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Does the Bible Teach Total Depravity?

Does the Bible Teach Total Depravity?


Universal Sinfulness and Moral Inability

The doctrine of total depravity, as upheld in the Bible, suggests that sin has affected all parts of human nature — the mind, will, emotions, and flesh. This pervasive influence of sin means that without divine intervention, humans are incapable of choosing or doing good in a way that meets God’s standards. Scriptures such as Romans 3:10-12, where Paul quotes Psalms and Ecclesiastes, affirm this, stating, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away…”

This inherent sinfulness is not just a matter of bad actions but a condition that affects the very core of human nature. Jeremiah 17:9 speaks to this condition, declaring, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” This perspective aligns with the concept of total depravity, emphasizing the depth and extent of human sinfulness.


Total Depravity: Pervasive Corruption, Not Utter Wickedness

The term “total depravity” can be misleading if interpreted to mean that humans are as wicked as possible. Instead, it refers to the total extent of sin’s influence on human nature. Every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin, but this does not mean that every individual is as evil as they could be.

Scriptural evidence for this view can be found in Genesis 6:5, where, before the flood, God observes that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” This reflects a comprehensive corruption rather than absolute wickedness in every action.

Biblical Depiction of Total Depravity

The Bible presents numerous instances and teachings that underline the doctrine of total depravity. In Romans 8:7-8, Paul states that the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God and cannot please God. Ephesians 2:1-3 also speaks of humans as being dead in transgressions and sins, following the ways of the world and gratifying the cravings of the flesh. These passages indicate a natural disposition towards sin and rebellion against God, inherent in all people.

The universality of sin, as expressed in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” further supports the doctrine. It portrays sin as a universal human condition, affecting every individual.

Divine Grace as the Answer to Total Depravity

While the Bible teaches total depravity, it also offers a solution in the form of divine grace. The doctrine does not imply that humans are beyond redemption but rather that salvation is entirely dependent on God’s grace. Ephesians 2:4-5 states, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

This teaching suggests that though total depravity renders humans incapable of saving themselves, God, in His mercy, has provided a way of salvation through Jesus Christ.


The biblical doctrine of total depravity highlights the extensive impact of sin on all aspects of human nature, making humans incapable of choosing or doing true good without divine intervention. However, it also points to the grace of God as the means of salvation, providing hope and redemption despite the pervasive corruption of sin.

Read More

  1. “The Doctrine of Total Depravity” by Arthur W. Pink – This book explores the biblical foundation of total depravity, offering scriptural analysis and theological insights.
  2. “Chosen by God” by R.C. Sproul – Sproul addresses the doctrine of total depravity within the broader context of predestination and grace, providing a clear, biblical perspective.

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