Friday, November 04, 2011

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 Moergism.com 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 Monergism.com

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!

29 comments:

Nolan said...

"At any point, Calvinists may suggest further passages in support of the points of TULIP as detailed by the reference article."

As it should be. Theology driven by scipture,(2 Tim 3:16) which also includes the use of Old Testament passages to support New Testament teachings.

Too bad you chose not to walk through the Canons Of Dordt. That would have been interesting.
Looking forward to your "new" walk through the rebuttal that was given to the Remonstrants, more commonly known as T.U.L.I.P.

Nolan

Kevl said...

I think going through the Canons would be more interesting too - but most Calvinists I know don't even know what the Canons are.

If I agree with them or disagree won't really be of consequence... but if I agree or disagree with Piper - well then that is a hot topic. :)

Perhaps I will read the Canons along with it... and see if there is anything that I read different in them than I do in the contemporary TULIP presentations..

I am sure that in the past I saw some substantive differences. I won't promise, but if I have the energy I will.

This whole series is coming because of some friends who are discussing Calvinism, my recent frustration with getting clear answers, and because it is really the only topic that is on my mind to chat about. Been doing the videos so writing has been neglected.

Kev

Kevl said...

Oh yes I agree whole heartedly about OT passages. I think much of "Christian" error has to do with how little Christians are taught about what the OT requires, predicts and sets up.

Kev

Jan said...

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.

But Kev,

This hardly ever happens.

They are very very clear in their gospel preaching that Jesus died only for some (provided you know this is where they are coming from, otherwise it is possible you might misunderstand).

They do not invite the sinner to trust in Christ's cross directly so they are not lying. This is where Lordship Salvation comes in. Instead of giving an "eat His flesh, drink His blood" invitation, which invites the sinner to deal directly with His cross, they give an invitation to discipleship (more like a threatening command, than invitation, but never mind), which assumes all 5 points of TULIP: that the Holy Spirit regenerated you, since due to Total Depravity (Inability) you were unable to respond favorably otherwise, because you were Unconditionally Elected to be the recipient of Irresistible Grace, which is proven in your Perseverance in discipleship, because with Definite Atonement, all those for whom Christ died WILL come to saving faith and persevere to the end.

Lordship Salvation is the invitation to assess and see if you have been given saving faith, which you certainly will be provided you are one of the elect for whom Christ died. All others prove their just doom.

JanH

Kevl said...

That's a great summary Jan.

I've actually been on the street with a 5 Pointer who DID tell people that they may or may not be Elect though. I was SHOCKED for two reasons. 1 he was being consistent with his theology, and 2 he wasn't put back by the things people said back to him. It looked like that youtube video about "Calvinist Evangelism" lol

The discussion that I was having about this was academic. It was premised on the fact that the Gospel includes that Jesus died for ones' sins, and that Christ commanded that we preach this Gospel to every creature.

I understand that the 5 Pointer can find wiggle room, but for the purpose of the discussion we eliminated that.

Kev

Jan said...

The discussion that I was having about this was academic. It was premised on the fact that the Gospel includes that Jesus died for ones' sins, and that Christ commanded that we preach this Gospel to every creature.

But therein lies the rub, Kev, with that little word "one's." As you know, they get around this by preaching the substitutionary atonement for sins and sinners. But they don't make it personal. They would not say Jesus died for one's sins. If they did this, then yes, they would be lying.

But from MacArthur's telling the gay man the Jesus died for that sin to Mahaney saying Jesus died for lost sinners like you and me (not necessarily you and me, but sinners who are lost like us) to Steve Lawson saying Jesus longs for and died for disciples, not one drop of blood was shed beyond the disciples, and Washer's Jesus died for you -- for God's people (he's a clever one, I'll admit), and Rick Holland saying Jesus died once for many, we see they do clearly say Jesus died and that His death is an atoning death...

...for some.

Say the exact same sentence but simply omit that little word "one's" and there you have the TULIP gospel in a nutshell.

But you are right. The gospel must be made personal or else how can there be a direct connection between what He did and you? I think it would be impossible to share the gospel without that little word "one's." It is pointless information otherwise. If He didn't die for my sins, then so what? What bearing does this have on me and why should I care?

JanH

Kevl said...

Yep that was exactly my point in the conversation, and in this video http://youtu.be/runwfWFtBP4

Kev

Nolan said...

