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Much Worse

I don’t know all of the history of the Calvinist TULIP. I don’t know if there is any reason why the doctrines of grace are presented in the order they are, other than to make a handy acrostic. But nevertheless, there is good doctrinal reason to put the T (Total Depravity) first.


The issues that really matter are not the trivial facts of our lives but the essential truths of our nature and standing before God. In this respect, I am reminded of a picture that is printed in one of the best-selling church-growth books of recent years. The picture is labeled “Our Target,” and the man featured in it is designated “Saddleback Sam,” so named for the author’s church. Around the picture are things the author thinks are important for us to know about the target audience of our ministry. Included are such insights as “he is well-educated,” “he likes contemporary music,” “health and fitness are high priorities for him,” and “he prefers the casual and informal over the formal.” From this sociological perspective on people arises a sociological approach to ministry and, ultimately, to salvation. The apostle Paul also wanted us to know important truths about ourselves, though his interests were somewhat different from the above. His portrait of mankind is found in Romans 3:10–18. Assembling his portrait not from consumer surveys but from the Old Testament, Paul tells us about our moral and spiritual condition. It is not a pretty picture: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes.” From such a biblical consideration of mankind arises a biblical and theological approach to ministry and salvation.

It is the distinction of adherents to Reformed theology in general and to the doctrines of grace in particular that, following the Scriptures, we hold to the worst possible view of man—and therefore, we exercise the highest possible reliance on God’s grace. If the question is “How bad am I really?” we answer, “Much, much worse than you have dared to think.” It is against the backdrop of this terrible news about man in sin that we see the good news of the gospel as something far more wonderful than we have ever imagined.

—Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 19–20.

Posted 2013·11·19 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Richard Phillips · Rick Warren · Total Depravity · What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace?

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