Monday, September 05, 2005

a TULIP by any other name...

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing "Calvinism" with my sister-in-law and her husband.  They are both believers, but certainly do not embrace a Calvinist viewpoint.  In response to my SIL's question, I described the 5 points summarizing this doctrine of grace, using the TULIP acronym.

For those unfamiliar with TULIP, the 5 points are:
Total depravity: we are incapable of responding positively to God ("dead in your trespasses and sins", Eph 2:1, Col 2:13)
Unconditional election: God sovereignly chose those whom he would grant the gift of faith before any of us were created ("For he chose us in him before the creation of the world ... he predestined us to be adopted as his sons", Eph 1:4-5)
Limited atonement: Jesus on the cross absorbed the penalty for the all the sins of all the elect, purchasing not only their forgiveness but even the mercy that would effectually draw them to himself ("with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation", Rev. 5:9)
Irresistable grace: when God calls his elect, he overcomes the rebellion of their hearts and brings them to faith so that they are saved ("children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God", John 1:12)
Perseverance (or Preservation) of the saints: those who are called by the irresistable grace of God cannot lose their salvation but will endure to the end ("I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish", John 10:27)

(I am hugely indebted to John Piper and the staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church for their little booklet What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism for a clear explanation of these ideas and approach toward introducing people to them.  You can find the booklet on their website ( )

My SIL's response was "I have a problem with every one of those points."  Which led to a energetic (but friendly) discussion of these ideas.

Over the next few days I'm going to post some thoughts and experiences I've had regarding these five points and the theology behind them.  But I'd love to hear from others about their thoughts and experiences regarding these distinctives.

Let me close this post with a couple of significant quotes from the What We Believe booklet:

George Mueller, an amazing man of faith and founder of several orphanages in Britain in the 1800's:
Before the period [when I came to prize the Bible alone as my standard of judgment] I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption (i.e. limited atonement), and final persevering grace.  But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the Word of God.  Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said, I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths.

To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state for God's glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might be, and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period.  My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before.  (Autobiography, pp. 33-34)

Charles Spurgeon:
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism.  It is a nickname to call it Calvinism: Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.  I do not believe we can preach the gospel ... unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base i upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the Cross; nor can I comprehend the gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called (Autobiography 1, p. 168)

No comments: