Thursday, May 23, 2013

tulip one

Calvin's Tulip

The doctrines represented by the TULIP acronym used to describe the five tenets of John Calvin’s teaching about salvation diverts attention away from the accountability of all men before God for decisions they make in this life. While a believer is saved by grace through faith, not by personal merit, faith is demonstrated in trust and action. The gospel is preached to sinners, and sinners have the free will to believe and obey the gospel, or to disbelieve and reject the gospel. God has chosen to save all those who are called by the gospel and who place their trust in Jesus by obeying the simple commands of Jesus that are directed to sinners.

The teachings of Augustine and Johan Calvin are based on sophist arguments, using proof texts out of context, to arrive at the TULIP acronym. T represents total depravity, the concept that man is so depraved that he cannot make any move on his own that affects his eternal salvation. U is for the concept of unconditional election, that individuals are chosen for salvation without consideration for their own responsibility. L is for limited atonement, the concept that Jesus only died to save the elect, who were personally selected by God before time began. I is for irresistible grace, that God has chosen the individuals who will be saved, and that He gives faith to them as a gift. P is for the perseverance of the saints, a concept that a once saved person (one chosen by God for salvation) can do nothing that will cause him to be lost.

Or, as an acquaintance said recently, “As far as salvation or ‘justification’ is concerned, I am pretty much of an Augustinian.  I pretty much follow the ‘TULIP:’"
T=total depravity
U=unconditional election                        
L=limited atonement
I=Irresistible grace - This is how we come to faith, not that our belief starts things, but before we believed in God, he loved and believed in us.
P=perseverance of the saints - "once saved, always saved."

“Having said this, I may not be a strict Augustinian, but I think I am.”

This is a very common perspective supported by a majority of Evangelical believers (  The teaching of the sinner’s prayer conversion, accepting Christ as personal savior by praying a prayer of repentance and acceptance, comes directly from the TULIP.  The idea that man can do nothing that affects the outcome of his salvation removes the concept of personal responsibility before God from consideration.  TULIP diverts attention from our responsibility to seek Jesus and learn of him; then to believe in Him with our human capability, or to not believe in Him with our human capability.  TULIP removes evidence and reason from the salvation equation, and diverts us upon a path that blinds us to our own personal responsibility with regard to our faith in Jesus and our eternal salvation.

We should stay in the middle of the road following Jesus, and not be diverted to the right or to the left.  There are many distractions that come along and try to take us off the path that leads to eternity with God.  Jesus is the only way to heaven, because He said that He is, and He cannot tell a lie.  To those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures are a revelation of God’s way, a revelation of Jesus Christ - son of man, Son of God.

Following Jesus is a real commitment. Apostle Thomas carried the gospel to India in the first century, and was killed for his trouble, a Hindu lance taking his life.  God could have protected him, as He could have protected the other apostles, but they all died horrible deaths with the exception of John.  God showed through them that protection from physical harm is not the appeal of God’s invitation to come to Jesus and find rest.  But we are challenged to give up everything in order to follow Jesus, sometimes even our physical lives.  If following Jesus is worth risking everything, and it is, then we need to be careful to put our trust in Him in such a way that we will not be disappointed on the Judgment Day.  We need to know and follow the truth, and truth is revealed in Jesus Christ.
Right doctrine without right living is worthless.  Having the correct understanding of truth has no value unless it is put into practice.  Therefore I see no value in religious debates about doctrine if we are not going to put the most fundamental principles of Christian life into practice in our lives.  But many of us want to live genuinely committed lives.  And if we are willing to follow Jesus, then it does make a difference what we believe.  We are to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered through God’s prophets and the apostles of Jesus Christ.  But the way we contend earnestly is not by debating with a mean spirit, but by teaching the truth in love.   

Together, let us examine the way that leads to heaven in Jesus Christ, and discover the dangers that lie on either side of the road.  There is emotional appeal and self indulgence on the left, and there is rancor, hard feelings, and self-righteousness on the right.  Satan’s chief distraction is getting us to trust our own understanding through human philosophy, sophist arguments (arguments made from human wisdom).


Trusting human philosophy is a problem that has been around since Adam and Eve were put in the Garden of Eden.  When we make decisions based on how things appeal to our human senses, we are destined to failure.  There is a way that seems right to us, based on our human nature, but that way leads us away from trusting God and into trusting ourselves or our own definitions of truth.  Human philosophy leads us away from the right path. 

