“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5 (NRSV)
It did not take humankind very long to change God’s mind that all that God had made was very good (Genesis 1:31) to being sorry for having made humankind (Genesis 6:6)! From Adam and Eve’s violation of the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel, we now see that the human situation had eroded to the point that “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”
I believe that this illustrates well what we as Christians of the Reformed tradition refer to as total depravity. According to the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms “total depravity” is: “The view characteristic in Reformed theology that sinfulness pervades all areas of life or the totality of human existence.” (p. 284) Human beings had plumbed the depths of wickedness to the point that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. Not one thought crossed a person’s mind that was not evil … and only evil …and continually. Is it any wonder that Lord was grieved to the heart? Is it any wonder that God was ready to wash His hands through a flood of what human beings had become? But Noah found favor in God’s sight and that might just mean that some inclination of the thoughts of Noah were partially evil intermittently. Now if that is a true statement, then we can understand what the late Dr. Shirley Guthrie writes of total depravity in Christian Doctrine Revised Edition.
He writes: “Total depravity, correctly understood, means that although both Christians and non-Christians can do much good, nothing we do is free from the corruption of sinful self-interest. It means that although there may be all kinds of progress in history, human beings themselves are monotonously the same, repeating over and over again, the little drama in the Garden of Eden.” (p. 225) He adds: “total depravity means that we are not free wholeheartedly, without reservation or qualification, to love and let ourselves be loved by God and the people with whom we live. In this sense, good and bad people alike, Christians and non-Christians, we are ‘slaves to sin’ – slaves trapped by the anxiety, division within ourselves, and self-contradictions that result from twisted relationships in which we all live. This is a trap from which we cannot free ourselves, no matter how hard we try.” (p. 226)
The good news is that while we cannot free ourselves from our total depravity, God provided a way through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Asking God’s forgiveness of our sins and placing our trust in Jesus enable us to find favor in God’s sight.
O Lord, thank You for loving us even though we are totally depraved and for redeeming us from the snare of sin from which we could not free ourselves. Amen.