Apologetics for the Masses #425: Calvinism - TULIP

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Topic

The 5 Points of Calvinism - TULIP

Introduction

     Okay, I am going to start tackling some of the topics you guys have written to me about and have asked me to address in these newsletters.  So, in this issue we are going to talk about Calvinism and, specifically, the 5 points of Calvinism known commonly by the acronym, TULIP.  TULIP stands for:

T - Total depravity

U - Unconditional election

L - Limited atonement

I - Irresistible grace

P - Perseverance of the saints

     Below are explanations of each of this terms - which are taken from Matt Slick's website (carm.org) - and then my comments on each of these five points.

Challenge/Response/Strategy

From the carm.org Website:

The following are the five points of Calvinism listed, explained, and supported with scripture:

1) Total Depravity – Man is completely touched/affected by sin in all that he is (in nature he is completely fallen), but is not as bad as he could be (in action, i.e., not all murder, etc.). Furthermore, this total depravity means that the unregenerate will not, of their own free will, choose to receive Christ. 

It is the unbeliever who is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light and does evil (John 3:19), does not seek for God nor does any good (Rom. 3:10-12), is ungodly (Rom. 5:6), dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), cannot accept or understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and a slave of sin (Rom. 6:16-20).

 

2) Unconditional Election – God elects a person based upon nothing in that person because there is nothing in him that would make him worthy of being chosen; rather, God’s election is based on what is in God. God chose us because he decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy, in and of ourselves, of being saved.

Election is the sovereign act of God where, from before the foundation of the world, he chose those whom he would save (Eph. 1:4). This election to salvation is not conditioned upon any foreseen faith (Rom. 9:16) or good works of any individual (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). The election is based completely on God’s sovereign choice according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:11). God chose the elect because he decided to bestow his love upon them (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4) based solely on his sovereign grace (Gal. 1:15) and for his glory (Isaiah 43:7).

 

3) Limited Atonement – Christ bore the sin only of the elect, not everyone who ever lived. Christ’s blood was sufficient for all, but not all sin was imputed to Christ. Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover all people. But the sufficiency relates to his divine value which is different than our legal debt. Sin is a debt (Matt. 6:12 with Luke 11:4) since it is breaking the Law of God (1 John 3:4). In limited atonement, Calvinists are saying that there was a limit to whose sins were imputed to Christ in a legal sense. They are not denying the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to cover all people. Instead, they look at the legal aspect of the sin debt. Peoples’ sin debts were transferred to Jesus (1 Pet. 2:24) and were canceled on the cross, not when we believe (Col. 2:14).

Therefore, legally speaking, those canceled sins cannot be held against the sinner because their quality of being a debt has been canceled by being paid on the cross (John 19:30; Col. 2:14). If the debt is canceled, it does not exist and cannot be held against the debtor/sinner. Therefore, Christ only legally bore the sins of the elect even though his blood was sufficient to cover all.  Also, consider 1 Sam. 3:14 which says, “Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

 

4) Irresistible Grace – The term, unfortunately, suggests a mechanical and coercive force upon an unwilling subject. This is not the case. Instead, it is the act of God making the person willing to receive him. It does not mean that a person cannot resist God’s will.  It means that when God moves to save/regenerate a person, the sinner cannot thwart God’s movement and he will be regenerated.  God moves the heart of the person where he wishes it to go (Proverbs 21:1). The choice and mercy of God depend on God’s desire, not man’s ability (Romans 9:18).

 

5) Perseverance of the Saints – That we are so secure in Christ, that we cannot fall away.Jesus will not lose any who had been given to him by the Father (John 6:38-39); he gives eternal life to them so they will never perish (John 3:16; 10:27-28), and those who leave the faith were never believers to begin with (1 John 2:19).

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1) Total Depravity – Man is completely touched/affected by sin in all that he is (in nature he is completely fallen), but is not as bad as he could be (in action, i.e., not all murder, etc.). Furthermore, this total depravity means that the unregenerate will not, of their own free will, choose to receive Christ. 

It is the unbeliever who is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light and does evil (John 3:19), does not seek for God nor does any good (Rom. 3:10-12), is ungodly (Rom. 5:6), dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), cannot accept or understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and a slave of sin (Rom. 6:16-20).

