Calvinists: How do you exegete Romans 1 to support your views?

I’ve been researching presuppositional apologetics a bit, and it seems to be based on the Calvinist teaching that original sin is total depravity; we can not make a decision to accept the grace of God in the state of original sin; God must change us so that we can accept His grace. And the key text supporters of both use to support their position is Romans 1:18-21. Here is the RSV Catholic reading on it, from
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.
(The text doesn’t really read differently in Protestant translations, so this isn’t Catholics trying to change Scripture to try to take a Calvinist meaning out of a text)

Now, I read this text and thought, “Wait, that doesn’t prove what they’re trying to say.” Unless there’s something in the Greek grammar that proves me wrong, I don’t see where this text says that all men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It says that the wrath of God is revealed to the ungodliness of those who do. Now, how do Calvinists try to exegete this text to support total depravity? The evidence for Calvinism in this text seems so disproportionate to the Calvinists like James White who try to use it as one of their main texts to support Calvinism.

I’m curious about who told you that “original sin is total depravity”, and why they think Romans 1:18-21 is “a key text” for support of this doctrine. I’m still relatively new to Calvinism, but I don’t think this is accurate. The book of Romans is an excellent presentation of the Gospel by Paul, and he does spend the opening chapters discussing sin and it’s effects on man. While this does include Romans 1:18-21, it does not end at verse 21.

Just for clarification, what do you think “Total depravity” means? I can assure you, no well informed Calvinist would assert that any man is as evil or depraved as he could be. The Bible is clear that God restrains man from being as evil as he could be (Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery instead of killing him, and how many times did the people try to kill Jesus before it was time?).

IMHO, You can’t take a few verses and make a doctrine out of them. You have to take the whole book of Romans in context, just like you do with any other book.

I think the most uncomfortable thing about Sola Scripture is that some Christians will take a few lines out of context and apply it to a doctrine they make up.

This is taken from the acronym T.U.L.I.P.
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

The five points seem to be a product of 20th century Calvinism from what I have seen; and some claim that it distorts the theology of Calvin himself. It is, however, frequently cited, quoted and argued from by many Calvinists. In my experience, as a former “Arminian”, it’s difficult to really pin down the finer points of Protestant theology in many cases as the theology seems to be ever-evolving or devolving depending on the century, decade or mood of the people.

The “five points” are a product of the cannons of Dort from the Synod of Dort which took place in 1618-1619.

They would probably point you to Romans Chapter 3. Romans 3 is the standard Total Depravity text in Reformed circles.

What I should have said is that I’ve come into contact with some Calvinists who say that the modern “five points” are a distortion of the 17th century theology. I’m no expert on Calvinism so I can’t say one way or the other–this is only what I’ve been told. It might be that these Calvinists that I’ve conversed with were uncomfortable with their own theology.

I think you must have misread whatever you were reading. The verses you are citing would not be an especially suitable prooftext for total depravity. I think what you are reading was more likely referring to Romans 7:18-21.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Maybe that is not what they had in mind either, but you see how that is a much better prooftext.

Now, you said regarding total depravity, “I’ve been researching presuppositional apologetics a bit, and it seems to be based on the Calvinist teaching that original sin is total depravity; we can not make a decision to accept the grace of God in the state of original sin; God must change us so that we can accept His grace.” While Catholic theologians have often denied the excesses of Protestant teaching on original sin, the doctrine of original sin was not a dividing issue between Catholics on one hand and the Lutherans and Calvinists on the other. The only condemnation of Lutheran-Reformed teaching in the Council of Trent’s Decree on Original Sin was this:

If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema. For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven. But this holy synod confesses and is sensible, that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.
(Chapter 5)

You can see that the fundamental disagreement is really rooted in the errant Protestant doctrine of justification rather than the Protestant doctrine of original sin. Other than that, this is only really a rejection of imprecise Protestant terminology.

Catholics might not agree with “total depravity” depending on how it is defined, but according to your definition of it, it would have to be confessed as a basic principle of Catholic orthodoxy. The Council of Trent in its Decree on Justification, while acknowledging that justification and regeneration are not without the consent and cooperation of man, declares the need for the unmerited prevenient grace of God as the beginning of man’s justification.

The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.
(Chapter 5)

There are also many places in Scripture which make this clear. Here are a few.

*]No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him (John 6:44)
*]Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16)
*]Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
*]For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)

[quote=Pilgrim 333] This is taken from the acronym T.U.L.I.P.

