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Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Predestination
 

Calvinism Part II - The Canons of Dordt
and T.U.L.I.P

 T.U.L.I.P is an acronym - each letter stands for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism. It is a compact, but accurate representation of Calvin's views.

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

You Are Here 001orange Part 2: Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter stands for one of Calvinismís five fundamental tenets.
2A.
Total Inability
2B
Unconditional Election
2C.
Limited Atonement
2D.
Irresistible Grace
2E.
Perseverance of The Saints

Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
Part 4:
Godís Sovereignty, Character and Will.
Part 5:
Hypocrisy Unlimited
Part 6:
Conclusion

Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians
 

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The Canons of Dordt and T.U.L.I.P:
At the council, the delegates drafted five points to summarize Calvinistic doctrine. TULIP, which eventually became the cornerstone of Reformed theology is an acronym - each letter standing for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.

An Unsettled Theology
There is such a tremendous variance in beliefs amongst Calvinists that it is very difficult to pin them down theologically and impossible to debate with. In a room full of Calvinists, you'd be hard-pressed to find even two that believed everything about the Bible the same way.

Proof Texts Vs. The General Tenor of Scripture
In an effort to make it seem Biblical (and I have no doubt that they believe it is), Calvinists focus on certain "proof texts" as opposed to the general tenor of Scripture

 


The Canons of Dordt and T.U.L.I.P:
The Synod of Dort was an international Synod held in Dordrecht in the Netherlands in 1618-1619, by the Dutch Reformed Church. It was held to settle a divisive controversy initiated by the rise of Arminianism. However, the Synod didn't just a stand against Arminianism but the delegates drafted five points to summarize Calvinistic doctrine. TULIP, which eventually became the cornerstone of Reformed theology is an acronym - each letter standing for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism. It is a more comprehensible, but accurate representation of Calvin's views.

    Total Depravity/Inability. As a consequence of Adam' sin (the fall), every person born into the world is so morally corrupt, and so enslaved to sin that he is incapable of repenting and believing the Gospel, and worthy of nothing but everlasting damnation. It is only God's grace that enables him to choose to follow God, repent and have faith in Christ for salvation. [See Original Sin.. Fact or Fable]

    Unconditional Election. Before the creation of the world God selected a portion of humanity to be saved. This election is not based on God looking into the future and seeing that the person would have some particular virtues or faith, but is a decision based solely upon God's will. (Or as some Calvinists like to put it.. His good pleasure).

    Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement). Jesus on Calvary bore the full punishment due his elect, ensuring their final salvation. He did not die for the non-elect, who are excluded from the Atonement.

    Irresistible or Efficacious Grace. (Efficacious means successful in producing a desired or intended result). God draws the sinner to Christ before he himself has a single thought of responding to the good news. In other words, faith is a gift imparted to the sinner, who is entirely passive in this act, therefore regeneration (the new birth) occurs before belief in Christ. (Efficacious means successful in producing a desired or intended result).

    Perseverance of the Saints, which is similar to the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved, states that everyone truly regenerated by God's grace will never fall away and perish.

It seems then that the 'the Canons of Dordt" would have settled the matter but far from it. Calvinism was and continues to be...


An Unsettled Theology
There is such a tremendous variance in beliefs amongst Calvinists that it is very difficult to pin them down theologically and impossible to debate with. In a room full of Calvinists, you'd be hard-pressed to find even two that believed everything about the Bible the same way.

The following points made by David Cloud of The Fundamental Baptist Information Service (Emphasis Added)

    Calvinists are seriously divided among themselves and always have been. There is Supralapsarianism vs. Sublapsarianism vs. Infralapsarianism. "The Supralapsarians hold that God decreed the fall of Adam; the Sublapsarians, that he permitted it" (McClintock & Strong). The Calvinists at the Synod of Dort were divided on many issues, including lapsarianism. The Swiss Calvinists who wrote the Helvetic Consensus Formula in 1675 were in conflict with the French Calvinists of the School of Saumur. There are Strict Calvinists and Moderate Calvinists, Hyper and non-Hyper (differing especially on reprobation and the extent of the atonement and whether God loves all men), 5 pointers, 4 pointers, 3 pointers, 2 pointers. In America Calvinists were divided into Old School and the New School. As we have seen, the Calvinists of England were divided in the 19th century.

