Remember my preference


Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part II: Crystallization of the Theology of Grace

Chapter 6

Total Depravity

      The tremendous optimism which characterized the period immediately prior to World War I, reflected in the writings of H. G. Wells and many others, and which originated in the Age of Enlightenment when Rousseau wrote imaginatively about the noble savages of North America living without the encumbrance of debasing civilization, has disappeared almost entirely. Man is no longer seen as perfectible. Despair has overtaken the humanist idealism of those days, and sin has come to be recognized as a depressing fact of life. The depravity of man is no longer questioned except by a few blithe spirits whose feet are in the clouds and whose dreams for society are about as unrealistic as it is possible to imagine. Nevertheless we still have among us a few ministers of the "Gospel" who have high expectations for the supposed innate goodness of man, but the children of this world are wiser in their own generation.
     On the other hand, psychiatrists like Karl Menninger tell us that man is sick and that the root of his sickness is a basic depravity of human nature that has to be reckoned with. T. H. Huxley, Darwin's great defender, was wiser than those who followed him when he said:

      It is the secret of the superiority of the best theological teachers to the majority of their opponents that they substantially recognize these realities. . . .  The doctrines of original sin, of the innate depravity of man . . . appear to me to be vastly nearer the truth than the literal, popular illusions that babies are all born good, and that the example of a corrupt society is responsible for their failure to remain so, that it is given to everybody to reach the ethic ideal if he will only try . . . and other optimistic figments.

     Would that we heard this today from the pulpit! Louis Berkhof speaks eloquently on this issue: *

     Sin is one of the saddest but also one of the most common phenomena of human life. It is a part of the common experience of mankind, and therefore forces itself upon the attention of all those who do not deliberately close their eyes to the realities of human life. Some may for a time dream

* Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1949 reprint [1939], 4th revised and enlarged edition, p.227.

     pg 1 of 23      

of the essential goodness of man and speak indulgently of those separate words and actions that do not measure up to the ethical standards of good society as mere foibles and weaknesses, for which man is not responsible, and which readily yield to corrective measures; but as time goes on, and all measures of external reform fail, and the suppression of one evil merely serves to release another, such persons are inevitably disillusioned
     They become conscious of the fact that they have merely been fighting the symptoms of some deep-seated malady, and that they are confronted not merely with the problem of sins, that is, of separate sinful deeds, but with the much greater and deeper problem of sin, of an evil that is inherent in human nature. This is exactly what we are beginning to witness at the present time.

      It needs only one kind of circumstance to bring this deeply rooted malady in human nature to the surface. That circumstance is the acquisition of power over others. Most men have very little power over others which is absolute. We all have some power, but it is so circumscribed and hedged about by social restraints of one kind or another that very few have the opportunity to learn what would happen to themselves if these restraints were removed. But recent history has amply demonstrated what people are capable of in their treatment of fellow men when they are given absolute power to do with them what they will. People who seemed cultured, restrained, law-abiding, and considerate of others have been converted into beasts to the surprise of the civilized world � and perhaps to their own surprise, if the truth were known. The Nazi concentration camps were often administered by people who spent their spare time listening to classical music or surrounding themselves with great works of art. But any disappointment they may have felt in themselves seems to have been short-lived as they took increasing delight in the infliction of pain and injury upon others. Dostoyevsky, in his Brothers Karamazov, tells how at one period in Russian history, girls whose social behaviour was considered immoral in the extreme were punished by severe flogging. He points out a curious fact the authorities had discovered, that when young unmarried men were given the responsibility for inflicting the punishment upon these outcasts of society, they almost always ended up by marrying their victims. It is as though some deep-seated satisfaction came to them in the fulfillment of their "duty," so deep-seated that it led to permanent attachment to their victim. More recent history under Stalin in particular has shown that if man's power over his fellows extends far enough to allow him the privilege not merely of punishing severely but of utterly destroying, then he will utterly destroy both them and himself in the process. It is because we are externally restrained in our self-expression that the power to do some good remains with us, even as it did with Dostoyevsky's young men. Since then, we have seen ample evidence that when there are no restraints, human behaviour becomes altogether evil and degraded. Solzhenitsyn observed this and wrote about it eloquently in his

     pg.2 of 23     

description of the Russian detention camps under Stalin. The cruelty of men seems to have been directly proportional to their power.
    Recent Russian history, and Nazi history before that, abundantly justifies the statement made by Lord John Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." And D. R. Davies in his masterful study of raw human nature under the title Down Peacock's Feathers points out that in America before the introduction of slavery, there were many high-minded people who protested against it. But once it had become a fait accompli these same people not infrequently became the most inhumane among slave owners. Given power over their fellow men, they discovered within themselves evil impulses of which they had been previously unaware.
     Perhaps one of the most profound evidences of the sinlessness and incorruptibility of the Lord Jesus Christ lies in the fact that although his power was absolute, He remained absolutely uncorrupted by it. He had power over life (He cursed the fig tree and it died � Matthew 21:19), and He had power over death (He called Lazarus forth from the grave � John 11:43, 44). He had power to heal every conceivable kind of sickness, and He had power over men who would have taken Him and murdered Him because of their hatred: He merely walked untouched through their midst (John 8:59). He had authority, that "something" which seems to be essentially rooted in the morality of man, which enabled Him to challenge the evil institutions of his day (as when He cleansed the temple � Mark 11:15�18) and no man lifted a hand against Him. He had power to forgive sins and He had power to condemn. He had moral, physical, social, and intellectual authority over men, such as has never been observed in any single individual before or since that time. He towered above mankind, and still does. This is not literary fiction: such a figure cannot be invented. Yet He remained totally uncorrupted. The absolute power which elevated Him to the very heights of heaven degrades fallen man to the very depths of hell.
     Herbert Butterfield, the Oxford historian, adds his warning to those who attempt to understand human history while ignoring the effects of the Fall. He says, "What history does is to uncover man's universal sin." And subsequently, "We create tragedy after tragedy for ourselves by a lazy unexamined doctrine of man which is current amongst us and which the study of history does not support."
(1) He points out that it is the restraints of culture that prevent human nature from showing itself as it really is, or at least prevent some men from appearing as bad as they really are. Other men are not so prevented, and increasingly more and more people are showing their true colours as the restraints of society break down. "In some cases," Butterfield writes, "human nature looks better than in others because it can go through

1. Butterfield, Herbert, Christianity and History, London, G. Bell & Sons, 1950, p.45, 46.   

     pg.3 of 23     

life without being subjected to the same test." And he remarks by way of illustration that if we had no rules of the road, a nasty side of human nature would make its appearance among motorists more often than it does at the moment. Human nature needs only opportunity to declare itself for what it is.

