To folllow is yet another synopsis of T.U.L.I.P., just in case you haven’t ever read about it before. Cough…
Having previously written about the Total Depravity of man, it wouldn’t be conducive to rehash the doctrine in all its detail. However, we will touch briefly on some points that may have been vaguely made then.
“Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do his good pleasure”
These are the words of that great preacher, George Whitefield, who was as hearty an evangelist as any who’ve walked God’s creation. There has been quite a bit of talk concerning man’s “free will” over the ages, this age being no exception. For most of us who’ve grown up in the Church, we’ve been taught from the very beginning that we have free will. Not necessarily has such been disseminated in those particular words, but the idea is that we’re people born capable of choosing good over evil by nature. Biblically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth. I do not deny the idea of free volition or free choice. But we must define free. With this particular article I would like to give a general overview of the whole free will/Calvinism/Arminianism/Doctrines of Grace controversy, so-called.
If you’re new to these terms, then many of the things I’m about to discuss will be foreign to almost all you’ve been taught concerning salvation, etc. It will be challenging. It will be, quite possibly, offensive in one way or another. Please know, though, that is not the intent. The intent is to bring ourselves to a point where, if the Bible dictates, we can cast aside our traditions and embrace what the Scriptures say. Saying that, please note that there are a few things we finite men will never know this side of eternity. The Scriptures say, “the secret things belong to the Lord our God.” This will not be a comprehensive treatment of the aforementioned subjects, as each subject has thousands of books written on them by many different authors anyway. Rather, this will be a type of summarized introduction to what we call The Doctrines of Grace or the 5 Points of Calvinism.
There was once a Great Ruler in the Land of Man who ruled with flawless wisdom and perfect justice. Not only did He rule the Land of Man, but He founded and created it. No one could govern with such power, nor could anyone command such respect as He. He was not a lawbreaker, but the Lawmaker. With each judgment handed down to lawbreakers, He was found to be true and just in whatsoever He determined. Though He was a powerful ruler, He was not a tyrant; rather He was One truly concerned for the well-being of His people.
There were 3 men who didn’t the like the law of the Ruler, so they set out to overturn it. On hearing of their plans the Great Ruler, with swift precision and accuracy, apprehended the law breakers and locked them up with the shackles and bonds of their own making. While awaiting their judgment, the Great Ruler determined beforehand what He would do for their treason against His perfect law. All 3 men were guilty of crimes against the Great Ruler, worthy of death. Upon entering the place of their judgment the Great Ruler thundered out the ways in which the 3 men had transgressed His law.
In a shocking turn of events the Great Ruler called out the names of the First and Third men, saying, “I have granted you pardon. Now go and consider the greatness of my mercy and proclaim the goodness of my law.” The two men broke into weeping, thanking the Ruler for His judgment. Saying no more, the Second man was taken to the place of execution where he received the due punishment of his lawbreaking.
From this story we can ascertain one thing: All 3 men were guilty and worthy of death for their treason. But what else can be deduced from such a simplified illustration? You might say, “Why did the Ruler not grant pardon to the Second man? That’s not fair!” But He was MORE than fair! All 3 men were guilty and could have justly been thrown to the death penalty for their treasonous affairs against the Great Ruler’s law. Yet, the Great Ruler, in His mercy, showed grace. He was in no way obligated to free any of them. Yet He did. He was the Lawmaker. He was not guilty of breaking the law. Who could accuse Him of being “unfair”? None. The fact that He pardoned one of them does not show “unfairness”, but great undeserved mercy!
Such is also true of our salvation. We cannot boast. Why? “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”-Ephesians 2:8,9. I fear that Christians have become so desensitized to these “common” verses, that they miss the full impact. No man can boast of His place in Christ! Why? For it was a gift given by God, not commandeered by the spiritual prowess of man! Dead men cannot move to obtain God in and of themselves. Though the preceding illustration is by no means the best, it still speaks to what Paul has to say in reply to the common objections to the belief in God’s absolute sovereignty in the salvation of men (Romans 9, my emphasis added):
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills,and he hardens whomever he wills.19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
This passage very clearly deals with the sovereignty of God in the salvation of man. So much so, it is of little value at this time to expound on the particular passage, in that this is merely an introduction to what is known as Calvinism. And since this is intended to be compact, I will simply state what the 5 Points of Calvinism consist of, with a few brief comments, leaving future articles to go into detail concerning such. The 5 Points of Calvinism can also be summed up in an acronym known as T.U.L.I.P. Before giving you the summized meanings of these doctrines, it’s important to set the backdrop. It’s also important to note that these doctrines were by no means “new”. In fact, these are the very doctrines as set forthy by the Apostles, as found in the Scriptures. But the particular articulation of thoughts behind the acronym T.U.L.I.P was uniquely fashioned in response to the teachings of a Jacob (Or Jacobus, or James) Arminius.
Born in 1650, Arminius was recognized by his suitors as a very intelligent young man. This afforded him education, which was not so easily attained in such a time. To make a long story short (and for a more succinct treatment of this you can go here.), Arminius engaged in professing certain doctrinal standards while teaching his students, yet practicing and perpetrating others outside the classroom. Later, in 1609, he died. But not without leaving his damnable heresy behind. A group of young students known as the Remonstrants perpetuated Arminius’ errors as can be found in their later 5 Articles.
