..."The Renaissance was too optimistic, and the Reformation too pessimistic. The former so concentrated on the goodness of man that it overlooked his capacity for evil; the latter so concentrated on the wickedness of man that it overlooked his capacity for goodness. While rightfully affirming the sinfulness of human nature and man's incapacity to save himself, the Reformation wrongly affirmed that the image of God had been completely erased from man. This led to the Calvinistic concept of the total depravity of man and to a resurrection of the terrible idea of infant damnation. So depraved is human nature, said the doctrinaire Calvinist, that if a baby dies without baptism he will burn forever in hell. Certainly this carries the idea of man's sinfulness to far. This lopsided Reformation theology has often emphasized a purely otherworldly religion, which stresses the utter hopelessness of this world and calls upon the individual to concentrate on preparing his soul for the world to come."
My response: I will firstly say that I do believe in the reformed doctrine of total depravity. I do not believe that infants are condemned to hell AT ALL, simply for accountability's sake.I believe that if God in His Sovereignty sees fit to allow the death of an infant, He has a Infinitely Glorious purpose in it, and that purpose should not be questioned and that life remains with Him because of the grace that He gives to it. He is not unjust for this.
I see where this quote is coming from, and to a certain degree,its right. To observe a mans sinfulness and say " He can't do anything good anyway, so he might as well just sit there and let God do it all - save the world and save his soul" is lazy, its totally ignorant of what Scripture teaches. Yes, man was created in the image of God - yes, everyman knows enough about God through His creation and through the light of his conscience that he has morality. He can help an old lady across the street; He can show mercy to his neighbor who owes him money, and He can be unjust and yet still be kind to the one who consistently asks for help. This is us. People build hospitals, start orphanages, shelter the homeless, end hunger in underprivileged countries, make protests against segregation, the abortion of babies, and cruelty to animals. These things are good and no one can deny that. As a matter of fact, it would be beneficial to you as a person created in the image of God to be involved in some of these things, because they are good....but good with a little g...and this is where I believe this quote missed it somewhat... The doctrine of total depravity is not to be taken as, "Man is as evil as he could be"...No, for we could ALL be murderers, drunks, slanderers, and the worst of humans...and then we could sit around and rely on God to save us,while we continue deliberately murdering, stealing and pushing our sinfulness to the limit. This is warped. The doctrine of total depravity tells me that sin effects every part of my nature: mind, soul and body, so that when I do good - help a friend in need - evil is always present with me (ten seconds later I lie to that friend about what time I must leave from helping him).And yet when I walk away from helping that friend, I reckon myself justified in the eyes of myself and in the eyes of God. "Hey God, look at me! I just helped a friend!" And I totally blew it in reality because right after I helped...I sinned. In the eyes of God I'm as wicked as Hitler, not because I helped a friend, but because I lied. My "righteousness" has been soiled and now has another filthy spot on it. I have committed a sin in the sight of a Purely Holy and Just God...whether it was killing 10 million people or telling a white lie...and I am worthy of an infinite hell because I committed a crime against an infinite ruler.
Total depravity is not debunking man's capacity for good works. It's debunking man's wicked and sinful heart that thinks that he is justified in doing those good works. Whatever is not of faith in Christ, relying on Him as the most worthy and Infinite Good, is sin. So, I applaud Oprah, Clooney ,and Brad Pitt when they give millions to help thousands of helpless people. But it was only the grace of God that enabled them to give and not say "No, we wont!"...because they are just as capable of saying that because they are sinful. But I will not applaud these people when they stand before the world or stand before God in judgment throwing their list of good works in God's face saying "This is why I should get in!!" They're lost....and for that reason we should pray for God to give grace....not so that they can do more horizontal good....but so that they will be part of the Vertical Good. This is total depravity: Although fallen persons are capable of externally good acts (acts that are good for society), they cannot do anything really good, i.e., pleasing to God (Rom. 8:8). God, however, looks on the heart. And from his ultimate standpoint, fallen man has no goodness, in thought, word, or deed. He is therefore incapable of contributing anything to his salvation. (John Frame)
Second: This is why many charities and Christian organizations miss it - because they give men an earthly good (rights, freedom, protection of life, protection of marriage, feeding of the hungry, clothing of the naked, shelter of the homeless) and they deny them the Greatest Good - Christ. We feed millions with bread from earth, and starve them with bread from heaven. We give thousands water from earthly wells, and dehydrate them of Living Water from the Well of Life. A watered-down gospel, or no gospel at all is going to leave millions of people standing on the left at judgment day fully clothed, educated, filled with food and drink, and lost...subject to damnation because they were never given the Gospel.
The context surrounding this quote is civil rights. I understand that this was a time filled with hatred, violence and many people just sat back and did nothing about it, or reacted the wrong way. But standing on the greener grass of liberation in 2010, I see that as a people, we were set free from racism and then handcuffed to culturalism, materialism, and post-modernism. We got an earthly good in being truly liberated from segregation and racism...but we missed the Greatest Good, Christ, because our theology and Christ-centeredness is at its worst. Many of our churches do GREAT things for the communities and for the nations, but on the flip-side, our pulpits are filled with false doctrines, prosperity gospels, and "bless me now" sermons. Millions of dollars are brought into our churches and ministers are sleeping around on their wives; homosexuality and lesbianism is tolerated as the new "civil rights" and leaders say nothing. I do not say this to judge; I say this as one who looks to partake of some fruit from their trees, yet when I approach, I see that its bad. My prayer is that God would draw us back to a knowledge of Him...not just a proper theology, but a riveting regenerating worship that will break the chains of post-modernism off.
Third: In conclusion,in addition to the civil rights movement, as for preparing for the world to come, many blacks were ridiculed pre and post civil rights because they tolerated injustice in the name of "this momentary affliction". Preparation for the world to come is never a pastime that should be used to avoid the problems in this world. Our hope in heaven should never be an excuse to sit tight and not do good, or not share the gospel. Rather, our hope in heaven should be the steel cable that pulls us up from the darkness in this world, and all the while we are being pulled, we are reaching out to help others so they might partake in this hope. A hope in heaven should propel the Christian to stand up for the widow and the orphan; a hope in heaven should motivate the believer to stand for justice in this world and fight for the law of God to be upheld and esteemed over all. For the people of God, a hope for heaven is a remedy for a hopeless world - it provides a solution to suffering, pain, tribulation, and death. The problem with most people is that their hope is in this world - and therefore they seek to make it better. The Christians position is that his hope is in heaven, and therefore he seeks to glorify God by walking in the good works ordained for them from before the foundation of the world. It is only a selfish Christian who sits by waiting for heaven like the 5 o'clock bus...and does nothing in this world to glorify God. In fact that selfishness may just prove that he is no Christian at all, namely, because God is glorified in the producing of fruit (John 15). The point is that you produce fruit BECAUSE you're a branch, not because you're trying to be a branch.
In conclusion, I do not believe that man's sinfulness has been mis-interpreted or exhausted because of the doctrine of total depravity. I think that by receiving this doctrine as true, it might produce a bitter taste to our mouths,but it will produce a humility and brokenness in our hearts. If we can see that all men actively suffer from the disease of sin, then those who have been cured can spread the good news and provide the greatest good for those affected by sin.