      So it is widely agreed that man is depraved. But how depraved? Totally, or only very seriously? Was human nature merely injured by the Fall, as Roman Catholic theologians would say, or completely ruined, as the Reformers would say? Has this fatal injury been communicated to every individual by inheritance, or does each individual start with a clean sheet, as Pelagius argued, becoming sinful only by example? Has human nature been severely corrupted but not so severely that the grace of God cannot co-operate with the spark of human goodness which has not quite died, as Arminians believe? Or is man hopelessly, totally depraved, his nature so corrupted through the Fall that the whole motivation of his life is evil, being self-centered and rebellious against God? Is man truly a total moral catastrophe?
     Is man then only sick but in a humanly curable way; is he injured by the sad example of society but capable of being good if given the opportunity; or is he spiritually dead � his nature utterly ruined, his will free only to sin, his understanding darkened, and his heart a heart of stone?
     Then what of all the evidence in history of human kindness, restraint, mercy, self-sacrifice and nobility? And what of human creativeness, of beauty in handiwork, of truth in thought, of success in the harnessing of Nature? Are all these illusory? What does "Total" Depravity mean in this context? Isaiah 1:5 and 6 tells us, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint; from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it." And Jeremiah 17:9 warns us: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" How sick is man? How desperate is his situation? When Paul said, "There is none that does good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12), was he inspired to write the plain truth or was he merely reflecting upon the appalling corruption of Roman society at its lowest ebb under the frightful tyranny of Nero? In short, what precisely did the Fall do to human nature? How deeply has man been wounded, and how is the effect transmitted?

Definition of Total

      First, then, what did Calvin himself mean when he spoke of man's Total Depravity? To begin with, he was dealing essentially with motivation rather than with action. He never denied that men do good deeds, and

     pg.4 of 23     

Scripture supports him in this. For example, the Lord Himself spoke of those who "being evil, know how to give good gifts" (Matthew 7:11). There is nothing incompatible between Calvin's conception of the Total Depravity of man and man's performance of deeds which, by the most rigid standards of judgment, would have to be characterized as good. The ability of man to do good deeds in no way challenges his basic depravity. For what is corrupt in human nature is motivation, the inability of man to be good. But what do we mean when we speak of man being able to do good but not being able to be good?
     Henri Fabre once spoke of animal instinct as inspired wisdom. This is a beautiful thought and worthy of reflection. In Nature one observes this inspired wisdom in animals at every level in the scale of complexity. Man alone seems to be without instinct.
     Yet unregenerate man is not without inspired wisdom; we simply have not recognized it for what it is. In spite of the Fall he has tremendous creative capacities, and these capacities are usually most successfully demonstrated when his work springs from something akin to inspiration. A great deal of creative activity is simply a form of ingenuity, but there is a creative activity observed most clearly in artistic effort of all kinds which appears to arise as the result of inspiration. No one knows where this inspiration comes from. Those who are inspired in the creation of music, or art, or literature, or architecture, or in any other field of human endeavour whether it is strictly practical in objective or purely ornamental, have acknowledged the part played by the strange and little understood phenomenon of inspiration. Such inspiration is often described and experienced as a form of tyranny. It seems to spring from some source other than the will itself, for the will becomes captive.
     When we add to these circumstances the confusing fact that some of the most creative individuals have also been some of the most wicked, immoral, selfish, cruel, and egocentric individuals known to history, we are not only baffled by the nature of this inspiration but by its choice of victims. It could even be said as a general rule, to which there are nevertheless many exceptions, that the more inspired a man's work is the less inspiring that man is apt to be.
     We have to ask, then, Whence comes this inspiration? We know from Scripture that it may come directly from God, though this does not guarantee that it always does. For example, in Exodus 31:2�11 and 35:30�35 we are told that a certain man named Bezaleel was an inspired craftsman appointed by God to oversee the beautification of the Tabernacle whose furnishings were to reflect the perfection of God's handiwork. Naturally, we assume he was a godly man. But history shows that many ungodly men have created things which in their way contributed to the glory of God, like the architects and stonemasons of many of the cathedrals whose wages were

     pg.5 of 23     

paid out of money received in exchange for indulgences to sin with impunity. Furthermore, some of the most beautiful artifacts in the world (such as ancient Egyptian jewelry) and some of the most beautiful buildings in the world (such as the Taj Mahal) owed nothing to Christian inspiration. I think it would be true to say that the poetry of people like Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Percy Shelley, William Shakespeare, and hundreds of others who, while not anti-Christian, seem personally to have been largely indifferent to the Lord's claim upon their lives, was nevertheless inspired in this sense.
     It may well be that the inspiration which produces such masterpieces of man's creative ability is part and parcel of the Common Grace of God by which the special aptitudes of men are appointed to ameliorate human life and to give pleasure and satisfaction in a world cursed by sin. And within the orbit of this Common Grace would surely also have to be counted the inspired hunches and guesses and ventures in faith which have led men throughout the ages to dedicate their lives to fruitful research towards alleviating human suffering. Thus have been produced new preventatives that have slowly eliminated, or show great promise of doing so, some of man's most terrible scourges in the form of communicable diseases like smallpox. And we would have to add the inspiration which has produced many great humanitarian reform movements. All of these, I suggest, invite us to equate this kind of inspiration with Common Grace, for many of the moving spirits in these ventures feel, inspired.
     That this capacity for inspired activity in man should all too frequently be turned to frightful ends is not surprising. If this is a capacity divinely ordered for man at his creation and surviving the Fall, it can obviously be used by Satan, whose design is to counteract the Common Grace of God. The stimulation in both cases is supernatural. And there is this that can also be said of both kinds of inspiration: Satan does not always find his most effective servants among wicked men as we might suppose, nor God his most effective servants among the saints. It is sad, but true. There seems to be no apparent connection between the character of the individual and the degree and object of his inspiration. As with Election to Salvation, God's choice is solely according to his good pleasure.
     God has often displayed his Common Grace without regard to the stature of the chosen vessel. Some of the most notably successful and sought-after evangelists, conference speakers, and Christian leaders, have been personally the most proud, unforgiving, self-centred individuals imaginable. It is sometimes better not to know too well those from whom one receives the greatest help and inspiration along the way. What a man can do under God's inspiration and what he can be under his own, are very different things.
     Now the fact that animals are so beautifully equipped for the ordering of

