Author: Ron Graham
This page is not a Bible study as such, although you can use the chart as a brief overview and introductory study. The Tulip Chart introduces the next five lessons in this series refuting the 5 points of Calvinism.
The tulip acrostic has become a most popular way of outlining the five points of Calvinism. Because of its familiarity, I borrow it for the purposes of presenting this series —although I quibble about the term "Perseverance of the Saints" because that term is not sufficiently precise to represent the doctrine of “impossibility of apostasy”.
Refuted by Romans 1:18-32, Ezekiel 18
Total depravity is the name given to the belief that no human being has any perfect aspects to their character and person. Everything is spoiled. Humans are born already dead in sin, because they inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin. When Adam and Eve fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, they were "wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation." This total depravity is said to result in a total inability to contribute anything to one’s salvation.
Refuted by Matthew 7:13-14, 2Peter 1:2-12
Unconditional election is a term given to the belief that God chose some for salvation, but nothing about those persons influenced God’s choice, and salvation is not on the basis that if you do what God tells you (a condition), then he will save you. "Those of mankind who are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto."
Refuted by John 3:16, 1John 2:1-2
Limited atonement is a term given to the belief that Jesus did not lay down his life for all mankind, but only for some, and that the rest of mankind have no Saviour. According to this belief, Jesus did not shed his blood for everyone in general, but only for certain persons in particular. The benefit of the cross and of the message of the cross is available only to these fortunate persons. The atonement is irrevocably and utterly limited to that number, and the cross has no potential to make atonement for even one single person more. Limited atonement simply means that Jesus did not die for for the whole world. This belief arises logically and necessarily out of the other points of Calvinism. It is wrong because they are wrong.
Refuted by Luke 7:30, Matthew 23:37
Irresistable grace is the term given to the belief that the grace of God is "free" which is to say it is not tied or obligated to anyone’s choice, but operates apart from human will. In other words, if you have not received the grace of God, you cannot apply to God for it and choose to receive it. Those who receive God’s grace exercise no will of their own, nor are they able to resist. It comes to them perforce. This view of grace cannot allow of God laying down two alternatives, pointing out the eternal and unchangeable consequences of each, and giving a person the choice, especially when God’s will favours one alternative and abhors the other.
Refuted by Hebrews 10:10,19-29, 1Peter 2:20-22
Perseverance of the saints is a term given to belief in the impossibility of apostacy, meaning that a person who is saved cannot possibly become unsaved. God’s grace is infallible. One cannot fall from grace. Apostasy is impossible. This security of the believer is not about being completely protected by God so long as one continues to seek refuge in God. It is about being imprisoned by God in his security, and quite unable to break out of it. Once saved, always saved. Any apparent apostasy by a person is either just that, apparent but not real, or else it was the person’s salvation that was only apparent but not real.
John Calvin (1509-1564), along with Martin Luther (1483-1546), was a chief architect of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s theology is characterised by the way he looks at predestination. He was by no means the first, however, to hold these ideas about predestination.
Calvin taught that ordinary mortals have no ability to contribute anything toward their own salvation. Those whom God has chosen for eternal life are no more worthy of it than those whom God has passed by. God made his choice entirely by his own sovereign will and free grace. No condition or quality in the persons he chose had any influence upon his choice. When Christ died, he did not die for all mankind, but only for those whom God had chosen. God compels the chosen to accept the grace he extends to them. They cannot resist it, nor can they ever fall away from it.
There are five aspects to Calvin's theology. The major Protestant creeds, which are still in effect today, confess all or some of these five principles. Most of the great Bible commentaries, still in use today, follow the Calvinistic point of view to some extent. If you find the five terms a little strange at the outset, that's because they are not scriptural terms. However, I'm sure that when you have reached the end of this series of six lessons, you'll be more familiar with the TULIP of Calvinism.