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Total Depravity and Self-Esteem

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by doubtingmerle, Jun 19, 2022.

  1. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    As a Christian, can you support both the doctrine of Total Depravity, and an approach to life that seeks to build your self-esteem? Or must you choose one or the other?

    Here is an example of what I read about Total Depravity from a Christian site:

    The doctrine of total depravity is an acknowledgement that the Bible teaches that as a result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:6) every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). It acknowledges that the Bible teaches that we sin because we are sinners by nature. Or, as Jesus says, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18). (Source)
    Does sin corrupt every part of your mind and emotions? Does it penetrate to the very core of your being? Are you a bad tree that bears bad fruit? If so, how can you have a meaningful positive self-esteem?
     
  2. myst33

    myst33 Well-Known Member

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    1. Total Depravity is a doctrine of one subsection of Christianity, i.e. its not something generally accepted by all Christians.

    2. Even between Christians who hold the idea, its exact interpretation varies.

    3. I think you misread the text. It says: "every part of man - mind, will, emotions, flesh - have been corrupted."
    But you interpreted it later as "Does sin corrupt every part of your mind and emotions", which is not what the text says.
     
  3. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    Total Depravity is a teaching found in Calvinism. It comes from stringing together several verses from the old testament which are repeated in the new testament that speak to the general condition of society at the time. But that has been used by some to absolutely condemn all mankind. It could be used to describe the times we live in today. We see gang members murdering people in the streets, rampant sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, drug abuse, and a whole host of other things. It is easy to say "there are none who seek God, no, not one". But does that speak to those who do in fact seek God? When Isaiah first said those words did they apply to him? When Paul repeated those words did they apply to those Christians he was speaking to?

    Put the idea of "total depravity" out of your mind.
     
  4. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    Actually, I think you truncated your quote. What it says is, "every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin". You left out the last two words. If you puts those two words in, the statement in the quote matches what I asked in my question.

    So can you answer the question, please? Does sin corrupt every part of you? Or has it done so only in the past?

    If sin has corrupts every part of you, how can you have positive self-esteem?
     
  5. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    Ah, so it seems Christians have a choice. They can either choose to believe total depravity or a view that supports positive self-esteem?

    I have heard that Christians can promote both. So are we saying here that one really can't support both? We need to select one view or the other?

    OK, verses that describe depravity are referring to murdering, drug abusing gang members. Those verses do not describe those who seek God.

    What about me? I am a sincere, moral Agnostic. Do those verses about depravity apply to me?
     
  6. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is one doctrine in the theological system known as Calvinism ,TULIP.
    TULIP, states five essential positions on the condition of man and their relationship with God. These are Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Some Calvinists believe in all five but most drop one or two doctrines. That being said, it is a man made system and has experienced push back from other Christian groups. In the end, one should research, discern and practice a bit of common sense in order to navigate themselves into truth.
    Be blessed.
     
  7. myst33

    myst33 Well-Known Member

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    The point is that you moved the meaning from "all parts of a man" to "all parts of all parts of a man".

    Human thinking is corrupted, but not every single thought. You see what I mean?

    The context of corruption is in comparison to the perfection of God. It has nothing to do with normal human self-esteem in a company of other humans.

    FYI: In other variants, the point is called Total Inability instead of Total Depravity. The latter one leads to frequent misunderstandings and extrapolations, even by Christians and by Christian websites.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2022
  8. Norbert L

    Norbert L Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It's not as if everyone does not have self esteem problems, both in and out side of a religious context. They're not just selling anti depressants to a Christian only market. It's a lifelong process that varies just as much individually inside and outside of church life or the doctors office. Some make more progress than others and everyone ends up being just like one of the thieves on the cross. Which of the two applies to both Christians and non-Christians alike.
     
  9. public hermit

    public hermit social troglodyte-tested and approved Supporter

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    I reject total depravity, but not the doctrine of sin, i.e., that we are somehow subject to the power of sin and in need of being made free in Christ. Sin is a mystery. Why would we ever strive against what is good and what is good for ourselves? I think Irenaeus was right that we are created spiritually immature, and just as we must grow physically, we also need to grow spiritually. This process of growth is part of the divine intention (instead of the Augustinian doctrine that we were perfect and then fell).

