Total Depravity, with Apologies – Romans 5:1-11, Day 2

Triad Study Romans 5 Bible with Green and Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate with Almonds

Today’s ChocolateGreen & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate with Almonds

Today’s Passage: Romans 5:1-11

Let’s just rip off the band-aid: I know at least one of you has no interest in seeing the topic of predestination and free will considered here on Chocolate Book. (I know because this person has told me.) But every weekday I open up the Bible, read the passage, and write up my thoughts on it, and right now I can’t read this passage without thinking about the Verboten Subject. We’ve got to spend all week in these eleven verses for the Triad study, and as much as I wish I could write something else about them, I’m squeezing my brain and this is what’s coming out. Better to get over the predestination-and-free-will hump sooner rather than later, so that hopefully tomorrow I will find myself able to think other things about the passage. Sorry, friend.

To be honest, it’s partly me, it’s partly Paul in the passage, and it’s partly the Multiply book. See that black corner with the “MU” at the top of the photo? That’s the corner of the book, which was written by Hope Church’s senior pastor, Stephen Kirk, to accompany the Triad Study. If you’ve heard his sermons, you know that he buys hard into the doctrine of total depravity: that man’s natural bent apart from God is evil as the day is long, and that man possesses no power to save himself. And I can’t blame him, either. Both the Bible and my own observations tell me humans have a pervasive wicked streak.

And that should come as no surprise. Paul is reflecting on the same human race that I see every day when he observes, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (6). He further explains: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (8). Pastor Kirk illustrates the point with an example similar to Paul’s: “Wouldn’t you be willing to reconcile with someone who wounded you deeply as long as they were genuinely repentant and willing to repair the damage? Now, imagine if they were unwilling and incapable of restitution. This is our posture and plight before God” (Multiply 45). Our depravity reveals the depths of God’s love in saving, even dying for, people who are completely unworthy of the sacrifice.

But I wonder: how deep does the evil run? Kirk further describes our state: “Stubborn and inept. Willful and powerless. Yet, God still reconciles” (Multiply 45). In his description, even when we cry out to God for rescue and accepting salvation, it’s actually just God’s irresistible grace compelling our repentance. That’s a hard pill to swallow (which is exactly what you’d expect, if we are indeed as depraved as all that, disinclined to believe the truth about how bad we are), and what’s more, you can see where you’d get that idea from the text. Kirk is picking up on Paul’s words: “helpless,” “ungodly,” “sinners.” We can’t make it out of this situation without God’s grace.

But how does God’s grace manifest itself? Does it extend an invitation and give us the freedom, even as fallen creatures, to accept or reject the saving hand extended to us? Or does it compel the assent of some and leave others to spurn God’s hand, remaining forever in the pit of their own evil? And more importantly, do these questions even matter? Are they useful? Can we answer them, and do they draw us any nearer to a perfect God who cares enough about us to put on human flesh and die? I have bitten off more than I can chew, and so, for better or worse, I leave you with my thoughts.

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