01 January 2003             
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

Debunking Total Depravity

By Edgar Jones

The doctrine of total depravity has roots in Paul and continues through the centuries, raising its ugly head in Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and on to modern evangelists and many modern Christians.  It basically says two things with which we are concerned here:
1. Every human being inherits the stain of sin and the disposition to sin from Adam.

2. We are helpless of ourselves to do a righteous deed, including turning to Jesus for salvation.  
Paul described his situation this way:


[24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
He emphasized that there are no exceptions, no, not even one:


[9] What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin,
10] as it is written: "None is righteous (dikaios), no, not one; . . .."
You can learn here how Paul then proceeded to expose his perfidity in tampering with God's Word, for all of the Old Testament texts to which he appealed in order to sustain this point utterly fail him when we look at them in their contexts. Not one supports him, No, not one! This is one of the best examples of Paul's flagrant tampering with God's Word.

But Paul said that there is none righteous, not one!  The fall of Adam universally plunged the race into the realm of sin and death, for, as he asserted again,


[22] For as in Adam all die . . ..
One Christian apologist who argues in favor of this doctrine has implied by his title that we are all Born Bad.

But we are not born bad, and I am here to tell you that there is not one whiff of Truth in this abominable doctrine!  The error arises from the belief that the entire Bible is the Word of God and is a repository of Truth from Genesis to Revelation, resulting in Paul's word being taken as the Word of God.  That this is an erronious view of the Bible and scripture in general we learn from no less an authority than Jesus of Nazareth -- if we will only listen to him:


[23] But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.


[8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.
So, you see, Mark 13:23 takes care of all his successors, including Paul.  John 10:8 takes care of all who came before him, pretending to be purveyors of Truth.  So, what is transpiring today among the churchmen is precisely the same error that characterized his enemies in First Century Israel:


    [39] You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me;
    [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
If we will only go to Jesus, listen carefully to his utterances and believe him, we will receive the Word of Truth, and we will have life.  This is certainly true for the present topic, because we need only listen to Jesus to quickly dispell the darkness of Paul and the churchmen.

The Righteous
Paul asserted that
there is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10).  This is a universal condition that goes back to Adam and his fall into sin and death (I Cor.15:22).   The Greek for righteous is dikaios.  Let us now refer to one simple statement of Jesus.  Just one, that's all we need:


    [34] Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,
    [35] that upon you may come all the righteous
    (dikaios) blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent (dikaios) Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi'ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
If you are familiar with Genesis you will know that Abel was the son of Adam.  Therefore he inherited from Adam everything that anyone in the whole human line has inherited.  But Jesus did not charge him with the guilt of Adam, neither did he impute to him the sin of Adam.  Instead, flatly contradicting Paul and all who listen to Paul, Jesus stated most emphatically that Abel was righteous (dikaios).  

Not only Abel, but
. . .all the righteous blood shed on earth, from Abel to Zecharia!

There is more, for example:


    [17] Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous (dikaio) men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The Little Children

Another thing that seems obvious is that all little children have inherited from their forbears everything they are ever going to inherit as a result of their birth according to the flesh. Whatever it is, whether blue eyes, white or black skin -- it is all there at birth.  Even the not obvious things, such as his Daddy's stubbornness, or her Mothers red hair, are all there and will be seen soon enough. According to the doctrine of total depravity, every little child must also be in the bondage of sin and evil, having its full stock of inheritance from the day it left the womb, if not before that.  But, were the little children depraved, Jesus would surely not have said this:


[3] Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


[13] Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people;
[14] but Jesus said, Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
Do I really need to explain it to you?  The little children are born good! There is no apologetic that can change this without contradicting Jesus of Nazareth,  who is the Truth. It is vain to counter with such ideas as the age of accountability if they have inherited the stain of sin from Adam.  Jesus stated flatly that to such belong the kingdom of heaven.

The Christian apologists nevertheless also quote Jesus to prove total depravity.  Therefore we must examine the utterances of the Lord commonly quoted to this end to discover wherein they err.  And err they do, otherwise we have Jesus contradicting himself in Truth -- a logical impossibility.  We begin with John 6:44 and 12:32.

The Drawing  

These utterances are often cited in support of Total Depravity:


    [44] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.


