Total Depravity – Psalm 14:1-3

Total Depravity – Psalm 14:1-3

The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

Why is this so? Why is human sinfulness such a big deal in the Bible? Why do we resist it so much? Is it really an essential doctrine? In Psalm 14 David repeatedly emphasizes the unchanging reality that all men are sinners.

Practical atheism

The most accurate translation of the phrase “There is no God” is actually “God is a non-entity.” This passage is not condemning atheists only; it is condemning people who in practice are atheists. The fool is the one who lives as if God has zero affect on their life; as far as they are practically concerned, God is a non-entity. This is seen even in the most religious of people. David here does not deny the religious nature of people. He simply points out that in practice they live as if God has no say. This is seen in them saying it within their hearts, even if they say something different in church. This is exactly what Jesus alludes to in Matthew 7:21-23.

The results of practical atheism

David now shows us what we see in Romans 1. This refusal to acknowledge God leads to corruption and abominable works. In our pride we tend to only acknowledge this corruption and abhorrent actions in others. However, the truth is that we see this same moral decay in our own lives. Every single one of us have done things that are so abhorrent that we will never speak of them to others. If the entirety of our lives, including our secret thoughts, were played for all to see, the conclusion would be that we have done abominable works.

Is there really no one who is good?

Our pride still wants to fight back even though we have done horrific things. The idea that no one does good seems so far fetched. However, this fact is repeated in Psalm 53, Romans 3, and a number of others places. Jesus Himself affirms that there is no one who is good except God.

Isaiah 64:6 helps us to understand why no one does good. In this passage God tells us that even our good actions are corrupted. Even our best deeds are done for wrong motives. There is really nothing in our life that we can look back on and say that we did it perfectly. Imperfection is part and parcel with being human. We objectively know this, yet we deny it when it comes to our own morality.

God’s verdict

It is as if David now calls upon God to give His own witness to what David is saying. God looks at all of humanity and concludes that there is no one who seeks Him and no one who does good. Every one has turned aside after something other than God. Every one has become morally dirty. God’s conclusion is that no one does good. This is the exact same phrasing as what the fool says in his heart in verse 1. God says that good people are a non-entity. Even if we give ourselves a pass, God does not, and at the end of the day, He is the Judge over all the earth.


Christianity stands in stark contrast to every belief system and religion in the world on two points which are completely dependent upon one another: human depravity and God’s grace.

Every belief system except Christianity teaches the innate goodness of man and the ability of man to solve his problems. This is why all world religions are based upon human works; man must do something to please God. This thinking has crept into Christianity. We begin to believe in good people who are seeking God in wrong ways. If we just show them the right way they will do what is right. However, the more Christianity has adopted this way of thinking the worse our world has become.

God’s verdict is that men are corrupt and will not seek Him. Because of man’s inability, God sought man when man would not seek God. When man could not do what was required, God did what was required. Jesus came to die as a man so that men might be saved by God’s grace. We do not stand and tell people to act; we tell people of the actions of God. We do not tell people what they must do; we tell people what God has already done. The question then is not “What will you do?” but instead, “Do you believe what God has done?”

Do you believe in your own depravity?

Do you believe in Jesus Christ and His grace?

Will you proclaim God’s grace?


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