Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TULIP -- A Quick Breakdown

Since this will be an introduction and not an exhaustive polemic, I will utilize diverse prooftexts to demonstrate the truth of each point concisely in a way that makes sense. I'll cite source texts that show where the doctrine is taught in the Bible, and I'll give a philosophical angle as well, to demonstrate the logical consequences of rejecting each point. TULIP is an acronym, its points referring to five fundamental concepts about salvation as set forth in the Bible, and these concepts describe the theological system colloquially known as 'Calvinism,' after John Calvin, the Reformer who most clearly articulated them together for the first time.

Total Depravity

The short and sweet: All humans are inherently sinful by nature, from the earliest moment of their creation. This depravity assures the following: man is not incapable of doing good, but he is incapable of not doing evil. 

The Biblical basis

Isaiah 64:6 All of our righteous deeds are like filthy rags in the sight of God.

Matthew 7:17-18 Every good tree bears good fruit, but every corrupt tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.

Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth.

Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5 Man is dead in his trespasses and sins.

Romans 3;10-11 As it is written, "there is none righteous, no not one. There are none who seek after God."

Romans 8:7 The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God, because it cannot.

The common sense: All that is needed is for a person to live a little while in this world for them to encounter irrefutable evidence before their very eyes that all of humanity, individually, is horrendously and inescapably internally corrupt. Good people don't do bad things. Everybody does bad things. Therefore nobody is a good person. It is self-evident. The only way to avoid the conclusion that we are not good is by rationalizing that "bad" things are not really "bad." No one in their right noggin can deny that these "good people" do bad things, but to hold on to the hope that we are good (only necessary if you believe that people must earn heaven by being good), the evil that we do must be minimized. It gets explained away as merely being 'imperfections,' 'flaws,' 'mistakes,' etc. But in doing this, we deny the existence of sin, and that denies the motive for Christ to have gone to the Cross. What would be the point of dying for the sins of mankind if mankind could redeem itself by being good? Ignoring the blatantly obvious depravity of man is to declare that Jesus died in vain.

PS the only reason man can do any good at all is by the grace of God that enables him to. So a more forceful presentation of total depravity would hold that man is incapable of doing any good by his own efforts, which is utterly true as well. 

Unconditional Election

The short and sweet: God chooses who will be saved. They do not attain salvation themselves. It is God who initiates and man who responds, not the other way around. Salvation is therefore a free gift and no one can say that they deserved it, or that they accomplished it through some effort or desire on their part.

The Biblical basis:  

Ephesians 1:4-5 "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, "

Romans 9:15-17 "15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

The common senseThen, in the fulness of time, He purchased me with His blood; He let His heart run out in one deep gaping wound for me long ere I loved Him. Yea, when He first came to me, did I not spurn Him? When He knocked at the door, and asked for entrance, did I not drive Him away, and do despite to His grace? Ah, I can remember that I full often did so until, at last, by the power of His effectual grace, He said, "I must, I will come in;" and then He turned my heart, and made me love Him. But even till now I should have resisted Him, had it not been for His grace. Well, then since He purchased me when I was dead in sins, does it not follow, as a consequence necessary and logical, that He must have loved me first? Did my Saviour die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour, therefore, have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been possible? Could that have been the origin of the Saviour's love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed. "But," says someone, "He foresaw that you would have faith; and, therefore, He loved you." What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit. I have met with a great many believers, and talked with them about this matter; but I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, "I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit."

 I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord's part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God's part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. ~ C H Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism

Limited Atonement

The short and sweet: Jesus died on the Cross for everyone who would ever believe in Him and be saved. He did not die for all people who ever lived. Consequently, He does not bear the sins of the damned, but only of the saved. The damned bear the punishment for their own sins.

The Biblical basis:  

Isaiah 53:11 the righteous One (Christ) will make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.

John 3:16 ...whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

The common sense: This is one of the easiest ones for me to understand, to be honest. Clearly it would be pointless to say that whoever believes will be saved, in John 3:16, if those who do not believe will also be saved. And there's the rub. Does anyone truly believe that there will be unsaved people in heaven? No Christian can, this is heresy. If someone is in heaven, they are saved, but to be saved they must believe, and it is obvious that not all people (to make an understatement!) believe. So, then, did Jesus die for the sins of those in hell? He couldn't, that would be double jeopardy. It would be unjust of God to punish someone for their sins if Jesus was already punished for them! So if there are any people in hell, then they are dying for their own sins, and that logically means that Jesus did not. Jesus only died for the sins of those who would believe in Him. 

