The kernel of Arminian doctrine regarding man’s natural state is that he has a natural inclination to repent and believe. One must simply appeal to this inclination with the right amount of persuasion. This belief, however, is so antithetical to scripture that it is almost impossible to put it into words. But here goes. There are four Scriptural declarations concerning man in his natural fallen state that Arminianism either disbelieves or disregards. The end result is the same.
1. First, man is totally blind as far as spiritual things are concerned. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Eph 4:18). Jude says, that they “have not the Spirit” (Jude 19). Paul says that they people cannot discern spiritual things, which is not to say that it is impossible for a person to imagine them without revelations, for he speaks this of natural men who lived under a gospel ministry (1 Cor. 2:8). This is evident from what he adds, “for they are foolishness to him.” No one considers something to be foolish if he has never heard of it before. Man is so blind that the ability to see and understand must be given to him by God. God gives this to some people and withholds it from others. Christ said to his disciples, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt 13:11). Someone who is blind to this degree can neither will, repent of himself, nor believe in Christ, even if he hears the gospel.
This whole line of reasoning, solidly Scriptural as it is, flies in direct contradiction to Arminianism. Arminians act is as man simply has his eyes closed. In fact, we have probably all heard Arminian preachers urge their listeners to open their eyes.
2. Secondly, man by nature has such an evil disposition that he isn’t willing to repent. In fact he CANNOT even will to do so, for he cannot respond with his will to that which he does not know. Even if one judges a given matter to be desirable in its very essence, he will have no interest in this now, here, and for himself, since the things of this world appear to him as being much more desirable and beneficial now, here, and for himself. Spiritual things and sinful things stand in direct opposition to each other, it is impossible to delight in spiritual things if you enjoy sinful things. The natural man loves things that are sinful and of the world, therefore he cannot be willing, nor is he ever actually willing to love spiritual things. “And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40); “... and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37). If the natural man perceives but a few rays of spiritual light and life, he will hate it at once. “... men loved darkness rather than light. ... For every one that doeth evil hateth the light” (John 3:19-20); “... haters of God” (Rom 1:30); “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me” (John 15:18). Wherever there is such a disposition, it is impossible to be willing and to repent.
3. Thirdly, since man is ignorant and unwilling he simply cannot repent. “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). The phrase “no man” is all-inclusive. Whoever a person may be, he is unable and does not come. God’s almighty power and drawing is what is needed in order for anyone to come. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7).
4. Lastly, as far as spiritual life is concerned, man is dead: “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:12). Paul is not only referring to those who had never heard the gospel, but also to those who had heard it, for Paul includes himself. Among the Ephesians there were many Jews (Acts 19:8), and the expression used is general in nature. He is not referring to natural death, but to being spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. Spiritual death consists of the absence of union with God. We know this because spiritual life is defined for us as communion with God (Gal 2:20). Those who are without such a union are atheoi, that is, atheists or without God (Eph 2:12); those “having not the Spirit” (Jude 19). Nor is he simply speaking of the punishment for sin, its wages being death. Rather he is speaking of that death which is the opposite of spiritual life. Since spiritual life is the very opposite of spiritual death, he speaks of spiritual death. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Eph 2:5). Since man is dead, he cannot make himself alive. Both nature and Scripture teach us that a dead person cannot do this, regardless of the type of death referred to.
Now let us tie these four points together. Natural man is blind and ignorant. He is so evil that he is utterly unwilling and hates repentance and belief in Christ. Furthermore, he is so impotent that he is completely unable to repent and believe. And to top it all off, he is dead, with no internal disposition, propensity, ability or power to repent and believe in Christ.
To accept Arminianism, one would have to discard this weight of Scriptural evidence – or completely ignore its existence. This is precisely what Arminianism does. It says, in the teeth of tons of biblical evidence, that man is basically good and has within him a natural desire to do what is good. He sins because he doesn’t understand the consequences of his sin. If only a preacher could tell him how self-destructive his behavior is and convince his that living for Christ is ultimately more fulfilling, he could coax him into repeating the sinner’s prayer and all would be well. Nothing could be further from the truth.