     pg.6 of 23     

their lives by the inspired wisdom of which Fabre wrote so eloquently suggests that Common Grace may apply in our world on a far larger scale than we have recognized. In their "interpersonal" relationships animals show a wonderful constraint which is only now being sufficiently acknowledged. The authenticated stories of animal co-operation in the wild are legion, and they include insects, fishes, birds, and of course the higher animals. One possible exception, curiously enough, may be the whole order of snakes which seem to lack even a semblance of maternal spirit, a fact which make the snake a peculiarly appropriate symbol of Satan. The apparent cruelty of animals, of which Darwin made so much, is increasingly being viewed in a rather different light as we discover more about the pain reflexes of the preyed upon and the killing instincts of the predators. Where we do find wanton destruction by predators, it can almost always be shown to be the result of man's interference upsetting the behaviour of either the prey or the predator. As Professor Ronald Good of England has been saying for some years, Nature is not a battlefield with all the combatants red in tooth and claw but an ordered and beautifully harmonious co-operative society whose behaviour ultimately tends towards the benefit of every member.
     Man by contrast seems alien to this whole co-operative scheme of things. His instincts, if he has any at all beyond swallowing, are fundamentally suicidal in nature. No other creature is persistently so destructive of his own well-being. The Roman author Cicero said, "Man is a disaster." He is not so much diseased, as himself the disease. But for the Common Grace of God man's life would be unbearable and his suicidal tendencies would probably lead to the total destruction of the human race. Operating through the merits of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, this Common Grace truly constitutes Him the Saviour of the "world."
     Apart from man, the rest of the natural order operates as an expression of the Kingdom of God. The laws of Nature are his laws, "written in" as they are written once again into the heart of every man who newly becomes a member of that Kingdom (Hebrews 8:10). Animals are obedient to the law of God as appointed for them and by their obedience live out their lives under divine protection. It must be for this reason that Satan and his emissaries have to ask permission of the Lord to invade this Kingdom where animals are concerned, as the demons did before entering the swine on that Gadarean mountainside in Matthew 8:31.
     God rules these creatures from within, but He also overrules them when necessary, and so they are always obedient to his will. Thus He stops the mouths of lions (Hebrews 11:33), and exceptionally orders the behaviour of other animals wherever necessary as in the case of the tribute money needed by the disciples on one occasion (Matthew 17:27). It is just such a belief in this obedience of the animal world to the divine will that prompted a medieval traveller who had taken refuge in a cave during a storm only to find himself

     pg.7 of 23     

face-to-face with a deadly snake, to address this creature with the words, "If thou hast leave to strike me, I do not say thee nay."
     And we have one extraordinary record of just such an occasion in 1 Kings 13:24�28 where both a lion and an ass unite in serving the Lord's purposes in a very special circumstance. The story is worth recording. A certain prophet who had obediently fulfilled the Lord's mission was later tempted, on the strength of his success, to disobey the Lord's further express command that he must go straight home without tarrying. Unfortunately he allowed himself to be detained on the way with the result that when he resumed his journey again to go home, riding his ass, he was attacked by a lion and killed. As the text says cryptically:

     A lion met him by the way, and slew him and his carcass was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcass.
     And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcass cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcass: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
     And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof he said; It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.
     And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.
     And he went and found his carcass cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass: the lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass.

     Note particularly in the last verse how carefully the Word of God explains the circumstance that the lion did not attack the ass nor did the ass flee from the lion, both creatures being divinely inspired to behave contrary to their inborn nature. These two witnesses stood obediently by, as a rebuke to the disobedience on the part of the now dead prophet: "In the mouth of two . . . witnesses it shall be established" (Matthew 18:16).
     When God is about to bring judgment upon a city, He has respect to such lower creatures just as He has respect to those of humankind who have not yet reached the age of moral accountability. Thereby He acknowledges that both animals and children alike are still part of his Kingdom (Jonah 4:11 and Mark 10:14). Satan's emissaries are permitted to possess only those who are not members of God's Kingdom (Luke 22:3), but not those who like Peter are his children (Luke 22:31, 32).
     To re-enter the Kingdom of God a man must be reborn (John 3:3) and adopted back into it (Galatians 4:5, 6). Then, and only then, is something akin to the God-given instincts which guide animals implanted in the soul of the believer as a like form of inspired wisdom. And thus is exhibited the Special

     pg.8 of 23     

Grace of God. But meanwhile his Common Grace generates in the world that which is beautiful and which contributes to man's well-being both in animal and human behaviour. This Common Grace is perhaps little more then the expression of God's great goodness towards all his creatures, a great goodness which would quickly turn this blessed vale of tears back into the Paradise it was intended to be if (and when) his dominion is wholly restored as it one day will be.
     And is it any more anomalous that God should Himself inspire even the wickedest of men to create things of great beauty according to his own plan and as an expression of his Common Grace, than that He should reach down to even the chiefest of sinners and redeem them and turn them into saints as an expression of his Special Grace?
     Thus the statement that the Common Grace of God results in some measure of goodness in human society is not intended to demonstrate that man is basically good, but only that by divine restraint of evil the way is left open for men to do better than they otherwise would. Common Grace is a reflection of the benevolent sovereignty of God whereby He maintains in fallen man his ability to do good, while Special Grace is a reflection of the same sovereignty whereby He creates in man the ability to be good. Common Grace acts generally in the world; Special Grace is at work only in the elect. The acts of men and the motives of men must be considered separately, for they are clearly separable. As Kuyper said, in view of man's Total Depravity, "the world goes better than expected," and in view of the fact of its redemption, "the Church goes worse than expected." This is certainly true, for if man is totally depraved, the world is a remarkably good place to live in. But why does the Church fail so badly?
     Why does the community of the redeemed fail so badly? This is an important question for a proper understanding of what God does with his people. We are accustomed to thinking that the first thing He undertakes to do with us is to eliminate, or at least to restrain, the evil that is in our nature, what is sometimes referred to as the bad "old man." We suppose that He will leave the good "old man" and perhaps make use of it. But if this good is basically evil in its motivation, it is no more worthy to be encouraged than the bad. If the whole of human motivation in the natural man is evil whether it finds expression in good deeds or bad, it cannot find any favour in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to countenance evil in any form, even under the guise of good works. Consequently when God begins a new creation in the redeemed individual He also begins to remove all the evil and the good that is rooted in the old nature. The natural goodness of man is not the promise of a new life but the remnant of a dying Adam. By the providence of God, man's natural capacities can be used for the general welfare of society but only on a horizontal and temporal plane � in their vertical and moral context the same actions must be viewed as sinful. Thus they can be

