Friday, March 30, 2012

Defining T in TULIP


The acronym TULIP is a mnemonic device for Reformed soteriology; that is, the doctrine of salvation. There are five letters, hence the frequent reference to 5-point Calvinism.

The letters stand for the following:
Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

Over the course of this series of posts, Lord willing, we will briefly explain what is meant by each of the five points. After so many more weighty theological posts, why something so fundamental and basic now? I take nothing for granted. I have been a Christian long enough to know that much of Christian doctrine goes unexplained and it is simply assumed by preachers and teachers that their congregations are fully conversant with these things. I feel it wise to, every now and again, go back and refresh our memories about some of the simple basic truths of our most holy faith.

Total Depravity

The doctrine of Total Depravity, or as it it sometimes known, Total Inability, teaches the complete inability of man to save himself, or indeed to have any part in saving himself because of the effects of sin in the soul. Man is dead in his sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). Therefore he can do nothing, as a corpse, to bring himself back to life. Every part of man's nature was corrupted by sin, therefore, we say that man has a sinful nature, which longs only to rebel against God (Hosea 6:7; Gen. 6:5; Psalm 58:3).

Man’s sin is extensive as well as intensive. Individuals may not be as bad as they can be; they are as bad off as they can be. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has corrupted every part of his personality: intelligence, emotions and will. The unregenerate person is declared to be "dead" in sin. Apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit the natural man is "blind" and "deaf" to the message of the gospel. There is a natural but total inability to come to faith in Christ apart from a divine work of grace in the heart.

Every act of an unbeliever is done outside of faith in Christ. Scripture says that whatever is not of faith is sin (1 Cor. 14:23). In our flesh there dwells "no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). All of our righteousness is as "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). Even acts of apparent self-sacrifice mean nothing to God, for even the "sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination (Pro. 21:27).

What about the "good" in the world? What about the fact that unsaved husbands and wives usually love each other and their children? First of all, we must not get carried away with our ascriptions of "good" to the unregenerate. "Good" is only defined as God defines it, which means all of the so-called "good" that the unregenerate do is hopelessly and irredeemably polluted by sin. Scripture says that all of our righteousness is filthy rags. The Hebrew term for filthy rag refers to a polluted menstrual cloth. - Not a very congratulatory evaluation of the so-called "good" that sinners do.   Secondly, all who do not worship God are idolaters. The essence of idolatry is actually self-worship and the image merely becomes the tool or instrument for the attainment of the worshippers desired ends. Thus, we are on solid Biblical ground for saying that much of the "good" in the world is simply the result of self-interest. If I kill my customers, I can't get them to buy my products, thus murder cramps my style. Moreover, it seems warranted by Scripture, in light of language about sinners' deadness and blindness and alienation of mind, to assert that our depravity is so bad that we misread our world and see in it as a much better place than it is.

This is, no doubt, an unpopular doctrine, because our world unquestioningly accepts the idea that all men are basically good, that there is good in everyone. True Christian much abominate such a belief. Scripture declares that all men are sinners, all men seek only evil continually, all men are at enmity with God and all men stand before God with nothing but the menstrual rags of the our "righteousness."

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