Total Depravity (not once is it mentioned in the Scriptures), also known as total inability or total corruption, is the unbiblical Calvinistic (and Augustinian ) teaching that every human being, because of the fall, is totally unable to do anything spiritually good, and therefore is unable of his own free will to exercise saving faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It teaches that man only has the free will to sin, and as a result cannot respond positively to spiritual truth; he cannot of his own volition seek for God and find Him.
A Commentary of Romans 1:18-32
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
God, because of His holiness and justice will punish all men who suppress (reject) the truth (light). As we will see through the following verses, men who suppress the truth do so as a conscious choice, not because they are destined to do so, but because they choose the darkness over the light by their own God-given free will (John 3:19-21). It is those men who continue to suppress the truth that God has given them, who are eventually given over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28). Man is not born totally depraved, though he has the potential to be given completely over to the depravity of his flesh if he chooses to reject the light (Romans 7:18). Even though man is born in sin, and is a slave to sin, he still has the ability to make correct choices. Man has both the knowledge of evil and good within, and has the ability to choose what is right (Genesis 2:17; 3:22; Romans 2:14,15). When God exhorts Cain about his sin of anger, He tells him to do well and his countenance would be lifted up. If Cain did not have the ability to do well, God would not have exhorted him to do so; neither would God have punished him for doing evil if that was the only choice he could make (Genesis 4:4-15). Cornelius is an excellent example of a man who chose not to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but responded to the light that he was given. Peter was sent to him to give him words by which he would be saved (Acts 11:14). Prior to getting saved he was told his alms and prayers were remembered before God (Acts 10:31), and that he was righteous (only in the sense that he was responding to the light that he had received) and God-fearing (Acts 10:22). Peter said, “but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right (responds to the light of creation and conscience), is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35). Jesus, speaking about the children of Israel, said He longed to gather them (his will) as a hen gathers her chicks, but they were unwilling (Matthew 23:27). It is God’s will that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), but He will not override the will of man in making that choice. Man can choose to respond to the truth with agreement or suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
God has placed a certain amount of knowledge within all people. This inner knowledge is referred to as our conscience. The prefix con means with and the word science means knowledge. We are all born with knowledge given to us by God; and this knowledge is good. This knowledge tells us that there is a divine intelligent Creator who is good; and His laws have been written on our hearts, either defending our actions or accusing us (Romans 2:14,15). Every man’s conscience tells him that he does not always do what is right, he is morally corrupted and thus something is wrong within his being. This knowledge should prepare man to recognize that he needs God’s forgiveness, and thus a Savior.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
The creation itself cries out that there is a supreme master designer, and our conscience bears witness to this truth. Because God has left us this witness, we have no excuse to reject Him, or not seek Him and find Him. Jesus tells us that he who seeks shall find (Matthew 7:7). When Paul was in Athens, a city full of idols, he passed by an altar with an inscription on it saying, “To an unknown God.” He then proclaimed to them the God of creation, appealing to the light that is within every man’s heart. He then told them that all men from every nation should repent (change their minds) seek God, grope for Him, and find Him; for He is not far from anyone of us (Acts 17:22-32). God, who knows the thoughts and intentions of every man’s heart (Hebrews 4:12,13), will bring further truth to every man who responds positively to the inner light he has been given. It does not matter where in this world that person is located; God will either lead that individual to someone with further truth or bring someone to them. God is faithful to His promises. There is no one who is responding to the light who dies without the knowledge of salvation. If man is unable to respond to the light he would have an excuse.
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
“They knew God” refers to the inner knowledge (conscience) and the witness of creation. We have the ability to respond positively to this knowledge (light), or we can respond negatively to (suppress) this knowledge, thus not giving proper honor and thanks to our Creator, the author of life. If we suppress this knowledge we will replace it with futile speculations (e.g. evolution—atheism, psychology, humanism, paganism, etc.). If we suppress our consciences we will become callous and our foolish hearts will become darkened (Ephesians 4:18-19). We can see that man clearly begins with knowledge of good (truth, light), but can choose to replace it with his own wisdom (a lie, darkness).
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
In their self-proclamation of “wisdom” they became fools. They did not start out as fools, but as a conscious choice rejected the knowledge of God given to them, thus becoming fools.
23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Notice again, the conscious choice to make an exchange of truth for a lie. Even though the creation itself speaks of a divine master designer, who is outside of the creation itself and not a part of the creation, some men exchange this truth for a god according to their own liking. Professing to be wise they choose to elevate man and animals in place of the incorruptible God (e.g. evolution—atheism, Hinduism, vegetarians—who view the killing of animals as cruel, those who honor “Mother” earth, those who use images as objects of religious worship, those who pray to deceased people, etc.).
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
In response to those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, God gives them over in the lusts of their hearts. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9) and from them comes all kinds of evil deeds and thoughts (Matthew 15:19). Not all people are given over, but those who continue to suppress and exchange the truth for a lie are eventually given over. Once a person is given over they no longer have an opportunity to be saved; they have sealed their own fate by their own choices. They have loved darkness rather than light.
25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
God again emphasizes the choice of man to make an exchange. In order to make an exchange you must possess something first—that something is truth. Some men respond negatively to that truth and suppress it, or choose to exchange it, others respond positively and seek further truth as was the case of Cornelius and his companions (Acts 10:22-11:18).
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
For this reason—because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie (their choice), God gave them over to degrading passions (God’s response to their choice). When a person rejects or suppresses the light given them by God they set themselves up to be given over to unnatural desires for the same gender. When a person draws near to God, by responding to the light, God draws near to them; when a person moves away from God, by rejecting the light, God moves away from them (James 4:8).
27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
To abandon is to leave behind, having once possessed; these men were not conceived or born homosexuals. These men were created, as all men are, with a natural, innate desire for the opposite gender. Because of a series of choices on their part, God withdraws from them, giving them over to degrading, unnatural desires.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
The key words are, “any longer.” They did acknowledge God for a time, but at some point began to reject the truth in unrighteousness (verse 18), became futile in their speculations (verse 21), became fools (verse 22), exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for another (verse 23), and exchanged the truth of God for a lie (verse 25). God, in response to their choices, gives them over to the depravity of their flesh.
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Just as we saw in verses nineteen and twenty-one they have knowledge of God, but this knowledge written in every man’s conscience has been rejected by them. In this state of depravity they become insolent and defiant towards God, even hating Him, and encouraging others to act the same. During the Great Tribulation men who worship the Beast will also be given over to a depraved mind; they refuse to repent of their deeds even under great judgments and defiantly blaspheme the God of heaven (Revelation 15:9,11,21).