Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tripping TULIP Part 1: Introduction

Since posting about my impressions of the movie Knowing this blog has received a number of visitors who were linked here from The Contemporary Calvinist blog. I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed modern Calvinism’s “Doctrines of Grace” officially here before. I used to consider myself a Calvinist but after being introduced to the logical end of Reformed Theology, that being Lordship Salvation I felt forced to re-examine this systematic theology against the whole of Scripture. My examinations at first led me to denounce one point, then some portions of two other points in the so called “TULIP” definition of the Doctrines of Grace. Then I came to the shocking conclusion that each of TULIP’s points are completely dependent on all the others being true. One cannot simply deny a single point of TULIP. Each point requires all the others to be true. Since coming to this realization I’ve found this to be commonly recognized by theologians of many different backgrounds. It is amazing how blind a person can be. I never noticed or understood what people meant by that over a period of years.

Systematic Theology frustrates me. Please excuse me as I do not mean to offend, but I believe systematic theologies can make for lazy theologians. All too often they make laypersons consider themselves theologians and allow for great error to grow in the lives of believers completely unnoticed and unchecked. The most common statement I continue to read/hear from modern Calvinists is “You just don’t understand Calvinism.” This is a symptom of all Systematic Theologies, not just Calvinism, but my purpose here is to discuss Calvinism in particular. For the purposes of allowing the Calvinists the freedom to express their points without risk of my misunderstandings being the focus of my arguments (which is a logical fallacy called a Straw-Man Argument) I will be using two source documents in particular.

The Contemporary Calvinist’s description of each of the doctrines of TULIP is my first reference. Please find part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5. These documents are written, at least by my understanding, to address concerns with Calvinism which are based mostly in emotionalism and with regard to the Systematic Theology of Arminianism.

The Calvinist is often very indoctrinated and thinks their system is a perfect representation of Scripture. The Contemporary Calvinist blog, which appears to be one of the most honorable Calvinist websites I’ve ever seen (hence my linking to the material even though I will not quote any of it directly) even quotes Spurgeon equating Calvinism with Christianity. Of course let’s get this straight, it would be a very dishonest man who would hold to a theology that they were not sure was true. The Calvinist takes this to the next level however, they are so convinced that they don’t even consider the person who has concerns might actually be concerned only because the theology doesn’t match Scripture.

GraceNET’s The Doctrines of Grace is my second reference document. This was just found by a Google search. It appears to have a number of Scripture references for each point, and each description is short and to the point. This is going to be my primary reference document. The other is provided to round out the character of the Calvinist argument, this one is to define it.

For each point I will give key phrases from the Calvinist description of the point, give the scripture references they offer and then I will give my thoughts.

If all goes as planned, I will be posting an article on each of the points of TULIP daily over the next several days. Today I will start with Total Depravity which to the Calvinist means “Total Inability.”


Glenn_W said...

Hi kevl,

I have a reference that you may find of interest, it is called “Deconstructing Calvinism”. The link takes you to a site where you can download the author’s short book of the same name (it’s only 123 pages) along with audios of all seven lessons that he taught on the subject.

The author is a former Calvinist who began to have doubts and ended out coming to the conclusion that Calvinism isn’t biblical. He does a good job of not being mean spirited toward fellow believers that are still Calvinists. I have listened to the first four lectures and I believe he does a very good job and recommend it to anyone who is interested.


Kevl said...

Hey Glenn, how are things? Thanks for the link.

It IS really hard to keep from being, or seeming "mean spirited" when dealing with theology you don't agree with. If this guy has managed to remain kind he has surely done well!

I'll have to check it out, thanks!