The TULIP of Calvin and Augustine causes problems because it attempts to remove personal responsibility from being involved in receiving salvation, and places all the responsibility for salvation in God’s hands.  Instead of the message of the gospel being God’s power for salvation, Calvinism relegates the salvation offered freely in the gospel only to those who are individually chosen by God.  These principles (TULIP) have been heatedly debated in past generations, and positions have been harshly drawn so that discussion and open fellowship among professed believers is destroyed.  It does no good to debate these issues if we are not listening to each other.

Please  let us take a fresh look at the principles of salvation revealed in the Bible, and let us see how the teachings of the Bible agree or disagree with Augustine.  First, I will admit freely that there is much that is true in the teachings of Augustine and John Calvin, because they relied on the logical process of Aristotle to develop their thoughts from statements they found in the Bible.  So the first place we should look is to the Aristotelian logical process, and see if it is a Biblical approach to Bible study.
Basically, Aristotle said that a thing is what it is because it is what it is, and if it is what it is, it cannot be something that it is not.  Therefore one can take statements, and determine if they are true or false by examining whether their components are true or false.  If the basic components of an equation are true, then the answer is true, given that we use the rules of correct logic in the equation.  This form of logical process is very useful, because it recognizes that there is truth and reality, and that we can know if a thing is real or not.
However, this form of logic is limited in its application, as we must know if a statement is true in all circumstances, or just in the context within which it is given.  The usefulness of the Aristotelian logical process is limited by our ability to use statements within their context.  When one Biblical statement seems to contradict another Biblical statement, as examined by our logical process, we realize that one or the other of the statements has been taken out of context, because we believe that all the statements given by inspiration in the Holy Bible are true.  The Bible teaches by stories, illustrations, pictures, and themes that all come together in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah.
So our success at understanding the Bible rests on our ability to keep Bible statements within the context as they are presented.  The Bible teaches by principles that build one upon another.  God never changes.  His nature is constant.  Genesis presents a look at God’s creation and His plans for that creation.  If we want to have understanding of any of the things taught in the Bible, we need to go back to the beginning.  If we isolate statements in the New Testament from their historical background, we will have trouble.  If we let the stories of the Old Testament amplify and clarify the statements found in the New Testament, we will be blessed. 
A useful way to study the Bible is to get the big picture together, and then see how all the pieces fit.  The scarlet cord that holds the scriptures together from Genesis to Revelation is the story of Jesus of Nazareth, son of David, and Son of God.  Following are two articles I wrote for the North Jackson Progress, our local newspaper, that illustrates this concept.

A scarlet cord tied in a window designated a place of safety for Rahab and her father's family when the great city Jericho was completely destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua's command.  Families of the Israelites living in Egypt were protected from death in their houses where the blood of the Passover lamb had been sprinkled upon the door frames.  Today people are saved by their faith in God when they are in the house protected by the blood of Jesus.  Just as Rahab's people had to be in the house where the scarlet cord was tied in the window in order to be saved, (Joshua 2:17-21) we have to be in Jesus to have salvation.
That scarlet cord tied in that window 3400 years ago foretold the blood of Jesus that would be spilled at Calvary as atonement for the sins of all people who have faith in God.  Speaking to Christians, Peter said "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18-19, NKJ)
These Christians Peter spoke to had purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, (1 Peter 1:22-25) having been born again through the word of God, the gospel which was preached to them by Peter.  Coming to Jesus, born again by the word of the gospel, they were being built up a spiritual house.  Christians are members of the household of God, Jesus being the cornerstone, and in Jesus Christians are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-22).
So, just as Rahab's family was saved in the house where the scarlet cord was tied in the window, we are saved in the household of God which is protected by the blood of Christ.  The protecting blood of Jesus was symbolized in the blood of the Passover lamb that was killed and whose blood was sprinkled on the door post and lintel so that those within the house were saved from death. (Exodus 12).  Jesus is our Passover, and His blood protects us from death when we are inside the house protected by His blood.  (1 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 8:1)  The house of God is the church of the living God, (1 Timothy 3:15) which is the body of Christ. (Ephesians 1:22-23)  For those who by one Spirit have been baptized into one body, the body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 12:13) are continually cleansed by the blood of Jesus. (1 John 1:7)
Therefore we can understand that we are saved by God's power through faith in Jesus Christ when we accept God's grace through obedience to the gospel. (Romans 6:17-18)  Rahab had no power to save herself from destruction at Jericho, but she was saved because she trusted in Jehovah, the Lord of heaven and earth.  She risked her life because of her faith, and she tied the scarlet cord in her window just as the men of Israel commanded her.  In a like way, we are saved from eternal death when we obey from the heart the teaching of the gospel.  Salvation is by faith in Jesus, a faith that causes us to put our trust in Jesus by obeying His commands to repent of sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus.  He then is able to keep us safe in His house, the church of the living God. (Read Acts chapters two and three)