 

My Comments

     There are some things here that we, as Catholics, can definitely agree with.  Man has a fallen nature - yes.  Man is not as bad as he could be - yes.  However, this thing about "the unregenerate will not, of their own free will, choose to receive Christ," is a bit troublesome.  The unregenerate being the lost, the non-believers, the unsaved.  My first question is, are all men born into the unregenerate state?  Calvinism's answer is obviously, yes, since man is "totally depraved," but, if that's the case, then that presents a problem of theological consistency which I will get into when I discuss Unconditional Election. 

     The unregenerate, "of their own free will," will not choose to receive Christ.  The way this is worded makes it seem that the only way the unregenerate will choose Christ, is if God makes them do so.  However, I am going to assume that what Slick means to say is that God's grace is necessary to move man to choose Christ, it is not something man does all on his own simply by his own free will.  Which, again, as Catholics, we can agree with. 

     I have a huge problem, though, with some of his interpretations of Scripture...his private, fallible, interpretations of Scripture.  For instance, he cites Jeremiah 17:9 and interprets it as saying "it is the unbeliever who is deceitful and wicked."  Yet, if you read that passage, it is doesn't say that.  It says, rather, that "the heart" is deceitful and wicked (or corrupt).  And, if you read it in context, it's talking about how the hearts of all men can deceive.  In verses 7-8 it is talking about the man "who trusts in the Lord."  In verse 10, it talks about how the Lord searches the mind and tries the heart of "every man."  Nowhere does it say it is referring solely to the unbeliever.  Mark 7:21-23, is talking about how evil comes from within...from the heart...and not from without...i.e., eating the wrong foods.  The context is about clean and unclean foods.  Nowhere does it say it is referring solely to the unbeliever.  Also, Rom 3:10-12, is specifically referring to "all men".  We can see this by going back just one verse - Rom 3:9 - to get the context.  Paul is referring to Jews and to Greeks - all men.  Yet, Slick interprets that to mean "unbelievers".  But, in Rom 3:23 when it says "all have sinned," by golly that means absolutely all.  Consistency is not one of his hallmarks.

     To sum up, if, by total depravity, one essentially means that man is born with a fallen nature, Catholics can basically agree with that.  If, however, one means that man's condition is so bad off that God has to force man to accept Him, without any involvement of man's free will, then we can't go there.

 

2) Unconditional Election – God elects a person based upon nothing in that person because there is nothing in him that would make him worthy of being chosen; rather, God’s election is based on what is in God. God chose us because he decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy, in and of ourselves, of being saved.

Election is the sovereign act of God where, from before the foundation of the world, he chose those whom he would save (Eph. 1:4). This election to salvation is not conditioned upon any foreseen faith (Rom. 9:16) or good works of any individual (Rom. 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). The election is based completely on God’s sovereign choice according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:11). God chose the elect because he decided to bestow his love upon them (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4) based solely on his sovereign grace (Gal. 1:15) and for his glory (Isaiah 43:7).

 

My Comments

     Big problem here.  "God chose the elect because he decided to bestow his love upon them (John 3:16; Eph 2:4)."  Which means, God chose not to bestow His love on the non-elect.  Which means, God chose for the non-elect to spend all of eternity in Hell.  Which means God is a rather arbitrary God.  A few points to note here:

     1) I mentioned a theological inconsistency in my comments above that I would speak about in this section on Unconditional Election.  Here's the thing, Slick says that Unconditional Election means that the saved have been chosen, or elected, to be the saved from "the foundation of the world."  Furthermore, this "election to salvation" is not conditioned on any faith or works of any individual.  But, here's the inconsistency - if the saved person has been among the elect even before they were born, and their salvation is not conditioned on any faith or works but only on the finished work of Christ on the Cross, then the saved are in a state of salvation - they have been regenerated - from the moment they are conceived.  They are born into a state of salvation, a state of regeneration, not a state of total depravity.  Think about it, how can they be said to be totally depraved if God has already bestowed His love on them and they have already been saved?  Can someone who has been imbued with God's love be said to be "totally depraved".  Does God's love for them not make them inherently worthy?   

     "God chose the elect because he decided to bestow his love upon them."  Again, God made that decision from "the foundation of the world."  Which means, the elect, even before they were conceived, enjoyed the provision of God's love.  And, if God's love was bestowed upon them during every moment of their existence, and if Jesus' atonement was upon them from even before they were conceived, then they could not have ever been in a state of total depravity, could they?  That would be a theological inconsistency. 

