No Common Ground
© 09.17.06 By D. Eric Williams
The doctrine of total depravity tells us that the children of Adam are touched by the effect of sin in every aspect of their being. That isn't to say that mankind is as bad as he can be, but that there is no part of his being that is not damaged by the Fall. At the same time, the doctrine of total depravity - rightly understood - informs us that mankind does have some capacity for good. That being the case, we should not be surprised when the unregenerate do perform good works of a sort.
Now, I'm defining "good" here in a broad sense; truly there is no one good but God and no one can do anything really good without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, no one can do any good deed that gains favor with God. The point is that even the unregenerate are capable of doing deeds that are beneficial, useful and kind because the image of God remains in them even though clouded and twisted. This is why honest business deals are possible; it is why people contribute to charities; it is the reason for relatively happy and stable families among the unsaved.
At the same time, we need to realize that it is impossible to find common (neutral), ground with the unsaved. Paul tells us that the unregenerate "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). He says that what may be known of God is "manifest in them" and that the "invisible attributes" of God are displayed in creation. However, mankind - in his natural state - rebels against the truth and refuses to accept and submit to God (Rom 1: 19-ff).
Thus even in those areas were there seems to be commonality, there really is not. For instance, an unregenerate man may be against abortion, but unless they acknowledge God as creator and Lord, their laudable stand in favor of life is inadequate; it is based upon man's wisdom in some form and not upon truth. This doesn't mean that we cannot work together with the unsaved in pursuit of a godly end. It simply means that if we hope to glorify God we must not compromise our stand for truth just so we can "get along" and not jeopardize our alliance with the unsaved man. We must always keep in mind that the apparent agreement between us and the unregenerate man does not mean that we begin with the same presuppositions. It simply means that the image of God in them has forced its way to the surface. At the same time, the apparent agreement does provide an excellent opportunity for evangelism (the first thing we should do is ask our unsaved friends why they hold to a position that is inconsistent with their belief system).
Common grace assures us that God will not allow the depravity of mankind to overwhelm the efforts of His people as then endeavor to serve Him. From time to time we will find ourselves in a situation where we will be working shoulder to shoulder with the unsaved. When that happens, we must keep in mind the truth of Romans chapter one; rather than assume that we have found common ground with the unbeliever, we need to use that opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.