28 August, 2016

Westminster Confession VI, 2—"...defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body"

By this sin they fell from their original righteousness, and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body… (Westminster Confession of Faith, VI, 2)

Defenders of common grace sometimes hold that the Confession here describes total depravity as merely a defilement of “every part” of man. That the unregenerated man and woman are "totally depraved" merely means that there is depravity in every part of their being. Their mind has some depravity or is affected somewhat by depravity. Their will has some depravity or is somewhat affected by depravity. Their body has some depravity or is somewhat affected by depravity. But there is also some good in their mind, in their will, and in their body. Or, to say it differently, their mind, will, and body are also affected by goodgood that comes from God by the operation of the Holy Spirit in common grace.


Prof. David J. Engelsma

[Source: The Standard Bearer, Vol. 69, Issue 4]

The fact is that the WCF very definitely states, not merely that the unregenerated man is depraved "in all the faculties and parts of soul and body," but that he is "wholly defiled" in every faculty and part. Every faculty, e.g., the will, and every part, e.g., the brain, of all unregenerated sinners is completely defiled. In every faculty and part is nothing else than defilement. There is no good in any faculty or part of fallen man.

Also, [those who appeal to this article neglect] to call attention to what follows in this chapter in the WCF on total depravity:

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions (6.4; emphasis mine, DJE).

What loophole is left . . . through which [one] can introduce good into the unregenerate? . . . How is it possible to interpret chapter six of the WCF as teaching merely defilement "in every faculty and part"?

In light of the creed's describing the condition of the unregenerated sinner as that of death ("dead in sin, and wholly defiled," etc.), there is something absurd, something ludicrous, about the notion that this sinner is yet somewhat good and, therefore, capable of doing good works. The teaching that unregenerated men are somewhat good requires us to believe . . . that dead men are also somewhat alive. Indeed, the dead men are somewhat alive in every faculty and part.

Were I to assert such nonsense in the physical realm of everyday life, I would be dismissed as a fool. "My Uncle Harry is dead, and he has some life yet in soul and body so that he is working quite actively." But in the realm of Presbyterian and Reformed theology, this passes for great wisdom. "The unregenerated is dead in sin, and he has some ethical life so that he is vigorously producing good works."



More to come! (DV)

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