A TULIP is A TULIP is A TULIP – Program 1

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2012
Total Depravity of man, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints (TULIP) are collectively known as the five points of Calvinism. With this article Dr. Figart begins a series on the five points, comparing them with Scripture.

John Calvin, one of the greatest Reformed theologians, was born in Noyon, France on July 10, 1509, and died in Geneva Switzerland in 1564 at the age of 55. His parents were devoted Roman Catholics. John was converted through study of the New Testament while still in the Roman Catholic Church. He was 24 years of age at the time. By the time he was 30 he had published his Institutes of the Christian Religion; the first draft in 1536, at age 27 and the greatly enlarged edition in 1539 at age 30!

Calvin himself never enunciated the Five Points of Calvinism; in fact, articles have been written along the lines of “Was Calvin a Calvinist?” It was not until 1619, some 55 years after his death, that the Synod of Dordt (in Holland) met in the city of Dordtrect as the national synod of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, and published the Canons of Dordt. These Canons were a doctrinal treatise of five points, namely, Total Depravity of man, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. Some time after the Synod of Dordt this five point anagram was used by Dutch Reformed theologians as TULIP. One statement was made as to how appropriate it was that Dutch theologians coined this acrostic, in view of the fact that Holland is noted literally for the abundance of beautiful flowers “of the same name.”

The reason for calling the Synod of Dordt was that Jacob Hermann (or, Arminius, as his name is known from the Latin) had stated his own “five points” in a series of lectures as professor of theology at the University of Leyden. He lived from 1560-1609, and a year after his death his followers published the Remonstrance of 1610, which outlined the Five Points of Arminianism as a protest to Calvinism, and presented these to the State of Holland in 1618. Therefore the National Synod of the Church was convened in Dordt, and after 154 sessions the five points of Arminianism were declared to be heretical.

In the final analysis, it is not sufficient to take either interpretation of these five points as absolute; one should examine each area of truth and ask, “What saith the Scriptures?” In doing so, several things must be kept in mind. First, what are proper scriptural definitions of the theological terms used? Second, is the interpretation of each doctrine based on Scripture, or is it based on a purely logical system from which conclusions are drawn? Third, the pertinent passages dealing with the subject should be consulted, not just those which favor one side of a controversy. Finally, care must be taken to differentiate between doctrines which refer to salvation and those which refer to the Christian service of the individual.

Before discussing the five points of Calvinism individually, their collective logic should be considered:

  1. Total Depravity of Man. When Adam and Eve sinned they brought all of mankind under sin, spiritually dead, and thus totally depraved. They define this as man’s total inability to even believe in Christ until he is first regenerated, that is, given new life, including the gift of faith.
  2. Unconditional Election. Since only the regenerate can believe, God, in sovereign grace, before the foundation of the world, elected some to be saved. This election was unconditional, strictly apart from any involvement of man’s will to believe.
  3. Limited Atonement. Those whom God elected would be the only and specifically ones for whom Christ died; therefore His Atonement for sin was limited to that group. They and they alone were predestined before creation to be saved by His death and resurrection.
  4. Irresistible Grace. Logically, then, in the outworking of the plan of salvation, God provided for grace to be given to those who were to be saved. By His Spirit He would draw each one of the elect unto Himself through grace which could not and would not be resisted, the elect having been given the ability and desire to exercise the gift of faith, given to them through regeneration. Eventually, all the elect would believe and be saved.
  5. Finally, those who believe must of necessity persevere unto the end, proving that their faith is truly of God, and their salvation is real. It is unthinkable that any of the elect will not persevere until the end.

Now, among others, some of the questions to ask are these:

  1. Is this logical sequence Scriptural?
  2. If unsaved mankind has no will of his own to believe, is God responsible for those who spend eternity in hell?
  3. Can salvation be eternal if it depends on the saints persevering to the end?
  4. If a person must be regenerated, or born again, before he can believe, then how is it possible and why is it necessary to preach “Ye must be born again” to those who have already been born again before they have believed in Christ?

These and other questions will be considered as each of the five points is discussed. According to this five point logic, A TULIP is a TULIP is a TULIP! In other words, would ULIP be enough to be a TULIP, or merely LIP, or anything less? Is it possible to be a four-point, three-point Calvinist, or less? The answer would have to be NO; the five points must stand together or they will fall apart! Again, the real question to both Calvinism and Arminianism is, “What saith the Scriptures?”

Read Part 2

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