We all know that man is fallen, Genesis 3 shows us this fact, and our own lives testify to our depravity. Most non-Calvinist will say, the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity is the one point of the tulip that they can agree on. I used to think the same thing, until I recently did a study on the issue. Just to make it clear I do believe that man is fallen and that apart from the grace of God he can not be saved. If this is what the Calvinist called total depravity I would agree.Yet the reality is this is not what they think at all. For the Calvinist the doctrine of "total depravity" is really more philosophical then theological or even Biblical. In this post I want to consider this doctrine from two perspectives. First, the philosophical side as it pertains to free will. Then from the theological side as it pertains to the Doctrine of Man.
First let's look at the Philosophical side of this doctrine. The question that surrounds this side of the doctrine is " If man is totally depraved, what about free will?" Calvin made it very clear that there was no freedom of the will. The Westminster Confession leaves no room either, because all the action taken by man are decreed or ordained by God. The Calvinist position claims that natural man can only exercise his will in accordance with his depraved nature. Can this really be called freedom. What I mean is, if man can only exercise his will according to his nature which is evil, then he has been determined to act and be evil. Calvinist like to use Matthew 7 as there "proof" for this view of depravity. This would be fine if it were not for the context. In the context of Matthew 7 the Jesus is talking about false teachers.
Philosophically the problems that are implicated with the Calvinist doctrine of depravity is dangerous, and even flat scary. For example, if we are going to say that the natural man only acts according to his nature, then we have to deal with the issue of responsibility. Atheistic biologist Richard Dawkins says that a person will act according to his DNA. Dawkins and the Calvinist seem to be making the same argument. The only difference is that the Calvinist gives a spiritual twist.