Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"T" is for Tulip

A few days ago, people were asking questions about the Five Points of Calvinism. Maybe this will help. Think "T.U.L.I.P." It's a handy way to remember the five points that together distinguish the doctrines of grace adhered to by Reformed Theology, and commonly referred to as Calvinism.


Total Depravity. Mankind is not basically good. We do not have a natural bent towards good and godly pursuits. Man has been sinful and corrupt since the time of Adam.


Unconditional Election. God chose from eternity past whom to bring to Himself. His choice was not merited or initiated by us.


Limited Atonement. It is not the power of God that is limited, but Jesus died for those (and only those) who the Father had chosen before the world began.


Irresistible Grace. If God has purposed that someone should be saved, that individual will certainly be saved.


Perseverance of the Saints. Sometimes referred to as "once saved, always saved," (except that apostacy indicates that a person might not have been saved at all).


Let me say that this extremely brief "working definition" is by no means a good or thorough explanation. It took me a year, from the first time I heard of it, before I was ready to call myself a "Calvinist."


What won me over was that there seemed to be a better treatment of the Scriptures by the Calvinist apologists. But more than that, as I read through the whole Bible that year, there was so much that I had not noticed before that made me feel like my own salvation was God's sovereign decision, not my own. In other words, I made a "decision for Jesus," because God had ALREADY decided to save me.


Why does it matter, the order of salvation? Does it make any difference whether God decided first, or my own decision activated the free gift of salvation? It made a huge difference for me. For example, sharing the gospel is an issue of simple obedience. Whether or not a person comes to faith when I proclaim the good news is neither a reason for pride nor shame. It's all God. And I rejoice to be a part of His plan, and always count it a victory because of having obeyed the Great Commission, regardless how the message is received. Besides, just because someone says "no" now, doesn't mean that God hasn't chosen them. He may have predestined that they see the light at a later time.


Spinoff conversation by LL Barkat here.

Image by barryed


L.L. Barkat said...

Well, could I throw in this little hitch? I think God chooses all of us. I won't go into the whole theological basis for this, but it's what I see in the bible (even the "hardening" of Pharoah's heart was meant to bring the Egyptians to God, not to shut Pharoah or a whole nation out... reread the story and see this hidden grace).

Okay, so that leaves it open... who will choose him back?

jazzycat said...

You know I agree. I think you are going to have a long thread here. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
John 3:16

I believe the word I am looking at here is "whoever". I take that as to mean "anyone" or "all". It is not saying nor is it meaning that only a few or only the elect will not perish but "whoever believes in Him will not perish".

spaghettipie said...

phew, you've opened a can of worms here, now, haven't you?

I'll be interested to see how this thread unfolds (as I found the last one interesting as well). This is closely related to my last post (question) on salvation.

Personally, I wonder how much of our individualistic (can I be general?) Western mindset affects our interpretation of salvation. I'm not saying God doesn't love us personally - I believe He does - but how much of the Bible do we read through an "individual" lens when it was intended to be regarding "community"?

Lifelong Learner said...

HEY! I'M a Calvinist, TOO! Don't you just love him and his little Tiger? I love the way he makes his snowmen, too.


Lifelong Learner said...

I guess my biggest question is, what is the purpose of free will?

Martin Stickland said...

Thanks for Toby's Birthday wishes Craver and have a good day!

Taliesin said...

. . . "whoever believes in Him will not perish".


BTW, I agree with Craver on the five points. Reformed theology/Calvinism does not teach that anyone is saved apart from coming to Christ. God ordains not only the ends (by election) but also the means (by drawing us through word and the Spirit).

Whosoever will may come, but only the elect ever will. Just a few chapters later in John (6:44), Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

Anonymous said...

It does not say the "elect", it does not say the "chosen", it says "whoever".

Pete Juvinall said...

Here's the question though. If it is anyone, and if there is no elect, then Jesus' death on the cross was all encompassing; e.g., my atheist friend is saved regardless as to whether he believes or not because his sins are covered.

Sure there's a condition of salvation (belief), but the thing that is behind that is that Jesus's sacrifice *was* complete and that there are people who aren't believers.

My other problem is dealing with alot of what Paul writes. He talks ad nauseam about being elect, chosen, etc. and it's hard to deal with some of those passages without thinking about being elect.

However, I think for me, personally, there's an in-between. In mystery, we still have a choice and an opportunity to believe and yet God has chosen us in love. The two work hand in hand, not unlike adopting a daughter and 'choosing her' but still her desire to love is out of her choice. It's not a perfect anology there, but our perspective is somewhat similar to a 3 year old grasping that their parents love them. We just simply don't see the whole picture.

Anonymous said...

