I’m not that much into pulling weeds, planting flowers, or gardening and such, but I like an oocasional TULIP now and then.
If you want to heat up a discussion (polite way of saying: screaming conversation) between a few Christians sitting around a coffee shop, just start talking about the 16th century French reformer, John Calvin, and the five points he put together as a refutation against Arminianism.
Most people don’t understand Calvinism, don’t know what the issues are and, frankly, don’t really care what all the fuss is about. Here is what TULIP stands for.
- T = Total Depravity
- U = Unconditional Election
- L = Limited Atonement
- I = Irresistible Grace
- P =Perseverance of the Saints
Here are the five points in a nutshell.
Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as “totally depraved,” they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality — his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being. The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God’s making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would “accept” the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8). This doctrine does not rule out, however, man’s responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Scripture presents a tension between God’s sovereignty in salvation, and man’s responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. Both are true — to deny man’s responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-calvinism; to deny God’s sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism.
Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, “for whose sins did Christ atone?” The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25). This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. Christ’s death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus’ death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ’s act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved.
The result of God’s Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14).
Perseverance of the Saints
Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God’s hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39).
Question for commenting: How do you feel about these five points? What do you agree with and what do you disagree with? And how do these points help us to understand man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty? Lastly, how do these points help us in understanding the role of evangelism?