    Whenever, therefore, one tries to state TULIP theology and then refute it, there are Calvinists who will argue with you that you are misrepresenting Calvinism. It is not so much that you are misrepresenting Calvinism, though. You might be quoting directly from various Calvinists or even from Calvin himself. The problem is that you are misrepresenting THEIR Calvinism! There are Calvin Calvinists and Andrew Fuller Calvinists and Arthur W. Pink Calvinists and Presbyterian Calvinists and Baptist Calvinists and many other sorts of Calvinists. Many Calvinists have never read Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion for themselves. They are merely following someone who follows someone who allegedly follows Calvin (who, by his own admission, followed Augustine).

Calvinists believe that they have the right to reject or modify some parts of, or conclusions of Calvin. I agree with them 100%, and I say, further, that we also have the right to reject the entire thing if we are convinced that it is not supported by Scripture! [01]


Proof Texts Vs. The General Tenor of Scripture
In an effort to make it seem Biblical (and I have no doubt that they believe it is), Calvinists focus on certain "proof texts" as opposed to the general tenor of Scripture. 

The problem with proof texts, favorite Scriptural verses and Bible reading plans is that they rarely give the reader an overall view of the entire book. Focusing on short excerpts and isolated verses can get a person so bogged down in detail that they neglect to see the big picture.

As an illustration, someone walking through the woods will see a lot of trees but, beautiful as they may be, he has no idea what the entire forest looks like. Individual strokes in a painting are not an end in themselves, but are used to achieve the end result. Thus focusing on individual brush strokes will not give the viewer any sense of what the painting is of or how good it is.  One has to step backwards and let the entire scene come into focus before one can appreciate what the artist has accomplished. See Reading Your Bible - Begin With An Overview.

And herein lies the problem with Calvinism and the Bible... the book of Romans in particular.

Why especially the book of Romans?

While stepping back and understanding the big picture is necessary with every single book of the Bible, it is in Romans that Paul makes an extremely detailed defense of the Gospel. Paul did not simply string together a number of statements in some vague sort of order but built his case, one fact upon another much as an attorney will do in a court of law.

Certain "proof texts" pulled from Romans to support Calvinism do not agree with the overall message of Romans. In fact, the case Paul takes so much trouble to build stands in direct contradiction to the Calvinistic doctrine. [For More Information see Calvinism and The Book of Romans].

A Note On Context
No Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately informed by God's Word the way it is written - in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey.

Since virtually all verses in the Bible can only be fully understood and assessed as part of the surrounding verses, which form the setting, or the big picture, you should ignore verse numbers and read at least several paragraphs, if not the whole chapter more than once... perhaps several times. This will almost always result in the discovery of a very clear theme and distinct message, which will often illuminate or throw a different light on a particular verse. In other words the verse may not mean exactly what you had been lead to believe, or thought it meant.

    Is that a lot of work? Certainly. But, the Bible does NOT say "sit back and let your beliefs be determined by someone who has arrived at his or her own conclusions and quotes verses at you to back them up". What the Bible says is "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ". (2 Timothy 2:15).

But, since this takes a little more time, study and effort, most Christians allow a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that everything the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth.

In short Calvinism, built more upon philosophy than the plain teaching of God's Word emphasizes God's sovereignty to the point of severely downplaying what the Bible says about His love and mercy. It totally ignores plain teachings about man's responsibility and God-given free will. Also Calvinists seem to be severely misinformed as to what God's sovereignty means. See Part 4 - God's Sovereignty and Character


End Notes

[01] David Cloud, Calvinism Debate. The Fundamental Baptist Information Service. http://www.wayoflife.org/database/calvinismdebate.html

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