I think biblical exegesis of scripture driven by sound hermeneutical principles is always a better way to arrive at truth and not the opinions "only" of men. Like, MacArthur, Lawson, Piper, Mahaney and Kevin Lane, for that matter.
Although we have to take into consideraton what men say to some extent because the office of pastor/teacher is an ordained office by God Himself and is given to the church for our edification. But not at the expense of biblical truth. With that, we must be willing to allow the biblical data to take us in the direction the Word takes us. Knowing that as the Bible speaks God speaks.
We all must be teachable. Including me. I have to be willing to shift and change my theology no matter how much I kick and scream as the Holy Spirit guides me into Truth and I am bound to my conscience and that these things are in fact what God has laid out in His life giving Word.
I look forward to you exegeting certain text of scripture that you say refute the acronym T.U.L.I.P. Actually, even though you will not be going through the Canons of Dordt, the fact that you use the acronym tulip, it shows that you disagee with the Canons of Dordt since that is where this acronym was devised.
I am inviting some friends to observe your refutation of the doctrines they hold dear. This may lead to some interesting dialougue, if done in the spirit of charity and the willingness to give up ones conviction of what they "think" is true. I hope that you and Jan would be willing as well.

Nolan

Nolan

Kevl said...

Hi Nolan,

Thanks. I'm actually going to include some things from the Canons of Dort. They are pretty long and the intent of them was to rebuke particular errors, than they are to establish truth. I know a lot of people hold to them as statements of truth, but they were to (as I understand it) correcting Arminianism, not to establish points of doctrine.

I'm well aware that TULIP comes from them, but the modern TULIP is not exactly like what the Canons originally spoke of - at least not in my view. I'm going to try to include those thoughts as I go.

I hope you know that to do so will in effect tripple the length of the series.. the canons are very very long. :)

Since they were directed at Arminianism, most of what they talk about is not really relavent to my own views. Instead of going through each of the points they bring up and saying "I don't believe that anyway..." I'm going to try to give a short clear statement about what I believe to be Biblical on the topics of each of the points of TULIP. That should help in view of the Canons. I hope it will anyway.

Kev

Jan said...

Kev-
You could also look at the Westminster Confession. That is pretty standard Reformed/TULIP doctrine.

JanH

Kevl said...

Jan, I will try but I think I'm going to be swamped. There is just too much to cover.

Perhaps, if something is related then Nolan or one of his friends will offer the connection?

Kev

Nolan said...

I agree the Westminster cofession along with both the shorter and longer catechisms would be good. But, you have to remember as you go through these works at their heart is covenant theology. How the covenant of grace relates to redemption and it's application to a people for Himself.
There is a lot more to Reformed theology other than soteriology. To be honest I don't know how you can understand it fully without having a working knowldge of Covenant theology. But, you must have some idea as you take this on I'm guessing.

Nolan

Kevl said...

Interesting thoughts Nolan. I have a basic (limited) knowledge of Covenant Theology. I think you are right about the connection - though I hadn't really thought of it before. Ignorance is bliss?

Jan said...

But, you have to remember as you go through these works at their heart is covenant theology. How the covenant of grace relates to redemption and it's application to a people for Himself.
There is a lot more to Reformed theology other than soteriology. To be honest I don't know how you can understand it fully without having a working knowldge of Covenant theology.


This is very true. It is really impossible to separate Reformed soteriology from Covenantalism because they base their understanding of the gospel not just on TULIP but also on the idea of a covenant of works in the garden, which Adam and Eve failed to keep. But Jesus, the Second Adam has, according to Covenantalism, kept this covenant of works when He obeyed the Law perfectly during His lifetime. It is this righteousness the Covenantal/Reformed consider to have been credited to our account and it is called His "active obedience" or "vicarious law keeping." His "passive obedience" was what He did on the cross, and for Covenantal/Reformed soteriology, both are necessary for our justification.

Dispensationalists, on the other hand, do not believe what God set up with Adam and Eve in the garden was a covenant of works, nor do we believe in Christ's "active righteousness" as having any bearing on our justification in any direct sense. We believe His inherent, intrinsic righteousness is credited to us, not His law keeping. We believe that were His law keeping to be part of our justification then His death would have been unnecessary because if righteousness comes through the law (no matter who is keeping it) then Christ is dead in vain. Therefore, though His law keeping was necessary (and inevitable because of His intrinsic righteousness), it was only so in order to show Him to be the spotless Lamb of God, not to obtain righteousness for us via His works.

