Know Your Bible
May 2003

Answers To John Calvin's TULIP

(Editor's Note: John Calvin, who lived in the 16th century (1509-1564), formulated a doctrine that serves as the teaching of most major denominations. This is not to say that all denominations subscribe to all five points of Calvin's teaching (which we have condensed to the word TULIP) but a majority of denominations do subscribe to at least one or more of Calvin's doctrines. It is because of the widespread influence of Calvin's teaching that we present the following article for your study. ERH.)

Total Depravity

Are we born in sin and thus so vile and depraved that we cannot be a participant in our own salvation? Also called "Original Sin." Favorite Passages: Psa. 51:5; Jer. 17:5; Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12.

This is the bedrock of Calvinism. Without acceptance of this basic premise, the rest of the "TULIP" withers. If one agrees that he is so corrupt, by virtue of his humanity, that he cannot do good, understand good or even desire to do good, then the rest of the points fall into place.

But not one of the passages they use mention the terms "total," "depravity" (or depraved) or "original sin". These terms must be read into the texts. Neither do the texts teach the concept that people are "born in sin." In the oft-quoted Psa. 51:5, David is simply using hyperbole (purposeful exaggeration) to make a point that after his sin with (probably with Bathsheba), he felt like a vile sinner. Look at 58:3, also used to support original sin. It says they go astray as soon as they are born "speaking lies." Literal or exaggeration?

Consider these Scriptures that teach personal accountability: Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 2:6-8; 5:12 (which actually teaches the opposite of original sin; note that it says death comes "because all sin"); 1 John 3:7.

Unconditional Election

Did God choose some beforehand to be saved? Also called "Predestination." Favorite passages: John 6:37, 39; 15:16; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 8:22-30.

We don't have room to cover each of these passages. The mistake of the Calvinist is to read individual predestination into every passage that uses the word "choose." Some of the Scriptures apply strictly to the Apostles (John 15:16). In others, the writer is saying simply that a certain class or kind of people has been chosen. This reconciles with all the passages that teach that one must choose himself to be in the class of persons who are saved. In Josh 24:15, was Joshua telling people to choose what some of them couldn't choose if they wanted to? In fact, the doctrine of Election as taught by Calvinists reduces evangelism to an exercise in futility! Furthermore, it requires that God has already chosen some to go to hell and they can do nothing about it. Believe it?

Limited Atonement

Did Christ die only for the elect? If God has chosen each individual that is saved ahead of time, even before they are born, then Christ died only for those whom God has chosen. Favorite passages: John 10:15; Eph. 5:25.

The basis of this view is that Christ loves only the elect and died only for them. They get this from Jn. 10:15 in which Jesus says the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep and Eph. 5:25 which says that Christ died for the church. The truth is that Christ died for everyone and those who believe benefit from it (they are "sheep" and "the church"). John 3:16 (see 1 John 3:16), Rom. 5:6-10 and many others make this explicit. In reality, "Limited Atonement" is a fiction meant to try to fit Christ's death within a doctrine already embraced.

Irresistible Grace

Can one who is "chosen by God" resist the grace God desires to shower on him? Favorite passages: Jn. 6:37, 44 (again). Jn. 10:16; Rom. 8:29, 30. The point of these passages, says the Calvinist, is that the believer cannot resist God's change.

Once again, this element is pedestrian in that it simply facilitates the movement from Depravity to Election to Salvation. If one is chosen ahead of time, despite any action on his part, then, naturally he could not resist or refuse God's grace. He has no choice in the matter.

Of course, this flies in the face of all those who resisted God in the past. Essentially, it makes God the one who makes them resist, since they can not do otherwise. Remember that Acts 13:48 is a favorite passage to prove "election". Yet they ignore v.46 in which Paul specifically says "you judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life." If Calvinists are right, Paul owes these Jews an apology!

Perseverance of the Saints

Is it true that Christians can never fall from the grace of God, that it is impossible for them to slip into apostasy? Favorite passages: Jn. 6:39; 10:28-29; Eph. 1:13, 14; 1 Pet 1:4,5.

Once again, this element of doctrine flows naturally from the others, and is the Calvinists favorite: if one is too vile to participate in his salvation, and therefore chosen by God irresistibly, then he cannot fall from grace since he didn't stand in grace to begin with: God put him there!

Their "proof-texts" must be reconciled with all the passages that (a) teach that one can fall away (Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Pet 2:20-22) and (b) teach that there some who have fallen away in the past (Both 2 Peter and Jude as well as 2 Tim 4:10, etc.) and (c) warn against falling away (parable of the 10 virgins, etc., Rev. 2-3; 1 Cor. 10:11ff). What a waste of time to warn those who couldn't fall away if they wanted to! We can ignore much of our Bible if this is true.

---Jeff Carr

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Some Calvinistic Quotes

"They whom God has accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved" (Chapter XVII Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, Pg. 79 1906 edition).

"We believe the Scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (Standard Manual For Baptist Churches By Edward T. Hiscox, D.D. Pg. 67 XI).

Mr. Sam Morris, a Baptist preacher in a tract titled, "Do A Christian's Sins Damn His Soul?" made the following statement: "We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatsoever to do with the salvation of his soul. Later in the same tract he said; "...all the sins a Christian may commit from idolatry to murder would not put his soul in any danger!"

(Editor's Note: I trust this study has caused us to see how doctrines of men have crept in the beliefs and practices of many religions. Yet, we must not forget the words of our Lord who tells us what happens when we insert man's doctrines in place of what God has revealed in His word: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Matthew 19:9. ERH)

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