     pg.9 of 23     

allowed in the unredeemed but they cannot be allowed in the redeemed. Consequently the world may seem to do better on a horizontal plane than does the Church of God, which must operate on a different principle.
     It should be recognized that a distinction must be made, in speaking about the natural goodness of man, between those endowments which enable a man to contribute to society by the work of his hands or the creativeness of his mind, and what he can contribute to the moral fabric of society; that is to say, what he can contribute on a social level as opposed to what he can contribute on a spiritual level. It is in the latter that the child of God must normally expect to make a unique contribution, and it is towards this contribution that the specific work of redemption is by the Special Grace of God uniquely directed. This is why God's chief concern with his people has to do with motivation. And in order to correct this in our fallen state, it is often necessary to sacrifice, at least for a time, some of our natural endowments which might otherwise seem to have such promise. Thus it is not merely the bad old nature which must be changed but the good old nature as well, for the whole natural man is depraved in his being though still remarkably capable in his creative endowment. This is what Total Depravity really means: not total inability but total spiritual inability.
     It often happens that a man who has a certain natural ability and is filled with high ideals and is known for his good works, will, when he is converted, become for a season a far less admirable and effective individual. The good old man is slowly undermined because it is good only in an accidental way. This form of natural goodness has to be replaced by a supernatural goodness. It is the work of Special Grace to convert natural goodness, which is counterfeit in the sight of God, into supernatural goodness that is genuine because the motivation has been freed from the bondage of sin, and brought into conformity to the will of God (Romans 6:18). In a real sense, all goodness in the natural man is simple self-indulgence.
     Common Grace deals with man's doings; Special Grace concerns his being. It is quite possible in the Judgment for a man to claim truthfully, "Lord, Lord, in your name have I done many wonderful works" (Matthew 7:22). The claim is not unjustified because it has reference only to deeds themselves and nothing more. The Judge can say with equal truth, "Depart from Me, you that work iniquity" (verse 23), for a deed, no matter how good it is in itself, is really a work of iniquity when the motivation behind it is wrong. Article XIII of the Thirty-Nine Articles states this very carefully:

     Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God for as much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace . . . yea rather, in that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but that they have the nature of sin. 

     pg.10 of 23     

     It sounds extraordinary that good deeds which accrue to the benefit of society as a whole should nevertheless partake of the nature of sin; yet in the light of what has been said above, there is no doubt that they do. It is not the deeds but motives that count, and herein is man altogether sinful. A man may therefore be full of good works and outwardly have the appearance of a beautiful marble building, spotlessly clean. Yet the building itself may be only a sepulchre painted white on the outside (Matthew 23:27), while inside is a rotting spiritual corpse. This is a saddening truth. The spiritual depravity of man is total. The totality has reference to his motive, not to his works.
     How has this disparity between the good that man can do and the evil that man can be come about? Judging by the good that man can do, we must assume that he was formed with enormous potential for creativity in art, literature, music, technology, and so forth; but he has been fatally corrupted in his nature. His mind can serve him well enough (in mathematics, for example) for the discernment of truth as perfectly as God can know such truth; but his heart is self-deceived and self-deceiving and utterly incapable of genuine purity of motive.

     This brings us to the problem of the constitution of man, and the question of whether he is a composite of all kinds of elements � physical, spiritual, intellectual, and so on � or of only two, a physical and a spiritual. We know whence comes his physical body. It is derived ultimately from the body of Adam and Eve who had poisoned themselves into a state of mortality by eating the forbidden fruit. But what is the origin of man's soul, or his spirit, of that part of his being which is non-material? And is this spiritual component itself single or cornposite?
     It has traditionally been the view of believers throughout the Christian era that man is a dichotomy, a creature composed of body and spirit. This was a view held by the early Church Fathers for the most part, and the view held by Augustine and consequently by the Reformers and by Roman Catholic theologians, both of whom drew much of their inspiration from Augustine in this. The view that man is a trichotomy composed of body, soul, and spirit is comparatively recent, and is largely inspired by Greek philosophy. Only two passages of Scripture seem in any way to demand the trichotomy view. The balance of Scripture, particularly in the New Testament, forms in general a harmonious picture of man as being constituted of body and spirit, each of which he has, uniting to form a soul which he is. In the following discussion, the view of man as a dichotomy is assumed to be the correct one.
     The origin of man's soul has presented far greater problems than has the origin of his body. It is clear enough that if man derives his body by natural generation there is no problem in understanding how it has come about that 

     pg.11 of 23     

his body is defective in so many ways. This kind of inheritance is familiar. The question is, How does his spirit or his soul come to be corrupted also?
     There are essentially two views on this matter. (The concept of pre-existence, which was favoured by Origen and a few other early Church Fathers, never gained wide acceptance and is today rejected by Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians alike.) One view holds that we derive our soul from our parents by some kind of process of division and recombination even as we derive our body from them. This view is referred to as Traducianism. It is favoured by Arminians generally, and officially by the Lutherans as a body. It is believed that it accounts most effectively for the inheritance of a fallen nature. One of the most common arguments in favoir of it is the fact that in the account of the formation of Eve out of Adam there is no mention made of the creation of her soul. However it is of interest to note that when Adam was presented with Eve, he exclaimed "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23), omitting any reference to the derivation of her spirit from himself. A further objection which is raised against Traducianism is that it makes the soul divisible. The souls of the mother and the father are in some way fragmented and the fragments combined to form the soul of their child. It is also difficult to account for the fact that Jesus Christ did not share the corruption of our nature even though He was born of a human mother.
     The other view is that God creates a new spirit or soul for each individual. This view of direct creation assumes that the soul is perfect as it comes from the hand of God but is in some way corrupted by its introduction into the body which carries the defect of fallen Adam. This view is termed Creationism. The only serious challenge to it seems to be the argument that God supposedly ceased creating after the six days' work (Genesis 2:2, 3). But in the light of 2 Corinthians 5:17 this cannot be true, since every regenerate child of God is here said to be "a new creation."
     Now whether the soul is thus acquired by inheritance or by direct creation, the problem of its present corruptedness remains an issue of debate. Precisely how man becomes a sinner as he matures is not clear. The light of Scripture on this matter is capable of more than one interpretation. That all men do become sinners is unquestionable, both Scripture and personal experience bearing abundant testimony to the fact. But how this universal process of deterioration is initiated in the individual soul is still an open question, and when this process begins remains equally uncertain.
     It seems likely that we cannot do much more than reach an approximation as to how and when this physical corruption which we inherit is transmuted into a spiritual one also. For Scripture is not entirely clear. The transmission of inheritable corruption from generation to generation through some genetic mechanism no longer presents the kind of problems that it did to the Reformers. The difficulty which remains to be elucidated is