[32] and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.
The idea is that of point No. 2 above:
2. We are helpless of ourselves to do a righteous deed, including turning to Jesus for salvation.
Therefore, no one can come to Jesus for salvation on his own volition, since that would be a righteous deed that total depravity does not allow.  It requires that the Father draw him, otherwise the case is hopeless.  It gets a little more conplex with John 12:32, but the same thought applies.  

Do these statements of Jesus prove total depravity?  It is reasonable to suppose that they do, from the point of view of one who has first visited with Paul and learned of such a doctrine.  He then thinks to himself, Jesus must have taught this, since Paul did,  and he goes to Jesus looking for it. This is what I mean when I speak of looking at Jesus through Paul colored glasses.  But suppose one goes to Jesus first?  In that case one is not looking for totral depravity and would surely not find it.


Because the concept, total depravity, is not standing in the way and he will find something else, which is the Truth that Jesus intends we receive with this utterance.  To get at this something else, we investigate the meaning of the word, draw.  The Greek is helkuo, or its variant, helko in their various verb forms.  There are only six more places in the Greek NT, in addition to the two in the Fourth Gospel quoted above, where this word appears.  We will list all six here for your review, so that you can obtain a good feel for its meaning by seeing how it is utilized in various contexts.
We need first to examine the crucial word in this utterance, translated as follows:


    [10] Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew (helkuo) it and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus.


    [6] He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul (halkuo) it in, for the quantity of fish.
    [11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled (helkuo) the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.


    [19] But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged (helkuo) them into the market place before the rulers;


    [30] Then all the city was aroused, and the people ran together; they seized Paul and
    dragged (
    helko) him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.


    [6] But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag (helko) you into court?
Please note the following characteristics of the usages of this word, of which all NT usages are here listed:
1. In every case, the word could be rendered "dragged" as it is in the last three cases, without doing damage to the meaning of the verse.  This word clearly means to pull, draw, haul or drag something/someone against resistance.  In James, the poor man is dragged into court by the rich man; in Acts, Paul and Silas, or in the other case, only Paul, are dragged against their resistance; in John 21, we see the fishermen dragging their nets against the resistance of the sea and gravity as they haul, or attempt to haul, the fish ashore; finally, in John 18, we could as well say that Peter dragged his sword from its sheath, again against the resistance of the sheath and the weight of the sword.

2. In every case, there is a forceful relocation from one environment to another, or at least an attempt at such a relocation.  Peter's sword comes out of it sheath; the fish are drawn out of the sea; Paul and Silas are dragged into the market place and before the authorities and Paul, out of the temple, while the poor man of James is dragged into court .

3. In two cases, the forceful relocation has a similar purpose.  In one case, Paul and Silas, and in the other, the poor man of James, are dragged before authorities for judgment.
Now, let us return to Jesus' uses of this word in John 6:44 and 12:30, and we will see that in both cases, all three of these characteristic actions appy to the word helkuo that the translators have rendered into English as draw.  That is,
There is a dragging or drawing against resistance;
There is a change of environment as a result of the dragging,
And, the dragging is for the purpose of bringing persons before a judge.
All we need do is read carefully the contexts of the utterances of John 6:44 and 12:32. Please refer to your Bibles and do this now, and I think you can see, and may be astonished in seeing, what Jesus is really saying by these utterances.  I will describe it here in a little detail, but you need to check it out for yourself.  First, we repeat these utterances with the translation of helkuo rendered in English as drag or haul, as it is in the last three of the six examples listed above, and as it is in the other two incidents from the Fourth Gospel.


[44] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drags him; and I will raise him up at the last day.


[32] and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will drag all men to myself.
Looks and sounds somewhat different, doesn't it?  But we have done nothing but substitute drag for draw, and drag is perfectly legitimate because the very same translators who have placed draw in this context place drag or haul everywhere else where the word appears.  It is obvious that their choices have been dictated by the contexts, and in the case of John 6:44 and 12:32, they have chosen the mildest English word they can find to make the replacement, whereas in the others they have chosen a much harsher word.  We will examine the reason for this later, but for now let us return to the contexts of these two utterances to see what we can learn.  Can the harsher word, drag be justified?

