Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some folks call it a sling blade; I call it a Kaiser blade.

My amigo, James, who is prone to throw Calvin under the bus, is trying to tarnish the lovliest flower in the Lord's garden ... the TULIP.

I say that in jest, of course, but after a brief commentary on the acrostic T.U.L.I.P., which is often used as mnemonic device to remember what are referred to as the "5 Points of Calvinism," he notes his dissatisfaction with the acrostic.

He's not alone. Although it's right in my theological wheelhouse, the terminology is lacking. In fact, "Calvinism" itself is a term less preferred by many, self included. These things attributed to Calvin were not novel with him, but perhaps most clearly articulated by him.

Spurgeon, in A Defense of Calvinism, would say that Calvinism is merely a nickname for the Gospel:
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.
While it's a helpful way to remember certain aspects of God's gracious plan of redemption, the simplicity of the TULIP is also it's downfall.

"Total" depravity implies to many that we're as bad as we could be, which is not the case.

"Unconditional" election is not all that bad, but it may imply that God is arbitrary, as though there's no reason He elects (i.e., chooses) some and not others for salvation. But, that's not so; He chooses based on His good pleasure and purpose. In other words, we know it's not conditioned by the creature, including foreseen works (see Rom 9:6-13), but He has His unrevealed purposes in doing what He does.

"Limited" atonement implies to some that God's efforts on the cross were less than they could have been. In actuality, it's those who hold to a universal atonement who really limit that which is an efficacious atonement. Christ does exactly what He set out to do; He pays for the sins of His sheep. He doesn't merely make salvation possible, but ensure it for none.

"Irresistible" grace seems untenable, because whenever a person does not believe, God's grace is seen as resisted. Whenever a believer sins, he or she has effectively resisted the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Perseverance of the "Saints" implies to many that the saints keep themselves saved. Having been saved by grace through faith, they stay saved because of their efforts. The reality is that He began a work and He will finish it (Phil 1:6), for He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). Yet, we're not merely talking "eternal security," in the sense that one makes a profession and then is saved (i.e., justified) regardless of sanctification. The God who justifies, sanctifies (Phil 2:12-13), unto glorification. Those who have been born again, who are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), will live differently because they no longer are who they used to be.

These so-called "Five Points" are a summary of the Synod of Dordt, which was a response to what has become known as (the five points of) Arminianism, a theology seen to minimize God's sovereignty (particularly in matters of salvation) and human depravity as well as to glorify human credit in the salvation process, to the detriment of God's glorious grace (Eph 1:11-12).

I said all that to say this ... I came across another acrostic years ago, and I wish I could recall the source, but I thought I'd share it ... G.R.A.C.E.

God's Sovereign Election - God makes the ultimate choice with regard to salvation, which brings about the steps in the redemptive process necessarily.

Radical Depravity - Humans are spiritually unable to come to Christ (John 6:44), primarily because they have not been born again to have a heart that would ever want to embrace the Light of the World (John 3:19-20).

Accomplished Atonement - Jesus Christ accomplished in the atonement what He set out to do, the propitiation (Rom 3:21-26) of His sheep, for whom He laid down His life (John 10:11, 14-15).

Called Effectually - God brings people to Himself through faith in Christ by regenerating them, making them alive in Christ (Eph 2:1-5). The same people He chose in election, He will call (effectually) to faith in Christ (Rom 8:29-30).

Endurance of the Saints - The saints will endure unto salvation. Because of the transforming power of God's Spirit working in them, those born again will, though they stumble, never finally fall away. God will discipline His children (Heb 12:5-8) to bring about holiness. Though they are not saved by works, they are saved unto works (Eph 2:10). Because He works in them, they will (and are required to) work out their sanctification (Phil 2:12-13), to be holy because He is holy (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:13-16).

A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. A Kaiser blade would cut just as well if you called it a sling blade. But, would Calvinism be just as effectively taught if the TULIP was changed to GRACE?

What say ye to that?

P.S. Though Calvinism is apparently on the rise, there is still much misunderstanding related to it. For those less initiated, I am planning to post some comments on the abberation known as Hyper-Calvinism, since it is (a) what is not believed or practiced by those who may espouse Calvinism, and (b) it is the caricature that is described and given the label "Calvinism" by those opposed to these doctrinal positions (and often deceptively and maliciously so).



At 07 March, 2007 13:06, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

I prefer to call it intellectually honest Christianity.

Packer says in his intro to Death of Death, "The Calvinist is the Christian who confesses before men in his theology just what he believes in his heart before God when he prays. He thinks and speaks at all times of the sovereign grace of God in the way that every Christian does when he pleads for the souls of others, or when he obeys the impulse of worship which arises unbidden within him, prompting him to deny himself all praise and give all the glory of his salvation to his Saviour. Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh."

According to Packer, "Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ." That means Calvinism began with Adam's conversion in Genesis 3. Adam was a Calvinist.

At 07 March, 2007 17:21, Blogger Rev. said...

GRACE. Not too shabby, you hyper-Calvinistic follower of man-made doctrine. :p

At 20 March, 2007 23:11, Blogger GUNNY said...

Tim Challies noted others who have made modifications to the acrostic:

Recently many authors and theologians have realized the shortcomings with trying to make theology fit into nice acronyms. In the case of TULIP, several of the terms have not received the most appropriate names in order to make them fit the acronym. Here are a few I have found that have chosen to rename them.

In The Doctrines of Grace, James Boice and Philip Ryken have chose to go with:

Radical Depravity
Unconditional Election
Particular Redemption
Efficacious Grace
Persevering Grace

R.C. Sproul in Chosen By God choose to use:

Radical Corruption
Sovereign Election
Limited Atonement
Effectual Grace
Preservation of the Saints

Finally, In his book Putting Amazing Back Into Grace Michael Horton goes with a Message-like adaptation of the terms:

Rebels Without A Cause
Grace Before Time
Mission Accomplished
Intoxicating Grace
No Lost Causes


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