I’ve dipped into Tullian Tchividjian’s new book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World a bit, and have really enjoyed it. It is so clear and understandable.
For example, in the last chapter he has a great discussion of the question “Are Christians totally depraved?” The answer is that we need to make some distinctions.
We are all born totally depraved, which means two things. First, it means we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Sin has so affected us that we are unable to turn to God without his gift of regenerating grace that brings us back to life and enables us to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Second, total depravity means that sin has affected every aspect of our being. There is no area of our selves that is unaffected by sin.
Note also that total depravity is distinct from utter depravity. Utter depravity would mean that everybody is as bad as they possibly can be. While that’s almost certainly true of Satan and his minions, that is obviously not true of human beings, and not the meaning of total depravity. Because of God’s restraining grace, not everybody is as bad as they can be; rather, total depravity means that sin has affected us in the totality of our being — all aspects of our human nature are fallen.
Now, with these distinctions in view, are Christians still totally depraved? The answer is: yes and no. We are not totally depraved anymore in the sense that we cannot turn to God. We have been brought back to life and given repentance and faith. We are able to respond to God and follow him. So in that sense, we are no longer totally depraved.
But we are still totally depraved in that all aspects of ourselves continue to be affected by sin. Even there, of course, God has begun making us new. But indwelling sin continues to linger in us as Christians as long as we are in this world, and every area of our being continues to suffer from these effects.
Tchividjian’s discussion of total depravity is representative of the clarity and helpfulness that you encounter throughout the entire book as it calls us to stop trying to earn God’s favor and rest fully in the amazing truth that God saves us single handedly.