"Total Depravity"

Charles C. Ryrie

Baker's Dictionary of Theology, ed. Everett F Harrison (Baker, 1960)

Total depravity is a theological term used to denote the unmeritoriousness of man in the sight of God. Negatively, the concept does not mean (1) that every man has exhibited his depravity as thoroughly as he could; (2) that sinners do not have conscience or "naive induction" concerning God; (3) that sinners will indulge in every form of sin; or (4) that depraved man does not perform actions that are good in the sight of man. Positively, total depravity means (1) that corruption extends to every part of man's nature, including all the faculties of his being; and (2) that there is nothing in man that can commend him to a righteous God. Calvinists trace depravity to an inherent corruption of nature inherited from Adam. Until the time of Augustine this idea of original sin was relatively undeveloped by the Fathers, and the semi-Pelagian reaction to the teachings of Augustine finds its successor today in Arminianism which denies total depravity, the guilt of original sin, and the loss of free will, and which affirms involvement in the sin of Adam to the extent of giving mankind a tendency toward sin but not a sinful nature.

(1) John Miley, Systematic Theology, I, pp. 441-533
(2) L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 244-50;
(3) L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, II, pp. 218-219.

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