Chapter 3 of Against Calvinism discusses the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) one "letter" at a time. Olson defines the first, Total Depravity like this:
[Total depravity] means that every part of every human person... is infected and so affected by sin that he or she is utterly helpless to please God before being regenerated... by the Spirit of God. (pp.42)
Olson's description of total depravity is the shortest of all the letters of TULIP, because (I assume) it is one of the points that he agrees with, and is generally agreed to by most Christians. I've written about total depravity before, and I don't have much to add to that post. I did, however, find his description of sin very interesting:
Everything that flows from the dead person is putrid and filthy even if it seems to be virtuous. The reason is that true virtue is define by the motive, and the sinner's heart, blackened by sin, has a constant disposition toward self rather than toward God or neighbor. ... Sin lies in the motives, and they are entirely wrong until the Holy Spirit regenerates the person. (pp. 43)
This description of sin caught me a little by surprise. I'm not sure if this is because I've been consistently taught differently, or that Olson simply described sin on the basis of motives in a more direct way that I've seen in the past. In either case, I'm reminded of several specific conversations where someone who is doing something good questions their own motives. (i.e. someone asks "I'm not sure if I'm doing this for the right reasons") The common response I hear is something like:
"Maybe your motives are pure, maybe they're not. Can we ever be free from lingering selfish motives? What's more important is that you're obeying God."
Is that the right response? If not, what's the correct response to someone who struggles with doing good for the wrong reasons? Or is Olson's definition of sin inaccurate?
What do you think?