Radical Depravity

Discussion Guide for Romans 3:1-20 

Read Romans 3:1-20

In this passage, Paul outlines the doctrine of Radical Depravity. In other words, is mankind inherently evil?

You may also hear this referred to as the doctrine of Total Depravity or Total Inability.

The Westminster Confession, which is the most concise and thorough explanation of Protestant doctrine, describes the depravity of man from the fall of Adam this way.

“From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.” – Westminster Confession VI.4

In other words, all people sin because all people were born sinners. Including religious people.

R.C. Sproul explains what this doctrine means for the Christian.

American Enlightenment

This doctrine is somewhat controversial in 21st Century America. One reason is because our country was founded partially on the ideals of the Enlightenment.

John Locke was one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment. (BTW, He was also hired to write the original Constitution of Carolina.)

Locke’s philosophy started from the belief that man was not born inherently evil. Instead his mind began as a tabula rasa. A blank slate.

The concept of the blank slate denies that children are inherently sinful. According to this thinking, they learn bad behavior from the selfishness of those around them.

Locke’s influence can still be felt in America today. Just listen to the way that people talk about human nature.

Most Americans believe that a person’s morality is determined by her environment, and not by nature. The majority also believe that if you give someone freedom, they will make “the right choice.”

Americans generally have a very hard time swallowing the doctrine of Total Depravity. I suspect that many religious first century Jews felt the same way.

Discussion Questions

  • Why is it not enough to know who God is and know what He requires from man?
  • Why can’t people born of men fulfill God’s requirements in the law?
  • Do you think that all men really are “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good?”
  • What do those phrases mean to you?
  • Do you think the Westminster Confession accurately describes Romans 3:10-18?
  • Why do you think people who studied the Old Testament couldn’t see the truth of Romans 3:10-18, which is simply a series of OT quotations?
  • How do you think people react to the Doctrine of Depravity?
  • Why do you think Americans struggle with this doctrine?

Related Message: Why God-Given Religion Doesn’t Work

Pray for Our Missionaries

Take time in your group to pray for an unreached people group such as the Gurung People of NE India. Learn more about them at PeopleGroups.org.

Also take time to pray for your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers with whom you are sharing the Gospel.

Photo by Ferenc Horvath on Unsplash

Jonathan Pugh

Associate Pastor: Life Groups & Church Partnership
Jonathan Pugh

Latest posts by Jonathan Pugh (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *