by Dr. James Willingham
Total depravity/total inability is a lost masterpiece of theology. It has been lost to the knowledge even of those who believe in it, because they have forgotten that it is a doctrine of invitation to receive God on His terms. It has been lost to the knowledge of even those who believe in it, because they have forgotten that it is a doctrine designed to stimulate the sinner to the point of response. It has been lost to the knowledge of even those who believe, because they simply do not recognize the links between this truth and that of reprobation, another masterpiece of biblical theology designed to produce a violent resolve, a dynamic decision, a desperate determination. It is along with Total Depravity/Inability one of the most intensely compelling truths. It has been lost to the knowledge of even those who believe, because they know little, if anything, about therapeutic paradoxes. There is more that could be said, but let us take one example from the ministry of our Lord.
In the case of the woman of Canaan, recorded in Mt. 15:21-28, we find that our Lord said something that was seemingly repulsive to her, when she was seeking His help fervently. He said, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” If anything can be said about the image used, the symbolic term, it is this: It is a picture of total depravity. A dog was an unclean animal to a Jew. Worse yet, it appears to have been an image of reprobation, because Peter spoke of the dog as returning to its own vomit, a matter of common knowledge. Talk about an unfriendly reception, the woman of Canaan seem to have had it. But what was her response. She said, “Truth, Lord.” She agreed with Him: Her sinfulness could be put in the most repulsive terms, even one that could lead to the suggestion of reprobation as Peter would indicate. I can not forget having seen dogs eat their own vomit in my childhood and even since. The idea of this truth is to awaken the sinner to his or her desperate need, and the woman’s need was so great that she not only agreed with the Lord but she even argued with Him, arguing from His own words. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. No one would say that the crumbs that fall to the floor should be swept up and given to the child; they could easily be spared for the dog. Desperation will move a person , a needy sinner, to consider and accept what he or she would not otherwise receive. When a dog is hungry enough, it will go for the crumbs, eagerly. When a sinner feels the need so desperately, then he or she will take even a word of condemnation as an invitation and encouragement.