The Context of John 12:32  

The context begins at v. 23, where he states,
The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
By this he announces that he is about to be raised to the highest glory, to be received into heaven.  It would seem that we can all agree on this.  But something else must take place first, and so he goes on immediately to explain the reason for the horror of the crucifixion by the terse utterance of the Great Principle of v. 25.  Then he continues with the promise to anyone who serves me, stating that


    [26] If any one serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.
We know what he means by these words with the "follow me" emphasis; it is the same as the statement in Luke,


[24] Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
This utterance puts meat on the Great Principle, for the cross, freely chosen by Jesus, stands for all time as the ultimate symbol of the hatred of life in this world.  If we are to follow him, so as to be where he is, each one must take up his own cross so as to share in heaven's Glory.  Then follows our critical utterance of vs. 31 and 32:


[31] Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out;
32] and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will drag all men to myself.

    There was a judgment, at that moment, of the ruler of this world. Then the crucial statement, beginning with:

      I, when I am lifted up . . ..

    This lifting up is a word that includes in its Greek original the basic idea of being lifted up to the highest place, to be glorified.  This is a reference to his resurrection to the Father in Glory.
    And then he says,
I . . . will drag all men to myself.
John interrupts this discourse with verses 36b-43, and then we have the concluding verses of the discourse, vs. 44-50 where we come to another statement of judgement -- that of the last day:


    [48]  He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
Let us now return to the three characteristics of the dragging action that are evident in the other uses of our crucial Greek word, helkuo
There is a dragging or drawing against resistance;
There is a change of environment, or a relocation, as a result of the dragging,
And, the dragging is for the purpose of bringing persons before a judge.
Are these characteristics evident in the context of John 12:32?  They surely are.  Jesus is to be resurrected to Glory, from whence he will drag all men to himself.  They resist because he is dragging them from the life on the earth that they love to judgment in Glory, which they have ample cause to fear because they have not received his sayings.  So, they must be dragged.

There is a relocation accompanying the dragging, from the earth to the throne of Glory.  It is a change of environment that all men do not relish, because they have not received his word, and so they resist and must be dragged!

And yes, there is this motion of dragging before a judge that is characteristic of other uses of this word.  All three of these characteristics are present in this context, and they clearly point to the last day, when all men will be dragged before the Lord to be judged.  This is precisely the same judgment described by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-45.

All men will be dragged from their natural habitat like fish in the net are dragged out of the sea, from the life in this world and on the earth, which they love, to stand for judgment before words they have not honored, and by which they will therefore be condemned. They (all men) will have good reason to resist.

The Context of John 6:44

Let us repeat the utterance again here:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drags him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 
Again, all three of our characteristics accompanying the use of helkuo are present.  There is the relocation or change of environment that we found before, because we are speaking of the same resurrection.  There is also, by implication, the judgement because this involves the last day that is primarily a day of judgment as indicated above, John 12:48.

But whence the resistance?  Plainly, the focus of Jesus' attention in John 6 is on those who freely come to me (vs. 35, 37, 44, 45).  These are those who shall never hunger, believes in me, will not be cast out and who has heard and learned from the Father. These will have eternal life (v. 40).  So, why do they resist so that they must be dragged?  

The answer to this question pops out when we go back to John 5:28,29:


    [28] Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
    [29] and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
There is, you see, but one resurrection in that hour that will include all; for some, to life and for some, to judgment.  Those who believe Jesus and abide by his Word will be caught up together with the unrepentant and dragged together with them, to face the Lord in Glory at the last day.  Therein is the resistance, because all will be dragged together.  

So we have, in this context as with all the others, the relocation, the resistance, and the judgment. You see, these crucial texts, John 6:44 and 12:32, say absolutely nothing relative to the horrid concept of total depravity.  No one reading them would ever imagine they did without first having visited Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and the hosts of other false prophets, past and present,  who have sought to add something to the revelations of Jesus.

Dragging or drawing (helko, helkuo) refers not to an action by which men are drawn to Jesus while yet in the flesh, but to the action of dragging all men from earth to heaven for judgment by the resurrection on the last day.  We have here the added explanation of why all men are included, for it applies to both the found and the lost and applies only to the process concurrent with the resurrection by which all souls will be transferred from earth to stand before him who will judge all on the last day.  Wherever Jesus uttered helko, he spoke of the translation from earth to heaven following the resurrection.