Irresistible Grace

The short and sweet: If God wants you to do something, you're gonna do it.

The Biblical basis:  

John 6:29 this is the work of God, that you believe Him whom He has sent.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me

John 6:44 No man can come to Me unless the Father draws Him
The common sense: Of all the points of Calvinism, this is the one that seems to matter the least to me, because it's something I already take for granted. Of course God gets His way, it's writ into the whole concept of omnipotence. If God wanted to make something happen and we had the ability to prevent Him, then God would be too weak to accomplish His own will. What a puny and futile view of God that is! No, clearly if God intends to do something, then He will do it. If He doesn't, then He wasn't committed to doing it. Simple. So let's apply this: if God wants to save someone, can they resist His draw, and refuse to be saved? No. Does this mean that God saves people against their will? Here's the interesting thing: God saves EVERYBODY against their will. God isn't unfair in acting against their will, though, because everybody He 'overrules' is desiring things that will hurt them. God lets the un-elect get exactly what they want! Remember the T in TULIP: nobody wants to go to heaven. Sure they do, they just want to go on their own terms and they don't want God to be there. This is everybody prior to being saved. So when God saves somebody, He does what He knows is best for them, even though they don't agree at first! The only people who would have the right to complain that God contradicted their 'free will' are those who are saved, and the irony is that these people are in the least likely position to complain, because they received an amazing gift that they didn't deserve because of it. It's a humbling thing.

Mark Driscoll explained it perfectly in this video, by way of an illustration.

Perseverance of the Saints

The short and sweet: if you are saved, you will never become un-saved. You can be confident that you will be with God in eternity. The corollary is this: those who appeared to have been saved but now are not, were never actually saved in the first place

The Biblical basis:  

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

John 6:37,39 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. ..39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

Hebrews 6:4-6 
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
The common sense: Again, it's double jeopardy. If Jesus died for your sins, is it possible for you to "undo" that by falling away from the faith? And if you did, and came back to the faith, then you would be crucifying Christ again--He would have died twice for your sins, which would be an injustice. No, either you were saved before, and while you seemed to fall away you were still saved, or you were not saved in the first place. This is known as a false conversion, and that's also Biblical. 

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

There's so much to say on these subjects that I almost feel rushed to finish this post. But hopefully this cursory overview does the doctrines justice.

~ Rak Chazak

Further reading: 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Word Study: Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

It's time again to do another short word study to gain a deeper insight into the message of the Bible.

What is "God?"

The word "God" in the first of the Ten Commandments is the Hebrew word Elohim, defined here at BlueLetterBible.com, together with a list of the instances where it is used in the Old Testament. There is also a word study on that site here. Elohim is a plural word (-im is the plural ending to words in Hebrew), and always refers to the Trinity when used of God in the Bible. The plural always takes a singular noun when referring to God, also, driving home the point of the existence of the Trinity by grammatical evidence. Likewise, the singular word El is used of the individual persons of the Trinity, the Father, Spirit and Son, as shown in the BLB word study linked.

I briefly touched on the meaning of Elohim in a previous blog post. The word connotes strength and when referring to humans can be understood to mean "mighty ones," powerful people whom even in Modern English could be symbolically spoken of as "gods among men," without anything being lost in translation. The word is translated in various places as 'judges' or 'rulers'

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods

What does this mean?

Let's look at it grammatically. 'other gods' implies a comparison rather than a contrast with God. The 'other gods' are clearly presented as false gods, in context of the Ten Commandments, but the word Baalim (a catch-all term for false gods), the plural form of Baal, which means "lord" and was the primary [implied false] deity of the Canaanites, as defined here, was not used, since that would imply that God was a false god, grammatically speaking, because of the usage of "other." 

Why is this significant?

I think it's because if God had inspired Exodus 20:3 to read "thou shalt have no false gods before me," then there would undoubtedly have been those who would have claimed, "God, we don't believe in any false gods [baalim], we simply worship 'true' gods [elohim] in addition to you; is that so wrong?" By not merely forbidding "false gods," but forbidding the worship of any conceivable deity of any kind God closes all loopholes and makes no excuses possible.


