Perhaps the supreme indication of the deadly seriousness of our depravity is the deadly seriousness of God’s solution. The way that He uses death to defeat death, and not just any death, but the agonizing death of His only beloved Son, the eternal Christ of God, nailed to a Roman cross. If that is the cure for sin, then sin must be is unimaginably serious.
Back in the 1930s, the poet and dramatist T.S. Eliot wrote a play called The Family Reunion. In it, he tried to describe the depth and extent of human sin.
Sin is portrayed as an old house afflicted by an all-permeating stench that no one can seem to get rid of. Sin is an inconsolable sobbing in the chimney, bumps in the cellar, a rattling of the windows, evil in a dark closet. It is a private, discomfiting puzzle, deeper than cancer.
As Eliot knew, this tireless “evil from within” affects every part of our human nature. We’re in a state that the Scottish pastor Thomas Boston described as “entire depravity.” The eighteenth-century theologian Jonathan Edwards says the same thing when he writes, “All mankind are by nature in a state of total ruin.” What they’re describing is what theologians have called total depravity.
Now, that’s not to say that every part of our nature is as bad as it could possibly be. No; thankfully, by God’s grace, that’s not the case. What the term total depravity describes is the fact that no part of our nature escapes the defilement of sin.
And the reason for that is because sin isn’t some kind of virus that lurks outside us; it’s not a contamination we can somehow isolate or avoid by doing certain things or not doing certain other things—which is the view of every religion apart from Christianity. Sin is already, as T.S. Eliot knew, “inside the gates”; it’s inside each one of us.