But this is what is being confessed when the Reformed say we are justified by His life and by His death. Gaither presents this in his famous hymn "Because He Lives" when he says, "He lived and died to buy my pardon." We would say, "He bled and died to buy my pardon," but not "He lived and died..."

That is one area where an understanding of Covenantalism is important. I'm not sure if it's directly relevant to TULIP and our issues with TULIP or if it's more ancillary. But it is an indispensable part of their system and is always included in their explanation of what the Gospel is. Their view is that when this aspect is missing, that is Antinomian.

But this is covenantalism in a nutshell: There is the covenant of works which man failed to keep and the Covenant of Grace in which Christ fulfilled the Covenant of Works on our behalf (well, on behalf of the elect, since we are talking about Reformed Calvinism) as well as died in our place and God graciously imputes (not imparts. They are right about that) these things to us, and justifies us, declaring us righteous.

For more info on vicarious law keeping from a Dispensational perspective, see the Middletown Bible Church site under "Problems with Reformed Theology." There are two articles there:

"Did the Savior Pay the Penalty for Our Sins Prior to the Cross?"

and

"Vicarious Law Keeping -- Christ's Active Righteousness."

JanH

Craig said...

Hi, my name is Craig and I am new to this blog. You can blame Nolan for that. I have a few questions for the owner of this blog before I jump in. First, are you born again? Second, what are your beliefs concerning the sovereignty of God? Third, is this conversation purely academic or is it really seeking the truth? These questions are important for me to know who you are and how to proceed.

Without waiting for your answers, I will tip-toe in before I get your answers. I will comment on one part of your initial post. Double predestination is a very difficult topic. Understanding predestination will lead one to understand reprobation. That is why many people reject the doctrine of predestination due to the doctrine of reprobation. People do not understand how God can reject anyone. The fact is that scripture from Genesis through Revelation supports both doctrines. The problem is most people try to explain doctrine based on human philosophy and wisdom based on what they believe to know about God. Inadequate knowledge of God and the Human race can cause many problems in interpreting scripture in structuring our belief and faith. I am sure we will be discussing this more thoroughly in later post.

I am sure you believe in the Trinity. As you know, the word trinity is not in the scriptures. Predestination or predestinated is found in scripture in five places. Have you used a Strong’s Concordance and Dictionary to study those verses of scripture? I ask this because we must be strict in interpreting scripture and allow the original language with its true definition of the words used to interpret scripture. I do realize that even that can be difficult in interpreting some parts of scripture.

You can explain reprobation logically even if you do not use scripture. When God chose Abraham, whom did he not chose. When God chose Abraham to build a nation and people for himself whom He used to reveal Himself to the world, whom did he not chose? When God did not choose the other nations, it was still a choice, although a negative choice. When God chose Abraham and the people of Israel, He rejected the other nations. When He chose Jacob, He rejected Esau.

I look forward to digging deeper as we discuss the topics when you lay them out. I will be glad to walk with you if you are sincere in seeking the truth. My goal is not to get into a debate concerning what you may believe against what I believe, but to lay the scripture out there with a little commentary.

Craig

Kevl said...

Hi Craig,

I'll be making an introduction article where I will set some ground rules for further discussion. I'm one person and so I have to set some limits.

You asked three questions.

Are you born again? Yes. Are you?

What are your beliefs concerning the sovereignty of God? He is perfectly sovereign.

Is this conversation purely academic or is it really seeking the truth? Unless there is a specific reason to keep something as merely academic I am always seeking revelation of truth. Nolan talked about me trying to refute TULIP. I expect that I will remain unconvinced, but I am always seeking truth. If TULIP, or the Canons are true then I would very much want to know that. I am not seeking to refut, I am seeking to explore.

As for the remaining questions and commentary, I trust that you will not argue against things that other people say as the discussion continues, and will instead stick to what I am saying.

If you look around the blog you will see that I use robust bible study tools including Strongs and various other resources.

I do not use commentaries to learn from ever, and seldom even look at them. I quote Calvin sometimes because he tends to disagree with many of those who claim his name in our day.

Kev

Nolan said...