Yet, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox today put church "saints" [elohim*] before God and worship them.

Others put charismatic figures such as politicians, celebrities, etc as their [elohim] in their life, which they worship in the sense that worship consists of respecting and obeying your god, desiring to please your god, and looking to your god for guidance and hope in accomplishing a solution to whatever problem you're praying to them for their aid in fixing.

And most of the rest think so highly of themselves because of persistent self-esteem campaigns and the Gospel of The Inherent Goodness of Man that they are their own elohim, the highest ruler and authority in their life to which they give deference above all other earthly and heavenly authorities.

God says that no matter what sort of "mighty one" you can conjure up, whether you recognize it as a "false god" or not, it is wrong of you. Whatever your alternate object of worship, it is not worthy and you should cast it aside and worship only God, Elohim-Elyon, the Most High God. 

The Call of the Individual

What is your idol today? We all have temptations. Even if you have no person or earth system that you put your faith in for deliverance, perhaps your tendency is like mine, the most simple kind: that subtle pull of your inclination to worship self, to consider your own wants first and to be the final arbiter of what course of action you will take. No matter how often you've mentally handed the reins over to God and repented of trying to be your own God, there are always improvements to be made. For the Christian believer, this is part of sanctification. And if you are not Christian--if you have never yet stopped serving "other gods [elohim]"--or if you are not sure where you stand, may I encourage you to seek to be saved? The same website I've been utilizing for this post has a concise and clear explanation of what it is your soul needs, even though it's our natural tendency to do just the opposite. I encourage you to give it a read: How to Know God.

~ Rak Chazak

* in context of this blog post. Not to be confused with the actual old testament word for saint, Qaddiysh

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Update: Going to Church

I took the first step and have gone to church the last two weeks. I have to wake up early since I couldn't catch the late service due to starting work at 12. It's nevertheless nice to be on day shift, since that lets me both go to bed and wake up at reasonable times, at least in theory. I've already seen some people I recognize, and maybe I'll get the chance to get to know them better now. I went, in honesty, partially motivated by an attitude of being tired of just going to work and going home, and feeling a need for socialization. I think that's one of the purposes of Church. It's a place for believers to interact with people they can connect with -- just like how all people naturally form cliques between those who are like them. The difference is that Church prevents this from being a clique based on likes and dislikes, appearance, origin, etc, but makes the distinguishing characteristic of the fellowship a shared theology. That makes it very intellectually stimulating to me, and I hope to have some in-depth conversations with people soon. Another thing I've noticed is that the only other guy my age (but 5 years older) is married to one of the young women in the group. It reminded me of the statistic, that the demographic least likely to be found in church is an early or mid-20s male.

In other news, I learned some plumbing terms as I watched a guy replace the 'bladder tank' and 'pressure switch' for our house. We only lived one day without water, and thankfully it was my last day off (also why I didn't post last week), but it reminded me to be mindful of the things that I have stocked at home, because in an emergency, you can't go to the store and casually get some stuff together to prepare for it, because it's already happening.

Tonight's my t.v. night. I watch Person of Interest because it's got one of the most intricate running plots (good writing), and the nature of it being the type of action drama that it is makes it refreshingly void, by comparison, of the stuff that makes me want to turn off the tv that I find in other places, whether it be extreme lefty-politics or unnecessary sexual lewdness. Its late time slot is forgivable since it now comes after the NCIS/LA shows. Maybe tonight I'll work in the kitchen, keep the computer off, and watch all three shows.

Life goes on!

~ Rak Chazak

Spurgeon on Calvin

I loved the short quote in this, the first time I heard it. It encouraged me, because I had been researching Calvinism and was unsure whether it had been believed through history, or was a recent invention. What had "big-name" pastors and preachers of the past said about it? Spurgeon was a name I'd heard mentioned positively in the theological circles I'd been crossing into. So this served to unify my understanding, and conclude that "these guys are on the same team. We are on the same team."

If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. "He only is my rock and my salvation." Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, "God is my rock and my salvation." What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
The website I chose to use for the source text is Spurgeon.org. Please read the whole sermon, called "In Defense of Calvinism."

~ Rak Chazak