were never holy. Many believe that Romans says that we have got that bad we are incapable of being good. Others say it does not say it but it can be read either way. It can be read as supporting the Calvinist notion that we are so bad that only God's grace can change us for we are totally unable.

The Jews were the one true religion according to the Bible and the Gentiles were all non-Jews.

Paul said that there was no distinction or difference between the two groups for they were “all sinful” – he then said that not one person was good showing he meant all individuals. The heathens who murdered and raped and left babies exposed on hillsides to die of cold were not more evil than the Jews who did not. He listed the sins. He said that their mouths were full of curses. If we adhere to sin then our sweet words are really bitter curses for they are not said out of goodness but out of a spiteful desire to gain human adulation.
Paul said that one time his Ephesian Christians were dead in their transgression (Ephesians 2:1). Dead means separated from God (Luke 15:32). The one means that they did not flit to and from death to life. To be dead in sin is to be dead to good and unable to do it. These were adult converts so he is not talking about them just being useless and dead until they were baptised as babies or anything. They did nothing but sin until they converted to Jesus. Then he calls this a result of their sinful nature (2:3). Your nature is what makes you what you are. If you have a sinful nature then all you are capable of is displeasing God.


Are those Christians who claim to find texts that challenge the doctrine of total depravity right?

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we being evil still know how to do good. Does this deny that we are naturally only evil for it was spoken to people who were not Christians or saved and who were evil? But every sin is good in a sense. It is a warped sense of the good. When you rebel it is because you want something good. The Jews would have known that Jesus did not mean righteous good for their own scriptures and reason said that a person who harbours a sin cannot please God no matter how much good he does (Isaiah 64:6; Psalm 39:5; Job 14:4). If I help a sick person and in my heart I will the act not to please God I am doing good but not in my heart.

In Acts 10 we read about Cornelius who is praised in this book as a just man who served God. He is supposed to be proof that the unsaved can do good. It is taken for granted that Cornelius was not saved because when Peter preached the Spirit came down on the listeners and they were baptized in water. But Peter told Cornelius that he knew he knew about Jesus and the gospel. The Spirit coming down sometimes means the Spirit you already have giving you a new grace. Christians believing they have the Spirit still ask for him to fall afresh on them. So the notion that Cornelius contradicts total depravity is just reading into the Bible what is not there.

Acts 17:30 says that God commands all to repent which is supposed to prove that all men can repent and turn to God for God doesn’t command the impossible. But God commands all to repent and live more harmless lives but this repentance could include the type that wins forgiveness from him and that which does not. Plus the doctrine of total depravity says we can do good but we necessarily do evil and it denies that we are forced to be evil so God can call the world to repent because the only thing that is stopping them is the evil they keep on doing and won’t stop doing until God gets them to see the light.


The Bible God and Jesus are totally negative about the value of human goodness, it says it is really just disguised opposition to real goodness and to God. Thanks and appreciation and optimism are condemned as sinful.


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