Editor’s Note: I originally posted this at my own blog quite a while ago and had thought about publishing it here at that time but didn’t. While I am waiting for some of our contributors to finish up some posts and get them ready to go, I figured I would offer this as fodder for discussion. If I have misrepresented any of the core of the five points of TULIP, feel free to offer some constructive correction. It was not my intention to flesh them out fully, but neither did I desire to misrepresent them.
I have had a flash of inspiration. Perhaps someone, somewhere has already done this before, but I can’t say that I have seen it elsewhere so I thought I would give it a whirl. I keep seeing people complain about hyper-Calvinists. I have a dear brother in the Lord who was burned so bad by a group of extreme hyper-Calvinists (we referred to them as 6.5 pointers in frustration) that he would nearly froth at the mouth at the mere mention of Calvinism at all. This post should not be taken as a diatribe against Calvinism as a whole. It is meant in a spirit of levity to encourage potential discussion. I love my brothers and sisters who are serious Calvinists and who are passionate for the Lord and the Gospel.
Please further note that I am not a 5-point Calvinist. At most, I probably agree with one or two of the points of the TULIP, but I will try to describe the points with some accuracy up through my own addition. These descriptions will be intermingled with my observations as well on the ones that I don’t have full agreement. With all that said, here is the acronym spelled out for posterity.
T – Total Depravity
Ok, I think we all pretty much get that and know what it means I would think. Man is totally depraved. Scripture makes this point repeatedly, and one episode of Jerry Springer will drive this point home to even the most reluctant of individuals I would think. The additional teaching behind this however is that man is completely helpless regarding his salvation. We don’t even look for salvation on our own.
U – Unconditional Election
We can not earn God’s grace and cannot merit salvation. There is nothing within us that makes God love us, He just does. All our righteousness is filthy rags type of things are the general point of this point. From my perspective, the idea behind this is generally right, but I hesitate to do much explaining about how God does these things. Even Paul was eventually rendered speechless in this regard (see the end of Romans 11). Pushing this doctrine to its limit starts to move into double predestination and things that I generally disagree with as well.
L – Limited Atonement
Since not everyone is saved according to the words of Jesus, it follows that Jesus’ death must not be effective for all people in the end of all things. This particular point is generally arrived at through logical means in my experience. Both those who support it and those who argue against it can cite John 3:16 as it becomes a discussion/argument of who is covered by whosoever. We have had plenty of those exact arguments here in fact.
I – Irresistible Grace
This is the teaching that God’s grace is irresistible to those who are elected to salvation and they will respond to the call of God through the Spirit. This is also a hotly debatable topic, mostly because simple observation yields plenty of examples of people who hear the clear Gospel message and don’t respond to it. Frankly, I think it is more amazing that anyone can reject God at all. This doctrine reflects that in some means, but I think any attempt to explain why some reject God’s call by placing them in a category of “unelected” or whatever is not correct.
P – Perseverance of the Saints
This doctrine simply states that those who are called, elected and chosen will remain in the faith without fail as God is capable of keeping them. This sentiment is perfectly biblical and true as far as it goes. I think the main problem in applying it stems from the fact that we never can know who is who from our limited perspective. In fact, many of the problems of Calvinist theology and much of the rest of theology is due to our extremely limited understanding and perspective.
Y – You’re Irrelevant
This addition is all mine, but you may have seen it coming. Given all of the above as absolutely true, many have moved on to another very logical point. It doesn’t matter what we do, since God has planned it all ahead of time. This comes out in various ways. I have seen a church that did no external evangelism. They preached the Gospel in Sunday morning service and expected God to draw those who were called to their building. I have seen others who assume that because everything is up to God, it absolutely doesn’t matter what you do about anything. Ultimately you are either chosen or not chosen, so just live your life and trust God(I mean why not do it anyway right) and He will do everything. I couldn’t disagree more with this idea and I know that most Calvinists don’t agree with it either. But I can assure you that I have known people who do think this way, and they weren’t all Calvinists either.
Let me say it once again. I love my Calvinist brothers and sisters. I will work alongside you all day long to share the Gospel and make disciples for Jesus Christ. I just wanted to write a post that points out the all too real end of taking this theology to its logical conclusions (I have seen it far too often for my liking). The only thing that can keep us from going there is the reminder that while all of these points may be true from God’s perspective; we are not God and they don’t work from our limited perspective. So let’s just do what He has called us to do. Go and make disciples of all the nations.