'I expect that I will remain unconvinced,'

If Reformed theology is a true understanding of the bible I hope you are willing to conform to what scripture speaks. Same principle applies to me as well.
To be honest, I'm not sure I have seen an able refutation of Reformed doctrine because of good sound exegesis. Norman Geislers book 'Chosen But Free' was a poor attempt at best. Although he has contributed many good writings to the Christian faith just not this one. That is the key, what does the scripture say in light of all the biblical data.

"but I am always seeking truth. If TULIP, or the Canons are true then I would very much want to know that. I am not seeking to refut, I am seeking to explore."

Couldn't agree more.

@Craig
Sorry brother. Not really, I know you enjoy theology that glorifies God and puts Him in His rightful position high and lifted up. I know you are highly capable to add to Kevin's discussion in a spirit of charity. Looking forward to the interaction, maybe.

Nolan

Kevl said...

I've started writing the first instalment. I'm pretty sick, have been for a few weeks... Dr appointment on Wednesday to see what's up.

I'm going to be focusing on the Evangelism videos and fitting this discussion in around them. Currently working on a Daniel 9 presentation in defence of the Scriptures.

Please be patient.

Kev

Craig said...

I appreciate your response. To answer your question, I am a born again believer in Christ. I am looking forward to the conversation and my goal is not to be argumentative in any of my post. I aim to converse as Nolan says, “in spirit of charity”. I pray that anyone notices me deviating from that will hold me accountable.

I pay that you will feel better soon.

Craig

Kevl said...

Thanks Craig. I sure hope I will. :)

I just posted an introduction. I THINK it is sufficient but I'm open to input.

Kev

Nolan said...

Kevl,

Sorry to hear about your sickness. The family and I will be praying for you. I certainly can identify with being busy.

Nolan

Jan said...

I know you enjoy theology that glorifies God and puts Him in His rightful position high and lifted up.

Nolan,

Can you say the same of Kev?

JanH

Kevl said...

Hopefully if Nolan (and Craig) don't already know this about me, then they will learn it through the discussion.

I hope it will become even more true of me as we progress. That is to assume, as I consider it to be so, that it is true in some measure already.

Thanks Jan, you know I am endlessly thankful for your contributions to discussions, and to my life.

Kev

Jan said...

Thanks Jan, you know I am endlessly thankful for your contributions to discussions, and to my life.

Aw shucks, Kev. 'Twernt nuthin'. :)

JanH

Nolan said...

@Jan

I know you enjoy theology that glorifies God and puts Him in His rightful position high and lifted up.

Nolan,

Can you say the same of Kev?

I can say that Kev and you are thoroughly convinced that you are glorifying God in your doctrine and at this moment you are bound by your conscience that what you believe or perceive to be the truth of scripture is accurate.

The conscience is also able to be informed and or programmed by good and better information as the the Holy Spirit working in a believer confirms that the biblical data is true, therefore when someone changes their mind on a biblical issue that can only be informed by biblical truth and a correct understanding of doctrine he is not a hypocrite. This applies to me as well.

Maybe there is something I haven't yet seen from others that is convincing enough for me to change my mind. Maybe you ( Kevin & Jan) know something I don't.

Nolan

Kevl said...

I don't think that further subtle personal reviews or assessments are going to be helpful.

I've laid out my motives, and offered full disclosure.

I don't think saying that the one who you agree with has more or less desire to glorify God than the one you disagree with is going to be helpful at all.

Let's try to have a conversation about the Scriptures, not each other.

Kev

TRoutMac said...

Kevin:

I'll start following this blog. Good stuff. Time and time again I'm confronted with the apparent reality that Calvinists adore obfuscation. Any analogy is dismissed right out of the gate because analogies generally serve to eliminate obfuscation.

Keep up the good work, my friend!

Kevl said...

Oh hi Pete! I didn't know who the post was from.

I'm going to be slow about this series... I'm trying to get caught up on a bunch of stuff. Slow is probably good though.

Kev

Kevl said...

I have now written out what Monergism.com says about Total Depravity, what the Synod of Dort says about the corruption of man (that directly relates to this discussion) what Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology says about the Providence and Eternal Decrees of God (with regard to the discussion of Total Depravity) and what Wayne Grudem says about the goodness of faith.

I have broken the claims made by these documents down into point form, and have compiled the passages referenced to support these claims. I am going to begin today to evaluate the claims in view of the passages.

Kev