Can We Make an Exact Analogy Between Unbelievers' who are "Dead in Sin" and Believers who are "Dead to Sin"?
(Excerpts From Debate in Which Synergist Attempts to Overthrow Doctrine of Total Depravity)

Synergists often claim that since believers are "dead to sin" but can still commit sin that we can draw a direct corresponding analogy which says unbelievers who are "dead in sin" are thus morally able to believe the gospel, apart from the grace of God alone. The following are excerpts from a debate when we "rabbit trailed" on to this issue. The synergist I was debating brought this up as an attempt to prove that when the Bible speaks of a those who are "dead in sin" it does not mean "dead" to the same extent that the Reformed view believes it to. In other words it is an attempt to debunk the doctrine of total depravity (That is, to disprove the doctrine that by his fall, man has made himself incapable of obedience unto life since he cannot convert Himself without the transforming work of the Holy Spirit):

OK now I wanted to make just a few comments on your missive on the analogy between unbelievers who are "dead in sin" and believers who are "dead to sin"

First the visitors comments are within the dotted lines and my answer follows:


{The] unbeliever’s death in sin is somehow more complete than the believer’s death to sin (which, I think, you’d be hard-pressed to prove).
Dead is dead, right? “How do men “dead to sin” choose pornography, marital infidelity, etc.? In other words, I think monergists take the “dead in sin” phrase too far. The unregenerate man is helpless, hopeless, and hostile, to be sure.

I propose that “dead in sin” means something less than living “as a walking cadaver in a spiritual graveyard” whose “ear is deaf to any word from heaven” (Sproul). I’ve read monergistic articles that say things like man is no more capable of responding to God’s offer of salvation than a corpse is of responding to an offer of a fine meal. I am saying that this is “extreme.” Yes, “Paul provides a graphic description of our spiritual impotence prior to regeneration” (Sproul) in Ephesians 2. But what does “dead in sin” really mean?

In the context of a series of verses that sounds much like Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul says that the Gentiles are “excluded from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). “Excluded” could also be translated “alienated.” I propose that “dead to sin” means that man is alienated, hostile, separated from God, powerless to save himself, and void of eternal life. As the apostle John wrote, “He who has the Son has the life; he who has not the Son has not the life” (I John 5:12). To be dead in sin means to be separated from God (and, thus, His life).

Death is separation. Not simply a termination or cessation of life. Physical death is the separation of spirit from body. The body ceases to live and decay begins, but the spirit continues to exist.

When Paul says, “The wages of sin is death,” he is not simply referring to the cessation of corporeal existence, is he? Therefore, spiritual death is better understood as separation from God and not in terms like, “spiritual cadaver” or “spiritual corpse.” If you use terms like that, then you have to refer to a “walking cadaver.” In other words, you’ve got to have a cadaver who still functions somehow. It’s better to just go with “separation from God.”

· If unregenerate man is cadaver-like and incapable of hearing from God and believing in Him, then why aren’t regenerate men cadaver-like with
respect to sin, Satan, and this world?



Dear Brother

...You say, "monergists take the 'dead in sin' phrase too far" but, I would turn that around to say that you have relied entirely too much on what you believe to be the force of this ONE argument.... Here's why:

... We are all in the process of redemption. None of us will be sinless until we are sealed with Christ in glory. The passages which speak of us being "dead to sin" and "alive to God through Christ" are all obviously speaking of the already/not yet nature of the kingdom. Numerous passages around these concepts command us to "reckon ourselves dead to sin" or "count yourselves dead to sin" (Romans 6:9-11)

Your analogy fails here: There are no corresponding passages which say to unbelievers, "reckon yourselves "DEAD IN SIN". Fallen man are not described as being "counted" dead in sin ... Instead they ARE dead in sin ... in the fullest sense of its manifestation. Do you see how ridiculous it would be to consider fallen man "reckoned dead"? and not actually spiritually dead? This really just means that he can contribute no redemptive good toward his salvation. He cannot save himself. Rather that is what Christ does for us on the cross that gives us this spiritual ability.

Judicially every believer has died to sin. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:11, "Even so consider yourself to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." In Galatians 2:20 he wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."

Paul is not referring to a constant experience in these passages. He is referring to our position into which we have been brought through our union with Christ in His death. The "flesh with its affections and lusts" has positionally been crucified with Christ. It is a judicial fact in the past and as we appropriate it to ourselves as we abide in Christ and not a moment by moment spiritual experience. To believers Paul says, but "if by the Spirit you are putting to death (present continuous action) the deeds of the body, you will live." This means believers still experience sin and must mortify it. [But remember] "without faith it is impossible to please God", so the unregenerate man sins in all he does since it is not done for God's glory. He is unable to do any redemptive good for himself. Only Christ can do that. But thanks be to God, what we are unable to do for ourselves Christ does FOR US. Your scheme unbiblically separates the work of Christ completed on the cross and your faith. You argue that you can believe without the power of the cross to enable you. So let me ask you point blank -- are you are claiming the ability to do some spiritual good apart from the work of Christ? apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? Furthermore, there is never any description of an unbeliever being only positionally "dead in sin". Rather, this is their actualized state. That is why his only hope of deliverance is if God does something FOR HIM. Why is it that you pray for others'salvation if God cannot do something for them? Why do you think Paul gives thanks to God for the faith of the people? (I Thess. 2:13)

