To base an entire philosophy/theological doctrine on the idea that man is born naturally depraved and unable to seek God or make morally good decisions, is risky to say the least. If we are BORN dead and depraved, then this should have been stated in the Bible, and in a very clear language, but we find the opposite to be true.
The words “depraved” and “depravity” are not even Biblical words (KJV) so we must first figure out what reformed believers might mean with those words when they claim we all start out naturally depraved, and we must also figure out if we have an obligation to side with their particular interpretation. Note that I’m not saying that something cannot be true only because the words are not present in the Bible, but if neither the words nor the concept can be found in the Bible, then it’s likely not something we must believe is true. Maybe it’s better to focus on the word “dead” since we can find this word in the Bible, and in that way get a clue what it means to be spiritually dead.
Reformed believers often say we can’t do ANYTHING if we are dead, because “dead is dead” and “dead and not wounded”, but a physically dead person can’t do anything bad either. He is dead! If a spiritually dead person can’t do anything at all, then he wouldn’t be able to sin either but for some reason the “reformed” God allows all people (or rather predestines them) to be born into sin and bound by darkness, whereas he only enables some of them to escape this darkness and do good. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would a loving God who hates sin prevent most people from seeking him and be morally upright individuals? (And why would he turn around and show wrath towards those who remain in their sins, when he is well aware of that they have no other option?)
Lazarus – a spiritually alive man who died
It’s very common to make a comparison with Jesus’ friend Lazarus’ resurrection that is described in John 11, and suggest that he is a good example of that a dead person must get divine help to come alive and do good. However, if this incident is supposed to show that spiritually dead people can’t do anything at all (and particularly not any good things) then we must ask ourselves why such a good man like Lazarus is selected to be an example, considering that he wasn’t spiritually dead at all but spiritually alive, and a close friend of Jesus and much loved by him. Also his sisters Martha and Mary were believers of Jesus, which they showed both in words and in actions. It’s interesting that Jesus claims that Lazarus, despite being dead, is only sleeping (v. 11).
John 11:11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
John 11:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (NKJV)
John 11:40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
John 11:42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, THAT THEY MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME .43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
John 11:45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and HAD SEEN THE THINGS WHICH JESUS DID, believed on him.
John 11:48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
John 11:53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.54 Jesus THEREFORE walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
Jesus acted (as per v. 40) as though he expected Martha to believe and understand ALL the things that Jesus had previously explained to her, and not only the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and divinely sent by God. However, it looks like Martha had misunderstood certain things that Jesus had told her. Moreover, if people were predestined to believe/not believe (resulting in heaven or hell) before the beginning of the world, then nothing that Jesus would have chosen to say or not say would change the outcome of what is already determined to occur. Yet, we can read that one reason for bringing Lazarus back to life is so that people may BELIEVE in him (Jesus), which turned out to be a successful procedure because many jews did end up believing in Jesus – precisely due to what they SAW with their own eyes. It doesn’t say they started to believe due to having been chosen to believe. Nevertheless, other jews plotted to kill Jesus and THEREFORE Jesus no longer walked openly among them. However, if people are predestined to always act according to God’s will, then there wouldn’t be any reason to take such measures to avoid the jews because it’s not possible to thwart God’s plans in a world where “predestination” is a rule. If God would have predestined someone to kill Jesus, then this would be the result whether Jesus walked openly among the jews or not.
Dead in trespasses and sins?
It’s always a bad idea to sin and thus be dead in trespasses and sins. Satan LIED and said that sinning will NOT cause spiritual death (which he said to Eve in Eden), but the truth is that trespassing the law – which is sinning – WILL separate us from God and cause spiritual death. We have the opportunity to repent of course.
Sin is the transgression of the law, John says, so that means we are not sinners due to having the nerve to be born but rather the moment we choose to break the law and SIN. If we are sinners already from birth, then John must be incorrect for suggesting that we are not sinners until we break the law of God, and the law of God doesn’t say that it’s a sin to be conceived or to be born into this world. It’s hardly our choice to be born, and why would that be a sin or against God’s will?
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Some christians suggest that we are BORN “dead in trespasses and sins“, but that is not what the Bible says.
Ephesians 2:1: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Paul explains that the Ephesians in time PAST walked in sin, but he doesn’t expect them to continue like that. Also note that in order to commit the sins that Paul lists, you must at least be an ADULT. Babies are not aware of the law and they are unable to:
- have a need or reason to be ”quickened”
- perform TRESPASSES and SINS and through them be dead
- walk according to the world
- walk according to Satan (the prince of the power of the air)
- be disobedient through following Satan
- walk in the lusts of their flesh
- fulfill the desires of their flesh
- fulfill the desires of their mind
We can be labelled either children of God or children of Satan depending on our life styles. We can also read that the ”children of wrath” are also called ”children of disobedience” so it’s clear that in order to fit the bill you must be able to DISOBEY – which is something that babies cannot do. Eph. 2 doesn’t suggest we are BORN as children of wrath, but it provides details for how we can BECOME children of wrath by the way we live. Even the Ephesians WERE dead due to their choice to sin, but thanks to the blood of Jesus, and through their own repentance of their sins, they were restored. Paul says”hath raised us up together”, but that is a picture of our future with Christ, because he continues the sentence with ”in the ages to COME”. We haven’t been elevated yet. Moreover, in Romans 2 we can read about people who obey the law “by nature”, so apparently we are not born with a sinful nature. You can read more about the gnostic idea of the sinful nature in this blog article.
Col. 2:4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.—8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.—13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross
Paul warns the Colossians (and all of us) extensively because there is always a huge risk that we will fall from our salvation due to sin. If we could never risk to go from being spiritually alive to being spiritually dead, then there wouldn’t be any reason to warn true believers the way Paul does. We can become cleansed, regenerated and righteous by confessing our sins and repenting, because then our sins will be blotted out.
If we sin, we are dead (in trespasses and sins), and then we must seek God, come to him, confess our sins and repent in order to be cleansed and regenerated. Then we become “born again”, because we are no more spiritually dead.
Daniel 9:11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him
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.
Gal. 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, IF we faint not.
The prodigal son is an excellent example of a person who was LOST and DEAD (according to the words of his own Father who is a picture of God the Father), and still capable of making an excellent decision to repent, return to his Father and confess his sins before him. Loads of people say “but he never ceased to be a son!”, but what does it matter to be a physical son of someone when he is still LOST and DEAD? And quite obviously a person who lives together with prostitutes in unrepentant sin is (during this time) nothing but 100% lost and dead, unless we must believe that heaven will be a place full of unrepentant sinners.
Luke 15: 24 For this my son WAS DEAD, and is ALIVE AGAIN; he WAS LOST, and IS FOUND. And they began to be merry.—30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.—32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was DEAD, and is ALIVE AGAIN AGAIN; and was LOST, and is FOUND.
Again, to base an entire doctrine on something that the Bible doesn’t say is extremely unwise, and especially if this false doctrine necessitates that we erect other false doctrines to save that first one, and which in the end makes God to be the author of sin and very illogical. Are we born depraved and with a sinful nature that makes us sin ACCORDING to God’s will or AGAINST his will?