I've been doing some reading on the 5 points of Calvinism. I faintly remember learning this stuff back in my days at Bible college. I think I recall thinking it seemed a bit far fetched back then. I remember some debates over dinner in the cafeteria, and then just ignoring it.
But now as I'm rethinking the tradition I've belonged to, I keep coming back to the influences of John Calvin.
I suspect that the average person in the pews of evangelical churches do not know what the 5 points of Calvinism are, or know much about the man John Calvin ( In a previous post here I discovered some disturbing info that I didn't learn in my Bible school days.)
However it seems that there are some influential Christian leaders that hold to these 5 points of Calvinism. They may not emphasize this fact in every message, but these basic beliefs they hold do influence their message... so I think it's worth studying what some of the underlying beliefs of these leaders are. I suspect many Christians are being influence by 5 point Calvinist, but don't even know it.
Here's a few influential Christian leaders who hold to 5 point Calvinism.
- John Piper is a 5 point Calvinist - he actually adds two more points to be a 7 pointer
- Mark Driscoll claims he's a 5 1/2 point calvinist
- John MacArthur
So what are the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP):
- T - Total Depravity
- U - Unconditional Election
- L - Limited Atonement
- I - Irresistible Grace
- P - Perseverance of the saints
When man fell, sin permeated his entire being. This fall was so complete that man had no desire for God and righteousness. Man is so totally enslaved by sin that he can only choose evil; he cannot choose good. He is incapable of choosing God and His salvation. Man is totally blind and deaf to the gospel. Apart from a supernatural intervention from God, the gospel message absolutely has no effect on a person. Total depravity is also called total inability.Unconditional Election
God has chosen some people to go to Heaven and other people to go to Hell. This choice is not based on any qualities of the person being elected. This selection is not based on God’s foreknowledge of who will "get saved" in the future.Limited Atonement
God limited His atonement to only those who are elect. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not die for the sins of the whole world; He only died for those He wanted to go to Heaven.Irresistible Grace
The grace that God extends to the elect cannot be refused. God puts into the hearts of the elect an irresistible desire to turn to Him and accept His salvation. This desire is so overpowering that no one can refuse it.Perseverance of the Saints
Since God has determined who will get saved and they cannot resist His call, they are unconditionally and eternally secure in that election. Therefore, those who have been chosen to be saved will always stay saved. They cannot resist or lose their salvation.(Above points taken from http://www.biblehelp.org/tulip.htm )
Some Concerns I have with this:
1)I don't think it fits with God's character of love for all his creation. If we say we are saved by grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not our own...
Do we also say the wicked are doomed by God's lack of grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not their own???
2) Where is free will? Why would God create humanity yet not allow us to exercise free will?
3) If God does everything, we don't need to seek and pursue Him?
4) As for once saved always saved... how I've witnessed that being applied to real people. We tell children when they say a prayer that they are saved and nothing can change that fact... but then if/when that child grows up and falls away from the faith we say "well, I guess they were not really saved to begin with... maybe they didn't mean it". So I'm going to just leave this one up to God to be the judge.
5) Yes there are some verses that support these positions. But there are other verses that seem to be ignored. If God wanted us to believe this system of beliefs I think it would have been clearly laid out... however it took 1500 years before John Calvin and his followers came up with this.
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) - Total Depravity?
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) - Unconditional Election?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.1 John 2:2 (NIV) - Limited atonement?
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.Matthew 23:37 (NIV) - Irresistible Grace?
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."Acts 17:30 (NIV) - Unconditional Election?
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."Matthew 6:33 (NIV) - free will? Ability to seek God? Yes!
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."