Total depravity, original sin, and baptism


I was thinking about this today…

Baptism is a transformation, yes? I can’t see how that works if we aren’t totally depraved. Look:

First, we have immaculate people.

Then, we have an incident with a snake and a tree. Bad things happen.

For the sake of this argument, assume that EITHER we are totally depraved OR we are deformed and diseased (i.e. the Catholic doctrine of original sin) but still ontologically good.

As an analogy for TOTAL DEPRAVITY, we have people turned into pigs.

As an analogy for the CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, we have people with their arms and legs cut off.

Either way, we have baptism, which is a transformation.

In the first analogy (people turning into pigs), the pigs are turned back into people. It is clearly a transformation.

In the second analogy (people with their arms and legs cut off), the arms and legs are sewn back on and healed. This isn’t so much a transformation - it was just a flesh wound, after all. You can’t be ontologically changed if you’re going from being a person to being a person.

Does that make sense? I’m confused.


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Man is intended to be a gift from the Father to the Son. Only gifts that give glory, praise, and honor to the Father are pleasing to the Son. Adam’s fall made man displeasing to the Father and therefore an unworthy gift for the Son. As the consequence of Original Sin, fallen man suffers and dies. Prior to the Lord’s Crucifixion, these human innovations, suffering and death, were irreconcilable with the love between the Father and the Son. By His suffering and death, Jesus converted these formerly irreconcilable consequences of sin into expressions of the Son’s love for the Father. Thus men, who cannot avoid the suffering and death chosen for them by their first parents, can, because of Christ’s Cross, nevertheless become fitting gifts to God.

Before Baptism, a person is uncommitted. He is conceived by the action of his mother, his father, and God the Father. Since Adam’s choice to separate his will from God’s will, no newly created person can be assumed to cooperate in God’s will (with the exception of the Blessed Virgin). The choice of the parents (or of the child when he is old enough) must be explicitly joined to the will of the Father, if the child is to become a gift to the Son and thus an actual token or vessel of the Father’s love for the Son. Until this act of cooperation and commitment of the child is made, God’s great love and His respect for human freedom prevent Him from using the child according to His own will; “how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Matthew (NAB) 23:37; Luke 13:34.).

Hence, before Baptism the role of the child is in doubt. God intends him as a gift and expression of love between the Father and the Son. The intentions of the child’s parents are not known and may not be in agreement with God or with each other. This fragmentation of meaning is a direct result of the Original Sin, which separated man’s will from God’s.

Baptism converts the child into an explicit vessel of communication between the Father and the Son. The child who was previously an uncommitted creature becomes an expression of divine love. The very life of God, the love between the persons of the Trinity, flows through the child precisely because he has become a token, an actual means of communication, expressing love between the Father and the Son. Thus the child is converted (or transformed) from an indefinite thing into a vessel of grace.

This is a true transformation, as when a plain sheet of paper is transformed into a love letter by the writing of the lover and delivery to the beloved. The marks put on the paper by the lover and its acceptance by the beloved make the simple paper into a wholly new and different thing. A physical thing becomes an expression of love. Baptism is the conversation of a human person into a living and effective expression of divine love. This divine love is the life of God called “sanctifying grace.” By it the baptized are “justified,” that is brought within the flow of love within the Holy Trinity.

“Remain in my love.” (John (NAB) 15:7.)

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner


Very briefly, we are transformed from
beings who have only natural life in them into
beings who have both natural and supernatural life in them.

A giant leap, even if it is invisible to our human eyes.


I disagree with that example. As you already know, Catholics and Protestants see the Fall very differently.

Imagine that man was created as a car. The car requires air in its tires to operate at speeds pleasing to God. However, air is a special addition to the car’s tires, the car can and does exist without that air.

Similarly sanctifying grace is a special addition to our souls which makes us adopted and righteous before God.

Catholics believe: That when Adam sinned he lost the air in his tires, he was still a car and was still able to do good things (use the horn, drive a low speeds, etc) but he could not operate at the speeds God desired without that air in his tires. We are still fundamentally good and valuable.

Protestants REJECT the idea of sanctifying grace, and thus the air in the tires analogy means nothing. Rather they believe that when Adam sinned it was equivalent to the car being totaled in a bad accident. It is still a “car” but it is virtually a worthless heap of metal. This is where Protestant “total depravity” comes from, and that is why Catholics reject that concept.

THIS is why Protestants see salvation (justification) VERY differently than Catholics. For Catholics to become righteous (justification) means God needs to infuse air back into your tires. For Protestants there is no repairing that heap of metal in this life, rather God must accept another perfect car as a substitute and instead of looking at you He looks at Jesus and lets you off the hook (justification) for not being perfect.

I hope this makes sense.


In the first example, man is turned into pigs and then back again does not fit since baptism regenerates the soul into something that is far beyond what it once was. A pig back into a pig does not describe it.

The second example of sewing parts back on is similar in that it does not convey the reality of what happens in baptism. Adam and Eve were still in need of a savior, so bringing them back to their original state in life is not the same as God’s plan of salvation by being made a “Child of God”, which is much greater.



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