Stop and Smell the TULIP

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, December 15, 2020 0 comments

by Eric Hansen

While theology will always be contested until the end of mankind and the correct one is shown to us all, there have always been movements to demonstrate why this theology is correct over that. We see this even back in the time of Jesus (and well before that), where he had to prove against the Pharisees’ theology of old law that you no longer need to sacrifice animals, burnt offerings, etc. He was the final sacrifice, and it took believing Him and in His sacrifice to be saved, not your own works.

Fast forward about 1500 or so years, and we see a major explosion happening between the Roman Catholic church, government, and greed. What was once meant to stand for unity and uniformity had become corrupt with power, greed, and money. Various people broke away from this practice and tried to re-establish a Biblical foundation of faith, not one driven by man.

One of the more noticeable of these was Martin Luther (whose teachings founded the Lutheran church). He posted his 95 Theses on the front of the Catholic church which was both incredibly brave and awe-inspiring and potentially life-threatening. This document or manifesto tore the church to shreds, destroying all of its practices as heretical at best. However, this also laid the groundwork years later for another man to help draw attention to the fallacies: John Calvin.

While Calvin never wanted "Calvinism" to be a thing, it's synonymous these days with the Reformation. One of his greatest works, Institutes of Christian Religion, has been influential in many areas of Christianity as both a relic and symbol of lies, depending on which side of the fence you're on. But one of his principles would be later called "TULIP.” Each of these 5 elements can be an article in themselves, but we will cover the basics here and let you determine if they still hold true to this day.

Total Depravity
Total depravity, or the T of TULIP, is a fancy way of saying "we are sinful by nature and cannot save ourselves." There are many spins on this, but as a framework we can see this truth in John 14:5-14. This includes the famous line of "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

We need Christ because we cannot get rid of our sins. This is why unless we come to Him, we are destined for damnation (i.e., hell). The sacrifice of holy pureness on the cross was the only way to extinguish our sins once we truly repent and believe.

Unconditional Election
Under what grounds do we ascend into Heaven? Is it by our own works that God sees us as righteous, holy, and good, or is it by God’s sovereign decision, love, and most importantly grace that we are granted entrance to eternal life?

Unconditional election answers this by stating that it is not by our works or deeds that we enter into Heaven but by God’s righteous judgment of whether we are holy or not. This is why it’s called unconditional election, because God elects or chooses who will be entering Heaven based on no conditions set by us - unconditionally.

Often the rebuttal to this is if us doing no good deeds at all or a boundless amount doesn’t guarantee us Heaven then why do good at all? The book of Romans 9:10-13 tackles this. God chose Jacob to continue the line that would ultimately bring us Jesus Christ. As He did that, He also chooses who of us to this day will enter into Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-10 addresses this as well, stating that we do good deeds to glorify God and His love for us.

Limited Atonement
This is one people tend to struggle with. Did Christ die on the cross for everyone, or just the believers? Calvin states that Christ died only for the believers. The reason being is that if Christ died for the unbelievers as well then it was wasted blood. Another way to look at it is God placed us where we need to be, where we may never learn of Him or may be surrounded by His word (Acts 17:22-31). However, that does not mean that we are saved just because God placed us. Once again, it all circles back around to Christ and needing his blood.

Irresistible Grace
Irresistible grace is often attributed to being given God's grace regardless whether we want it or not. Before we explore this in a little more detail, let's take into account Heaven. It's a place full of holiness, purity, and righteousness. Total depravity essentially makes us full of sin and no desire on our own will to be holy, pure, or righteous. Yet, these do not contradict each other and also exemplifies the free choice God gave us.

An example of this is Paul (named Saul before his conversion). He was a vile man who hated Christians, taking pleasure in arresting and killing them. There was no reason for Jesus Christ to come to him and seek his existence to spread the gospel by our means, but he did (Acts 9). But if we look at Acts 9:4-9, we see that God never forced Paul, not commanding him to do anything. But God knew he was needed to further the kingdom, thus true irresistible grace.

Perseverance of the Saints
The last element of TULIP is the perseverance of the saints. This separates Reformists from Arminians as this teaches that you can never lose your salvation if you are truly saved (emphasis mine). Arminians teach that you can lose your salvation.

The distinction gets lost in translation as the Reformation teaches the key component of true salvation, meaning you are not confessing Christ to please people but you truly accept Him as your Lord and Savior.

This also doesn't mean you can't fall from grace, but it does mean you won't achieve total fall (loss of salvation). We all go through highs and lows during our spiritual walk, some more frequent than others. I can count on 2 hands and a foot how many times I struggled with salvation and such. But at the end I know that I am saved because if I wasn't, I would not have cared to begin with. We are able to equate this part of TULIP similar to the phrase "when you get knocked off the horse, you get back on.”

I hope this has been a good introduction to these core teachings of Calvinism to help you determine what you believe.

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