It is always good to seek an affirmation when great numbers of biblical scholars have reached contrary conclusions.  Did Jesus really think in these terms?  Did he really depict the gathering of all men in the resurrection as a dragging like that of dragging fish out of the sea with a net, a dragging that includes everyone, the sheep as well as the goats? Most certainly he did:


    [47] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind;
    48] when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.
    49] So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous,
    and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Come to Me/Comes to Me  

Continuing the discourse of John 6:44 above we arrive at another utterance that, like John 6:44, certain churchmen, theologians and apologists set forth in support of total depravity. It is this:


[65] And he said, This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.
Total depravity advocates explain that it is because of total depravity that no one can come to Jesus, therefore the Father must enter in and draw us in by grace.  If total depravity be rightly attributed to human beings, then this might be Jesus' reason for this statement, and those who have first visited Paul would, under that influence, tend to make the association. But is this the only reason Jesus might say such a thing?  Certainly not, and it is not the reason he uttered these words.  The introductory phrase, This is why I told you, reveals immediately that there was a specific reason that Jesus told them this, and it evidently comes from the immediately preceeding context:


    [64] But there are some of you that do not believe. For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
    [65] And he said, This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.
The utterance is specific to the apostles; it is not a general statement applying to all disciples.  Jesus knows one of them will betray him because he does not believe, and to such it is not granted by the Father to come to him. The unbelief of Judas made it impossible that he come to Jesus.  It was not the total depravity of Judas, but his chosen unbelief!  It was not a special act of irresistable grace that drew in the eleven, it was their free choice to believe. The Father grants to believers that they can come to Jesus.  The grant is conditional on our belief, and says nothing as to man's inability to believe due to total depravity.  

This utterance leads us to examine other come to me/comes to me sayings that conceivably have relevance to total depravity.  When we examine them, we will find that they are of two different types. One type of such sayings applies universally to all human beings, and is represented by these sayings:


[28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.


[37] On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.
This a universal invitation to all, one that assumes the individual's ability, of him or her self, to come to Jesus without any special action by the Father or any application of an irresistible grace.  Everything is wholly dependent on the volition of the individual, not to irrestable grace.  There is another saying from the Fourth Gospel that has a similar resolution:


[37] All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.
The resolution comes in v. 40 immediately following:
[40] For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
You see?  It comes down in every such case to the volition of the individual, not to some irresistible grace working on total deprabity.  All is conditional on the individual response.

The Heart of Man  

There are other utterances that are similarly botched in vain attempts to prove total depravity.  We will list but one more lest this paper become excessively long, and leave you with the assurance that every other utterance of Jesus that could conceivably be bent to support this heinous doctrine has a similar resolution.  We should note first, however, that they come to this utterance after a prior exposure to these and similar verses from the Old Testament.


    [5] The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.


[9] The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?
Then they come to this utterance of the Lord and assert that it indicates total depravity:


[21] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,
22] coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
23] All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.

Well, yes, this could indicate total depravity by pointing to the heart of man, but such an inference requires that what can come from the heart of man must come from the heart of man.  As we are about to see, this is not a valid inference.


[15] And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.


    [43] For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;
    44] for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.

    [45] The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Jesus completely demolishes the Doctrine of Total Depravity when we look to him with clear perception.  If we look to him through glasses colored and distorted by prior exposure to Paul, we will find what we seek, but it will not be the Truth.
 Of course, when the Doctrine of Total Depravity falls, with it falls also all of the other abominable doctrines that men have invented to support it, including the five key doctrines of Calvinism that, together, form the acronym TULIP.  These, in additon to Total Depravity, are Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.  If we take this acronym, rearrange it and insert the additional letters I and F for "is" and "false," we have a new acronym that perfectly describes this doctrinal combination:
P I T (IF) U L
But we need not stop with an evaluation only of Calvinism in the light of the Logos (the utterances of Jesus of Nazareth).  Major doctrines of Catholicism also come crashing down.  For example, there is no place in the Logos for the abominable Catholic doctrine of Original Sin that is also fundamental to Calvinism.  All of these doctrines begin with Paul, but a careful hearing of Jesus utterly demolishes them.  

Alternatively, one can simply rearrange the letters in TULIP, duplicate the "P" and learn the very spot from which this abominable doctrine of total depravity most often arises:

P U L (P) I T

I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
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