Those who reject the doctrine of the total depravity of man must skim over many parts of Scripture, which is unique among the holy books of all religions in that it does not shy away from revealing the evils of even its most prominent characters. The Bible is a book about sin, in fact. It addresses the origin sin and its only resolution. Heaven is in view, but only as the full restoration of the redeemed man. The Biblical picture of heaven is a place of victory over sin made possible by the atonement for sins by Jesus Christ.
Because it is a book about man’s sin problem, the Bible does not hesitate to point out sin, even when it is in God’s covenant people. We are not presented with a religion of positive thinking, but one with real sinners who often fail their God. Thus, we are shown Noah’s drunkenness, as well as that of Lot. We are shown the disobedience of Moses, the apostasy of Saul, the adultery and murder by David, and the excesses of Solomon.
Sometimes these accounts are so familiar to us they fail to shock us. Take, for instance, the selling of Joseph into slavery by his own brothers. This was perhaps a crueler act then if they had murdered him outright. God may have intended it for good, as Joseph later told his brothers, but their action was no less evil. This, the earlier incest of Reuben, and the murders by Simeon and Levi reveal the nature of Israel’s sons. No virtue can be ascribed to them; all that comes through is the grace of God. Nothing else could have made such men leaders of the covenant people.
All too often, we see only the evil in men and in cultures and fail to see God’s grace at work. Such a perspective leads to cynicism and a defeatist attitude. We ought to remember that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph saw great evil in their day but never saw the fulfillment of the promises in terms of which they lived. Likewise, Christ has made us more than conquerors, but we often personally know only what seems to us defeat. The purposes of God stand, however, and our walk must not be by sight, but by faith. Even our death, the “last enemy” (I Cor. 15:26) will, in the end, be defeated. Like watching a replay when we know the good outcome, our perspective should be one of joy and delight in the certainty of the resolution of all things by a righteous God.