For the Church to Flourish, it Must Return to Sound Doctrine, Pt. 2: Radical Depravity
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
In an age where ‘acceptance’ and ‘tolerance’ are lauded as the superior virtues, and holding fast to conviction and Biblical truth is deemed divisive and priggish, the vast majority of pastors and teachers in the American church, have lost their spine, and only proclaim that which is acceptable to the ears of fallen men.
As such, many churchgoers have forgotten the sheer holiness of God, and therefore, are immensely, embarrassingly, as it were, incapable of comprehending the gravity of their depraved state.
One has only to look at the fruit produced by prominent pastors in America, or best-selling books that have the name “Christian” slapped onto a marketing blurb or many of the trendy notions and phrases making their way through Christian circles.
Innumerable self-help talks masquerading under the guise of sermons pollute the airwaves. Pastors spend a Sunday telling their life story, or blitz through several chapters of Romans in the span of half an hour, or even preach one twenty-minute sermon on the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus, and conclude that “things happen at night,” and no, if you’re wondering, I am not making that up.
The so-called Christian bookstores of America, at almost every conceivable level are stocked with narcissistic treatises and expositions so much consumed with the utterly loathsome virtue of self-exaltation—as exemplified in a seemingly endless array of personal prosperity how-to-guides, earthly philosophies, human methodologies, and vacuous egotistical poppycock—that it would be putting it lightly to define them as altars to the devil himself—for is not pride, as our Puritan brother, Thomas Boston, would say, “the very image of the devil”?
When not vainly prattling on about their own fancies, practices, and wonts, some few may occasionally expound upon the characteristics of God most favorable in their eyes, chief of which are His love, grace, and mercy. But even their fleeting devotion to such lovely ideals does a great disservice to the glorious Gospel; for the former attributes represent as far a boundary as they are willing to transgress, and not only do they foolishly disregard Christ’s teachings on the judgement to come, but they pass over those distinct qualities of holiness, jealousy, or righteousness—they that most amplify God’s perfect nature—and thus render the God of the Scriptures to an obscure state.
Because they do not know of God or His attributes, they do not know this Jesus they claim to serve. Since they know nothing of Christ, they cannot even begin to comprehend Him crucified. With no knowledge of Calvary, they remain blissfully unaware of the deadly disease working its way through their flesh; and because they will not recognize themselves as the wretches that they are, they do not appreciate the cure that is the risen Christ, and they cannot love Him as is His due.
You Must Know Who You Are
It has been said by men much wiser than I, that a man does not understand how truly wretched and depraved he is, just as a fish cannot know how wet it is—and fewer things have been truer said.
While enslaved to the desires of our flesh, we were steeped in sin. Our every thought, our every intent, word, and action, was sullied by the blackness of transgression. Even in supposedly “noble” acts, we fell far short of the law, and the good that could be was polluted by the evil that was. A haughty spirit, an attitude of egocentric self-interest, and a selfish disdain for the feelings of others, it is these that most become the Sons of Disobedience.
Do you deny it? Does this cause you to turn aside your face? Cast then your mind to Isaiah 64:6, wherein we are assured, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Think again to the days of Noah, when “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” and later on, after the flood had taken place, He smelled the soothing aroma of Noah’s sacrifice, and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21).
The truth remains, and it cannot be undone, no matter how hard we might try: in their present state, men are wholly wicked, and therefore, an abomination to the eyes of a holy God (Proverbs 3:32; Proverbs 11:20; Proverbs 16:5; Proverbs 17:15). They are not partially evil; they are not virtually evil; they are entirely evil, to the very core of their being!
Men Are Not Good
To those whose eyes are blinded, this underlying, elementary, foundational truth—on which rests the entire premise of the Gospel itself—is without a doubt the most disdained and despised doctrine in all of the Scriptures. Hating God, men love themselves solely. So consumed are they with their own perceived goodness, that they cannot see, nor come close to comprehending the severity of their plight.
The sheer vastness of eternity, the difference between eternal life and eternal suffering, lies in the balance, and yet the unconverted refuse to acknowledge their vileness, and persist in removing the knowledge of God as far away as possible so that the cure might not remind them of the disease! Even the many physicians and worldly psychologists concede that the first step towards rehabilitation is to acknowledge that you have an ailment in the first place!
