Question:

I haveread an article written by a member of a church of Christ writer in http://www.wordsfitlyspoken.org/bible_banner/v6/v6n12p10a.htmlrefuting the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity. I would just like to ask whether you agree with the arguments offered in this article. If not, why not? May God bless you..

Answer:

I read through the article and didn't notice anything objectionable in it. It reminded me of something that occurred during the early 1800's:

It is reported that John Leland, one of the most popular preachers of his day in Virginia, and one of the most eccentric and singularly pious of men, was at first ordained a minister by the choice of the church, without the imposition of the hands of the Presbytery. He continued for some years afterward to preach and to baptize on the authority of his simple appointment, much to the disturbance of the peace of the association to which he belonged. In fact, on account of his departure from the usages of the churches in Virginia, he was not for awhile in good fellowship with any. Whether right or wrong, he openly professed to believe that the imposition of hands by the Apostles, in ancient times, was only to confer miraculous gifts; and that, consequently, such a ceremony in the Church now, was in itself worthless, because wholly unauthorized.

His brethren urged him most earnestly, for the sake of peace, to submit to ordination by the hands of the ministry; and finally, to gratify them, he consented that they might call a Presbytery for that purpose. Knowing all the questions which they would ask on his examination, and resolved in his own mind on the answers which he would give, he felt confident that they would not ordain him.

The Presbytery, consisting of three staunch Calvinists, was called. The day appointed for the ordination arrived, and with it came a multitude of people to witness the ceremony. The work was divided among the several Presbyters. One was to ask the usual questions concerning his faith and call; another was to offer up the ordination prayer; and another was to deliver the charge to the pastor and the church. Leland took his seat long before they appeared, and resting his arms on his knees, and burying his face in his hands, awaited their movements.

The Presbyter appointed to conduct the examination, at length began:

"Brother Leland, it becomes my duty, according to previous arrangement, to ask you a few questions upon the subject of your faith, and in reference to your call to the ministry."

"Well, brother," said Leland, slowly raising his head, "I will tell you all I know," and down went his head into his hands again.

Presbyter. "Brother Leland, do you not believe that God chose his people in Christ, before the foundation of the world?"

Leland (looking up). "I know not, brother, what God was doing before he began to make this world."

Presbyter. "Brother Leland, but do you not believe that God had a people from before the foundation of the world?"

Leland. "If he had, brother, they were not our kind of folks. Our people were made out of dust, you know, and before the foundation of the world there was no dust to make them of."

Presbyter. "You believe, brother Leland, that all men are totally depraved?"

Leland. "No, brother; if they were, they could not wax worse and worse, as some of them do. The devil is no more than totally depraved."

Presbyter. "Well, there are other questions that will embrace all these in substance. I will ask, whether you do not believe that sinners are justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed unto them?"

Leland. "Yes, brother, provided they will do right themselves; but I know of no righteousness that will justify a man that won't do right himself."

Presbyter. "Brother Leland, I will ask you one more question: Do you not believe that all the saints will persevere through grace to glory, and get home to heaven at last?"

Leland. "I can tell you more about that, my brother, when I get there myself. Some seem to make a very bad start of it here."

The Presbyter, seeing that the audience was greatly amused, proposed to his colleagues that they should retire for a few moments, and consult together. After returning, they remarked to the congregation, that brother Leland had not answered the questions as satisfactorily as they could wish, but they all knew that he had many eccentricities, for which they should make every allowance; that they had concluded accordingly to ask him a few questions touching his call to the ministry.

Presbyter. "Brother Leland, you believe that God has called you to preach the Gospel ?"

Leland. "I never heard him, brother."

Presbyter. "We do not suppose, brother Leland, that you ever heard an audible voice; but you know what we mean."

Leland. "But wouldn't it be a queer call, brother, if there were no voice, and nothing said?"

Presbyter (evidently confused). "Well, well, brother Leland, you believe, at least, that it is your duty to preach the Gospel to every creature?"

Leland. "Ah! no, my brother, I do not believe it to be my duty to preach to the Dutch, for instance, for I can't do it. When the Lord sent the Apostles to preach to every nation, he taught them to talk to all sorts of people; but he has never learned me to talk Dutch yet."

Presbyter. "But, brother Leland, you feel a great desire for the salvation of sinners, do you not ?"

Leland. "Sometimes I think I do; and then again I don't care if the devil gets the whole of them."

Upon this the Presbytery retired again, and, having returned, reported as before, much to the surprise of Leland, who was now constrained to submit to ordination. After they had ordained him in due form, he said:

"Well, brethren, when Peter put his hands on people, and took them off, they had more sense than they had before; but you have all had your hands on my head, and, before God, I am just as big a fool now, as I was before you put them on."

[From The Life of Elder John Smith]