     pg.12 of 23   

how a physical corruption can damage the spirit of man, which is a direct creation of God. It is the old problem of the interaction between body and spirit, or as Descartes spoke of it, between matter and mind.
     We have certain facts regarding the Fall of man which are reasonably assured if we assume that the story of Eden is truly historical. By eating a forbidden fruit Adam and Eve introduced into their bodies some mortogenic factor, perhaps in the nature of a poison, which destroyed their original created perfection and the physical immortality which characterized it. And this was brought about in such a way that physical death became the lot of mankind so universally as now to be termed "natural." But it was not natural at first. By their disobedience, Adam and Eve did not merely shorten their lives, but introduced death as an entirely new experience. As Romans 5:12 says, "By one man sin entered into the world and by sin death" � and death passed upon all men.
     We know that all men have inherited this disease, not only because all men die but also because all men become sinners. As F. W. Farrar noted, volumes have been written upon the precise meaning of Paul's statement, "for all have sinned." A substantial number of modern authorities would interpret the Greek at this point to mean "in view of the fact that all men have sinned." Another group of scholars would interpret these same words to mean "upon which account all men have sinned." Whichever is the correct rendering of the crucial words eph' ho, () the universality of sinfulness is a clear demonstration of the universality of the disease.
     It is therefore apparent that there is some causal connection between this inherited mortogenic factor resident in the body and man's corrupted spirit. The factor itself is passed from generation to generation. It was not identified by the early Church Fathers as something in the nature of a poison, but it was recognized as having real physical existence. Terming it Original Sin, Augustine said it is derived from faulty condition of human seed. (On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book II, chapter 20 in Antir-Pelagian Writings) Five hundred years later Peter Lombard concluded that the male seed is the chief offender, it being stained in the act of procreation by concupiscence � which he assumed to be something evil.
(2) Calvin (Institutes, II.i.5) indicated his belief that the corrupting factor is essentially physical by saying, "We are not corrupted by acquired wickedness but do bring an innate corruptness from the very womb. . . . All of us, descending from an impure seed, come into the world tainted with the contagion of sin." Luther was even more specific, stating his belief that the "paternal sperm" conveys the corruption from generation to generation. Franz V. Reinhard (1753�1812) in his System of Christian Morals explained the Fall as a kind of poisoning and hereditary sin as the inheritance of a poisoned constitution. The Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1545�1563)

2. Peter Lombard

     pg.13 of 23     

sought to state its position on this issue by declaring that the corruption which passes from generation to generation is not in itself a moral defect but rather something which inclines to moral defect, a "fuel of sin" which was technically termed fomes peccati. (3)
     Whatever the nature of this contagion, it was foreign to man as originally created, it was introduced in Eden, and it is inherited by every natural born child of Adam. Its effect is to mortalize man's body and corrupt man's spirit. It is capable of transmission from body to body by the mere fact of procreation, and from body to spirit as the individual matures. Man inevitably returns to the dust and he unfailingly becomes a sinner if he lives to maturity. In Original Sin we therefore have a case of an acquired character which has been inherited. Physiologically this no longer presents the serious problem that it might have presented a few years ago. For we now know that certain types of acquired characters can indeed be transmitted by inheritance, not via the nuclear genes, however, but by what are called plasmagenes, certain bodies resident in the cytoplasm rather than in the nucleoplasm, which, by a process of dauermodifications, can be permanently modified by factors outside the cell wall in such a way that the daughter cells which arise with each division are changed even in the absence of the factor which caused the modification in the parent cells. Today we not only have much evidence that such a mechanism exists but we have a fairly clear idea of how it operates.*
     Man's first act of disobedience introduced not only physical death to himself and his descendants but also spiritual death so that all men naturally born of Adam's seed have since that time turned the innocence of infancy into the sinfulness of adolescence and manhood as they matured. Somehow the defect of the body becomes the ruination of the spirit, even though that spirit is perfect when first created and implanted by God in the body.

     The question is, How does the body corrupt the spirit? Does Scripture actually encourage belief that such an interaction, such a transmission of contagion from body to spirit, really occurs? It all depends upon how we interpret the use of the term flesh in the New Testament. Does the word normally mean actual flesh and only occasionally mean carnal desire, or does the word normally mean carnal desire in the physiological sense and only occasionally mean the actual body tissue, tangible, physical in the corporeal sense?
     We do not need to ask the how of such a mechanism unless we are first satisfied that this is what Scripture says actually does happen. If we once establish this, then we can perhaps usefully ask what the nature of the mechanism is; and although at the moment there is no clear picture here, we

3.Addis, William and Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, London, Virtue & Co., revised with additions by T. B. Scannell, 1928 (?) [1883], under Concupiscence, p.214.
* See on this, Arthur Custance, Seed of the Woman, Hamilton, Doorway Publications, 1980.

     pg.14 of 23     

do begin to discern some of the somato-psychic (body-psyche) mechanisms behind the interactions that we experience in daily life. This new area of inquiry may shed light for us on a very ancient problem that puzzled Augustine, as it has puzzled all who have sought to elucidate the matter since his time. It was this aspect of the problem � the interaction between body and Spirit � that led inevitably to the debate between the Traducianists and the Creationists, a debate to which Augustine contributed only his own uncertainty. If Traducianism is true, the spirit derives its impurity by a kind of spiritual procreation process in which the fallen nature of Adam and Eve is directly transmitted to every descendant. If Creationism is true, then the spirit begins its personal existence pure, and is corrupted by the body. We have already considered some of the difficulties of Traducianism: the divisibility of the soul and the problem of the perfection of the soul of Jesus Christ. But Creationism presents us with a difficulty of its own, the fatal interaction between body and spirit, between "flesh" and "soul."
     That such an interaction does occur is intimated in Romans 8:3, where Paul speaks of what the law could not do, in that it was "weak" (asthenei: ineffective, without sufficient force) on account of the flesh. This, he says, is why the law is so impotent in regulating conduct. It is not that the spirit is unwilling but rather that the flesh is "weak" (asthenes: Matthew 26:41). The law sets the standard which every individual is called upon to meet. But why does a child with a pure created spirit not meet it? Because the law of itself is impotent in the face of the contrary urgings of the body. Because the eager desire of the flesh must have its own way. In the innocence of childhood, how else could we suppose temptation to come at first except through some appetite of the body?

