Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Sufficient" Depravity

Alternate title: Confessions of a Zero-Point Calvinist

I read an amazing quote while cleaning my office today. If you don't get a laugh out of this you're not a theologian.

That's not intended as a compliment, but you're welcome to take it that way.


From Ortberg's recent article in Leadership Magazine:

Somebody asked Dallas Willard once if he believed in total depravity. His reply was that he believed in "sufficient depravity." Never having run into that doctrine before, the interviewer asked for clarification. Dallas said "I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved so that no one will ever get into heaven and say 'I merited this.'"

Absolutely priceless. I love Ortberg and Willard both, so this a duofecta (almost a trifecta).

I'll leave a lengthy analysis of Calvin's shortcomings as a theologian to more patient persons, choosing here only to note that he, alone of all the Reformers, was not trained as a pastor. He was a French lawyer. That doesn't mean he can't be a good theologian, but it does go a long way towards understanding the theological position he constructed.


Anonymous said...

Great post! :-) I did find one other little comment slightly humorous: "Calvin was not a pastor". The reason for the humour is because I recently listened to Dr. Frank James (of RTS) on iTunesU wax on about how pastoral Calvin truly was. I couldn't make it through the first (of four) talks . . . it was bad.

Jonathan said...

Looking forward to your next post on this.

Fresh Dirt said...

Funny! But to correct you, Calvin was a pastor of two different churches. One was a group of refugees in Strassborg, and then the other in Geneva.

I like Willard's language of "sufficient depravity." Although that is exactly what Calvin's followers meant by the term total depravity, today is gets misunderstood as being wholly depraved rather than all parts of self having depravity.

Obviously from my little defense here, I'm sort of a fan of Calvin :)

Micah said...

Well, what I meant was that he wasn't a pastor when he wrote Institutes. After writing it, he did start working as a pastor. But Institutes is written from the perspective of a lawyer (albeit one who would later become a pastor).

Amy B. said...

The "Institutes" were first published before he was a pastor, but Calvin continued editing it throughout his life. The definitive version, that you or I would read, was not published until 1559, after he had been a pastor for quite a while. The final version was very different from the first. I imagine that his time as a pastor must have had an impact on his revisions.