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Does the total depravity doctrine mean that nobody can seek God?

I've come across many verses that indicate that we are to "seek" God; however, it seems that the total depravity doctrine says that mankind is so depraved that it's impossible for him to seek God. How is this reconciled?

Acts 17:27

NKJV - 27 So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Clarify Share Report Asked August 23 2022 Mini Carolyn Hostetter

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
By my understanding, as indicated by verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9, even the faith that saves us does not come from ourselves, but is a gift from God (although it is a gift that we can reject).

From that standpoint (and although I by no means claim to be an authority on Calvinism) I would say that the concept of total depravity does indeed mean that humans, left to their own predispositions or natures apart from God, cannot seek God. However, they can, through the working of the Holy Spirit, respond to God's offer of salvation in Christ, which is available to all (although, as I said above, not all will avail themselves of it).

Having been raised as a Lutheran, I also recall Luther's explanation of the third article of the Apostles' Creed (the article that affirms belief in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting). Luther's explanation states in part, "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith..."

August 23 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
The teaching of total depravity is that man is totally unable to choose God, so that God must do all to help man. There are reasons that this is not true.

One of the verses used often to support this is Ephesians 2:1. However, the same people that are “dead in trespasses and sins” live and conduct themselves the way they want to, Ephesians 2:2-3. They are alienated from God, Ephesians 4:18, Colossians 1:21, and do not seek God, Romans 3:11. It is not that they are unable to seek God but unwilling to do so. Men choose how they want to live but God will judge them, Jeremiah 17:9-10. 

Humans are depraved, sinful, and evil but not incapable of knowing to do right or do good, Matthew 7:1. Men are able to seek God, believe Him, and be saved, Acts 10:35, 17:27. There are clear verses that teach that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved, John 3:16, 6:35, 6:47, 20:31. God calls on people to believe and faith is ascribed to man. 

Through faith or belief, one is made alive. Faith always precedes being made alive, Ephesians 2:8, John 1:11-13, 3:3,5, 15-16, 20:31, Galatians 3:26, I Peter 1:23-25. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, Romans 10:17. 

Faith is not human effort or work, but the opposite. It is the response of being persuaded or being convinced of something. This is what God expects from man. God has provided His Son to pay the full price of sin so that salvation could be a free gift. It is offered to all men that whoever believes has eternal life. Countless number of people from the beginning have responded in accepting this truth and believing in Jesus, Acts 10:22, 44-48, 16:25-34. 

Ephesians 2:8 seems to say faith is given by God. But the Greek word “this” is in a different gender than the words “faith” and “grace.” The gift refers to the broad topic of salvation which Paul had been discussing. Salvation, not faith, is the gift. In Ephesians 6:1 there is the similar structure. The same word “this” refers to a wider concept. That faith is not given to man as a gift, is also proven by II Corinthians 4:3-4. Satan knows full well that men will believe unless he actively blinds them from the truth dawning on their hearts. But God made light to penetrate the heart, II Corinthians 4:6. 

One of the arguments for man not being depraved is the humanity of Jesus. He was fully human and was tempted as all men are, Hebrews 2:17. It was a very real experience that Jesus went through when He was tempted. For Satan to go through the exercise of tempting means he knew there was the possibility Jesus could sin, but He did not sin, Hebrews 4:15. Since He had the same nature as all men, no one is totally depraved.

The teaching of total depravity is not taught in the Bible, but faith to believe is.

September 16 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Does the total depravity doctrine mean that nobody can seek God? (This is a very good question, Carolyn!)

Total depravity means that no one is able in and of himself to do anything to choose God, seek God, please God, love God, glorify God, or merit His salvation. Left to himself, every person will seek the things of self and sin. We are as unable to seek God as a corpse can choose to get up and walk (Eph. 2:1-3 "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."-). --Steven J. Cole

August 24 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Merle Mullet A farmer bears witness to the miracle of life each spring
Total depravity is the human condition in which a person has moved beyond any possibility of redemption, unable to respond to God's invitation to seek and find God's purpose for their life. (Acts 17:27) They are utterly and totally given over to rebellion against God and resistant to any knowledge of God and spiritually blind. (Ephesians 4:18) At the first unwilling to seek God, and in the end, unable to, because God has given them over to their blindness.

We conclude then that mankind is not born totally depraved, lest God's admonitions throughout scripture to seek him, and declarations of love and care for those he created in his image, (eg. Ezekiel 33:11) would not only be pointless, but impune the truthful character and righteous nature of God. 

Total depravity is the end stage of a life committed to absolute rebellion against the knowledge of God, with no willingness to repent or desire to receive the forgiveness made possible by the sacrifice of God's son [Jesus Christ] for the sins of the world.

February 17 2024 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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