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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Total Depravity and Totally Missing the Point

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This post at Desiring God, From Depraved to Disciple, talks about how each person is "totally depraved" and how this is the source of sin/violence in the world. The writer, Jemar Tisby, starts out by talking about the killer who shot 9 people at Emanuel A. M. E. Church, and explains it this way:
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, pundits on television and people on social media labeled the tragedy “inexplicable” and “senseless.” While well-intentioned, these words are inaccurate. This young man’s deadly violence is indeed explicable. It does make a sort of twisted “sense.” We know why these nine people were murdered. We know why sex-trafficking thrives. We know why we cheat on our spouses. The reason for all that is wrong in the world is summed up in one word — sin.
In other words, every person has a sinful nature. Tisby explains that the idea of "total depravity" doesn't mean we are all as bad as possible all the time, but that sin affects every part of our lives.

Throughout this whole article, the focus is on individual sin. Apparently, every person is the same in this sense. Apparently, "Total depravity implies that the same seeds of murderous anger that led a young man to slay nine people in a Bible study reside in us as well. Just because we haven’t committed particular sins doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of doing them or worse."

And that's it. That's the reason. Every person is sinful and is capable of doing unimaginable evil, and that's all there is to say. We can't really do anything to address the problem, besides get individual people to accept Jesus and be transformed by him. Tisby even warns of the dangers of "progressivism," which says that we can help society to become progressively better over time. Apparently, this is impossible because humans will always be totally depraved.

Let me ask you something. Don't you think, maybe, if humans are totally depraved, they will probably create a society full of inequalities, where minorities are systemically oppressed and it's easy for those with power to just ignore it?

Or do you think they would create a society where everyone is equal and people are mostly affected by the consequences of their own sin? And everyone is equally hurt by others' sin?

Really?

Evangelicals focus so much on our individual sin, and then can't bring themselves to believe that this sin causes deep problems in society. They have a hard time believing that a society mostly run by totally depraved white men could possibly have a problem with covering up abuse of women and children or murdering black men.

Really?

(At this point, I'd like to mention that Tisby is black and, from looking at his personal blog and twitter page, I see that he does talk about the fact that American society systemically oppresses black people. So... okay. His post on Desiring God implies that everyone has an equal chance at hurting others with their sin, and doesn't mention any larger trends in society, or the idea that certain groups suffer disproportionately for others' sin. So I'm just replying to the ideas in that particular post, because that line of thinking is a huge part of the type of Christianity I was taught. And it's way too individualized.)

Being "totally depraved" means it's easy for us to just go along with the racist/sexist/oppressive culture that we live in, and imagine it's totally normal.

Being "totally depraved" means it's easy to just focus on ourselves and imagine that our sin only affects us, and that if we don't experience discrimination, that means it doesn't exist.

Being "totally depraved" means inequalities will always exist in our society, and WE TOTALLY SHOULD ADDRESS THEM and fight against them, rather than think that "progressivism" is a lie that leads us away from Christ.

It doesn't lead us away from Christ. No. Just the opposite. Bringing justice and correcting the problems in society is what the kingdom of God is.

Christians need to do the work of God by fighting against the sinful structures in our society. How about we do that instead of constantly bemoaning our own personal sin?

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