Pete, I really liked how you put it here - "...In mystery, we still have a choice and an opportunity to believe and yet God has chosen us in love. The two work hand in hand, not unlike adopting a daughter and 'choosing her' but still her desire to love is out of her choice. It's not a perfect anology there, but our perspective is somewhat similar to a 3 year old grasping that their parents love them. We just simply don't see the whole picture."

Although I'm not in agreement with the 5 point Calvinistic view, I only hope that I will not be now "invisibly marked" for not agreeing with Craver or anyone else for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Craver, maybe you can put down what the Arminians are about, like the way you did with what the Calvinists believe.

Wouldn't Scripture cover both C & A since there are those who are at different points? 3, 4, 5 points.

Craver Vii said...

This community (our friends who leave comments) has a wonderful reputation of remaining civil through a variety of subjects. Let us continue our efforts to speak the truth in love.

Although the post was written not for debate, but as an ultra-concise intro to the Five Points of Calvinism, there may be questions or challenges. It can be difficult to clarify our own beliefs or try to help another "see the light" without trampling all over them. Let's be realistic; I don't expect that at after a couple days of comments, that all of "Craverville" would have arrived at the same conclusions. So let's not put too much hope in changing someone else's perspective right here and now.

Just Journaling brings up a good point. We must all be accountable for our words, but are we going to "invisibly mark" people so that all future dialog is affected with a residual jagged edge? I hope we can do better than that.

Pete Juvinall said...

JJ - If you could only know me better :), you'd know I'm far from the type of person who would invisibly mark someone.

To give you background, I come from an fundamental baptist background and my wife became a believer in a independant charismatic church. We went to a church when we were first married whose pastor was a believer in people-group election (we're generically elected as God's children) and now we go to a PCA church and have it as our dream to go to Ireland one day and work in the Republic. We've worked with InterVarsity for a number of years and I think our DNA of our marriage has been about seeking middle ground.

It saddens me to hear people talk and become embittered about things and miss the larger picture. There's a quote in a sidebar in Piper's book 'the pleasures of God' where he talks about an exchange between a calvinist and armenian where the former says that the other is 'saved...but barely'.

Yet, I sit with J.I. Packer too in his belief that pursuing questions like this alter our view of God and realizing that his purposes and ways are so far beyond ours but pursing knowledge of him is a good exercise because it gives us glimpses to just how far reaching God's power is.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm the last person who would ever desire, purposefully, to sit in the camp of "saved...but barely".

To losely quote Tom Sizemore in 'Heat' "I don't know about you, but I'm not in it for the money - the action is my juice."


Anonymous said...

Calvinism and Arminianism aren't mutually exclusive. God is sovereign, yep. We have free will, yep. Both are true, in paradox. Like Jesus being man and God.

And sometimes God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but other times he hardened his own heart. The Bible says both. It's messy that way, but it's both true.

Craver Vii said...

It would probably be wiser to let an Arminian put spell out their own position. My own interpretation could be biased. If anyone wishes to take that up, I would be happy to link him/her.

Thanks for your contribution, Walker92. Glad you stopped by.

Not every paradox is beyond comprehension. Free will, for example: man is free to choose according to his desire, but since the Fall, the unregenerate man's natural desire is not for God.

Dan Leman said...

Maybe some of the confusion about whether or not we choose God comes from an oversimplification of Total Depravity. It's not just that we're mostly bad. It's that we are totally spiritually dead (Ephesians 2). And dead men can't do anything for themselves. We don't need to exercise our wills to choose God - we can't. We need a new birth, a resurrection, a regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus with Lazarus, the voice of God speaks to our dead souls and creates the life of faith.

L.L. Barkat said...

Craver, you set the record for the shortest ever reply to one of my comments! I'm not sure how to take that. [sniff, sniff]

I simply meant that sometimes Calvinists make it seem like inclusion in the Kingdom is kind of a club thing. Only by special invitation.

And what I was saying is that I believe the invitation has gone out to everyone, not just an elect few.

I brought up the issue of Pharoah because people sometimes use such passages to say, "See, God shuts some people (and, by extension, some nations) out of his grace. It's his prerogative."

But the Exodus story is not just a story of the Hebrews against the Egyptians or God against the Egyptians. God wanted to show his power before the Egyptians, that some might choose him back. And some did! It wasn't just Hebrews who left Egypt.

Indeed, God says this wonderfully curious thing to his "chosen" people in Isaiah... "In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria--a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance." (19:24-25)

Cool, huh?

Anonymous said...

