The concept of total depravity is not a popular doctrine in current evangelical pop-culture. I challenge anyone to tell me where either Rick Warren or Joel Osteen treat the subject of the sinfulness of mankind with any kind of muscle or vigor. They don't emphasize it. When I read Warren's Purpose Driven Life I was overwhelmingly disappointed with the way in which any personal offense against God is NOT explained. He de-emphasizes depravity by talking about sin more by its personal results (unhappiness, mistakes, lack of purpose) than by its essential influence. I wonder if that can be a true gospel. I think he personally believes in depravity. But it is quite unpopular to believe in sin, eternal punishment, and a God Who cannot abide sin in His creation.
Osteen is even more outlandish. His lack of theological acuity is pathetically apparent. He preaches a feel-good religion devoid of the gospel and sadly, this kind of teaching is what leads the Christian market of religious ideas in America today and around the world. I long for what the pilgrims had. No I don’t sing “give me that old time religion”, but past generations had a Christianity most evangelicals will never know.
The earliest primer used in America to teach young children to read began teaching the alphabet with this theological truth: "A is for Adam. In Adam's fall, we sinned all." How ironic that in a children's book of ABC's from three centuries past there is a more robust commitment to the need for the gospel than in the best-selling preachers today!
Now an understanding of depravity is not an end in itself. Because if we really come to know that our rebellion against God deserves His wrath and punishment, we will find our hearts feeling hopeless. Depravity does not end with the enormity of sin. It is a road to the need for the gospel. And that is why we must really make sure that people know they are sinners before they can be saved. It is why the gospel is really good news because Jesus rescues us from sin and its devastating effects on us as individuals and as a society. No government can do that. No legislature can prevent sin. But Jesus can redeem hearts, create new ones, and save us from the "dust-fate" that has met us all since Adam fell.