Take a look around. Notice the people who are always smiling, always encouraging one another, always standing up for peace, love and justice, making sure that the vulnerable are protected, the weak supported, and everyone that needs food or clothing or shelter is taken care of.
You guessed it. Those are the Christians.
Now look at everyone else, the pagans. They are ignorant, arrogant, greedy, hateful and vicious, wanting nothing more than to shake their fists at God, and spoil his good Creation.
While this may sound ridiculous, you’ll find variations of this point of view in every Christian denomination. I wouldn’t call it prejudice, exactly. But definitely an us-and-them mentality.
When I was young, I remember there being some doubt as to the eternal destination of my grandparents. This was a serious issue for me. I prayed every night that God would save them. But there was one thing that bothered me—my grandparents were good people. They had one of the best marriages I’d ever seen.
As I grew older, my fundamentalist worldview was seriously challenged by an honest look at the world around me. It was hard for me to watch children and think of them as wicked, God-hating, fallen creatures. As far as I could tell, they seemed genuinely innocent, honest and generous, especially when compared to their parents.
I learned about Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist preacher, who did so much good for so many people. He was shot while secretly smoking cigarettes outside a motel room that he was sharing with a woman who was not his wife.
I learned about Gandhi, a man who admired Christ, especially the Sermon on the Mount. But when asked about conversion, he said, “To be a good Hindu also means that I would be a good Christian. There is no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or try to follow His example.”
Was Gandhi right? Can other religions simulate the same sense of consecration, transformation, purpose and destiny that most Christians feel? Can an atheist have moral nobility, a quality marriage and a genuine love for other people?
The doctrine of Total Depravity, based on Augustine’s concept of Original Sin, states that every person born into this world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unwilling and unable to embrace the message of Christ for salvation.
The Synod of Dordrecht (1618), which officially codified the TULIP theology, stated that, at the Fall, humanity “became involved in blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity, perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, obdurate in heart and will and impure in his affection.”
It’s like a group of people came together and decided that one set of people are red and the other are blue, though, to me, an honest look at humanity seems to prove that we are all various shades of purple.
I spent some time searching the internet, hoping to understand how people who accept the conclusions of the Synod of Dordrecht justify the apparent disconnect between Total Depravity and the millions of generous, loving people outside the Church.
The responses I found revolved around these two questions: Who are we to challenge God’s analysis of the human heart? Who are we to question the plain truth of Scripture?
They might have a point. According to the Bible, every human being inherits a state of spiritual death, a debilitating separation from the life of God, perverting their moral compass (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-5). The human heart is naturally perverse, hostile toward God (Jeremiah 17:9, John 3:19, John 8:34, Rom. 3:10-11, 8:7). To the unregenerate, wrong will always seem right, and right will always seem wrong (Prov. 14:12, John 8:44).
Christians, however have been transferred from this state of depravity into the kingdom of life and light (Acts 26:17, Col. 1:13, I Peter 2:9, Eph. 5:8). They have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of them, allowing them to share the heart and mind of Christ, giving each of them supernatural abilities and divine character qualities (I Cor. 2, Rom. 8, Col. 1:11, Gal. 5:22-24).
If these verses mean what they say, shouldn’t we see an unmistakable contrast between God’s people and the rest of the world? If not, does this undermine the authority of Scripture or the reliability of our faith?
In my next post, I will try to justify all this purple with the red and blue claims of Scripture. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts.
How do you feel about this inconvenient truth?