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Can a Regenerate Christian be Totally Depraved?

Interesting post over at Arminian Perspectives, asking whether or not John Calvin was a regenerate Christian. Apparently, one Calvinist commenter to an earlier post said that Calvin was still totally depraved, which is why he dealt with Servetus the way that he did.

This immediately creates a problem for the Calvinist. What is total depravity? This is the state that an unregenerate, non-Christian is in prior to his conversion. This is the state that most people stay in their entire lives. People love their sin, now more than ever. So, is Calvin a non-Christian, or can the Christian be totally depraved?

I don’t believe that a Christian can be totally depraved. Total depravity represents a state of complete spiritual death (Eph 2:1-3; Rom 7:5). Total depravity means that the person is unable to know or respond to the things of God (Eph 4:18). But the believer is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom 6:11). As Arminian Perspectives asks, “How can one be dead in sin and dead to sin at the same time?”

So why did Calvin treat Servetus the way that he did? Moreover, why do Christians sin, seemingly at the same rate as non-Christians? Because, though we are a new creation, we are still not glorified or made perfect. Only in our new and glorified bodies will we unable to sin. The Westminster Confession of Faith sums it up:

This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. (VI.5, see 1 Jn 1:8, 10; Rom 7:14, 17-18, 23; Jms 3:2; Prv 20:9; Eccl 7:20)

This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. (XIII.2)

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on September 23, 2009, in Apologetics, Sin, Theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. In my little mind, this is the greatest perversion indeed. That a man may possess that incorruptible seed of Life (Christ within) and yet be under the full sway and reigning influence of the old (crucified) nature, the lower flesh nature. What an (unnecessary) condition, for “whatever is born of God (in us) overcomes the world”.

    Yet, once rec’d, this new Christ life within will expand throughout his whole being to permeate, light up, renew every aspect of a man just like the shortest parable (the woman who puts a little yeast in a lump of dough and it eventually works its way through the entire lump) that is a work of regeneration, praise God He would have His people utterly free from the merciless grip of sin, the old nature. Jesus wins in us.

  2. Even most atheists aren’t totally depraved. You guys sure chose the stupidest terminology Calvin’s totally depraved mind could come up with.

    • And Calvin was totally depraved. Burning people at the stake certainly fits any logical definition of “total depravity.” That’s one of the biggest problems of your system. A deist whose only sins are lust in his head and maybe he told a little white lie once is considered “totally depraved” by you, but Calvin burning people at the stake and writing about them in his book in his defence “I would do it again” and “he kept bellowing like a dog, Misericordias!” is considered a good Christian who just made a mistake. Come on!!! Wake up from your Satanic fog.

  3. Inspired by this post from Triablogue (‘Arminian Dualism’) (which I only read perhaps due to this post here being about Calvin being totally depraved) I present this question: Which would you choose if only Calvinism and Marcionism existed?

  4. Gen 3.15…we need to understand what this means, the truth of it now, Blessings.

    • Does it say that man is totally depraved? No. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Oh look right there between ‘woman’ and ‘and’, if we apply some funky gematria to the comma perhaps we can make it say that man will be born totally depraved from now on!!! Wow, how’d I miss that before?

      • You miss the point Rey. I was pointing out the relation between the verse and the post topic. This is how God prophesied that his children would regain the mastery, the high ground over satan and the flesh, by the seed (Christ) of the woman in us.

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