I am convinced that believing in Calvin’s total depravity is the first step into the nebulous wondering state of “God… what is your Will???”
We have been taught since birth, if you have grown up in a non-Eastern Orthodox or Evangelical Church, that we are born totally evil. This is just not true. We are born sinful, but we are not born demons from hell, completely abandoned by God. That total abandonment only happened once to one man and he suffered that eternal moment it so we would not have to.
No, first we must come to terms with the Doctrine of Original Sin and get a better grasp of who we are, how we are made, and what exactly we did inherit and pass on.
The reason the idea of Total Depravity (a doctrine developed by Luther and further by Calvin) is harmful for knowing God’s will is because it sets us up with the premise that every desire we have or thing that we do is totally evil. We attempt to rectify the problem by saying “Well I must always do what contradicts my spontaneous desires or personal interest and then I can’t miss the mark of God’s will.”
Thomas Merton, probably the best Theologian to come out of America wrote in his wonderful book “Life and Holiness” these beautiful words.
“Human nature is not evil. All pleasure is not wrong. All spontaneous desires are not selfish. The doctrine of original sin does not mean that human nature has been completely corrupted and that man’s freedom is always inclined to sin. Man is neither devil nor an angel. He is not a pure spirit, but a being of flesh and spirit, subject to error and malice, but basically inclined to seek truth and goodness. He is, indeed a sinner: but his heart responds to love and grace. It also responds to the goodness and to the need of his fellow man.”
That is why you are very likely to find a non-Christian at times, the first person to help someone in a dire situation. One of the kindest people I know is an Atheist. How can this be? The doctrine of original sin states that all of their goodness comes from God because even though they do not know Christ, they are not totally deprived of the goodness of God. It is a shame that innate goodness so graciously given to them will not fully bloom without the Light of Christ inside of them, but they can still surely do good things and still surely die while doing good things. This is man's punishment for sin. Death, not total depravity. We are faced with death, each one. It isn't whether we do good things that get us to Heaven, it is whether we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Christ died for those sins that determines our destination.
That is why we can find goodness even in the worst of human beings. That is why we are called to love our enemies. There is some remnant of God in there. God did not totally abandon us. For us to know God we must have God in us to recognize Him. For without Him working in us, we could not know Him.