Wednesday, November 23, 2011

TESTING TULIP: Total Depravity/Inability

UPDATE: Please scroll down to the bottom of the Comments & click the link that says "newer" or "newest" on the lower right hand side to see the latest commets. We have now gone beyond 200 comments! 

These articles are open for discussion but only within the terms described in the introduction to the series. If you wish to participate you must adhere to the requirements in order to do so. More information about my thought process and motivations can be found in a more recent post The Implications Don't Matter if it is True. has this to say about the TULIP doctrine of Total Depravity (Total Inability).
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not--indeed he cannot--choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ--it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation--it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.
These are the Scriptures that they reference to support these claims.
Genesis 2:15-17;  Romans 5:12;  Psalms 51:5; 1Corinthians 2:14;  Romans 3:10-18; Jeremiah 17:9;  John 6:44;  Ephesians 2:1-10 
Here are the claims they make in point form to explicitly show what claims are being made:
1.  Because of the Fall Man is unable to of himself to savingly believe the Gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. 
2.  The sinner's will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not --indeed he cannot-- choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. 
3.  The Spirit must regenerate (make alive, give a new nature to) the sinner in order that he can come to Christ. 
4. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation, it is the gift to the sinner not the sinner's gift to God. 
The Canons of Dort or the Synod of Dort are the basis of TULIP. The Canons are built on the assumption of the "Eternal Decrees of God" which are not found in Scripture, but assumed to be true based on logical inference from the particular view of the Sovereignty of God demanded by the Canons also TULIP.  NOTE: I have worked and reworked this paragraph trying to be a generous as I can be, while also being faithful to the Calvinist position and giving an objective view of the relationship. The Calvinist would not see this as circular because they see the Eternal Decrees as being the foundation which are understood from the nature of God as they see it revealed in the whole of the Scriptures.

Wayne Grudem has this to say in his Systematic Theology (copyright 1994, Inter-Varsity Press & Zondervan Publishing House):

Of the Providence of God; that God "cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do" (Page 315)

Of the Eternal Decrees of God; "are the eternal plans of God whereby, before the creation of the world, he determined to bring about everything that happens." (Page 332)

Thus while TULIP's view of Total Depravity is focused on Soteriology (the study of Salvation) that man is totally incapable of believing the Gospel the modern system of theology known as Calvinism holds that man is actually incapable of doing anything (good, evil or otherwise) by his own will.

The Canons of Dort statement on the corruption of man.

On this particular topic the Canons include 17 articles or statements. These do not include Scripture references. One can read them at the above link but I will not be responding to them each. The reasons for writing the Canons can be seen in the additional paragraphs which are responses to perceived errors of theology at the time of the writing. The Second Synod of Dort 1618-1619. Most of the articles and paragraphs actually have nothing to do with our discussion because they speak to ideas that are not, have not, nor ever will be presented at this Blog. They are about a different discussion.

That being said, Paragraph 4 adds the following Scripture references in support of the idea that unregenerate man cannot believe. Eph 2:1 & 5; Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Ps 51:17; and Matt 5:6.

Also, Paragraph 5 adds the following in support of "infusing" something into the will of man so that he will believe prior to belief. This is support of the TULIP view of regeneration prior to faith. Jer 31:33; Isa 44:3; Rom 5:5; and finally the church practice of praying "Restore me and I will return" from Jer 31:18.

On page 678 of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology he discusses the idea that "Election based on Something Good in Us (Our Faith) Would Be the Beginning of Salvation by Merit." 

These are the claims of, the Synod of Dort, and Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology with regard to the doctrine of Total Depravity (Inability).  These are the foundational teaching resources of modern Calvinism. If anyone reading is inclined to say that I have "misrepresented" Calvinism then theirs is not the Calvinism of the Calvinists and they should find someone who wants to talk about their own Calvinism. I will be discussing the Calvinism of the Calvinists here. I do not have the energy or the will to chase a moving target. Either the Calvinism of the Calvinists is either biblical or it is not biblical. It is my soul purpose here to find out and demonstrate either possibility as it so happens to be factual.

The last time I looked at TULIP I gave statements on each of the passages cited in the reference document. This time I am not forwarding an alternate view at all so I will only comment on verses that either do or could support each of the claims.

Here we go! 

The Calvinists I interact with, and leading proponent Wayne Grudem all seem to agree that if a person can believe then they have reason to brag. I have always found this hard to understand. Can one brag because they believe the Sky is blue? However, in light of the sort of gospel that must be preached in accordance with Limited Atonement - that Jesus didn't necessarily die for your sins, and so Eternal Salvation may or may not be available to you - now I can at least understand why it would seem reasonable to TULIP believers that a person would have to do something amazing in order to believe. That I understand one potential reason why it may seem to a TULIP believer that one could brag about believing in Christ doesn't make it biblical however. There is no Scripture given as reference so I must simply consider the claim itself. Is faith meritorious?

Romans 4:16 a "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace..." It had to be by faith so that it could be of unmerited favor. It would seem that both the primary concern of TULIP believers, that of stealing glory, praise, or credit from God in the Salvation process by a Believer being able to claim to have believed and also the secondary concern of being able to claim to be better than the person who didn't believe are not concerns which are in accord with the Scriptures.

NOTE: For each of the claims I will review all of the referenced passages, but only comment on those which I can imagine someone might use to support the claim.

Claim 1.  Because of the Fall Man is unable to of himself to savingly believe the Gospel.  The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt.

Gen 2:15-17 contradicts the claim as it indicates that Man would gain the knowledge of good and evil.

1Cor 2:14 is part of the 2nd Chapter of 1st Corinthians. The chapter starts with Paul explaining that he had determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him Crucified. He goes on in Vs 6 stating that "However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature.." Paul continues his thought in 1Cor 3:1-4 where he states. "And I Brethren could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to carnal, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it. And even now you are still not able to receive it; for you are still carnal."  It is clear that the wisdom that cannot be received is explicitly NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For though these new and disorderly Believers were unable to receive the meat of wisdom Paul knew they could receive the message of Christ and Him Crucified. In fact they had already received that message. Acts 18:8 Thus, 1Cor 2:14 actually contradicts Claim 1.

Rom 3:10-18 states that no one does these things. Not that no one is able to do them. It says that no one seeks after God, not that no one can believe the Gospel. Is one saved by grace through seeking? By grace through understanding? No. Eph 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith.

Jn 6:44 is the problem, Jn 12:32 is the solution. Each use the same word for draw.

Here are some potentially interesting notes:
Jn 6:37 give/grant 1325 All that the Father gives will come
Jn 6:65 give/grant 1325 None can come to Me unless it has been granted.
Acts 11:18 give/grant 1325 They glorified God saying "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life!"  
Jn 6:44 draw 1670 No one can come unless the Father draws him.
Jn 12:32 draw 1670 If I be lifted up, will draw all men.... speaking of the Father drawing because He was explaining why the Father had spoken. 
Clearly Israel had the issue of thinking they were exclusively God's people. We read this over and over again. They thought they were safe because they had a blood line back to Abraham. They were God's Elect Nation. If one was to come to God one had to be converted to Judaism, they had to go through Israel to get to God. Now however, God has granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles and we come to the Father through Christ alone. 

Thus Jn 6:44 does not indicate that one cannot believe the Gospel. It is speaking of the problem of accessibility of God, not ability to Believe in Him.

Eph 2:1-10 can be read in such a way that it sounds like faith is the Gift of God. However, Greek doesn't work like English. Faith is not the gift of God. Salvation that is by grace and accessed through faith is the gift of God. "The Gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 6:23 not the faith that we have in Him. To see how the Greek works in this passage view this previous article "John Calvin Describes the Faith That Saves."  Here's a diagram that may help.
Faith and Gift are different Genders. Faith cannot be the gift of God.
Thus Eph 2:1-10 does not show that man cannot believe the Gospel.

Gen 6:5, 8:21 talk of the intent or desires of the people's hearts. They do not speak of their ability, but of their intent. Further, we are saved by grace through faith, not by grace through intent or desire.

Jer 31:33 This is about the New Covenant with "The House of Judah and the House of Israel" Jer 31:31-38. The promises here are national. This is not about individual Eternal Salvation at all.

Jer 31:18 is not speaking of regeneration, it is about restoring blessings to the Northern Kingdom. Ephraim is used by the Prophets to indicate and personify the Northern Kingdom. This is also about returning, not about becoming saved.

On the matter of Claim 1

There is no scriptural support for the idea that man cannot savingly believe the Gospel provided by these sources. I am not aware of any passage that would, or could, give credence to this claim.  Man's heart is wicked and deceitful, but it has not been demonstrated how this means that no one can believe the Gospel. 

Claim 2.  The sinner's will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not --indeed he cannot-- choose good over evil in the spiritual realm.

Firstly, one is eternally saved when they receive (or believe, or have faith in, or have trust in) the Gospel found in 1Cor 15:1-11, not by "choosing good over evil." 1Cor 15:1; Acts 18:8

Eph 2:1-5 Most assuredly the one who is still in his sins is dead in them. Gen 2:17 is the warning that this would happen and 2Cor 5:14 is the affirmation of the absolute proof that it did indeed happen. However, the claim is not about if the person is dead or not, it is about if they are in absolute bondage (no free will) to their evil nature. Genesis 6:5 says that the people of the world only desired evil things. Depravity is clearly a biblical truth which many of the passages referenced affirm. Yet do any of them say that people are in complete bondage to their evil nature and are unable to believe the Gospel? Of course no passage says any such thing.

With regards to works the Bible is clear that all our righteousness is like filthy rags. Isa 64:6 Even after we are saved OUR righteousness profits us nothing. We need the righteousness of Christ which is by faith. Phil 3:1-11 So it is true in a sort of way that unsaved men can do no good. Further, even the good that saved people can do is meaningless for right-standing (righteousness) with God; so the point is moot.

Jesus Christ said "Most assuredly I tell you; whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" John 8:34 The Lord did not make distinction between regenerated and unregenerate persons. He said whoever sins is a slave of sin, and He said "most assuredly" so I don't think this is really up for debate.

There are endless examples of God giving instructions and choices to saved and unsaved persons and nations. I am making it a point that this discussion and evaluation will not be about the implications. If Calvinism is biblical then I need to "Suck it up Buttercup!" and accept the implications - no matter if I like them or not. Likewise, if Calvinism is NOT biblical then those who have previously held to it also need to accept whatever implications that brings. That being stated, I find it hard to reconcile a God who "cannot lie" with a God who says "Whoever may" but really means "Only those I regenerate first may." If God gives a choice must be able to respond to that choice, based on the biblical fact that God cannot lie and does not tempt. Tit 1:2; James 1:13

On the matter of Claim 2

None of the referenced passages indicate that the claim is true, further the issue is about a person's ability to believe the Gospel and not "choosing good over evil."

Claim 3. The Spirit must regenerate (make alive, give a new nature to) the sinner in order that he can come to Christ.

It must be noted first that the language here says what the Spirit "must" do. This is because it is a logical inference from the other claims made in the doctrine of Total Depravity. There is not a single verse in the Scriptures that says that the Spirit does regenerate prior to faith. In fact there is not a single passage that says (or even implies) that this "must" happen either.

People must be drawn, and people are drawn. See the notes above under Claim 1 about drawing. Clearly drawing is not being regenerated.

Jer 31:18 is also noted under Claim 1 above.

Scripture says that the Holy Spirit "convinces" or "convicts" the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, not regenerates them so they can believe. John 16:5-11

I am glad to see that the Monergism website rightly notes that regeneration is when God makes someone alive again, imparts life to them, and gives them the New Nature. When the Lord explained Salvation to Nicodemus He told the man about how Moses raised the bronze serpent up and those who looked at it lived. John 3:1-21The Lord of course is referencing Num 21:4-9 where we read "So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived." We see that it was only when the person looked that they lived. Not that they looked after they had been given life.  Both the Lord, and Moses agree. One looks and so lives, not one lives and so looks.

Eph 2:1-10 states that those who are saved have been made alive. It does not state or imply that this happened, or  must happen, prior to faith.

On the matter of Claim 3

This claim is a logical inference of the other claims made by the doctrine of Total Depravity/Inability and is not found in the Scriptures.

Claim 4. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation, it is the gift to the sinner not the sinner's gift to God.

The characterization of faith in the claim is false. Faith is not a "contribution" at all; it is a reception. 1Cor 15:1 Faith is not a gift to God, for it is without merit. Rom 4:16.

As established above under Claim 1 in discussion of Eph 2:8-9, faith is not the gift of God.

Jer 31:33 is discussed above under Claim 1.

On the matter of Claim 4

It is clear that Scripture does not say that God gives people saving faith.


Based on my review of the Scriptures referenced by and those from the other Calvinist sources that I went looking for there is no support for the claims of the doctrine of Total Depravity/Inability.

I hope it will be noted by those reading that I didn't just limit myself to the few passages that suggested. I actually searched out other credible Calvinist sources to find the strongest support possible for this doctrine. I hope that my Calvinist friends reading will concede that I did not seek to build a Straw-Man to burn. No one building a Straw-Man seeks out MORE support for the opposing position. I am also unaware of any way I could possibly have "misrepresented Calvinism" by simply quoting these highly respected Calvinist resources.

I do not want to propose an alternate theory to the doctrine being discussed, but while the Scriptures say that man is unwilling Mat 23:37-39; Luke 13:34-35; Mat 22:1-14 the Scriptures do not say that man is unable. If man were unable, if he were bound to only do evil, and was not able to know the Truth then he would have excuse at Judgment. Yet God has left man without excuse. Rom 1:18-21

I am thus constrained to report that the doctrine of Total Depravity/Inability as detailed by and the Synod of Dort is not biblical.

I look forward to discussion about these things. I however, do remind all of the rules (and my disclosures) for this discussion and some additional thoughts.

Resources for the discussion below: 

Image 1 Parsing Jn 10:26 - The Lord used "not" twice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Implications Don't Matter, If It Is True

As I have been studying and praying for wisdom in this new "TESTING TULIP" series I have found myself brought back to a thought I try to get people to honestly consider when I'm trying to help them with tough issues.

If TULIP is true, then the implications don't matter. They simply are the implications of truth. Evaluating the implications will accurately determine if TULIP is true or not.

In similar fashion, any lack of truth or validity in any view other than TULIP does not prove TULIP. Therefore it doesn't matter what my view of Election, or Depravity or the Atonement, or how God draws men, or Eternal Security... my view can be wrong at the same time as TULIP is wrong. My view being wrong does not aid the validity of TULIP whatsoever. Obviously if an opposing view is true then this would have the effect of negating TULIP. However, I am not seeking to produce an alternate theory to TULIP in these articles.

I will be testing TULIP. It is either in accordance with the Scriptures or it is not. Alternate theories are not part of that equation.

So I won't be trying to draw conclusions as to what the implications are and I won't be offering alternate theories either. I had previously said that I would give my view of each point, but I think that would lead to distracting arguments about issues that have nothing to do with TULIP.

This will allow me, hopefully, to spend more effort in the Canons of Dort as well. I think what I will be doing is to only use those for more Scripture references for the points of TULIP. I am not going to be trying to answer the very long Canons.

Monday, November 07, 2011


This post will serve as the introduction to the upcoming series testing TULIP according to the Scriptures.  I am not seeking to refute TULIP, but to critically examine it in accordance with 1Thess 5:21 and by using the Scriptures not my intellect or preferences in accordance with Acts 17:11.  Like the Evangelist, Teacher, theologian, and scripture translator John N. Darby I have no sacred cows in theology.  I do not love my theology and will gladly throw it away to know truth without reservation.

  • Good Doctrine meets particular standards. Deut 32:1-4, Prov 4:1-4, 1Tim 4:13-16, Tit 1:9-12, Tit 2:1. 
  • God's Word is perfect, sufficient, complete, reliable, covers all topics and is my first and final authority. Ps 119:89, Ps 119:160,  Ps 119:96, Ps 119:102 
  • No teacher (or resource) no matter how dear to me, or offensive to me will have influence above the Scriptures in this discussion. 


  • To determine if TULIP (or any part thereof) is faithful to the Scriptures or not. 


  • At one time I believed in TULIP but this belief was based on teachings I had received. As I grew in my study of the Word various points of TULIP were removed from my theology. I currently deny all 5 points as they have been explained to me. 
  • I do not claim the name "Dispensationalist" but I do believe that God has and will continue to work in Dispensations or Administrations in His dealings with mankind and as He works out His perfect plan for History. (Ephesians) That being said, I have long since come to the conclusion that Covenant Theology is not a faithful representation of God's workings and His plan. I will not be dealing with this in this series, but it is worthy of disclosure. A good representation of my views on the subject can be found in Renald E. Showers' "There Really is a Difference!"
  • I hold strictly to the Historical-Grammatical Hermeneutic. I do not deviate from this from cover to cover of the Bible. It is fair to disclose that I will find it hard to understand why anyone would deviate from this at any point. 
  • I have noted that contemporary believers of TULIP tend strongly and consistently toward the heresy commonly known as Lordship Salvation. This tends to poison the discussion for me, and it is very hard for me to divorce this heresy from the discussion. 
  • I am not a great theologian but I have a great resource in the Scriptures. 
  • I have received very poor treatment by TULIP believers almost without exception for a period of years. I tend not to trust those who hold to these beliefs to interact above the board. I will do my level best to give everyone a fair shake. 

  • If any of the points of disclosure indicate to you that I will not be fair in this discussion then please stay out of it. I will not be defending these disclosed points. They are provided to aid the discussion in being open and Christ-honoring. 
  • A commenter may ask one question of a person at a time, no more. Once the commenter's question is answered they will be expected to answer the question of the person they asked. There may be several people talking with each other at once. This will keep questions from being buried under comments, and will hopefully keep participants from feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Intimidation will not be tolerated at all. I alone will decide if someone is dealing in intimidation. Intimidation will result in no further comments being posted by that person. 
  • Questions will be asked and answered clearly by all who participate. Underhanded questions, or answers will not be tolerated. 
  • There will be no links to articles or other resources.  Commenters may explain a point and link only to scripture. 
  • Finally, each of the discussions must at some point come to an end. The debates about Calvinism have gone on for centuries. I hope to have a better understanding at the end, and that others will as well.  If a conversation is no longer productive it will be helpful if we just end it and move on to the next topic. I understand this can be exceedingly hard in some instances. 

I think that's it. If something else unexpected comes up then I reserve the right to change these at any time. Of course, no one is obligated to participate and my intent is to have several people actually do so. I have no desire to make rules that leave people in an unfair position or feel abused. I am just trying to ensure there is proper discussion.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Faith Problem (Evangelism 101.12)

The problem with preaching the Gospel any other way than how the Apostles preached it is that we will probably remove the ability of the person we are witnessing to, to come to true faith.    


Tripping TULIP (Again)

I've decided to take another look at TULIP. A few years ago I wrote a series of articles called "Tripping TULIP" It generated no small amount of offense.

I'm a couple of years older, perhaps more familiar with the Scriptures, perhaps more mature, perhaps... well perhaps I'm not any of those things! I'm going to go back to TULIP and see if I can be convinced this time. Recently I've tired of debating Calvinism. The endless accusations of "straw-man arguments" and "misrepresentations" really bug me. Half of the problem is that it is very very hard to find a Calvinist who will state plainly what he believes and why, AND be willing to have his theology be tested by what he says he believes and why.

Recently I've been discussing things like Double Predestination as a logical result of Total Inability and Unconditional Election. Now John Calvin believed this was logical, and necessary, and so does John Piper.

Here's what John Calvin taught:
" By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death."  Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 3 Chapter 21
The other topic I've been involved with recently is how the idea of a Limited Atonement gospel gives nothing for the sinner to put their faith in. If you can't know that Christ died for you, then you can't put your faith in the fact that He did. The other issue that has been discussed at the same time is how preaching a Limited Atonement gospel to "every creature" forces the preacher to lie to nearly everyone. If Jesus Christ only died for a very few people who will ever live in all of History then preaching to everyone that He died for their sins (1Cor 15:1-11) results in the preacher almost always lying.

Now I'm under no illusions... I know that Calvinists are going say "We don't say that!" I have been searching for a clear, freely available, complete presentation of TULIP that contemporary Calvinists would agree is an accurate representation of those points. I intend on using the presentation that is available on the website.

The Canons of Dort are what these points were formulated from, but frankly because of how they are formatted and the language used in them they are not clear enough. It would be too easy for someone to say "That's not what it means!" I'll have none of that thanks. I will take TULIP exactly as it is presented at one of the most popular Calvinism websites and hold the theology to that presentation.

In testing each point I will take the description and break it down into a series of claims made. I will then see if the scripture references supplied actually validate the claims or not. Any claims which are made by Scripture will be held to be true.  Any claims found not to be directly made by Scripture, and are not directly required by a plain reading of the Scripture will be found to be false.

I'll also consider things that seem to be directly required by the points of TULIP if they are to be considered true.

At any point, Calvinists may suggest further passages in support of the points of TULIP as detailed by the reference article. If the Calvinist does not agree with the article I have chosen to review they should say so, but not expect me to debate several "flavours" of TULIP. I am reviewing this article because it is a clear reference at a high profile Calvinism website. I expect it to be faithful to what Calvinists believe. If it is not, then I would suggest making a complaint directly to the owners of

Finally, I have not gone over my previous articles, nor have I pre-read the source article beyond to see that it seems to match other similar articles I've seen. I will be starting from as close to scratch as I can. We'll see how it goes together!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Accurate TULIP Presentation?

I am looking for what contemporary 5 Point Calvinists would agree is an accurate and complete online presentation of TULIP. I would like this to include descriptions and scripture references for each of the points. If you would stand by a presentation of these points, that I can get to freely, please drop a link in the comments.