A whore living in the great city of Jericho about 3400 years ago heard about the Israelites and believed in the power of Yahweh, God of Israel.  She heard how God dried up the water of the Red Sea for them when they came out of Egypt, and about how the giant king Og and king Sihon of the Amorites had been completely destroyed.
Instead of trusting in her people and the strength of her great city Jericho, she decided to put her trust in the God of Israel.  Risking her life, she hid the two Israelite spies who had come to her house.  Pleading with the two spies for her deliverance, she said, "For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and earth beneath.  Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death." (Joshua 2:11-13, NKJ)
After she let them down from her window on the city wall, the men instructed her to tie a scarlet cord in that window and to bring all those she wanted saved into her home, for only those in the house identified by the scarlet cord would be saved.  Rahab was saved with her father's household when Israel destroyed all the other inhabitants of Jericho and burned the city with fire after God caused its great walls to fall down flat.  She became the mother of Boaz, ancestor of King David and of Jesus Christ.
God used a foreign woman of bad reputation to become ancestor of His Son because of her great faith in Him.  By her own words we know that her faith in Yahweh was because of the evidence of His great power demonstrated in the deliverance of His people Israel.  Paul, writing to the Roman Christians, reminded them that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17, NKJ)
Therefore we know that we are to have faith in God because of the evidence He has given us about His power, His love, and His faithfulness.  Sometimes we may think that God needs to give us a personal sign just for us so that we may believe on Him.  Jesus had just fed four thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves and a few fish, when the Pharisees and Sadducees came testing Jesus, asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.  Jesus told them the only sign they would be given was the sign of Jonah, referring to His own death, burial and resurrection.
Today many would like to believe in Jesus, but they are waiting for God to establish faith in their heart by some personal sign.  Once a paralyzed man in India told me that if Jesus would heal him, then he would believe and become a Christian.  Many want God to give them faith through some miraculous process.  Many pray for faith without accepting what Jesus has already done through His death, burial, and resurrection.
For those who are looking for a sign, look to the gospel message which is God's power for salvation to all who believe, (Romans 1:16)  Read the four gospels, learn about Jesus Christ, and be touched by His great love.  When His message has produced faith in your heart, you will want to obey Him as Rahab obeyed and was saved in the house where the scarlet cord was tied.  This story from long ago foretells the saving blood of Jesus Christ that saves all who truly have faith in Him when they obey His instructions given in the great commission, "Preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  (Mark 16:15-16, NKJ)

The Bible teaches this principle of study; that we should see the big picture, and fit the pieces within that reference.  The writer of Hebrews says that God speaks through His Son today (Hebrews 1:1-3).  Paul told Timothy that the Old Testament scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith that is in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15).  And Paul told the Christians at Corinth that the things recorded in the Old Testament are examples for us today (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).  Also the author of Hebrews said that we should look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  Therefore I conclude that the proper way to approach the study of the scriptures is to see that Jesus is the big picture, and the pieces fit together in Him.
So we should look at Jesus, His life and example, to see what God expects of us.  Of course we are not perfect like Jesus, but with our human mind we can learn about Jesus and decide if we believe He is the Son of God.  After all, the four gospels and Acts are accurate historical documents written by three eye witnesses; Matthew, Mark, and John; with Luke being an inspired historian who was careful to give the record exactly as he received it from the apostles of Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit.  If we can understand any history at all by our human intellect, then surely we can comprehend this inspired story about the most extraordinary man who ever lived.  It is by looking to Jesus, seeing the framework of His life, His death, burial, and resurrection, that we can find our answers about our responsibility before God.  It is by looking at Jesus that we will find the truth about the TULIP.  Let us not follow any diversions, but keep right on the path that leads to salvation that is by grace through faith, and in Jesus Christ.

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