Last year I read “The Joy of Calvinism” by Greg Forster. Although I have obtained Calvin’s Institutes on iBooks, I have not yet read them.
So I am a mere punter.
But, as someone who has lots of people in my life who are Calvinists (my parents, although they are more churchmembers than theologians; my best friend, who is one of the best female theologians I know, and has been since we were college roommates . . .), I approach Calvinism with the pre-disposition to regard it in a good light. In fact, my love affair with dispensationalism may be coming to an end. It peaked during the “Left Behind” series, as in “This might be how it all happens, but maybe not . . .” Now I find myself increasingly leaning toward an affinity with covenant theology. Thus, my look into Calvin . . .
I love the TULIP acronym, which I know came along long after Calvin. To me, it sums up some deep mysteries of the faith in five letters. Some I am still pondering but I believe at this point I am about a 4.5’er. I say that knowing that there have historically been 4-point Baptists (General Baptists) and 5-point Baptists (Particular Baptists). So there is no need for me to depart from my heritage to become a Presbyterian like my best friend. We already have had this covered in the Baptist tradition, if we don’t suppress it and rewrite our own history.
T-Total Depravity. Does anybody seriously argue this while looking around us? I guess Pelagianism still lives somewhere, but it appears those who adhere to it think that they themselves were nearly perfectible before they met Jesus, but they sure don’t believe that about anyone else on this planet!!! I also term this one: “where man starts out.”
U-Unconditional Election. Again, if there were conditions to our getting saved, we would not be able to do it. We are utterly depraved. I get that. I also term this one: “God the Father.”
L-Limited Atonement. This is the fifth point, the one on which we all get stuck. There are better ways of naming it, but L goes with the acronym. It is hard for us to understand how there can be joy and worship in our hearts if we are thinking that some people are the elect because (finish the sentence) . . . Yet it is clear throughout the Bible, even as I today noted in Isaiah 65 and 66, that there is a tension present. God calls, man answers. But God also says He invades history to be found of a people who were not seeking Him. So what is that all about? I also term this one: “God the Son” (because He made the atonement, whatever its theological underpinnings).
I-Irresistible Grace. This is probably the fourth point, one over which many of my Baptist kindred struggle. I don’t. I was wooed so definitively by the Holy Spirit that I can’t doubt that His grace is irresistible. I also term this one: “God the Holy Spirit” because it is about His precious work in our lives.
P-Perseverance of the Saints. Once saved-always saved. The only Baptists who doubt this are the Free Will Baptists. I also term this one: “where man gets to in Christ.”
So . . . five tenets, man/Father/Son/Holy Spirit/man in Christ. I just love it. It is also the clearest Trinitarian doctrine I have heard yet. Those who hold to this acronym seem to never overemphasize or underemphasize the work of the Holy Spirit.
I also throw out a challenge to any fellow Baptists who call themselves Arminians to really study what Arminius taught. If you take the five points of Arminianism, you quickly find that most traditional Baptists do not believe three of them right off the bat.