     How early, then, does the fatal contagion perform its deadly spiritual function? It is difficult to establish this from Scripture. Some of the Reformers clearly viewed even prenatal life as sinful and morally corrupt, even if only by imputation. In Isaiah 48:8, for example, they read the words "from the womb" as meaning from within the womb. But it is not required of the Hebrew that from should be read as within. "From the womb" is a common enough expression meaning only "from the very beginning"; and it need not signify more than it would if we were to say of someone, "He was always a happy child."
     We have seen how some of the Confessions viewed the matter and we observed that in regard to human sinfulness they considered the neonate not merely as corrupted in nature and as already guilty, but even as actually sinful. Perhaps the earliest possible time marker in the Old Testament is to be found in the regulations regarding circumcision, which was to be performed on the eighth day. It is possible that this indicates the arrival of some kind of moral accountability � though that seems rather unlikely. It is 

     pg.15 of 23     

more likely that the timing is important for physiological reasons since it happens to be an almost ideal time for such an operation. It avoids potential excess loss of blood due to insufficient development of the anticoagulating mechanism on the one hand, and on the other hand it avoids too gross an assault on the infant nervous system because the operation is performed before that system has matured and become too highly sensitive. We do know that when David's first son by Bathsheba died on the seventh day it had not yet been circumcised, yet David by implication was quite certain that he would meet his child again in heaven. In 2 Samuel 12:23 he said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." At the age of seven days a child therefore, though uncircumcised ("unbaptized"?), may be assumed to be fit for heaven.
     In Deuteronomy 1:39 there is an indication that those children who had not yet learned the difference between good and evil were in a state of innocence and would inherit the Promised Land, though their parents who had halted at the entrance through unbelief would not do so. Presumably this would include children at least up to a year old.
     In Matthew 19:14 children are said by the Lord to be "the stuff of heaven." We do not know how old these children were, but while Matthew says only that He laid his hands upon them, Mark (10:16) tells us that He actually took them up in his arms. This may indicate something about their size and age. If these children were two or three years old, they were evidently still "of such" as is the Kingdom of heaven.
     Jonah 4:11 tells us that God respected the repentance of the people of Nineveh and spared their city for a season. But He also took into account the many children in it who, we are told, had not yet learned to discern the right hand from the left. These children were, of course, strangers to the covenant of Israel and in no sense children of believers. Yet apparently they were accounted worthy of sparing.
     Genesis 8:21, with some precision, tells that "the imagination of the heart of man is evil from his youth." But how old is a youth? Beyond childhood surely! Yet we do not know where the line of demarcation between childhood and youth is to be drawn, though if we are guided by the time at which a Jewish boy traditionally becomes a man we have reason to believe that the line of demarcation from youth to manhood is somewhere in the early teens.
     There is a transitional period in here, and about all we can say on the basis of what is written in Scripture is that the time at which a child first discovers there is a difference between right and wrong seems to mark the age of accountability. When the time comes to make an actual choice between the two, a previous age of innocence becomes an age of virtue if the choice is made correctly, but an age of culpability if the choice is wrongly made. This may not, of course, actually occur at the same time of life for 

     pg.16 of 23     

each individual. Samuel was an obedient and godly child � yet just how obedient we cannot be sure, for when the Lord called him by name he did not respond as Eli had instructed him to do. In 1 Samuel 3:9 the aging High Priest advised him to answer, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears." But in verse 10 we observe that Samuel said only, "Speak, for your servant hears." And in verse 7 we are told why: "Samuel did not yet know the Lord nor had his word yet been revealed to him." This observation seems about the clearest possible indication that he had not been converted up till then. Admittedly the Old Testament does not give us a clear picture of the steps that led to conversion in those days, nor precisely what such a conversion meant in the life of the individual. For while Saul was given a new heart and turned into another man, and anointed with the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 10:6, 9), he seems clearly to have departed from the faith shortly afterwards (1 Samuel 16:14).
     We are therefore somewhat in the dark except in so far as we have two brackets, the first being David's uncircumcised seven-day-old son who was clearly innocent, and secondly, the statement in Genesis 8:21 which tells us that man is corrupted by sin from his youth. Somewhere between the two, the process of corruption is initiated and the spirit becomes dead towards God, Yet I do not think we need to assume that the stage of innocence passes in one stroke into a stage of guilt. There may well be an interim during which the child resists temptation for a while, passing from innocence into virtue of a sort. But it is probably a brief interlude and for many children may not exist as an interlude at all. So many grow up in an environment of selfishness and violence. Samuel was perhaps especially sheltered � and there must still be "Samuels" among us, though sadly their destiny is to mature as we all do. It is only a matter of time before all flesh corrupts its way and every man falls short of the perfect righteousness which God requires. The corruption of the spirit by the body, the "spotting" of the garment by the flesh (Jude 23), comes about inexorably with the passage of time as we mature.

     But does the word flesh really mean the physical tissue of the body or only some kind of psychological impulse that, though it operates through the body, originates in the soul? A study of this word flesh ( sarx) is revealing because it does not bear out the meaning which is often attached to it by those who habitually conceive of man as a spirit who happens incidentally to inhabit a body, rather than (as Scripture sees him) as a body/spirit entity.
     To begin with, there are many passages in which only the physical sense of the word can be intended. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) is unequivocal � and because of the nature of its context is a powerful witness. Another such reference is John 6:51, 52, 53, 54, 55,  

