Posted tagged ‘Total Depravity’

Steve Lemke on Total Depravity

October 7, 2008

Dr. Steve Lemke briefly gives his understanding of the doctrines of grace, otherwise known as the five points of Calvinism, and follows it up with what he calls “a helpful alternative” and “a softer version” in Dr. Timothy George’s acronym of ROSES.  In the following posts, I will interact with Lemke’s understanding of the five points and follow up with his take on George’s ROSES.

Of the five points, Lemke places the greatest emphasis on total depravity.  I do find this helpful because it is an appropriate starting point (only after having addressed the monergistic and theocentric marrow of Calvinism).  One of the first critiques I made of Dr. James Leo Garrett in his six-article presentation of “Dortian Calvinism” is that he devoted little to no attention to the doctrine of total depravity.  So I am glad to see that Lemke has taken up this important doctrine, although I disagree with his understanding of it.

In his description of TULIP, Lemke writes the following on total depravity:

“Understood in the fully Calvinist sense, ‘total depravity’ means that infants are born with original sin, and are thus ‘dead’ spiritually (Eph. 2:1-3), and utterly incapable of responding to God without God’s election.”

In fairness, Lemke is not giving a detailed description of totally depravity, but even in this one sentence summary, there are several errors in his presentation of the Calvinistic understanding of total depravity.  The fact that infants are born with [original] sin is not held only by Calvinists.  Indeed, human inability as a result of sin has been believed by both Arminians and Calvinists.  Responding to God was not directly related to “God’s election” as much as how they understood the nature of God’s grace (saving and efficacious for Calvinists and enabling and prevenient [or persuasive] for Arminians).  In Article III of the Remonstrance (the Arminian declaration), it states: