T.U.L.I.P. – Total Depravity

A while ago, I told a friend I’d write a paper up explaining the Biblical premise for predestination/election. Instead of doing that, I’ve decided to make it into a series of blog posts. These will serve the purpose of explaining the cores of my belief and, of course, bringing glory to God for His word and His amazing plan (if you are already familiar with my beliefs feel free to skip these. Like I said, I did have a person specifically ask me about this).

Most of my close friends know I consider myself a Calvinist. I guess I’ve never really verbalized it like this, but there it is in writing … I am a Calvinist. Sometimes, I think I tend to be a “hyper” one, but the jury is still out on that one ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’d also like to point out that I professed a belief in the five basic points of Calvinism before I even knew who John Calvin was, what Calvinism is or any of that (I didn’t even know about the protestant reformation at all. I was basically a poster kid for ignorance).ย  It wasn’t until someone called me a Calvinist that I looked into it and realized it was an accurate term for me.

God brought me to a saving faith in January 2009. I was the queen of blasphemy for years before that claiming to be saved and a Christian when I truly was not. I mention this to point out that I’m still an infant in Christ and have much growing to do.

I am open to civilized discussion about what I believe, but I do ask that you do not viciously attack or mock my beliefs. I would treat any beliefs different from mine with respect and that’s all I ask in return.

The Doctrines of Grace include five points. These five points are commonly referred to as, “The five points of Calvinism,” or “T.U.L.I.P.”. The five points are as follows:

1. (Or T) Total Depravity of Man
2. (Or U) Unconditional Election
3. (Or L) Limited Atonement
4. (Or I) Irresistible Grace
5. (Or P) Perseverance of the Saints

Now I will further explain each point, starting with Total Depravity for today’s post.

Total depravity of man is the concept that because of the Fall the nature of man has been so affected that we cannot believe the Gospel on our own. This suggests that in our natural state we are blind/deaf to the things of the Lord. I know this flies in the face of the commonly accepted “free-will” mindset, but this truly is Biblical. The Bible tells us that while we are in bondage to our sin we will never (and are in fact incapable of) choose God over the sinfulness of our flesh. Therefore, we know our conversion to Christianity is never in any part something we can take even the smallest amount of credit for. It is only by God changing our hearts that we are moved to repent and accept Grace. We have no part in our salvation. God gets all the glory anytime a wretch, such as us, is ever saved. Here is a wonderful quote from J.I. Packer that really drives this concept home:

“Why do you “thank” God for your conversion? It is because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it. You thank God because you do not attribute your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, or prudence, or sound judgment, or good sense. You have never for one moment supposed that the decisive contribution to your salvation was yours and not God’s. You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank, not Him, but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to.” -J.I. Packer

The amount of scripture references to the evilness and wickedness of man in his natural state is endless. A great one:

As it is written: โ€œNone is righteous, no, not one;ย  no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.โ€ โ€œTheir throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.โ€ โ€œThe venom of asps is under their lips.โ€ โ€œTheir mouth is full of curses and bitterness.โ€ โ€œTheir feet are swift to shed blood;ย  in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.โ€ โ€œThere is no fear of God before their eyes.โ€ Romans 3:10-18

Here are a few more:

Ps. 51:5, Ps 58:3 and Rom 5:18-19 all touch on how we are sinners from our conception and how because of Adam being the head of the human race we have inherited his sinful nature. It’s interesting to note, I have yet to find verses to suggest we are innocent or any bit righteous at any point before God chooses to save us from our wicked ways. Scripture makes it painstakingly clear that we will only become righteous if it is God’s will.

Gen 6:5, Job 15:14-16, Ps 130:3, Ps 143:2, Pro 20:9, Ecc. 7:20, Isa 64:6, Jer 13:23, John 3:19, Rom 3:9-12, Jam 3:8, 1 John 1:8 – Because of our sinful, wicked ways we are literally incapable of doing good. (Good by God’s standard not the world’s.)

John 6:44, John 6:65, John 8:43-45, John 10:26, John 12:37-41, Rom. 3:10 -11 – Again, because of our sinful nature Scripture is clear that we are unable to come to God (or believe in him) by our own free will. Jesus was very clear on this in his teachings.

And lastly, we are unable to understand the Truth. John 14:17, 1 Cor. 2:14

I think that about sums up the “T” in T.U.L.I.P . I’m not sure when the next post in this series will come … hopefully soon and it will be on the “U” which is unconditional election.


