Total Inability / Total Depravity


by Mike Ratliff

Those of us who dearly love Reformation Theology often use the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” to represent the five points. I will be posting a 5 part series on the 5 points. One of my favorite books about this is The Doctrines of Grace by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken. I will use this book extensively in this series along with others by R.C. Sproul, John Owen, and Martin Luther. However, my primary source will be The Bible.

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Original Sin, Total Depravity, and Free Will


by Mike Ratliff

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (NASB) 

Sacred Scripture’s diagnosis of sin is as a universal deformity of human nature found at every point in every person (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:9-23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8-10 see above). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament describe sin as rebellion against God’s rule, missing the mark God set for us to aim at, transgressing God’s law, offending God’s purity by defiling oneself, and incurring guilt before God the Judge. The moral deformity is dynamic: sin is an energy of irrational, negative, and rebellious reaction to God. It is a spirit of fighting God in order to play god. The root of sin is pride and enmity against God, the spirit seen in Adam’s first transgression, and sinful acts always have behind them thoughts and desires that one way or another express the willful opposition of the fallen heart to God’s claims on our lives.  Continue reading

What is moral inability?


by Mike Ratliff

19 Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. (Joshua 24:19 NASB)

When my faith was young, Joshua’s statement in Joshua 24:19 seemed puzzling. Of course, I was a member in some churches that did their best to ignore anything resembling deep theological study. I remember a Q&A session with one of my former pastors in which this passage was read (not by me) then he was asked to explain it. The answer was that this was just an abstraction not to be taken literally and not to be applied to the Church age. Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading

What is Total Inability?


by Mike Ratliff

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“ There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “ Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“ The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “ Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “ There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9-18 NASB)

The “T” in the Doctrines of Grace “TULIP” acronym stands for “Total Depravity.” The name for this point is unfortunate. While what it implies is true, it also lends a definition to this point that gives many people the wrong idea about what we are saying when unregenerate Man is totally depraved. That makes it sound like all outside of Christ are monsters. In a spiritual sense that is true, but in our experience in this world, some people are better than others. There are horrible criminals, such as terrorists, to be sure, but there are also very charitable people who do good works who would be insulted if you called them Christian. Continue reading

Trespasses and Sins


by Mike Ratliff

1 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, 2 ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας· (Ephesians 2:1,2 NA28)

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins  2 in which you once walked according the world system of this age, according to ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1,2 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

I was requested recently for input into a discussion between professing Christians that had begun about what is proper worship and what is not using some of the presentations from the recent Strange Fire conference, but had taken a “strange turn” between a few attacking the theology of those who held to the Sovereignty of God in all things, especially salvation and those who were defending it. By the time I got to the discussion the “back and forth” and become quite terse and there was one very intense person insisting that “Sovereignty” was not a Biblical word, but a man-made, theological word since it was not found her King James Bible. She was refuted quite well by several people so I didn’t get involved in it. However, I did send my friend an exegetical analysis of Ephesians 2:1-9 showing that those who insist on Salvation according to Free Will must be inconsistent with Ephesians 2:8,9. It was from that “experience” that I decided we should take a closer look at two words found throughout the New Testament, “trespasses” and “sins.”  Continue reading

Original Sin and Total Depravity


by Mike Ratliff

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10 NASB) 

Sacred Scripture’s diagnosis of sin is as a universal deformity of human nature found at every point in every person (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:9-23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8-10 see above). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament describe sin as rebellion against God’s rule, missing the mark God set for us to aim at, transgressing God’s law, offending God’s purity by defiling oneself, and incurring guilt before God the Judge. The moral deformity is dynamic: sin is an energy of irrational, negative, and rebellious reaction to God. It is a spirit of fighting God in order to play God. The root of sin is pride and enmity against God, the spirit seen in Adam’s first transgression, and sinful acts always have behind them thoughts and desires that one way or another express the willful opposition of the fallen heart to God’s claims on our lives.  Continue reading

Are Unbelievers Spiritually Disabled or Spiritually Dead?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, 2 ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας· 3 ἐν οἷς καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν, καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί· (Ephesians 2:1-3 NA27)

1 And you being dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience 3 among whom also we all conducted ourselves once in the lusts of our flesh, performing the desires and thoughts of the flesh, and we were by nature children of wrath as also the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

During his sermon today, James MacDonald made a comment that we need to be careful how we “label” unbelievers. He used the analogy that just as you wouldn’t call someone a “cripple” or “retarded” you should be careful in how you refer them as well. He came up the term “spiritually disabled.” While that would probably get a nod and a smile from those all about Political Correctness, it is not Biblical. The Word of God did not “beat and around the bush” attempting to not offend “unbelievers.” In fact, our Lord himself used such hard preaching in John 6 to purge his followers of the marginal that in John 6:66 the Word of God says, “Ἐκ τούτου πολλοὶ [ἐκ] τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω καὶ οὐκέτι μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ περιεπάτουν.” Or, “From this time many of his disciples went back and no longer were walking with him.” Why did they walk away as in 1 John 2:19? There is more to being a Christian than just making a profession.  Continue reading

Moral Inability


 

by Mike Ratliff

But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. (Joshua 24:19 ESV)

When my faith was young, Joshua’s statement in Joshua 24:19 seemed puzzling. Of course, I was a member in some churches that did their best to ignore anything resembling deep theological study. I remember a Q&A session with one of my former pastors in which this passage was read (not by me) then he was asked to explain it. The answer was that this was just an abstraction not to be taken literally and not to be applied to the Church age. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

Total Inability


by Mike Ratliff

As many of you know, I was in Washington, DC from Thursday last week through Sunday. My wife and I were there specifically to visit our son who is a first year Resident at GWU Hospital in their Emergency Medicine program. We flew home on Monday. We didn’t go to visit the monuments. However, we did spend a lot of time walking through the Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, and Georgetown areas of our nation’s Capital. I wrote my first impressions of this on Friday in my post Reflections from Washington, DC. After some further reflection on what God was revealing to me through this, I have come to the conclusion that I must post a series on the Doctrines of Grace.

Those of us who dearly love these doctrines often use the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” to represent the five points. One of my favorite books about this is The Doctrines of Grace by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken. I will use this book extensively in this series along with others by R.C. Sproul, John Owen, and Martin Luther. However, my primary source will be The Bible.

Continue reading