I’m convinced that some of the worst sermons that I’ve preached were terrible because I became a slave of alliteration. I used alliteration because I wanted people to remember the points of the sermon. But, here is where I went south—in order to make three points that all start with the letter P, I slightly altered the general thrust of the text. They might have remembered the three P’s but sadly the intention of the original author was lost.
The same thing has happened with the acronym TULIP. When someone goes to discuss the doctrines of grace the discussion inevitably centers around the TULIP. Total depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. People refer to themselves as a 3-point, or 4-point, or 5-point Calvinist based upon how many of these points they ascribe to.
The problem, though, is that this mnemonic device (TULIP) falls into the same trap as my unfortunately alliterated sermons; they slightly distort the intention of the original authors. My guess is that John Calvin as well as the framers of the Canons of Dort would be appalled by a phrase like “limited atonement”. A mnemonic device isn’t all that helpful if you have to say, “Well, here’s what I really mean…”
This is why I am very grateful for the latest book by Timothy Paul Jones and Daniel Montgomery,PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. They have written a book that winsomely explains the gospel of God’s grace. Using the Canons of Dort as a guide these brothers have given us a new acronym: PROOF
I find this acrostic very helpful to explain what I really believe the Scriptures teach about God’s purpose of grace. It’s going to take some time remembering this one and retraining my brain away from the TULIP but I believe it might be worth the effort.
Here is why I am sold on this book:
…the point of PROOF is not to convince you that Calvinism is true. In fact, part of our purpose is to point you away from Calvinism—or, perhaps more precisely, to push your focus away from Calvinism as a system and toward the gospel of God’s grace. You may be a Calvinist, or Arminian, neither one, or someone who’s about to Google both terms because you have no clue what we’re talking about—but no matter where you stand or where you land, we long for you to drink deeply from the well of God’s grace and to share this grace with others. (133)
I share this concern. Though I’m unashamedly a Calvinist (provided you mean what I think you do by that term), I have no intention to argue for Calvinism just for the sake of Calvinism (137). But what I do want is for people to drink deeply of God’s grace. PROOF starts in the right place and has the right intentions. This book is not an appeal to help people become Calvinists by using another mnemonic. No, this book is an appeal to the Scriptures to help people be in awe of God’s grace.
Jones and Montgomery write winsomely and appealingly to help us understand often difficult to grasp concepts. I don’t know Daniel Montgomery but I do know Timothy Paul Jones, and I know that he has a gift for teaching—that gift bleeds through in this book. Even if you begin the book in solid agreement with the Canons of Dort, you’ll walk away enriched and blown away buy God’s astounding grace. The way the authors explain God’s grace will have you enjoying Him anew.
This book isn’t meant to help you win an argument—it’s meant to help you worship. As for me, reading through this book stirred up my heart to a deeper appreciation for all that God has done in me. It has also helped me as a pastor to explain these precious truths in winsome and accessible ways.
If you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time in a crusty debate about a flower, pick up this book. It will hopefully add some life to your discussion and will help you discuss with grace that which is truly significant. (I see this no matter which side of the argument you find yourself on).
If you don’t know anything about Calvinism and don’t care about Calvinism, then get this book. You are in a great place to be overwhelmed by the freeness of God’s grace towards us in Christ.
If you are breathing, purchase this book. You’ll be encouraged and awed by God’s grace.