I am well aware of TULIP and what it means. What I was asking about was the “Total depravity is original sin” comment. I’ve never heard that, and was wondering what source was being used (I like to check sources).

I see, I see. Well, basically no, it’s not a distortion but a direct carry over. Ever sense the Synod Of Dort at least, belief in the five points was the standard in both the Dutch Reformed Church, and with the Puritan Church in England.

As for John Calvin himself, however, there could perhaps be some legitimate questions about Limited Atonement. But in essence I think the 5 points can easily be found in his theology.

I don’t see Limited Atonement in Calvin. But certainly the other four are there.

If I remember correctly the TULIP teaching came long after Calvin’s death.

The specific TULIP arrangement came in 1619, but the “five points” are very present in Calvin with the possible exception of Limited Atonement.

I myself do believe he taught Limited Atonement, just not in the institutes.

Never got through the institutes in my all but brief dip into the Calvinist pool. By that time I ran screaming into the night. :D’

If it be enquired( as it might well ,rightly be asked)of those who still claim to hold “Justification by faith”;and are still claiming to trust in the completed work of salvation brought to light by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
In what way then ,are the merits of Christ conveyed to them?

If the Catholic /Lutheran is receiving these merits by way of the “Sacraments”, how do you then, receive these same merits?

The answer I believe, would be solely through the preaching of the Gospel( and that by the sent preacher seen in Rom10:13,14) and quotes such as :Rom11:17 " So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God"; and
Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” as their ground of belief.

It may be of interest to Protestant readers ,that the other verses(quoted in my original comment), once used by those who expressed the above belief,(in former times;) through :“Justification by faith”, are no longer present in your Protestant "Bibles"of today. ( save the KJV) :

Roms 3:21,22 “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested ,being witnessed by the law and the prophets;which is by faith
of faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe :for there is no difference”

Did Jesus not also teach a limited “Atonement”?
John 17:9 -19 “I pray not for the world,but for them which thou hast given me;for they are thine.”(KJV).for example.

How else could we explain the wrath of God falling upon the “world of the ungodly”(2Peter2:5) with no doubt children ,infirm ,young and old; and women with child,:all taken away in “the Flood”.

If it be said that those who drowned were only wicked continually( as they no doubt were), what of the youth (e.g) could they not have had a chance( when old enough) to have heard that great preacher of righteousness,then on the earth( “Noah the eighth person,a preacher of righteousness” 2Peter 2:5; and have had occasion to repent?)

It could also be argued that since the “coming of the son of man” is likened to the very days of Noah(Matt24:27) and also the days of Lot, what merit or right do we have (over and above those taken in the flood) to hear of “righteousness”,and repent;

especially as the scripture says to us also( as this might be the last generation):(Luke 18:8) “when the son of man cometh,shall he find faith on the earth?”

It makes sense that in a prayer that was specifically for the Church that Christ would say that. But that doesn’t mean that He never prays for unbelievers.
And i’m not exactly sure what your point is re the flood; if you think it was a literal event, we don’t know what happened to the eternal souls of the children in it. If you think as I do that it is a metaphor for the Judgement, then since it is a parable about the message of salvation, most rejecting it, etc., then the children perishing doesn’t prove much, because it wasn’t supposed to outline every nook and cranny of soteriology. And I certainly don’t see how it would prove limited atonement.

Hi, yes Jesus is certainly praying for the called out (ones )ecclesia ,or “church” if one prefers.
This could be applied to a limited atonement also ,because no one outside of the ecclesia is to be included in these petitions of Jesus ,so in this sense it is limited to those , who would by the Cross of Jesus,be part of that ( and so , limited) “atonement”.

Limited atonement cannot, I believe ,be disconnected from that “purpose of God according to election”…not of works,but of him that calleth;) This is seen in Paul s election and calling on the road to Damascus .(where is Paul calling upon the name of the Lord here? the Lord ,rather called his name out!)
Indeed likewise with Peter (Matt 16:17) “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,but my Father which is in heaven.”
“Doubting Thomas” ,so called,would have been void of faith(Heb 4:2) and lost if left to his own devices.

So in this context ,to me it is all God (in three persons)own choice :John17 :24
“Father,I will that they also,whom thou hast given me ,be where I am ;that they may behold my glory,which thou hast given me:for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world”

In verse 26 this love that Jesus talks of -“that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them( “the church”)and I in them”- in my view the same love mentioned previously,that is a love that existed " before the foundation of the world".

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