Unfathomable

“Many memories of misdeeds in my life regularly cause me to shudder in horror at what I am capable of doing. I often reflect sadly, for example, on something that happened when I was only seven years old. A friend and I walked to and from school together, and we took a shortcut that led us alongside railroad tracks. Trains carrying coal traveled that route, and on the ground in that area were lumps of coal that had fallen from the cars. On many mornings we saw a child younger than ourselves walking with a pail and collecting coal. We knew he was very poor. He had no father, and his mother would send him out for fuel for their coal stove. One day we hid in the bushes until his pail was full, and then we jumped out, threw him to the ground, and scattered the coal in every direction. He began to cry, and we went on our way laughing.

The image of that weeping boy on the ground is a vivid one for me. Sometimes I now cry when I think about it. I try to imagine what was going on in my heart when I performed that absolutely gratuitous bit of evil, and I cannot fathom it. I don’t understand how the boy who at that time loved to sing, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world’ could also take delight in that child’s tears. The experience certainly helps me understand the biblical texts we Calvinists cite when defending the doctrine of total depravity. I know in a very personal way, for example, that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked’ (Jeremiah 17:9). And when I recoil in horror as I read about, say, ‘Christian’ Nazi soldiers who herded the Jews into the ovens at Auschwitz, I know that at some deep level I am capable of the same despicable acts.

When other Christians tell me they see no need to endorse the doctrine of total depravity, I don’t know how to give them decisive arguments that will prove to them they are wrong. But I not only accept the doctrine as theologically sound; I feel its truth in the depths of my being.”

[Richard J. Mouw, Calvinism In The Las Vegas Airport, p30-31 | Photo by Julie Dant (The Crossing in Black and White)]

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