     pg.17 of 23     

56, and 63, where the Lord hammers home to the Pharisees that He really means his body, for his sacrifice was to be a physical as well as a spiritual one. It was in his body that He bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). In Acts 2:26 it is clearly the physical body that rests in hope of the resurrection, and in verse 31 it is his physical body that did not see corruption.
     In Romans 9:3 Paul speaks of physical relationship to his Jewish brethren as a thing of the flesh, and in verse 8 those born of the flesh are natural kin, as also in Romans 11:14. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, where the reference is to a grossly disobedient brother in the Lord whose presence is an offense to the Body of Christ, "the destruction of the flesh" clearly means the putting to death of the body, as many similar passages indicate. In 1 Corinthians 15:39 all flesh is rightly said not to be the same kind of flesh. The meaning is only that fish, fowl, and other animal foods differ in texture, taste, and value. In short, flesh is equivalent to meat. Paul suffered from some as yet unidentified bodily ailment which left him physically depleted, his real trial being an actual disease of some sort (Galatians 4:14). He spoke of this as being "a thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7).
     In such recurrent phrases as "flesh and blood" (Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 6:12) and "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39) the reference is clearly to the body, which demonstrates that when Scripture means physical tissue it is not limited to the use of the word body (soma). Such a compound phrase as "the body of his flesh" (Colossians 1:22) is a Hebraism translated into Greek and means simply "his fleshly body." This is a common circumlocution in Hebrew, as when David speaks of "the mountain of his holiness" (so the original Hebrew of Psalm 48:1), meaning simply "his holy mountain." Similarly Paul speaks of the "body of this death" (Romans 7:24), meaning "this mortal body" whence arose so many of his trials, for, physically speaking, he was a frail man (2 Corinthians 10:10).
     To "live in the flesh" (Philippians 1:22) meant, for Paul, to remain in the body, though he desired rather to leave it and go to be with the Lord. To see his friends face to face was to meet them "in the flesh," personally, physiologically (Colossians 2:1), while to be absent in the flesh meant only to be physically absent.
     In 1 Timothy 3:16 God is described as manifest in the flesh, that is to say, He was physically incarnate, to be seen and heard � indeed, to be handled (1 John 1:1). These were "the days of his flesh" (Hebrews 5:7), of his embodiment. When John wrote that a test of true spiritual understanding is frank acknowledgment of the fact that Messiah has indeed appeared in the flesh, he is talking about the incarnation and he sees no reason not to use the term flesh where the word body might have been more appropriate (1 John 4:2).
     When Peter says, "All flesh is grass" (1 Peter 1:24), he is speaking of living tissue, not of some psychological impulse; and his simple observation 

     pg.18 of 23     

expresses a profound physiological truth, for in the final analysis, if the word grass is allowed to stand for any type of plant life, all flesh is grass.
     Now depending exactly on how the count is made, the word flesh is to be found approximately 120 times in the New Testament. Of these, only eleven cases seem to be clearly used metaphorically, while another five may also be so used though they are equivocal. But at the most, sixteen cases can be pointed to which do not seem to be synonymous for "the body." The balance, 104 out of 120, are almost certainly to be taken literally. Even allowing for some differences of opinion in matters of this sort where personal bias may affect the outcome, it is clear the view held in some circles that the word flesh has primarily a psychological connotation rather than a physical one is not supported by the evidence of the majority of cases in the text.
     Charles Hodge, in presenting the case for Creationism, refers to a classic "proof text" which is found in Hebrews 12:9, where it is said that we have derived our flesh by descent from our fathers and have received our spirit directly from the Father in heaven. He notes the obvious antithesis here between body and spirit, and between the source of each, and he adds: "This is in accordance with the familiar use of the word flesh, where it is contrasted, either expressly or by implication, with the soul."
(4) He then lists some of the passages to which reference has been already made above, where the word flesh is used in a literal sense, and observes: "In all these, and in a multitude of similar passages, flesh means body and 'fathers of our flesh' means fathers of our bodies.'"
     When Paul therefore speaks of "the works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19), he is really only saying that the symptoms of the disease which afflicts our bodies are these unhappy expressions of our fallen nature. So also when he speaks of "the sins of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11), and "the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). He is not really using the word flesh in some symbolic sense. These symptoms of a fallen nature are rooted in this body of death from which we, like Paul, desire so earnestly to be delivered (Romans 7:24). * For he discovered, as we all do, that in us, that is, in our bodies, dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7:18).

     It may seem that we are viewing the body as inherently evil, as something we might be better without. It is inherently diseased, corrupt, defective; but we could not do without it, for God has constituted man as a composite 

4. Charles A. Hodge, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1973 reprint, vol. II, p.71; being Part II, Anthropology, chapter 3, section 3 on creationism.
* When Paul speaks of the conflict within, he speaks of it as a conflict between the intentions of his mind and the demands of his body, the "members of his body" being the source of his defeats. For this reason he cries out "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" The phrase "this body of death" is a familiar Hebraism, such as is to be observed in a different context but in the same form in Psalm 47:8 and 48:1.

     pg.19 of 23     

of body and spirit, more like a centaur of classical antiquity than simply a rider on a horse. Paul says rightly that we do not want to be disembodied, but re-embodied with a perfect body as was originally planned for our spirit to animate. "For in this [body] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our new house [new body] which is from heaven. . . . For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened [by its defectiveness]: not that we would be unclothed [disembodied] but clothed upon in order that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). And in verse 5 he adds significantly: "He that has wrought [made] us for the self-same thing is God."
     So we have perhaps a clue here to the etiology of our problem, how the body interacts with the spirit to communicate its own defectiveness to something which comes perfect from the hand of God. Our body inherits a disease. In due course this disease, acting from within, infects the created spirit by imposing upon it temptations to disobedience to which it ultimately yields. Some yield very early in life; some a little later. But all yield in the end, save He who did not have this disease within his flesh; for though He also was tempted, his temptations always came to Him from outside. If we are right in applying the word sin to the disease itself, then it would clearly be more correct to translate Hebrews 4:15: "[He] was in all points tempted like as we are, yet apart from sin." The Greek word choris () translated "without" in most versions is elsewhere frequently rendered "apart from." There is no doubt that this is the more correct rendering as most lexicons bear out. And indeed some modern translations have observed this fact (Young's Literal Translation, Rotherham's The Emphassized Bible and Williams
TITLES), though a great many have not done so.
     Smith and Goodspeed have rendered the phrase "without committing any sin," but it is almost certain that if this had been the intention of the author he would not have employed this construction at all. This kind of sinlessness is unequivocally intended in John 8:7, where we find the words "Let him that is without sin," etc., represented in the original by the single Greek word anamartetos (). That is not what Hebrews 4:15 is telling us. What we are being told here is that when the Lord Jesus was tempted there was nothing in Him which would provide a foothold for Satan to weaken his defenses. He said, "The prince of this world comes and has nothing in Me" (John 14:30). Both the First and the Last Adam were alike in this that the first temptation came to them entirely from outside. Unlike ourselves, their bodies were not corrupted in such a way as to pressure the spirit towards evil, in the sense that our bodies do. The Lord's hunger in the desert was not in any way a corrupted appetite. "In Him is no sin" (1 John 3:5), no disease.
     We know now that there are strange and formerly unrecognized interactions between the chemistry of the body and the behaviour of the spirit. If  

