Sunday, April 05, 2009

Time to Talk 'TULIP'

In seminary I learned that the distinctive of Calvinism was shown in the acronym TULIP.

total depravity
unconditional election
limited atonement
irresistible grace
perseverance of the saints

These 5 doctrines have been used to set Calvinism apart from its critics and alternative theologies. In my experience and study, I have encountered some personal push back against all but total depravity. Then I read the Scriptures and agree with the Synod of Dort, that these can be mysterious and counter-intuitive; they are, nevertheless, Biblical.

The most amazing part of TULIP is that John Calvin never used it, did not invent it, or even spend a lot of time arguing it.

Calvin died in 1564- nearly 50 years later, in 1610, 42 followers of Jacobus Arminius drafted articles of dispute against 5 aspects of the reformation taught by Calvin and his followers. This dispute became known as the Remonstrance and was the party responsible for the 5 points. A church synod was held in the Dutch city of Deordect in 1618/1619 which resulted in the Cannons of Dort. The synod upheld all 5 points of Calvinism and rejected the dispute of the Arminians.

Knowing how Calvin treated those who disagreed with him, it would be very suprising if there would have been hardship or recourse (Luther might have been a different story).

If you want to know, here is my take on the 5 points of Calvinism and yes, I m a 5 pointer to the core.

1- Moral Inability- we do not have the moral ability to choose God's free offer of the gospel. As a dead man, I cannot repent even if I wanted to. I do not have the desire or strength to merit anything toward my righteousness. Even my good deeds are filthy rags to God. This bad news makes the good news good. In a world where men believe they are 'good' there really is no need of a Savior. We have no clue how rotten we are.

2- God's choice based on nothing from me. From the very foundation of the world, God, in His plan... chose me to be one of His adopted sons. If I ever start to feel any pride in my 'christian faith' I feel the Spirit say, "Excuse me? What did you do to deserve this?" Why me? I have no idea- but I temble in gratitude to Him!

3- Personal Salvation- Jesus died for me. This is personal. My name is written in the book. I'm not swept up in some general net of goodness- I was singled out, hand picked, and bought with an unimaginable price. He thinks of me! When the devil knocks me down and tells me what a loser I am, and how unworthy I am... "My father says, I love you son- I chose you specifically. Let's take a walk." How can you not burst with love in response to that?

4- Irresistable calling and grace. God chased me down, broke me down and I was subdued by Him. I fought Him, but He melted me. I still fight him- but He will not let me go. John 17- Jesus will not lose even 1 that God has put in His hand.

5- Perseverence. I was adopted to be set aside for Him. My sanctification is assumed in Romans 8. I will be glorified. All of this flows out of my adoption. Legally, I am justified and adopted... as a son, I will be 'Fathered' to my destination. It may be a hard road at times when I am punished, but it is always for my good.

The remonstrance still exists- I have good friends who hold to 'man is good, just kind of sick'- 'we choose God', or "God sees our good""we can reject God' and 'we can lose our salvation".. I just can't see those posisitons in light of the Bible.

An believe me, I can get 'Hyper' and passive- and then my Father gets me.

So get out the Bible. Read Ephesians 1, Romans 7 and 8, and John 17 for starters.

If you still feel there are issues- study the Synod of Dort. But be careful, you may become one of those weird 5 point Calvinists.

Calvin would just laugh. 'Why don't you just start glorifying God and die to self'.

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