The Total Depravity of Creation

I’d like to expand the doctrine of “total depravity” in a way you might not have thought of before. The Reformed doctrine of total depravity states that there is no area of the human heart unaffected by sin. This doesn’t mean that there’s nothing good or beautiful in the human spirit (we are still image bearers, after all), but rather that everything about us has been warped and twisted by the Fall.

Here’s how I want to enlarge the concept of total depravity: this isn’t just true of the human heart; it’s the condition of the entire cosmos. Nothing in the entire world is uncorrupted by sin. Depravity is a death sentence, not just on us, but on everything God has made.

Every blade of grass is poisoned by the Fall. Every rose is choked by thorns. The dust itself is our enemy, mocking us with the remembrance of our origin and destination (Genesis 3:19). The entire universe is slowly being unwound by entropy. All creation groans.

Do you feel that groaning? Do you sense in the faded beauty of a fallen world the ache for what human sin has lost, and what divine mercy will one day regain?

Look.

Do you recognize the cracks in creation, as the natural order strains against the iron bands of the curse?

Do you see?

Look at the chaotic violence of the animal kingdom adrift without its human kings; observe the bloody sunsets that blaze with fleeting glory, and the dark nights that quiver with beauty and brokenness; wander the creaking, dying wilderness and hear the whispered yearning through the trees; stand before the imponderable and impersonal ocean and feel the smallness and futility of your life; in storm and cloud and wind and rain glimpse the spectacle and sadness that is this grief-stricken planet.

Open your eyes, and what you’ll see is the same tragic depravity that scars the human spirit, scrawled across landscapes and stars like graffiti on a masterpiece. There is beauty everywhere– stunning, surprising beauty– but it’s a frail, ruined glory, like an abandoned cathedral. The total depravity that has wrecked humanity has wrecked the world as well.

But all the groaning is telling us something: this is not the way it’s supposed to be, and this is not how the story ends. Our battered world and tattered souls ache for restoration, for the making-whole of what’s been shattered. For the resolution of the storyline. For the happily ever after to overtake everything that’s gone wrong. For the King to put Humpty together again.

That day is coming. It’s closer today than it was yesterday.

“The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, it because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth until now.” -Romans 8:19-22

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