I heard a sermon a couple of weeks ago on "total depravity," and the preacher was for it. Of course, he was also against it.
That nexus of views is unsurprising. Surprising was the fact that I heard the sermon from the lips of a former Methodist turned Southern Baptist. The former denomination stems from Arminius, who emphasizes a prevenient grace that restores free will in humanity, and the latter denomination speaks so little about total depravity that I've never otherwise heard a sermon on this topic in a Southern Baptist church.
To my further surprise, given his break from Calvinism, Arminius himself seems to have accepted the doctrine, for I've found him cited as accepting it in volume 1, page 252, of The Writings of James Arminius, translated by James Nichols and W.R. Bagnall (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956). Not having seen the actual words of Arminius, I infer that he means that individuals are totally depraved outside of the effects of prevenient grace, but since everyone receives this sort of grace, which restores free will, then no one remains totally depraved.
John Calvin, on the other hand, argues that everyone remains totally depraved and that no individual can freely choose to accept salvation. Perhaps someone can set me straight on this point of Calvinist theology. Does "total depravity" refer only to the will?
I ask because the expression itself seems to imply far more -- a total depravity of every aspect of every human being. But that seems to me to be empirically falsifiable, so I must not understand the term, for people naturally seem often to respond positively to "the good" and negatively to "evil."
As an example of "total depravity," the preacher whom I referred to above told of an alcoholic who had forgotten his 9-year-old daughter in his truck outside a bar in extremely cold weather while he drank for hours inside, only to find her later so severely frostbitten that she lost fingers, toes, and ears. The man attempted to push this experience from his memory, but when later confronted with how he had destroyed his daughter's life, he broke down into tears of bitter regret.
But if this man were totally depraved, as I would most naturally understand the expression, then he would have been indifferent to what he had done . . . so my natural understanding must be wrong.
I'll need to look into this point more closely, but perhaps some generous reader could briefly clarify the point.