Answering a non calvinist about total depravity and the reason for parables.

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Osage Bluestem

Puritan Board Junior
In another forum a person asked the question,

If total depravity is true why did Jesus have to speak in parables?.

I answerd him in the thread in a manner I believe explains it, however I would like to see if there are any other views on this.

Here is his original post from that thread:

"To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12*so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN." (Cross reference Luke 8; Matt. 13)

Notice that this passage tells us that Jesus used parables so that certain Jews wouldn't believe and be forgiven. But why?

If Calvinists assumption, that men are born unable to believe in Christ without an effectual calling, is true, then why would Christ need to hide the message in parables to prevent them from believing? Notice that it says they "might return and be forgiven," proving that the parables kept that from possibly happening.

Jesus must have believed that they could have believed and "returned" to Him, otherwise why would he say this?

In short, why would you hide a message from people so they can't believe it when those people were born unable to willingly believe or even understand that message in the first place?

What is your view on this and what would your answer to his question be?


Puritan Board Junior
Well that passage may not prove Total Depravity to them but it certainly, by their logic, points to reprobation.


Puritanboard Commissioner
It's helpful to understand that the doctrine, "total depravity," is part of a systematic biblical theology. That is, the whole of scripture interpreting scripture. We don't draw it merely from one verse, let alone one verse without its immediate context.

It's also necessary to define exactly what we mean by the term, e.g. that it does not mean man is able as he possibly could be, that God looks at outward as well as inward in determining the quality of men's actions.

The passage you cite, Luke 8 follows the parable of the sower. Explaining that is a powerful illustration of man being morally unable to savingly believe, unless the soil has been prepared beforehand by the sower (God).


Puritan Board Doctor
Wasn't one aspect of Jesus' use of parables judicial? Were they not introduced at a point in His ministry when He had preached to the Jews but only a small minority had believed?

Only 500 met with Him in Galilee after His resurrection
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep (I Cor 15:6)

At what point in His three-and-a-half year ministry did Christ start using parables, and what happened before and after?
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Puritan Board Freshman
These were my thoughts, hope they are useful:

Why did God say that his eye goes to and forth throughout the world searching for someone to show himself strong in? Doesn’t God know everything? Why then does He have to search?

2Ch 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

Why did God say that the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching out the very depths of his heart? Doesn't God know everything?

Pro 20:27 The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

Why did God say that He removed Himself from Hezekiah to see what was in his heart, doesn’t He know already?

2Ch 32:31 Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

God uses language which can be misused in light of the analogy of faith (comparing scripture with scripture). The example the non-calvinist is using is such a one. Christ was using that language to proclaim of judgment via spiritual blindness against a hardened people, yet that does not mean that man is not totally depraved, in Exodus "God hardened Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh "hardened his own heart." The prophetic judgment of Christ via parables is a display of God's distinguishing grace against the Jews which was prophesied to occur in the prophets, therefore, a biblical theology helps in understanding this passage, along with a comparison of similar prima facie problem texts in scripture.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Thinking about how I got on the road to Geneva.

... a feeling for decades that what I was taught wasn't quite right... the seeds were sown with being led to listen to sermons that happened to address concerns in my life... got out there and made a 3 year search of churches to find this teaching and living... read about 12,000 pages of Reformed theology without any help from another and came around to believing this was the best grid for understand God and His Word...

Nothing was achieved through debates or arguments. Needed a realization that I'm missing something and getting off the couch and searching until I find it.

Good thing God is leading this the whole time.
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