Daily Archives: September 23, 2009

Can a Regenerate Christian be Totally Depraved?

Interesting post over at Arminian Perspectives, asking whether or not John Calvin was a regenerate Christian. Apparently, one Calvinist commenter to an earlier post said that Calvin was still totally depraved, which is why he dealt with Servetus the way that he did.

This immediately creates a problem for the Calvinist. What is total depravity? This is the state that an unregenerate, non-Christian is in prior to his conversion. This is the state that most people stay in their entire lives. People love their sin, now more than ever. So, is Calvin a non-Christian, or can the Christian be totally depraved?

I don’t believe that a Christian can be totally depraved. Total depravity represents a state of complete spiritual death (Eph 2:1-3; Rom 7:5). Total depravity means that the person is unable to know or respond to the things of God (Eph 4:18). But the believer is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom 6:11). As Arminian Perspectives asks, “How can one be dead in sin and dead to sin at the same time?”

So why did Calvin treat Servetus the way that he did? Moreover, why do Christians sin, seemingly at the same rate as non-Christians? Because, though we are a new creation, we are still not glorified or made perfect. Only in our new and glorified bodies will we unable to sin. The Westminster Confession of Faith sums it up:

This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. (VI.5, see 1 Jn 1:8, 10; Rom 7:14, 17-18, 23; Jms 3:2; Prv 20:9; Eccl 7:20)

This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. (XIII.2)