Pete, I apologize if I came across somewhat bitter that was not my intention and my comment about "invisibly marked" was not directed at you, per say. It was directed to whomever was reading my comment; I feel as though that most here are Calvinists and that I may be leaving a bad taste in their mouths. I'm not at all bitter, just cautious.

Craver Vii said...

"...I'm not sure how to take that. [sniff, sniff]"
Believe me LL, you are sooooo highly esteemed that I hate to make you sniffle. Here, have a tissue. ;-)

Your initial comment caught me by surprise, since I thought the post was explanatory, but the comment was more along the lines of a debate (which I am not good at.) I had never heard it said that this pharaoh who's firstborn, and his soldiers, and the firstborn of countless families in Egypt died at the hand of God... that the land that had taken such a monumental economical setback in terms of forced labor and the plunder they took with them as they escaped Egypt... that their religious establishment which was thoroughly routed by the only true God, that they were chosen, brought to God, or recipients of God's grace. I was hoping you could expound upon that, because frankly, this was the first time I had ever heard such a thing.

Is God's Kingdom a private club? Well, yes. Inclusion is by special invitation only. The invitation must come from the Father, Son or Holy Spirit.

That is an interesting passage you offered, but if there is an appearance of any contradiction from scripture between prophetic writings on the one hand, and historical narrative and didactic epistles on the other hand, I would think that the interpretive error is most likely in how the prophetic writings are handled. I'll look at Isaiah again, but doesn't that make more sense?

(Boy, this is hard, trying to squeeze these comments in on my break-times.)

Taliesin said...


I don't disagree about "whoever" - whoever believes will not perish; whosoever will may come. The question is who will believe and who does come. As Dan notes, the Bible's diagnosis is that we are dead, and cannot believe or come apart from the effectual call of God.


I simply meant that sometimes Calvinists make it seem like inclusion in the Kingdom is kind of a club thing.

Too often true and to our shame. The doctrine of election rightly understood should breed humility, not pride.


As for the Arminian view, the classic statement (the Remonstrance) can be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Heading 2 (Doctrines) is the actual statement created by them to which the five points are a response. Their (1) corresponds to election; (2) atonement; (3) depravity; (4) resistible grace; and (5) the question of the perseverance of the saints. The order change was made much later to fit the T.U.L.I.P. acronym.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, taliesin and thank you for the Arminian view as well. Now I am able to review both sides.

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, Craver, you dear. Thanks for the tissue!

I'm sorry if it seemed I was in debate mode; I prefer the word dialog and apologize if it seemed I was trying to "get you."

As for the Egyptian question, it will take me a while to go back and revisit all the verses that led me to that conclusion. I believe there were many, but here are two I can think of offhand... "The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD..." (Ex 7:5) Also: "The Israelites journeyed...about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. And a mixed crowd also went with them..." (Ex. 12:37-38)

And, perhaps, here's the more central point. Abraham was chosen so his people could bring blessing to all people. Eventually, the Israelites lost sight of why they were "chosen."

I wonder if we too are "elected", not as a club invitation but as chosen ones to go out and bring blessing to the rest of the world... "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation..." (2 Cor 5:18)

Anyway, you clever one, you got me to start supporting my thoughts from scripture, even after I said I wasn't going to go into all that! :)

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful discussion. You have all done such a great job at respecting each other and articulating fine points of difference. Bravo!

I'm coming in late here, but I just wanted to offer up Romans 9 as Paul's response to a lot of the questions of election. He even harkens back to Pharoah, as well as Jacob and Esau.

My beliefs fall pretty closely in line with all five points of Calvinism, though I found the word "Calvinism" had become so divisive among many of the believers I know that I decided not to hold too closely to the label as much as to the truth of scripture.

L.L. Barkat said...

Romans 9. Does anyone else feel like his head is spinning when reading that?

Paul seems to go back and forth, point and counterpoint in his own thinking. Somehow, I find it useful to read this section without the chapter divisions. Which makes the logical end of his passionate speech come to an end at the "Amen" at the end of chapter 11.

And, it is curious that Paul has used his discussion to crescendo to this point... that God "may be merciful to all." (vs.32) I guess that's the thing which is always in the back of my mind no matter what. God, whatever methods he chooses, even if these methods seem to temporarily shut someone out or cause suffering, ultimately has one thing on his mind...

mercy to all.

Craver Vii said...

I think that "all" there refers to all nations, or people all over the world, not too different from the way God saved all kinds of animals in the ark, even though many died outside in the great flood.

So I look at other verses that shape my interpretation of "mercy to all," like:

"While they are saying "Peace and Safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." 1st Thessalonians 5:3


"...when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," 2nd Thessalonians 1:7b-9

spaghettipie said...