“The present age is so flippant,” once articulated the late Charles Spurgeon, “that if a man loves the Savior, he is a fanatic and if he hates the powers of evil, he is a bigot.” He later propounded that every True Believer ought to, “Be ready for a bad name; be willing to be called a bigot; be prepared for loss of friendships; be prepared for anything so long as you can stand fast by Him who bought you with His precious blood. . .”
Evidence of this phenomenon is all around us. Just a year or two ago, there was a disturbance on social media, when Facebook executives banned a sermon by missionary and evangelist Paul Washer, for the following quote, on the grounds of hate speech:
“You see,” cries Washer, “here’s something you need to understand: Hitler was not an anomaly. Hitler was what everyone in this room has the potential of being. And not only that, you need to understand: even in all the wickedness of Hitler, Hitler was still restrained by the common grace of God. And you need to know this, that if it were not for the common grace of God restraining you in your unconverted state, you would make Hitler look like a choir boy. What we do not understand is what Scripture teaches about men: men are evil! You say, ‘Well, I don't agree.' That's because you've grabbed enough of Christianity to stand, but you don't believe the Bible.”
The Church Has Compromised
But perhaps even more appalling, we see the harsh regression of this Truth not only in culture but in the Church as well. The American church has forgotten the very truths upon which she was founded, and has strayed deep into idolatry and carnal thought. Seeking the commendation of men over the glory of the Creator, she must now reap the condemnation of Almighty God. In many Christian circles, the doctrine of man’s depravity is not only looked down upon as demeaning but is single-handedly, of its own virtue, the most assaulted and savaged teaching you will find on this earth.
We, not only as a culture, but as a church, place far too much emphasis on our own (seeming) inherent worth, merit, and trustiness—and not nearly enough on the holiness of the living God, and what that entails for fallen men. Indeed, a common mantra we hear among many who confess Christ runs like this: “The Cross is a symbol of how much we were worth dying for.”
That is not only a lie but a destructive and absolutely disgusting defamation to the gift of salvation. In fact, as Washer has been compelled to remind his audience time and time again, it’s the exact opposite, and it’s not even close: the Cross, as a symbol, is a demonstration of just how vile we are, that it would take the act of God sacrificing His own Son in the most heinous manner possible to save us from eternal damnation.
It would not be so far removed as to say that this ideology of “self-esteem” or “self-confidence” is so deceitful a doctrine, that it verges on the Satanic.
Satan, as Scripture tells us, is the Father of Lies; and since the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, he has sought to twist and undermine God's Holy Word in every way he can, and to every imaginable extreme, so as to fill all the earth, if it were possible, with various speculations and lofty things that raise themselves "up against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
These things, we are firmly bidden to destroy. Indeed, the apostle Paul deliberately sets out to warn us of the dangers wrought by such workers of iniquity in the third chapter of Philippians, verses 2-4, thus exhorting, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh..." (emphasis added)
Clearly, confidence in the self runs contrary to the decrees of our Lord as laid forth in Scripture. What then binds us from calling it as it is: a hideous, fiercely fraudulent untruth that holds its place in that sect of earthly ideology, which Paul explicitly defines in 1 Timothy 4:1 as a "doctrine of demons"?
The answer, of course, is nothing; and it is our solemn duty to condemn such black-hearted falsities and trample them under our feet with a forthrightness that is so often lacking in Christian circles, seeking above all else the glory of God in every matter, and pointing every man to the truths set forth in the written Word as declared by our Lord Himself: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 17:7).
Not Of Ourselves
We are different from the world precisely because we are confident in the work Christ has accomplished—and not of ourselves. To say otherwise is to directly denounce and undermine the goodness of God’s grace, which is an amazing thing, for the sole reason that we are wholly undeserving of it.
A return to sound theology necessitates a reestablishment of man’s radical depravity and utter inability to effectuate any good on his own; for only when it is set against the darkness of our hearts, can the incomprehensible love of God truly render itself incomprehensible.