At first glance, one might think, “What’s the problem?” But, with a closer look, we should see that the implications are much much bigger than initially pondered. I will briefly state the ideas of the Remonstrants (i.e. Arminianism), then give a general overview of the 5 points of Calvinism.
Though Article 1 of the Remonstrants’ position sounds tenable, it is quite sly in applying terms like incorrigible not to all men, but only to those who are unbelieving. It’s too much to go into for now, but the whole truth of Total Depravity puts all men under the wrath of God, rendering them incapable of NOT being incorrigible. Their 2nd Article asserts that Christ died for all men without exception, thus touting the idea that Christ’s death makes all men savable, but only by their decision to believe upon Him. Such a thought is an assault on the efficacy and purpose of Christ’s vicarious sacrifice on behalf of His elect. Article 3 rightly notes that man does not have saving grace in and of himself, and needs to be “born again” by the Holy Spirit. However, the Arminian idea (which is wrong) behind such a notion is that one can attain this regeneration, since it is not irresistible, which brings us to the next thought. Article 4 says (emphasis mine):
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. but respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible; inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.
The problem with such an assertion is that it denotes that God and man cooperate with one another and together effect salvation in a man! Herein lies the problem with Arminianism. It is Man-centerd and blasphemous, yet parading as innoncent and inclusive. Lastly, Article 5, and it would only be consistent to come to such a conclusion, says that man, if he does not keep his faith up, can fall away from the grace of God. Well, based on the idea that man can attain salvation cooperatively in the first place, it’s not such an illogical point to assert that he could also, by uncooperation, lose it!
Mind you, the 5 Points of Calvinism, as formally articulated in the Canons of Dordt, as much as they were called such, came after Calvin’s time. And, as has been previously noted, the doctrines behind such formal articulations had been long into play by the Apostles, as laid down in the Scriptures. For example, Augustine, Athanasius, and others were all proponents of the doctrines, as they saw them in the Scriptures. Needless to say, here are some brief definitions of those letters found in T.U.L.I.P.
Because Adam was the representative of all mankind, when he forsook the commandment of God, and ate of the fruit, he did plunge all men into an irreversible state of spiritual death. This death renders all those born of woman, other than the perfect Lord Jesus Christ, spiritually dead, incapable of knowing, doing, or even desiring those things which are pleasing to God. By nature, man is at enmity with His Creator, thinking only of himself, and the gratification of his sinful flesh. (Romans 5, Ephesians 2:1, etc.)
U- Unconditional Election
God, in the mere good pleasure of His own will, not constrained by anything other than His Own good purpose did, before the foundation of the World, elect a people unto and for Himself, to the “praise of His glorious grace.” He did so and gave a people unto His Son, Jesus Christ, to believe on His Name and to escape the wrath that was to come through the transgression of Adam. In eternity, this is the Covenant of Redemption. The historical outworking of this Covenant, it is known as the Covenant of Grace. (Ephesians 1, John 6:37, 44 (etc.), John 17, etc.)
L- Limited Atonement
Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, came to earth to “save His people from their sins.” His death was a vicarious sacrifice, actually purchasing the Church of God with His own blood, securing their justification before God and satisfying His demand of perfect obedience to His Law. His death was for the elect, and the elect alone. This limits the Atonement in its extent, whereas the damnable heresy of Arminianism limits the Atonement of the Lamb of God in it’s efficacy (but praise God only in their defective theory!) (Matthew 1:21, Acts 20:28, etc.)
I- Irresistible Grace
Since man is born dead in His sin, incapable of doing right or seeing rightly, it takes the powerful, sovereign, irresistible grace of God to raise the man from the dead. On the removal of such a dark veil from the natural man’s eyes, God’s grace is “simply irresistible”. God replaces man’s heart of stone, with a heart of flesh. A heart that desires to be right with God, and would not, nay could not, resist such an offer as the forgiveness of and deliverance from sin. This call is an effectual call of God, always resulting in the way God has desired, never returning unto Him as void.(Isaiah 55:11; John 5:21, 6:37,44; Romans 8:29-30, etc.)
P- Perseverance of the Saints
It is only logical and consistent (not to mention Biblical) to conclude that if man is inacapable of earning salvation, or even cooperating with God to get it, then it must all be a work of God from start to finish. That being the case, it is impossible for man to render salvation lost, or to fall from a state of grace. If a man apostasizes, falls away, or renounces Christ, he has merely proven he never was in Christ to begin with. Such is the teaching of the P in T.U.L.I.P. Many today believe what’s known as “once saved always saved”, but it falls thoroughly short of the biblical doctrine presented here. Those who belong to Christ will ultimately be conformed to Christ, growing in the grace and the knowledge of Him. That it may be said, “those who persevere to the end shall be saved.” (John 6:39; Philippians 1:6, etc.)
I leave you with this quote from Dr. C. Matthew McMahon:
A tulip is a flower with 5 petals, all intertwining, and without which, it would not make up a complete flower. If one petal is removed from the flower, it ceases, for all intents and purposes, to be complete. It is the same with the essential doctrines of salvation. Each doctrine is essentially linked to the others. If one of them is removed, then the whole system falls into absurdity and contradiction. (Thus, there would be no such thing as a 3 point Calvinist or a 4 point Calvinist (like Amyraldianism)–it would be better to say they are confused Arminians.)