Among other texts, to drive home the real condition of man prior to the new birth, Jesus Himself uses a resurrection analogy. Not only does he
raise us from spiritual death but He emphasizes that this is His sovereign choice since only he gives life to "who he wishes", not just any man who
convert themselves (an impossible supposition) ... the verse makes such a thought impossible:

"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes." John 5:21

You said: "Death is separation. Not simply a termination or cessation of life. Physical death is the separation of spirit from body. The body ceases to live and decay begins, but the spirit continues to exist."

Indeed I would fully agree that the spirit continues to exist. There is no argument from me there, but this is a failure to understand what is meant by "dead" ... the purpose for using such a word is to recognize that the spirit, which is seperate from the body, no longer animates it, and thus, the body is incapable of any response.

Finally, your attempt to overturn the doctrine of total depravity relies entirely too much on the one biblical concept of "dead in sin" for the unbeliever. From my standpoint, if those texts which say"dead in sin" never existed there still would be a vast number of other texts which just as clearly show man's woeful condition apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. For no one can say "Christ is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

(Among them are Rom 3:11; 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14) Aside from the obvious consequence of physical death to Adam and his descendants (Gen 2:17) there are several other curses revealing natural man's spiritual impotence including man's inability to understand God (Psalm 50:21; Job 11:7-8; ROM 3:11); to see spiritual things (John 3:3); to know his own heart (Jer 17:9); to direct his own steps in the path of life (Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12); to free himself from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10); to receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17); to hear, understand or receive the words of God (John 8:47; 1 Corinthians 2:14); to give himself birth into God's family (John 1:13, Romans 9:15-16); to produce repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 6:64,65; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:25); to come to Christ (John 10:26; John 6:44); and to please God (Romans 8:5, 8, 9).

(Reminder of something the Visitor asked)
If unregenerate man is cadaver-like and incapable of hearing from God and believing in Him, then why does the Bible record statements such as this one from Jesus: “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40)? In other words, if life precedes believing, then why did Jesus reverse the order? Shouldn’t he have said, “You are unwilling to come to me because you don’t have life”?

“You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40)?

...This is merely a statement of fact. All men are called to come to Christ. All men are called to believe but these are in the subjunctive
(hypothetical) mood. A grammarian would explain that this is a conditional statement that asserts nothing indicatively. In this passage, what we
"ought" to do does not necessarily imply what we "can" do. The Ten Commandments, likewise, speak of what we ought to do but they do not imply that we have the moral ability to carry them out. The commandments of God were never meant to empower us but to strip us of trusting in our own ability so that we would come to an end of ourselves. With striking clarity, Paul teaches that this is the intent of Divine legislation (ROM
3:20, 5:20, Gal 3:19,24). If anyone is tempted to argue that belief is merely an invitation, not a command, read 1 John 3:23: "And this is his
command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ..."
So I believe that those who hold to the idea that since God commands the fallen
unregenerate man to do something he therefore has the ability to do so is imposing an unbiblical assumption on to the text. A command or invitation with an open ended statement does not imply the ability to fulfill it. This is especially true in light of texts such as John 1:13, ROM 9:16, John 6:37, 44, 63-65; ROM 3:11; Matt 16-26' 1 Cor 2:14 and many more which show man's moral inability to believe the Gospel in the fallen state. In our unregenerate nature we do not want God but rather love darkness and "will not come into the light".

Furthermore, to drive home the point further, Jesus actually does say that life precedes believing in other passages. Here are two examples:

"but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:26,27)

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. "But there are some of you who do not believe." ... And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." (John 6:63-65)

Spurgeon even uses this same verse you are using (John 5:40) to prove depravity:

"Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the "if they will" that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and 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 human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer--Did you ever meet with any person who was?... "

To conclude, there is no corresponding parallel analogy between the unregenerate's "dead in sin" and the believer "dead to sin". I have showed you, that the unbeliever is not positionally dead in sin, but is, in fact, dead in sin. He does not need to thus reckon himself as such. He now experiences the fullest manifestation of it. Those who are alive in Christ are indeed called "dead to sin" but as we all know our lives do not always bear this out. This is because the Scripture bares witness that our redemption is both present and future. We still await the day when we will be without sin. But the unbeliever can do no redemptive good of himself. That is why we can only trust in Jesus alone to deliver us from all our sins, including the sin of unbelief. If Jesus did not die for unbelief then HE did not die for all sins. Your position would then believe that He died for commandments 2-10 but not the first commandment... but Jesus did everything necessary for our redemption ... even His Holy Spirit to deliver us out of our hardened disposition toward Him. All glory, honor and praise to God alone for our salvation.


"No man ever did, or ever will feel himself
to be a lost, miserable and hateful sinner,
unless he be powerfully and supernaturally
convinced by the Spirit of God." - John Newton

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