REPROBATIONISM SIMPLIFIED
© 2008 Bob Freeman

   There are at least several groups that teach the total depravity of man, including the Catholic Church and many Protestant and Baptist denominations. The doctrine may be summarized as the belief that all humans, except the Lord, are born sinners and unable to keep the law because of innate depravity. The condition is supposedly the result of Adam's sin. However, the curse placed on Adam in Genesis 3:17-19 has to do only with physical life. The part having to do with death is worded in such a way that no one should confuse it to mean spiritual death.
   Reprobationists teach that we all are born spiritually dead because Adam sinned and died spiritually. This is directly contrary to what is repeated several times in Ezekiel 18: The soul that sins shall die. In order to attempt substantiation of the idea that we are all born spiritually dead, we must take what is stated about physical death in some passages as referring to spiritual death. An example is Romans 5 that, in fact, refers to the curse as stated in Genesis 3.
   Many, if not all, believers in reprobationism point to Psalm 51:5 as a basis for their doctrine, in spite of the fact that the Psalms were written thousands of years after the time of Adam. We might think it strange that God would neglect telling us about such an important part of a curse until it had been in effect for so long. Also, it seems that it would have been revealed as part of the historical record instead of in a poem where King David is expressing his personal feelings of repentance.
   In Psalm 51:4, David states that he had sinned against God only. He is using a poetic hyperbole to show that he realizes after a time that his sin against God completely overshadows his offences against Uriah, Bathsheba, his child and all the rest of his kingdom. It shouldn't surprise us when he uses another hyperbole to express his feelings as to his estimation of himself. Many of us can relate to his feelings because of what we have felt when God has opened our eyes as to sins that we have committed after trusting God for salvation.
   If we take what David wrote as being literally true, then we have to take the entire word of God as being literally true. For instance, in Matthew 3:7, 12:34 and 23:33; Luke 3:7, the Lord refers to some of the people coming for baptism as generation of vipers. Since generation of vipers means offspring of serpents, Christ was saying that those people were hatched from snakes' eggs. And, if we follow the rule laid down in the interpretation of Psalms 51, all humans are hatched from snakes' eggs. Would any of us want to call God a liar?

continued at top of next column

Reprobationism Simplified (cont)

   In using Psalms 51 to support their doctrine, reprobationists must first take David's statements as literal revelation. Then, they have to assume that being conceived in sin (in other words illegitimately) implies being born programmed to commit sin. Then, they must assume that what he said about himself applies to the whole human race. So the entire theory involves one irrational assumption and two great leaps of faith.
   If the descendants of Adam sin because Adam sinned, we should wonder why Adam sinned. Adam was made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26, 5:1) and Adam begat Seth in his image and likeness. We know that God (Genesis 2:7) breathed the breath of life into Adam's nostrils and, according to Zechariah 12:1, God forms the spirit of man within him. We know that God cannot abide sin without exacting payment, so it's impossible to believe that he would create something sinful. Yet, the doctrine of reprobationism says that we are sinners when we come into this world.
   Since Christ is descended from Adam, the total depravity theory, as some Baptists accept it, includes the assumption that the sin nature is passed from generation to generation through the males. This is in spite of the fact that Eve, not Adam, received the part of the curse that has to do with reproduction. And, that curse also has to do with the woman's body, not her spirit. The spiritual part of the entire curse has to do with the serpent and the seed of the woman. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man many times and the Greek word he used for man is equivalent to the Hebrew word Adam. He did not refer to himself as the Son of Eve. Catholicism includes the belief that the Lord's mother was immaculately conceived and therefore did not inherit the Adamic Curse. However, it further teaches that Mary's body was translated into Heaven after she died. We might wonder why she died if she wasn't under the Adamic Curse.
   Romans 5:19 states that many were made sinners but it also states that shall many be made righteous. The second expression concerns legal standing and the first does also. Otherwise, the comparison is absurd. If we say that we sin because many were made sinners, what is implied by II Corinthians 5:21 that says that Christ was made sin? Did he sin in his heart while hanging on the cross? No.

continued at top of next column

Reprobationism Simplified (cont)

   Romans 9:6-23 has to do with vessels of honor, vessels of dishonor, vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath. That passage is cited by some as proof that God has shaped the vessels of dishonor to be fit for destruction. However, the point of the whole passage is stated in verses 24 through 26. The Israelites were vessels of honor, but God has chosen some who are Jews and some who are gentiles to be vessels of mercy. Pharaoh was a man that God raised up to a position of great honor in the world, but he gave no sign of being a vessel of mercy.
   John 3:3 would seem to indicate that all humans are created as sinners, except that the word man that Nicodemus uses is never applied to children. Also, we have to consider what the Lord had to say about children and that he blessed them. Is there any record of his having laid hands on an adult and blessing him? In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said of children, of such is the kingdom of heaven. In Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16, he said of such is the kingdom of God. Children must have discipline in order to develop properly, but they certainly don't need to be told that they are born sinners.
   To summarize the doctrine of reprobationism, it is the belief that God brings us into the world programmed to commit sin, passes a law that we can't keep because we're sinners and then sends us to hell because we don't keep the law.
   Why do we sin? Because we deceive ourselves into thinking that doing so gives us some advantage at the time. Why did Christ not sin? Because he chose to do the will of the Father. In so doing, he was the great mystery of Godliness (I Timothy 3:16).

Bob Freeman

return to index