21 thoughts on “T.U.L.I.P. – Total Depravity

  1. This is awesome. You’ve got me considering whether I ought to start my own blog on this site, one dedicated to theological issues. It’s a tempting thought.

    Anyway, it’s important to keep in mind that the doctrines of grace didn’t begin with Calvin. Luther had very much the same debate when he penned his famous treatise “Bondage of the Will.” But it didn’t begin with Luther either. Augustine articulated this soteriology over and against Pelagius, but it didn’t begin with him either. The doctrines of grace (nicknamed Calvinism) find their origin in the apostolic teachings of sacred Scripture which you have beautifully articulated above.


    • ๐Ÿ™‚

      I know they didn’t start with those two men, I was just showing how ignorant I was by not even knowing the slightest bit of the “big names” in Protestant history.

      Hmm. Maybe you should start a blog! Maybe you could post stuff from your classes?

  2. “The Bible tells us that while we are in bondage to our sin we will never (and are in fact incapable of) choose God over the sinfulness of our flesh.”


    John 8:44-45 is taken out of context. Jesus was not speaking to all of man, but to those who were seeking to get Him killed.

    John 10:26 doesn’t make any sense. We do not believe because we are not of His sheep? Again, taken out of context. Jesus is our Shepherd…and we are His flock. Read ALL of John 10 and not just a verse.

    John 12:37-41…again, not speaking about all of man, but speaking of those who did not believe in Him being the Son of God

    And now I’m tired. And my head hurts. And I have a comment waiting for me on my blog. So I shall depart. :p

    • – The ones seeking to get him killed were, obviously, unregenerate. I don’t see how this is taken out of context it is referring to non-believers … as believers never wanted to kill Jesus.

      -I have read all of John 10, thanks (I could have just said, read your Bible and it’s pretty clear but I put scripture references for a reason). It does make sense because it is saying that believers, i.e. regenerate man, i.e. the elect will hear His voice and are part of his flock … unbelievers (every man in his natural state) are not.

      -Again, non-believers obviously don’t believe.

      Also, I listed many more and perhaps clearer verses. I suggest looking up and reading all the verses I quoted. Or just read the book of Romans, it’s pretty crystal clear there too.

  3. you didn’t answer my question of where does it say in the bible that man will never and is incapable of, choosing God over sinfulness?
    i know for a fact that we are all sinners, yet i know that i choose to follow the path that God has layed before me. i have a choose (free will) to follow His ways or to turn around and walk away.

  4. Catholics agree it is through God’s grace we are saved, as we are and never will be “good enough” to seek out God and merit salvation for ourselves. We agree that God’s grace MUST reach out to us first, while we are still unregenerate, as we are utterly unable to do so ourselves. In that sense we believe in what is best described as “total inability.” On the other hand, total depravity holds that man can do no good thing whatsoever, even apart from the question of salvation, and that we do not find to be the case in Scripture. Romans 2 is a great example. In speaking of Gentiles who don’t even have the Law, much less the Gospel, Paul describes them as being able to be patient in well-doing, receive eternal life, do good, be justified, do by nature what the law requires, has the law written on their hearts, and able to keep the precepts of the law. This is a far cry from being unable to do any good thing, ever.

    If no one whatsoever seeks God, much less is capable of it, how does one explain that the Old Testament has a plethora of examples of people who did seek the Lord (before they could even hear the Gospel at that)? And how is it that the Scriptures are always entreating us to “seek the Lord” if we are not even capable of such? Just a few examples:

    2 Chronicles 19:2-3, 2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 2 Chronicles 11:16, Deuteronomy 4:29, Ps 34:10, Isaiah 55:6, Hosea 3:5, Amos 5:6 Zephaniah 2:3

    It seems to me that to properly understand verses like that out of Romans 3 we need to first understand the way in which the Hebrews used hyperbole and words like “all” and how exaggeration/contrast were common motifs in Hebrew expression.

    Anyhow it’s super late so I can’t comment more, but those are my initial thoughts in general. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Erika. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I was going to type out to you about how we can reconcile the “good” in the unregenerate person with the doctrine of total depravity but I found a article that already says it, so I’m just going to link it. I’m tired and being kind of lazy I suppose. I apologize. Anyway, I should have been more clear in my posting that total depravity is looking at man through God’s view (if you will allow that analogy) as opposed as to comparing men against ourselves. http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/01/the_apparent_good_in_natural_m_1.php I hope that link clears it up a little more.

      As far as the OT question … they were saved by the same process. By this I mean, God causing them to seek Him.