     pg.20 of 23     

the chemistry of the body has been deranged, it is obvious that the spirit must suffer some damage also. We know that this chemistry is deranged in some types of people whose spirit is disturbed. There is growing evidence in certain forms of depression that the lithium level is responsible. We also know from personal experience that spiritual depression is characteristic of physical fatigue, a fact which should have been apparent enough in the light of the disciples' sleepiness at the time of the Lord's special need (Mark 14:37). But we also recognize today that coronary insufficiency (a purely physical defect) can cause a similar depression that may be quite profound and seems to be unmanageable unless the physical root cause is corrected somewhat.
     Aberrant forms of behaviour are known to arise from certain environmental contaminations such as lead in the air, and from dietary deficiencies (lack of salt for example), and from unwanted chemicals ingested or inhaled, or even admitted percutaneously from salves or lotions or dressings of one kind or another. This is a whole new area of modern research and even the present findings should give us cause to rethink the theological problems involved in the relationship between Original Sin and our individual response to it.
     The reverse reaction is also true. An outflow of spiritual energy can leave the body physically depressed. Ministers often face Monday morning with physical energies severely depleted. Elijah won a tremendous spiritual victory on Mount Carmel, only to find himself so exhausted that the proper divinely appointed therapy was purely physical in nature: sleep and food, sleep and food (1 Kings 19:4-8). Searching within his own soul Elijah mistakenly saw himself as spiritually depleted, and despaired for the spiritual welfare not only of himself but of his people (verse 4). But God knew better where the trouble really lay. Some of us have not yet learned to apply this truth in our own lives. It is obvious that there is a continuous interaction between body and spirit and between spirit and body, and all too frequently it is to the detriment of the spirit. It is not too difficult to see how a diseased body could infect a spirit which, though perfect at first, is so closely engaged in its processes and so intimately dependent upon its operation.

     Augustine held that we each inherit from Adam by natural generation the corruption of his body, and by imputation the guilt of his sin by which that corruption was introduced. Pelagius, his contemporary, entirely rejected this view. Each individual starts, he held, as a perfect being free from defect of spirit or body, as Adam was when first created. It is by active sin, imitating as it were Adam's history, that each man becomes a sinner and subject to death. It ought therefore to be possible by the right environment and correct training, education, and example, for a man to grow up sinless.
     Calvin and the Reformers followed Augustine and held that man inherits 

     pg.21 of 23     

a defective body and assumes by imputation the guilt of Adam's sin. Between the two, man's nature is wholly corrupted from the very beginning of his individual existence and is under just condemnation. Arminians have held a view midway between the Augustinian and the Pelagian views. We indeed inherit Adam's corrupted nature, but not his guilt. Infants are therefore innocent by nature, whether baptized or not, until they become guilty when they commit actual sins. That they inherit their souls from their parents does not make them guilty, though it does inevitably lead to guilt when voluntary expression is given to the inherent fallen nature by yielding to temptation. Thus Original Sin is transmitted and in due time erupts into sinful action which results in actual guilt. No child needs to be taught to sin.
     Midway in time between Augustine and the Reformers (and Arminius, of course) we have Peter Lombard and his contemporaries at the school of St. Victor (Hugo and Abelard among them) attempting to formulate a more precise doctrine. Peter himself was not so sure about the inheritance of guilt, but he concluded that we certainly inherit the injury itself, and with this injury we inherit the inevitable penalty of becoming a sinner.
     Infant baptism was predicated by Augustine on the presumption of inherited guilt. By baptism in the name of Jesus Christ this inherent guilt is removed and a kind of righteousness (perhaps innocence would be a more appropriate word) replaces the imputed guilt of Original Sin until the time of accountability is reached. Baptism does not remove the corruption itself, but does cover the inherited guilt. Although Lutherans believe that the soul is derived from the parents by a process akin to spiritual generation, they believe that the corruption that is inherited is strictly physical. According to Luther the propagation of sin is exclusively physical. Augustine held a somewhat similar view, though he inclined towards Creationism in the matter of the origin of the soul. Nevertheless he believed that the corruption of human nature was propagated by "bad seed." But he does not seem to have been able to crystallize his own thinking completely. Perhaps the problem he had as a creationist was to account for the corruption of a pure spirit created by God merely by its introduction into an impure body procreated by the parents. How did the flesh corrupt the spirit?
      Peter Lombard struggled with this problem and concluded that the male seed is somehow stained: in the act of procreation by concupiscence ("eager desire") which he, like Augustine, assumed to be something evil. Yet in Scripture concupiscence is not necessarily evil. In Luke 22:15 it is applied to the Lord's eager desire to share a certain Passover with the disciples. In 1 Peter 1:12 it is used of the angels' eager desire to understand the purposes of God in the matter of man's salvation. In Hebrews 6:11 it refers to the genuine concern that the Lord's people may have for one another's spiritual welfare. Peter Lombard presumably shared a rather widespread feeling that the act of procreation had something inherently sinful about it. 

      pg.22 of 23      

     In whatever way the factor is inherited, the factor itself is by Calvin and in Scripture frequently designated by the word SIN (in the singular). This sin is the root of all physical evil (sickness and death) and all spiritual evil. It is a disease, transmissible from body to body by procreation, and in the individual from body to spirit � where the symptoms appear as SINS. These sins are not merely like boils that erupt at the surface as a deeper infection runs its course. They are willed expressions of a corrupt nature for which the individual is not merely pitied as a sick man but held responsible as a guilty one. The disease itself cannot be treated or cured by being forgiven or punished, but must be healed. The symptoms which are expressions of it must be either punished, or forgiven on the grounds of penalty borne by someone else. To ignore these symptoms is not only to encourage their expression but to conceal the disease, and this has been habitually man's unfruitful method of dealing with the ills of human society. But in order to prevent the total corruption of the individual from becoming the total corruption of society itself, God has exercised the Common Grace of restraint. And part of this restraint has been the creation of the true Church, that body of the redeemed who are placed in the world not to redeem it by saving all men but to preserve it from total corruption by acting as a light to dispel the darkness and as salt to preserve against its total self-destruction.
      This, then, is the background of the concept of the Total Depravity of man, how it may have come about, how the roots of it are transmitted from generation to generation in every natural born individual, and what it has meant in human history. It is a depravity of the most profound kind because it has made human behaviour fundamentally suicidal, and it is Total Depravity because in every individual naturally born the motivation of all behaviour has been poisoned at the source. While the individual may, by the restraining Common Grace of God, be kept from actions which might otherwise be more evil, only the transforming experience of spiritual rebirth, amounting to a re-creation of the image of God in the heart of the individual, can fundamentally change this motivation and consciously bring it into conformity with the will of God. 

     pg.23 of 23     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter

Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us