Total Depravity and Regeneration

By Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.

There are two views about the theory of Total Depravity- Regeneration. In the 4th century, St. Augustine came up with the theory that because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience all mankind completely lost God’s grace. All grace was withdrawn from humanity. There were only two people: Adam and Eve. The two comprised all of humanity. What was true of the two became true into all ages. True when humanity was 2, true when humanity numbered 20, true when numbered 200, true when numbered 2000, true when humanity became 2,000,000, true when it became 2,000,000,000 and will be true when all of humanity becomes or 2 trillion, and so on.

From this thinking, slowly the Roman Catholic Church evolved the explanation that even an infant is totally depraved so that, if all possible, a newly born babe should be given the sacrament of baptism. Following some idea of the OT circumcision, a child should not go beyond 8 days when he should be baptized with a godparent standing as the child’s proxy. It was even taught by some priests that a still born child should be baptized. Or a child of several hours or several days if it dies should be baptized by any believing person and the child’s soul would go to “Limbo” and eventually would graduate into Paradise. (Incidentally, the Roman Catholic Church this year has announced that the belief in Limbo is no longer a dogma). Roman Catholics are excited about bringing a child into the Christian community thro infant/child baptism. Baptism signals the revival/return of God’s grace into an individual. And when reason/belief springs from a child’s heart, he participates in the sacramental rite of Confirmation which formalizes a person’s entry into the visible church.

In short, God’s grace returns or is revived in a person via the sacrament of baptism. This is the Roman Church’s thinking and practice.

Among Calvinists, the theory of St. Augustine is accepted. Man is totally depraved of God’s grace. Man is dead. Man can’t will to do good. Man has no appreciation or sense for what is good. So man is saved by the grace of God. Sola gratia.

Those who are predestined to be saved are supplied by God with gifts: a preacher is providently led to that person, God supplies/injects into the mind and heart belief and faith, God supplies/injects repentance into the person’s heart, God supplies/injects confession into the person’s lips, God supplies injects willingness to obey and act on all God’s commands. No free will present in an individual. It’s all God’s compulsion. (Those who are predestined to go to Hell? This is degeneration and is outside the topic of regeneration. Basta ganyan ang kanilang pagkalalang. Walang tanungan. Ang mga banga ay hindi nagtatanong. Clay pots don’t ask questions).

Among Churches of Christ, our position is this: Man is depraved but there remains a small flicker of light, small germ of conscience, small germ of reason to start a search for the truth and the good. This idea is taught by Apostle Paul in Romans 1:19-32. The prophet Isaiah invited Israel to a session or reasoning and argumentation. (See 1:18) There’s a period of innocence from birth to a certain period of maturity when sin is overlooked among children. But from a certain period of maturity, man becomes responsible for his acts. Free will comes into play. Man becomes answerable for his decisions and acts.

The term “dead” is not absolute absence of sensation. The soul is in the person. That soul is not “dead” and completely insensitive. Read the usage of the term “dead” in Genesis when God said that Adam and Eve would “die” the very day they would eat the forbidden fruit Read also Luke 15 about the Prodigal Son who was “dead” but came to life. Read the “dead who bury their dead” in Matthew 8:22. Did these dead possess free will? Yes. So out of their free will they decided to do some things.

From these three views, you may choose what is most reasonable and nearest the scriptures.. We will expand the term “dead” in a forthcoming article.