Arminian Today

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What About Those Who Reject Total Depravity?

There are some who identify with Arminians who reject total depravity.  Most of those who reject total depravity would not claim to be Arminian.  For instance, F. Lagard Smith who wrote the book, Troubling Questions for Calvinists…and the Rest of Us, rejects total depravity but does not claim Arminianism either since Arminians hold to a form of total depravity much like the Calvinistic view.  Some like Dr. Jack Cottrell, author of the classical Arminian view on election in the book, Perspectives on Election, and the author of the book The Faith Once For All, rejects the Calvinistic teaching on total depravity and the Augustine view of original sin.  Most theologians from the Restoration Movement such as Douglas Jacoby or John Mark Hicks reject both Calvinism and Arminianism (as far as I know) mainly because they reject total depravity.

The question then arises, should we accept those who reject total depravity as taught by John Calvin or James Arminius?  While Arminius was not in full agreement with Calvin or total depravity (with regard to the loss of free will), Arminius did teach the traditional Augustine view that we are born depraved.  Arminius would not doubt agree that we are born sinful and that our only hope is the grace of God to move upon us for salvation.  Most Restoration teachers including Alexander Campbell, I believe, would reject such a teaching.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, for instance, teaches that we are not born “sinful” or that we are born totally depraved but rather we are born in a state of grace, saved if you will.  Because of the flesh and the world and the devil, we sin and at that point we are guilty of our own sins and thus in need of a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  In his book, The Faith Once For All, Dr. Cottrell lays out his viewpoint not just from logic but from the Scriptures themselves.  Cottrell examines all the major passages about original sin including Psalm 51:5 and Romans 5:12-21.  Dr. Cottrell believes that the Augustine view of original sin is not only illogical but unbiblical.

For me, the bottom line issue is what does the Scriptures say?  I respect what Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, Henry, or Wesley had to say about biblical passages but the main issue for the disciple of Jesus is what does the Scriptures teach.  We can learn much from great theologians in the Church even if we don’t fully agree with one another.  Yet should we draw the line in the sand and deny people salvation based on their rejection of original sin?  Jack Cottrell, for example, does teach that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He denies that works obtain salvation or that we can obtain salvation by living sinless (since this is impossible).  What he denies is that infants are born sinners.  He believes that babies are born innocent of any transgressions of God’s Law and therefore are not judged for their sins since they have not sinned.  They are born in a state of what he calls “original grace” as Adam and Eve were in Genesis 1-2 before the Fall.  Jesus reversed the curse (Galatians 3:13-14) and now we are born innocent of sin.  After we reach an age of accountability before God and we sin, we then are held guilty for Adam’s sin.  No, says Cottrell, but for our sins are we held accountable (Ezekiel 18).

Some say that such a view is nothing more than semi-Pelagain.  Cottrell prefers “pre-Augustinian” as the correct view.  He believes that Augustine overrated to the Pelagian errors.  He believes that Calvin was nothing more than the teachings of Augustine preached anew.  In his estimation, Arminius did not move further enough from Calvin and Augustine.  He believes that Campbell did.

My point is not to really debate the issue.  I do find many of Cottrell’s views appealing.  You are free to read his books and examine them with the Scriptures but I believe that Cottrell does a good job of seeking to build his case for his rejection of original sin from the Scriptures and not from theologians who agree with him.  My point in writing this is simply to acknowledge that we must always preach Jesus as the Savior and seek to glorify Him.  Salvation is not found in Arminianism or Calvinism or any other isms but in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Jesus is fully alive right now and He sits at the right hand of God.  We can pray to the Father because of Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16) and we can be saved because of Jesus and His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Salvation is not found in a church or a denomination or a movement or in a creed but in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must know Him (Philippians 3:9-11).  Jesus said that eternal life is found in knowing God personally (John 17:3).  Salvation is not found in crossing every T or dotting every I.  It is found in the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12).  He alone is our Mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  I am thankful that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and not Baptists or Pentecostals or Arminians or any thing else.  He just saves sinners who come to Him and acknowledge that they have sinned and need His forgiveness (1 John 1:7-10).

Praise God for Jesus!

4 Responses

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  1. hey roy are you thinking that when the person comes to the age of acountabilty and decides not to sin ever he has no sin and no need of a savior

    Keith Cook

    12/03/2011 at 9:53 PM

    • No I am just pointing out that there are those who reject original sin as taught by Augustine yet they don’t fall into “works salvation”. I do believe that if a person never sins in word, thought, or deed then yes they are not in need of a Savior. Such a person has never existed but Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-22) but to teach that babies are born sinners when they have yet to sin is a leap in my viewpoint.

      Hope that helps.

      • so when when paul says all have sinned who is the all he is talking about and what about there is none righteous romans 3 . also when we use the the age of acountabilty we don`t find that in the bible . i believe paul taught oringinal sin from the beginning.ephesains 2 what is our sinful nature also psalms 51:5 what is your take on these verses . i don`t see 1st peter 2:21-22 to say that someone who dosen`t have sin has to sin in fact it seems to say follow jesus example not to sin . your question to what is sin is this i would say would be coming short of the glory of GOD which all of mankind has done through having the sin of Adam romans 5 . thanks kc

        Keith Cook

        12/03/2011 at 10:27 PM

      • Thanks Keith. I would love to debate the issue but don’t really have time. About to go to bed then to work, etc. I encourage you to read the books I cited. I know that may sound like a cop out but I don’t really have time to go back and forth on this and I don’t really want to. I do believe that we are all in need of a Savior and that we need to preach that people must be born again. That is enough for me. The debate hinges, many times, on the issue of whether infants or severe handicapped are saved. Even Calvinists will say yes though some will say not if they were not elect. I have some post early on in this blog under Jack Cottrell on his views of original grace and sin and they are worth reading. There I quote him over some of the passages that you cite.


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