  5. As a hellbound Arminian, I believe in both TD, and total inability. My line of thinking ties in with ir/resistible grace, which I will explain when I’m on a computer

  6. Both Arminius and Calvin believed in the total depravity of all human beings as maintained in Scripture. And both Arminius and Calvin believed in the total inability of all human beings to do anything towards salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The major difference between the two concerning their doctrine of depravity appertains to the solution of God in overcoming the effects of the fall. For Calvin, an unconditionally elect person must first be infused with faith in Christ Jesus in order to be justified and regenerated. For Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, an unconditionally elect person must first be regenerated and then infused with faith in Christ Jesus in order to be justified.

    For Arminius (and most of his followers), a person must be graced by the Spirit of God in the overcoming of the depraved nature so that the person may be freed to believe in Christ Jesus. If such is accomplished and not resisted, then the person is justified and regenerated. But sinners must be enabled by the Spirit of God because they are totally and utterly depraved, captured and enslaved by sin, and completely undone.

  7. I don’t know what all the Calvinists believe,but I call myself a Christian. Plain and simple,follower of Christ. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I believe the Spirit has to draw you to God,that’s his job right? We can’t do anything to get our salvation,nor loose it. We are wretched sinners before coming to Christ. So I guess I believe this point. Erica and Hollie,not being mean,but it sounds very complicated and I believe the gospel should be simple. It’s simple. The Spirit draws you,then you receive Christ after repenting for your sins,and you seek everyday to live for Him and glorifying Him. Looking forward to your other posts,Hollie! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I think certain things in life or difficult/simple to certain people. I plan to write another entry kind of addressing what you’ve said here. Oh, and I call myself a Christian too ๐Ÿ™‚ I rarely refer to myself as a Calvinist, but a Christian instead as that’s a more accurate term. Calvin was certainly a fallible man, and I’m not one of his followers (as I don’t agree with him on everything). Here’s a quote that kind of gets at the Calvinist/Christian thing:

      “There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer – I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.” (C. H. Spurgeon, a Defense of Calvinism)

  8. I’m looking forward to reading the other posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Heather – no one here is debating the gospel. This post was on the nature of man, and it’s a worthy discussion. Theology is not simple given the plethora of false doctrine floating around today’s churches. Erica and Hollie are wise to ask questions and seek answers.

  9. Christina- It sounded like Hollie was putting our her beliefs,not asking questions. It just sounded very complicated. I am looking forward to reading more,I just don’t theology I don’t guess. Or if I do I’m not sure about it all.

    • Heather – I’m sure you do theology. The definition of theology is simply the study of God, or the study of religious faiths, religious truths, etc. Anyone that is a Christian should be doing theology daily.

  10. Heather – I think part of learning theology involves comparing your beliefs to the beliefs held by others. In this case, Hollie and Erica are comparing Calvinist and Arminian beliefs. For me at least, this is a form of asking “questions” and being analytical when it comes to the Christian faith.

    I think an overall lack of strong, Biblical doctrine (theology) is a serious concern to the Christian faith. As a result, we have an abundance of “Christian” churches teaching fluffy, feel-good messages to eager congregations who want nothing more than an easy-to-digest sermon. As someone who grew up in a church like this, I’m hungry for MORE. Yes, Jesus died for our sins. But what else do we know about Him? About us? About God’s plan, His view of creation, His will for our lives? If we don’t know the God we’re worshiping, we’re worshiping an idol. Theology is important. Essential. Yes, it can be complicated. But I do believe it’s our responsibility to dive in and really dig into what Scripture has to teach us. Hollie and Erica (and other friends too) are all very passionate about doing so. It would be wrong of us to view their eagerness as anything but passion for the Lord.

  11. We talked about this tonight in our Explore class. Interestingly enough they don’t require we believe all aspects of T.U.L.I.P to become remembers (which I’m glad because I have more studying to do before I’m willing to be 100% ready to affirm that as my belief(s) one way or another). The elders of the church, obviously do, but the lay members don not. I loved the way my pastor explained it. It clicked with me that way, although I do wish to read more about it.

  12. I understand now! Thanks for explaining ladies. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, I do a lot of Theology. Sometimes my blonde REALLY shows! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    At college I just did regular classes and some Bible classes,but no Theology classes,mostly men did those. I agree Christina that it is important to know more about God and His Word. I guess I meant the way they were explaining the way to salvation or whatever they were explaining sounded complicated. Guess that is what I meant. And it is good to know what others believe about things.

  13. Pingback: T.U.L.I.P. – Unconditional Election « Freckles And Faith

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