Calvinism-Total Hereditary Depravity (Two)

It is written:

Genesis 6:5-Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

This passage describes for us the conditions of mankind prior to the Flood. Calvinists maintain that it teaches that mankind is wicked from the time of conception.

However, is that what Moses is trying to convey?

First, the context of the passage is critical in studying any passage and text of Scripture. Notice that the events in the passage are describing the cohabitation of fallen angels with wicked women who were bearing their children to them (Genesis 6:1-4). This is not something which infants can do! Clearly, the passage is referring to “mankind” that is capable of committing such terrible acts.

Second, we are reminded also that the “mankind” who are committing such terrible deeds are paralleled with the “wickedness” that was being committed. Reese has well pointed out:

“It has been said that there are three classes or kinds of sin in the Hebrew Old Testament. (1) The lightest infractions are those that are called chet, chata, chatta’ah, or chattah, a fault, a shortcoming, a misstep, to sin, err, miss the mark. (2). Of a more serious nature are the sins described by ‘avon, avah, or ‘aven, a breaking of a commandment, iniquity. (3) The most serious sins are those called pesha’ (transgression) and resha’ (wickedness). There is the idea of rebellion involved in pesha’, and of what has become a habit or state in resha’. Psalm 106:6 mentions all three words, “We have sinned (cheta) like our fathers, we have committed iniquity (avah), we have behaved wickedly (resha’).” A similar threefold list is found in Exodus 34:7, “Who forgives iniquity (avon) , transgression (pesha’) and sin (chatta’ah).” (Gareth Reese, Commentary On Romans, 216; Joplin, Missouri; College Press).

Again, this speaks to the fact that “mankind” under consideration is referring to individuals who are capable of committing these acts of wickedness. Infants and small children are not under consideration!

If the Calvinist tries to argue that “mankind” includes every person-even infants (despite the fact that the actions in context are discussing the wicked decisions of people which preclude infants and small children), I would simply point out that they are inconsistent: because Noah himself is somehow excluded from their argument!

“James White’s book [25] The Potter’s Freedom quotes Genesis 6: 5 to try and prove the total depravity of people. The problem with his conclusion is he fails to look at the Hebrew word yatser which points back to individuals who are the ones who shape and form evil. God is not the one who created people to be this way but is the result of the fall and the obtaining of knowledge which belongs to God. One other thing James White fails to answer is how Noah was not counted as part of the wicked. Noah was human too, and yet he did not act wickedly as the rest of creation.” (Dr. Al Garza, Calvinism Challenged: How The Hebrew Bible, Jewish Sources, Jesus, The Apostles and Paul Refute Calvinism, 337-344 (Kindle Edition); Serfer Press)

The use of Genesis 6:5 by Calvinists is a classic example of the danger of plucking a verse of Scripture out of its’ context to try and justify a teaching. Such wresting of Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16) is always dangerous.

So, what have we learned?

Genesis 6:5 is referring to the decisions of mankind who are capable of making decisions to do evil. Clearly, infants and small children are not being discussed.

Further, Noah himself is a powerful example from the text that not all humanity is under this indictment of “wickedness.”

Genesis 6:5 does not teach total hereditary depravity.

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