|Written by David Lawrence|
|Saturday, August 14 2010 00:00|
The acronym TULIP refers to the clarification of five points of objection raised by Jacob Harmenszoon (Arminius), a professor in the University of Leiden, to the teaching of the Dutch Reformed Church in the early seventeenth century. He objected first to the idea that man was so sinfully fallen that he was unable to come to God, that God’s predestination was based alone on the eternal purpose of God and not on the foreseen righteous choice of man, that Jesus’ atonement was for the elect alone and not for everyone, and that God’s call on the human heart was effectual and could not be successfully resisted so the point of damnation.
The scholars of the Dutch Reformed Church met at Dordrecht in 1718-1719 to consider Arminius’ objections. By this time his followers had insisted that for the sake of consistency Arminius also give up the doctrine of God’s preserving His people to eternal life, for if they got in by their own choice, they could logically get out by that same choice. Arminius reluctantly assented. Thus the synod considered five objections by these Remonstrants, as they were now called. On each of the five points the synod found Arminius and his followers to be in error, and they re-affirmed the traditional Reformed position on the five points. They now became known as the Five Points of Calvinism, and they became the defining characteristics of the Reformed movement within the broader context of evangelicalism, and set the Reformed movement apart from what was now known as Arminianism.
In many regards Arminianism was a re-statement of the position of John Cassian in the fourth century. Cassian reacted against both Augustine and Pelagius, both of whom he considered to have extreme positions. He thought Augustine too extreme in regard to human depravity and God’s grace, and Cassian believed that God reserves an island of righteousness within fallen man enabling him to choose God. But he also thought Pelagius too extreme in his denial of the very need of grace, in his teaching that God never requires of man what man cannot do, and that the sin of Adam affected only Adam. Cassian’s view became known as Semi-Pelagianism and was the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, although many great theologians in the medieval universities continued to uphold Augustinian theology (Bernard, Anselm, Peter Lombard, Gregory of Rimini, and Thomas Aquinas).
The five points of TULIP (Total depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints) are each considered in this series in separate articles. Most Reformed theologians today use other terms such as radical fallenness, the Biblical doctrine of predestination, definite atonement, effectual calling, and the preservation of the saints. The import of the doctrines remains true to the Reformed understanding of the teaching of Holy Scripture in each of these critically important areas.
Scholars have demonstrated repeatedly that the basic doctrines of redemption contained in these concepts stand or fall together. If the truth of one of the doctrines is demonstrated, the others will logically be affirmed. To disprove one would bring all the others into question, and yet ultimately if one wished, as many do, to disprove Reformed theology in its entirety, they would be obligated to answer the vast number of Biblical references given in support of each of the five doctrines. Many people, in the attempt to disprove the teaching of Reformed theology, end by affirming it to themselves. Yet intellectual affirmation is insufficient without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It is because we at Engedi Ministries are committed to these truths that we set forth the teaching of Biblical theology in our various venues with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will indeed use our material and bring people to such understanding that they shall enjoy the blessed grace, peace, joy, and assurance that comes from the glorious salvation accomplished in Christ, and finally that God shall alone be glorified!
(For further study we recommend that you read each of the articles detailing the Biblical basis for these five doctrines, and also listen to the audio series The Doctrines of Grace by Danny Hale. Each of these doctrines has been addressed in several different of our audio series, and is found under "Audio" and then "Study Series." –David Lawrence)