"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
-1st Corinthians 1:31
On Friday nights I've been going with some classmates to the young adult's group of a nearby church. This is the church that nearly all of my close friends here at Loma Linda attend and it's pastored by a man who graduated from John MacArthur's Master's Seminary. Many things have impressed me about this church, not least being the young adult group and the level of discourse there. During the last few meetings the group has been watching a series on DVD by R.C. Sproul called, "What is Reformed Theology?" In these videos Sproul gives a concise and clear lecture on a topic in Reformed theology. I have been so impressed to see a group of people, mostly in their 20's, attentively watch videos on theology and then have intelligent discussions afterward.
Right now the group is in a part of the series where Sproul is going through the five points of Calvinism and on Friday the lecture was on the doctrine of Total Depravity, the "T" of TULIP. During the discussion afterwards a question concerning the applicability of the doctrine of Total Depravity came up and I was very impressed by what one of my colleagues in med school had to say. My classmate related the doctrine to our ability to love people who don't know Christ. He confessed that at times he had been tempted to see himself as better in some way than those who don't know Christ. He had been tempted to look down on those around him which would imply that he possessed some inherent quality lacking in the non-Christian of which he could be proud. My classmate stated that believing in Total Depravity undoes our ability to have such a pride.
I think my classmate was correct in his assessment. If our view of the fall leaves any room for some uncorrupted island of goodness affecting the will then it seems impossible that we would not be led to evil self-reliance and pride. It seems inevitable that we would be led into boasting about some unseen inner good within us which led us to choose Christ while those around us who weren't "as good" in some way didn't choose Christ. If there is some goodness in me which played a role in my beginning to see Christ as desirable and His cross as necessary for salvation then it is only natural that I would look down on the unbelievers around me who maybe weren't as smart or holy.
But the Apostle Paul makes it clear that this is not the nature of the gospel. He says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast(Ephesians 2:8-9)." We contribute nothing to our salvation and therefore we are no more worthy of being boasted about than the one who does not know Christ. Our only boast about any good thing we possess can only be a boast about the source of any good thing we possess - Jesus Christ.
I think we all have the desire to be prideful in comparing ourselves to others - I know that I do. But this doctrine of Total Depravity completely undoes any basis for human pride. So ultimately I think this doctrine does help us to "love our neighbor," as our Lord commanded. We can't view those around us as defective or deficient in some way that we are not. We can only view them no differently from ourselves as, "thirsty whelps of grace," in the words of a Laplander who came to know Christ during Laestadius' revival.
Nothing in my hands I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling;
naked come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.