    That being the case, the Xn doctrine of sin needs to always be understood in light of the doctrine that we are created in the divine image and inherently good. Yes, we sin and sin is destructive, but we are created to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ, the very image of the invisible God. So there needs to be some nuance as we hold these two doctrines together. I think they can work as correctives: If we are thinking too highly of ourselves, putting ourselves and our wants above others, we need to remember that we, too, are sinners and in need of grace. Or if we are beating ourselves up, thinking of ourselves as unworthy of God's goodness and somehow unworthy of treating ourselves well or being treated well by others, we need to remember that we are created in the divine image, loved by God who died for us so that we might grow into the likeness of the image in which we are created.

    But, yes, I think Calvin's doctrine of total depravity is destructive and doesn't give due acknowledgement to the doctrine of the imago dei. The fact is, Calvin's system had no room for divine love, much less love for self or others. It is a very toxic system on that account.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2022
  10. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    The general view here seems to be that one can either believe Total Depravity as described in the opening link, or promote self-esteem. But one cannot do both. They are incompatible.

    I see one post that suggests that the problem is that we misunderstood the link. This person implies that, understood correctly, the link is compatible with the emphasis on promoting self-esteem. I have follow up questions for this person.

    The link says,
    every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God.​

    You somehow interpret this as "some parts of every part". That simply does not seem to me to be what this link is saying.

    If the author thinks some parts of our parts are not corrupted by sin, why doesn't the author mention that? That would have been very helpful.

    It is hard for me to believe that the link is merely describing that we are inferior to God. If he meant to say that all are inferior to God and some are less depraved then others, then he could have said so.

    When a Calvinist talks of Total Depravity does he really mean "not as good as God"?

    The self-esteem movement is centered around people recognizing their abilities and potential. Is that not the exact opposite of "Total Inability"?
     
  11. myst33

    myst33 Well-Known Member

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    Depends on the Calvinist. They are individuals as everybody else and therefore they can have various interpretations, from mild ones to extreme ones.

    I am not familiar with "the self-esteem movement". But I do not see any connection to theology. Abilities and potential of people is in the context of this life, not in the context of satisfying the righteousness of God. Apples and oranges.
     
  12. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    The link quotes a number of verses. Are you saying these verses don't mean what they claim they mean?

    I agree. This is basically a summary of what humanists believe.
     
  13. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What I am saying is the interpretation of these verses are through the lens of Calvinism. Strip away the lens, strip away the interpretation. Read these verses with the freshness of truth.
     
  14. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Let me explain. We should all practice healthy hermeneutics meaning , try not to read " into" scripture. For example Isaiah 64 is not doctrinal, it is a lamentation and prayer and Matthew 7
    Is speaking about false prophets not man's spiritual condition. Rule number one , context!
     
  15. BobRyan

    BobRyan Junior Member Supporter

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    The most brilliant , highly accomplished, talented mind without Christ - is still depraved.. is still a sinner, is till destined for the lake of fire in Rev 20.

    self-esteem has to do with what one thinks of ones abilities, talents, gifts, earthly accomplishments.

    The doctrine on the sinful nature does not say that no sinner may have abilities, talents, gifts or earthly accomplishments
     
  16. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    So I can have a positive opinion of my ability to play tennis, my acting talent, my gifted voice, or my accomplishments in my career?

    But if I have a positive opinion of my ability to love others, my talent for reconciling people, my gift of generosity, or my spiritual accomplishments, then that is wrong? For in areas or morality I am totally depraved?

    If I can acknowledge my non-moral accomplishments, I do not understand why I could not acknowledge my moral accomplishments also.
     
  17. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    Please look at the link. It quotes many verses.

    Isaiah 64:6 is a statement that the best we can do is as filthy rags. Saying this statement is part of a prayer does not mean you can ignore it. Do you think it is true or false?
     
  18. doubtingmerle

    doubtingmerle I'll think about it. Supporter

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    How can our inability to satisfy the righteousness of God make us totally depraved?

    To illustrate, I am a better than average chess player, but I am not close to grandmaster level. Since I do not satisfy grandmaster level standards, does that mean my chess playing skills are totally depraved? No. Failing to meet Magnus Carlsen's standards is not the same thing as being totally depraved of chess skills.

    I think it would be more honest to say one can chose to believe total depravity, or choose to build self-esteem, but cannot do both.
     
  19. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It is a lamentation.
     
  20. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    Every unregenerate person is in fact totally depraved. Every regenerate person was that way, but when we were born again, we were given a new identity.

    Christ chose me, and declared me forgiven, and one of his. His righteousness was transmuted upon me. Outside of Christ, I was dead. In Christ, I am alive and declared righteous, and am being changed so that I will more fully live up to what he has declared about me in practice. And in Christ, I have purpose, as God has prepared good works in advance for me to do.
     
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