     2) He does it again with the Scripture verses.  He cites John 3:16 in reference to God bestowing His love upon the elect.  Yet, John 3:16 says that, "God so loved the world..."  Since when are the "elect" referred to as "the world"?  Furthermore, in John 3:17, it says that God sent His Son into the world that "the world" might be saved through Him.  It doesn't say so that "the elect" might be saved through Him.  And it certainly doesn't sound like God is deliberately deciding that some folks end up in Hell for all of eternity.  That last point is corroborated by 1 Tim 2:4 which says that God, our Savior, "desires all men to be saved".  God wants "all" men to be saved.  If that is so, then how can we say God chooses some to be saved and some not to be saved?  Makes no sense.

     3) As Catholics, we agree that no one is saved by their faith and/or by their works...they are saved by the grace of God alone.  First through Baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21; John 3:3-5), and then the ongoing process whereby God works in you and through you for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). 

 

3) Limited Atonement – Christ bore the sin only of the elect, not everyone who ever lived. Christ’s blood was sufficient for all, but not all sin was imputed to Christ. Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover all people. But the sufficiency relates to his divine value which is different than our legal debt. Sin is a debt (Matt. 6:12 with Luke 11:4) since it is breaking the Law of God (1 John 3:4). In limited atonement, Calvinists are saying that there was a limit to whose sins were imputed to Christ in a legal sense. They are not denying the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to cover all people. Instead, they look at the legal aspect of the sin debt. Peoples’ sin debts were transferred to Jesus (1 Pet. 2:24) and were canceled on the cross, not when we believe (Col. 2:14).

Therefore, legally speaking, those canceled sins cannot be held against the sinner because their quality of being a debt has been canceled by being paid on the cross (John 19:30; Col. 2:14). If the debt is canceled, it does not exist and cannot be held against the debtor/sinner. Therefore, Christ only legally bore the sins of the elect even though his blood was sufficient to cover all.  Also, consider 1 Sam. 3:14 which says, “Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

 

My Comments

     "People's sin debts were transferred to Jesus (1 Peter 2:24) and were canceled on the cross, not when we believe (Col 2:14)."  Again, if that is the case, then those whose debts were cancelled were saved before they were ever born and they never really had to accept Jesus into their hearts in order to be saved and they were, necessarily, "regenerate" before they were born.  Essentially, they were all immaculately conceived.

     "Calvinists are saying that there was a limit to whose sins were imputed to Christ in a legal sense."  What does that even mean...in a "legal sense"?  Where does the Bible say that people's sins were imputed to Christ in a "legal sense"?  Where does the Bible say that there is a legal limit, as it were, to whose sins were imputed to Christ?  Is that like a blood alcohol legal limit?  There's a soul alcohol legal limit?  Or a soul sin legal limit?

     And where does the Bible say, "Christ bore the sin of only the elect?"  I want Slick to give me book, chapter, and verse on that one.  In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite of that.  1 Tim 2:5-6, "...the man Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all."  For ALL.  And why would Paul, in 1 Tim 2:1, ask for prayers for "all men" if he knows that only the elect are saved?  Why pray for the elect?  They don't need prayer...they're the elect.  Why pray for the non-elect?  Prayer does them no good.  They're going to Hell no matter how many prayers you say for them.  If matters of Heaven and Hell have already been decided for all men, then why pray for anyone?

     Also, in 1 Tim 4:10, what do we see?  "For to this end [the life to come] we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, Who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe."  The Word of God tells us that Jesus is the Savior of all men, not just the elect, but especially of those who believe.  So He is the Savior of the elect and the non-elect.  He died for all men - the elect and the non-elect.  How can He be the Savior of the non-elect?  Because His death on the Cross paid the price for all men's sins - elect and non-elect alike.  The problem, for the non-elect, is that they do not apply that salvation to their lives.  They reject that salvation.  So, even though salvation is readily available to them, they are not saved. 

     2 Corinthians 5:14-15 tells us that Christ died for "all".  It doesn't say that He died for "all of the elect".  It just says for "all".  1 John 2:2, "...and He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ourse only, but also for the sins of the whole world."  Jesus bore the sins of the whole world.  He paid the price for the sins of the whole world, not just the sins of the elect.  Limited atonement - the belief that Christ only died for the elect - simply is not compatible with the Bible.  But, given their theology, the Calvinists have to ignore verses such as those I've mentioned here, because otherwise, they would have to believe in universal salvation.  If Christ died for all, and everyone's sins were canceled on the Cross, and there was nothing else that needed to be done, then that would mean everyone is saved.  They can't have that, so that have to have a limited atonement theology.

 

*** I'll continue in the next issue with Irresistible Grace and the Perseverence of the Saints.***

Closing Comments

I hope all of you have a great week!

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