Blog 48: 2.3.1 - 2.3.5

Sean Lucas

One key Reformation teaching which both Lutherans and Reformed held in common was the pervasive and inherited corruption of human corruption. In this, Calvin was no different. He notes that the Bible "painted a picture of human nature that showed us corrupt and perverted in every part" (2.3.1); "the whole race of Adam's children" is characterized by "the unvarying corruption of our nature" (2.3.2); and "because of the bondage of sin by which the will is held bound, it cannot move toward good" (2.3.5).

Yet Calvin affirmed this view of human beings not because he was a gloomy pessimist but because he wanted to highlight the amazing graciousness of God and his powerful love for his chosen ones. In the midst of this description of human sinfulness, there are notes of hopefulness and pointers toward the remedy: "the grace of Christ is the sole remedy to free us from that blindness and from the evils consequent upon it" (2.3.1); the Bible teaches that this "unavoidable calamity" of sin which overwhelms us can only be met by "God's mercy" (2.3.2); and that "the beginning of conversion to God" is "ascribed entirely to God's grace" (2.3.5).

One lesson to take from this: only as a church has a thorough and experienced sense of human depravity will she preach the fullness and exclusivity of God's grace. Returning again to "total depravity" will cause us to long for God's mercy and will enliven our praise of God's steadfast love.