The first of the five points of TULIP (Calvinism theology) is total depravity. This was a direct response to the Arminian view of partial depravity.
What does total depravity mean? It is referring to man’s depravity meaning man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man. Total depravity is captured by the phrase, “the dead man theory.” Ephesians 2 puts it this way:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved-…” – Ephesians 2:1,5
Total depravity may be better explained in Romans:
“no one understands; no one seeks for God.” – Romans 3:11
Partial Depravity on the other hand, is better stated in the phrase, “the wounded man theory.” Although man is fallen, his mind, will and emotions were only wounded by the fall. Therefore, “the human will is free and [still] self-controlled, having power to yield to the influence of the truth and the Spirit, or to resist them and perish.” (Articles of Faith of the National Association of Free Will Baptists)
The bottom line: the Calvinists saw that the remonstrance was giving fallen man more credit than he deserved, and attributing an ability that was simply not there. And they understood that how one viewed the fall would be reflected in how one understood, believed and preached the gospel.
Study verses for this section: Ephesians 4:18, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 8:5-7, Romans 1:30, John 3:19, Ephesians 2:1-5, Isaiah 64:6, Titus 3:3, John 8:34, Mark 7:21-23, Isaiah 53:6, Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, John 6:44, Matthew 19:26, Psalm 14, Romans 3:10-18
– Adam Smith