“Every human being, until the moment of redemption, is under the domain of darkness and the dominion of sin. The unbeliever is wholly corrupted by the bondage of his fallen condition and utterly unable to free himself from it. Not surprisingly, the very notion of such absolute enslavement (a doctrine commonly known as 'total depravity' or 'total inability') is repugnant to the fallen human heart. In fact, no doctrine is more hated by unbelievers than this one, and even some Christians find it so offensive that they zealously attack it.” John MacArthur
What is the condition of fallen humanity? Are we fallen at all? Perhaps we are good people who just need to try better ourselves? Or are we just a bit bad, but not too bad that we are unable to change ourselves by choosing God? Or are we dead in our trespasses and sins and in need or a Saviour who can bring us to life?
What is Total Depravity
The doctrine of total depravity teaches that “Sin has affected all parts of man, the heart, emotions, will, mind, and body, all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.” This simply means that every part of man has been affected by sin.
Note: Total depravity does not mean that man is as sinful as he can be (utter depravity). There are examples of people who have outdone society by doing “extreme” evil like Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
God created man in His own image. He made him good, innocent and in a state of communion with Him. But God gave man a commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gen 2:17) and the consequences of eating thereof was death. Man was tempted by the serpent and ate of the tree that God had commanded him not to eat, and thus sinned against God. And this led to the fall of man. Man fell from his state of innocence and communion with God.
Results of the fall
Sin and death were introduced into the world. As a result of the fall, everyone is born in Adam's fallen nature. We are all born sinners and enslaved to sin (cf. Rom 5:12-21). As a result of our being born as sinners,man is unable to come to God by himself (cf. John 6:44).
The Bible describes fallen men as dead in sins (Eph. 2:1), at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7), haters of God (Rom. 1:30), slaves of sin (Rom. 6:17), sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2) etc.
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
there is none who understands;
there is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
they have together become unprofitable;
there is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open tomb;
with their tongues they have practiced deceit;
the poison of asps is under their lips;
whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
destruction and misery are in their ways;
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18).
It is our nature to sin, in fact all we do in our fallen state is sin by not giving God the glory due to Him. In order for our natures to be renewed, it will take God Himself to intervene. We cannot change our own nature (be born again), flesh cannot bring about a spiritual change (John 1:12-13; 3:3-8). In our fallen state, we are unable to be subject to God's law; our nature is contrary to it.
“We are not free to fly because we do not have the nature of a bird. A sheep will not eat garbage like a hog. Why? Not because the sheep does not have a mouth and teeth but because of its nature. A hog will not eat grass like a sheep for the same reason: not because it is not free, but because it is free only to act according to its nature. So it is with the freedom of the will in the state of depravity'men are only free to act according to their nature.” Ernest Reisinger
“No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” (John 6:44, Green's Literal Translation)
Since man is thus affected by sin, He is unable to come to God. His entire being (including his will) is affected and enslaved to sin. He cannot seek nor choose to come to God (Rom. 3:11). God has to draw us to Himself (6:44) in order for us to come to Him. He must make us willing (Psa. 65:4).
“We declare on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no one will ever be constrained toward Christ.” C.H. Spurgeon
Total depravity is the teaching that we're all born in sin. We are unable to turn to God and choose Him. God makes us able to come to Him by drawing us to Himself.
Soli Deo Gloria