Sean Hornbeck and Total Depravity

Recently on one of the 48 Hours mystery shows, or maybe it was a Dateline, they interviewed former kidnapped victim Sean Hornbeck. He was gone for 4 1/2 years until finally rescued. The strangest and perhaps saddest part of the whole ordeal was that he never ran away. Even when stopped by police for something else, he never turned his captor in. It took someone outside of himself to enter into the situation and come rescue him.

You see, his captor told him that if he ever left, he would find and kill him and his family. So the then 11 year old was paralyzed by fear. He knew exactly what needed to be done: run away. But he couldn’t. He was in a state of perpetual slavery. More so than that, he had no hope of coming out of that slavery.

That’s a picture of what Calvinist’s call Total Depravity. Some also refer to it as Total Inability. Just like the aforementioned child Sean, we may intellectually know we need rescue from slavery to sin. However, if left to our own devices, we will do the same thing as Sean: stay! We’re unable to leave. It takes the Spirit of God entering into our hearts in order to choose freedom. At that moment, one experiences what the great Hymn writer Charles Wesley writes in And Can it Be, “My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed thee.”

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