This is the first of six posts regarding TULIP. If you are not familar with that acronym, Wikipedia has a number of articles on the subject. This one is probably the most succinct and provides links to the counter positions of Arminians.
1) Total Depravity
Calvinists hold that man is shot through with sin. They don't believe that man is as sinful as he can be, but that there is no part of him that is not sinful. He is so sinful that he cannot muster up a saving faith in Christ without God doing it for him. Man is truly dead in his sins, and like any dead man, he cannot help himself at all. Man cannot have the faith it takes to be saved.
Arminians also believe that man is dead in his sins, and that he cannot come to God without divine help.
Codepoke believes that man is dead in his sins, but that this is not the most significant point. Man died in the garden, the day he ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. He died, and was shot through with sin completely, so I agree with the Calvinists and Arminians on the point they make. I just believe that they miss the point that needs to be made.
Even before he ate that fruit, man was not alive.
1 Cor 15:45 So it is written: "The first Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
Adam had only a living soul, not a living spirit. He was supposed to take Life into himself, and did not.
Gen 2:9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Had Adam eaten of that Tree, it would have made him alive as surely as eating of the other tree made him dead.
Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
The Life God talks about here is not clearly defined. We find that often in scripture, upon the first mention of a thing. It is more fully explained as the scripture goes on, though. Let me fast forward to the gospels.
John 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.
John 4:14 but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John 6:33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
John 6:53 Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
I see two things in the Garden of Eden. There is a Tree of Life, and there is Fruit on that Tree. Then I look at the rest of scripture, and I see Jesus as a Vine Tree, and Jesus as Bread. Jesus commands us to eat to gain eternal life, to eat Bread and to eat His Flesh.
If we look at the Garden of Eden as a one-dimensional experience for Adam and Eve, merely as a chance for them to not sin, then it is easy to overlook the other Tree. Adam's and Eve's experience was not a simple choice between "obey" and "disobey," though. They had to choose between "Life" and "Knowledge."
Knowledge, the serpent correctly told them, would make them like God. (Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.) Life, though, would have made them one with God. (John 17:21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us ...)
The question is not whether man is totally depraved - he is - but whether he was ever even a little bit alive.
So, on the first point, the one on which the Calvinists and Arminians agree, I believe they have spoken far short of the truth.
So, while not completely disagreeing with Total Depravity, I have to say that I believe in Empty Humanity. Adam and Eve were empty vessels, waiting to be filled with either life or knowledge. They chose knowledge. That choice was a rebellion and a sin that led to their immediate spiritual death, and eventual physical death.
Now man needs not only to be filled, but also to be restored.
Christ has done this for us.