I appreciate Pete's comments, as they resonated with my own contemplation of this issue of Calvinism (most of my friends subscribe to that theology, and some fall into the category of looking at me as saved, but barely).

I used to totally reject forming an opinion either way because the main effect I have seen is arrogance, divisiveness and barriers. I felt like people get too caught up in debating and deciding that they miss out on the bigger picture. Do you think Christians being persecuted in other parts of the world are spending time trying to convince others to be Calvinists or not?

And while I still feel you have to keep the larger picture in view, I have now seen how just the pursuit of making a decision (regardless of what "side" you choose or if you even choose sides) brings us to a deeper understanding of who God is and our relationship with Him. So now I'm excited about exploring the topic (and I am), but not so much for the endpoint of being able to say I've decided who's right...but for the journey I'll have in studying about it.

Lifelong Learner said...

I am a Southern Baptist. Calvinists and Baptists have crossed paths in the past, and I think it is on the verge of doing so again. I think it will get bad before it gets better, unfortunately. Not everyone conducts themselves in the manner that folks do on this blog, especially when it comes to doctrine.

At the core of being a Baptist is the belief that I am a sinner, was born that way, until the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and turned my heart toward Christ. In that moment, I am free to believe or disbelieve. It is my choice. As missionaries, we know it comes down to that choice in a person. Some people believe immediately. Others take more time. In the case of the people we work with, they are beaten if they believe. I can understand their hesitation.

I believe that because God is omniscient, He already knows who will believe, but that wasn't His choice, it was the choice of the unbeliever. His salvation is open to anyone willing to believe.

In looking at the differences in the two beliefs, I can see how people would react strongly, and am happy that it isn't happening here! I don't think any of us will change each other's minds, but it is nice to be able to see the viewpoints without fear of retribution!

This is a good group. On Craver's blog. In his comment section.

Craver Vii said...

I'm encouraged by the kind tone of all of your comments. Whether or not we agree with each other on the doctrines of grace, the "love one another" is obvious. That makes my day.

Al Hsu said...

I'm coming to this thread kind of late, but I've appreciated John Stott's observation (which I think is borrowed from other folks before him, but the sources escape me). Stott said that salvation is like walking into a church building that has a sign on the outside that says "Whosoever will may come." And once you come in the door, you look at the door behind you and it says "Ye have been chosen from the foundation of the world."

In other words, election is paradoxically compatible with universal invitation to Christ. All humanity is invited to freely choose to follow Jesus. And once we do so, we find ourselves part of the community known as the church that has been chosen from the foundation of the world.

BTW, check out IVP's two companion books Why I Am Not a Calvinist and Why I Am Not an Arminian. Both are thoroughly evangelical and build biblical cases for their positions, and it becomes clear how Christians with the same respect for Scripture can arrive at different theological conclusions (primarily because of different philosophical and methodological frameworks). If you don't want to read two books, check out Predestination & Free Will: Four Views or Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views.

david mcmahon said...

G'day Craver,

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving such a generous comment.

Wow - did you take that tuplip shot?



Craver Vii said...

No Sir (David McMahon). The credit for the image is at the bottom of the post. My real pictures are usually taken with a disposable camera and far below the quality of the pictures I choose to represent my stories.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Baptists were pretty much almost completely Calvinist at one point (looking specifically at the English Baptists, eg John Bunyan). The question of election/predestination was, according to Martin Luther, the fundamental issue in his divide with Rome. While he disagreed with Calvin on certain things (sacramentology, ecclesiology), his soteriology was largely the same. In American Protestantism, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, or Congregationalist, Calvinism was the norm until the time of the so-called Second Great Awakening (due, to some extent, to Presbyterian insistence on highly educated pastors, which was unable to keep up with demand during westward expansion, hence largely Arminian Methodists started to prevail).

Having a compatible view of predestination and free will is in no way a compromise between Arminianism and Calvinism. Calvinists may choose sub-optimal words sometimes, but no right-minded Calvinist would deny free will. Everyone agrees that humans voluntarily make their own choices. The question is is -why- they make choices. A choice that is not the deterministic result of processing its antecedents is in no way controlled by the agent, and thus the agent is hardly demonstrating "free will". A truly free will is able to reliably make choices based on inputs. A truly free will would choose God every time.

Calvinism asserts that will is controlled by nature (in everyone, including God). A person freely makes choices in accordance with their nature (in essence, the "processing of antecedents" mentioned above). It's only by a miraculous change (ie being born again of the Spirit of God) that we do good.

As someone stated above, it -is- a special "club"--a covenant community, if you prefer--but it is made so by the holiness (transcendantal "separateness") of God rather than by anything meritorious in the participants--indeed, in spite of much that is scandalous in the participants.