*Before I jump in here, I want to make clear it is not my intention to deny the doctrine of Total Depravity. Rather, I want to show that this verse (Genesis 6:5) does not, itself, touch of on the subject of Total Depravity.*
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
From John Wesley to John Calvin to John Stott, Genesis 6:5 has been used to argue for the doctrine of Total Depravity. Total Depravity affirms human persons are, because of the Fall, totally corrupt in our entire nature. Sin has touched every one of our faculties – spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical – and because we are totally corrupted in our sin, we cannot, in our own will, make a decision for God without his prior actions of grace toward us.
It’s easy to see how this doctrine can be derived from Genesis 6:5. It’s easy.
But easy doesn’t make it right.
The larger context of Genesis 6:5 demonstrates why utilizing Genesis 6:5 out to prove the doctrine of Total Depravity is a mis-use of the text.
Genesis 6:5 is concerned with a special, extensive, particular form of wickedness directly tied to the Nephalim (6:4) – offspring of the Son’s of God (evil angelic beings?) having sexual relations with the daughters of men (human women).
In other words, according to Genesis 6, itself, we’re not talking about normal, run-of-the-mill human sin(fulness). We’re talking about an extreme (and odd!) form of sin(fulness).
Indeed, the passage claims that humanity’s wickedness had become great, not that it always was great. And then later the passage describes God’s grief for having created humanity because of how wicked they had become.
Furthermore, the Nephalim wickedness was so extreme in form that Genesis 6:5 posits it is the direct, causal factor for the subsequent flood narrative. In other words, we have an extreme form of judgment (the flood) because of an extreme form of sin (Nephalim wickedness). And if this wickedness is extreme, then we’re not talking about normative, universal human nature existing in all times, all places, and within every human heart.
In fact, if the words of Genesis 6:5 were universal to humanity, and therefore relevant to the doctrine of Total Depravity, then God would have destroyed the world long before Genesis 6.
But since God doesn’t, this leads me to the conclude that Genesis 6:5 is an irrelevant text in the Total Depravity discussion, except insofar as it illustrates how far human sinfulness can go. But let’s be clear that it cannot prove the Total Depravity of non-Nephalim peoples.
Again, I am not challenging the doctrine of Total Depravity here. That’s another discussion altogether. But I want to argue that we shouldn’t be using this passage.
What do you think? Have I completely missed the boat? Have any of you ever wondered about the use of this passage to prove Total Depravity?