I recently saw a video of a minister teaching the Calvinist doctrine that all humanity is totally depraved. There were two statements that he made that I would like to refute here as an example, to show how the Word of God is often misunderstood when it is not preached and taught contextually.
The two statements were, “all men are born hating God” & “all men are evil.”
First, the Bible does not support the notion that all men are born hating God. John the Baptist was filled the the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and he leaped with joy while he was in Elizabeth, his mother’s womb, at the announcement of Mary (the mother of Jesus) that she had conceived. From this one text we can see that not all men are born hating God. With a little thought we can also read other texts in scripture which would be contrary to the notion that all men are born hating God.
For example, Isaac was the child God promised to Abraham. Was Isaac born hating God? And what about Josiah, who became King of Israel at only 8 years old.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left. ~ 2 Kings 22:1-2
When Josiah heard the words of the Law of Moses for the first time (he was about 26 years old) he humbled himself in the fear of the Lord and sent men (among them were Hilkiah the priest, and Shaphan the scribe) to inquire of the Lord regarding what he and the people should do, for the people of Judah had not kept the Law of the Lord.
The Lord answered through Huldah the prophetess, who warned of the coming judgment on the people of Judah because of their evil deeds, but to Josiah, God said the following:
Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. ~2 Kings 22:19-20
Josiah was not born hating God, nor was he an evil man.
The whole counsel of scripture does not teach that all men are born hating God and that all men are evil, and to say such things is misrepresent the whole counsel of God’s Word.
What about Enoch? Was he born hating God? Was he evil?
NO! He was not!
The Bible says, Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). The author of Hebrews tells us: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:4). Enoch was such a man of God, who pleased God, he never died! Jude tells us that Enoch prophesied of the coming of the Lord as well (Jude 1:14). Enoch prophesied of God’s judgment against evil men, but Enoch himself was a righteous man.
The minister I referenced cites Genesis 6:5 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He cites this along with other texts from different passages of scripture as support for his position, but there is a context to which this text belongs, as well as a context to which the others belong.
The context of Genesis 6:5 (And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually) does not support the notion that all men are evil & all men are born hating God.
The context to which Genesis 6:5 belongs is the narrative of the story of Noah. The scripture says, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Those words are found in verse 8, just 3 verses later. Verse 9 says, Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. Later in chapter 7, we read, “And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” ~ Genesis 7:1
So even though the entire generation around Noah had become corrupt, Noah hadn’t.
Like Josiah who came later, Noah was a godly man. In Ezekiel, God mentions Noah along with Daniel and Job as righteous (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). In the New Testament, the apostle Peter refers to Noah as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), and the writer of Hebrews testifies of Noah’s righteousness as well.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear (the fear of the Lord), prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became the heir of the righteousness which is by faith. ~ Hebrews 11:7
The overall context of the narrative of the story of Noah is not that every single person is evil and every single person is born hating God, for Noah, a righteous man is the main character in the narrative. As just as with Josiah, Noah was a righteous man in the midst of a corrupt generation of people.
What we should learn from the story of Noah is not that every person is evil, but that God delivers the righteous and judges the ungodly as was the case with Josiah as well. Though God pronounced judgment on Judah, Josiah was preserved because of his tender heart towards the Lord.
Consider the following from the apostle Peter:
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: ~ 2 Peter 2:4-8
The narrative of scripture does not reveal that all men are evil and all men are born hating God. The narrative of scripture reveals that God delivers the righteous and reserves the the ungodly unto the day of judgment to be punished.
That is how the apostle Peter interpreted the wickedness of men in Noah’s day, and that is how we should interpret it as well.