Q & A on Inherited Depravity
What is inherited depravity?
It is the Biblical doctrine that humanity is not only under the just penalty of death as a result of Adam's sin, but are also born with a depraved nature. This does not mean we are guilty of Adam's sin, but only that, as his offspring, we inherit the self centeredness known as Inherited Depravity. Scripture makes this fact clear.
'The fool says in his heart,“There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” -Psalm 14:1-3
“And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."- Mark 7:20-23
The Church Fathers affirm this as well.
“Having been made in this manner, man soon went towards transgression. And so he naturally became subject to corruption. Therefore, corruption became inherent in nature.”- Justin Martyr
“For they (humanity) were tainted in their descent from him (Adam).”- Tertullian
“Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ. Moreover, it is unclean all the time that it remains without this regeneration. And because it is unclean, it is actively sinful.”- Tertullian
What are other scriptural and theological terms for it?
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.." - Romans 8:5
"For, if you live according to the flesh you will die.."- Romans 8:13
“Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. ”- Romans 7:17-18
How are Wesleyan Arminians not Pelagian with regard to the doctrine of inherited depravity?
Pelagius taught that Adam's sin and fall did not in any way effect human nature, and we are capable of choosing good or evil with no assistance from God. The Pelagian position was rejected by the church as heresy, as it essentially taught salvation by human effort. Wesleyan Arminians, however, accept the fact that Adam's sin and fall had a profound negative effect on human nature, rendering humanity totally depraved (something which Wesleyan Arminians share with Calvinists), and that without the help of God manifest in prevenient grace we could not even begin to seek God. While the Calvinist would state that, due to inherited depravity, only an elect class can be saved, and that any suggestion otherwise is an attack on God's sovereignty and on the doctrine of total depravity itself, Wesleyan Arminians deny both charges. Because prevenient grace is conferred on us, God is the one who initiates salvation. This position supports the sovereignty of God, does nothing to attack or undermine the truth of inherited depravity, and removes any notion of man doing anything whatsoever to merit salvation.
What role does previent grace play in counteracting the nature of sin?
Prevenient grace allows us to use our free will to either accept or reject the salvation offered by Christ.
Arminius himself explains: