Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TULIP in my Own Words and introducing GRACE!

I am currently working on an assignment as part of seeking a license to preach in the Southern Baptist Church and part of this document is explaining my theology. As you may can tell by the contents of my blog - I am committed to the consistent teachings of Scripture that are exemplified by the exegetical genius of John Calvin. Some of his teachings have been summarized by the acrostic TULIP which I have attempted to "spell out" in my own words, below:

Total Depravity: Post-Fall, man is completely enslaved to sin - born with a "heart of stone" - all thoughts, deeds and actions naturally inclined toward self-centeredness as opposed to God-centerdness - without the merciful direct intervention of God to regenerate or make some Men reborn, all men would remain in this natural state and be subject to the absolute justice of God and the consequences thereof.

Unconditional Election: God has chosen select people from out of all humanity to grant exemption from the execution of His just judgment of all Post-Fall Mankind. This mercy is independent from any meritorious characteristic or activity of the elect persons and is the result of a covenant between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Trinitarian God) to bring glory to God through the activities of the Son as redeemer and judge of all Mankind.

Limited Atonement: seemingly the most controversial of the 5 points, and sometimes referred to as Particular Redemption, merely points out the fact that though Christ's sacrifice is infinite in worth, it is self-limited by God in application only for the Elect. This point is a self-evident hedge against universalism - that is - if Christ's atonement for sin is not limited, either by God's choice or Man's, His infinitely worthy sacrifice must save all mankind without exception.

Irresistible Grace: Acknowledges that by the specific application of God's grace, Man's Post-Fall, natural state, most clearly described as naturally possessing a "heart of stone" and being a slave to sin, is transformed so that the Elect person is saved from God's justice by receiving a "heart of flesh" and becoming a slave to righteousness. Once the Elect person has been given faith through the application of grace, God's irresistible plan of regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification will be accomplished as He has decreed.

Perseverance of the Saints: Simply means that the truly regenerated person will continue to progress in the outworking of God's plan for the Elect. It also means that a truly regenerated person will progressively display characteristics associated with the inward workings of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that a person will achieve perfect holiness in this life, but will, throughout any blessing or trial, continually strive to glorify God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and exhibit agape love for others.

For a detailed presentation of TULIP with Scriptural proofs, please see this post.

So - my pastor believes that the TULIP acrostic may be burdened with too many preconceived biases for potential reviewers of my qualifications document and asked me to consider utilizing another acrostic that I have discovered - G.R.A.C.E.

Conceptualized by Klay A. Aspinwall, over on the Sword & Trowel blog, I believe it captures the essence of the TULIP acrostic as it was originally conceived - for convenient reference, I have aligned the letters of TULIP to the associated sections:

God Glorified (TULIP) - a biblical understanding of salvation results in the exclusive glory being given to God alone, and not to the one who receives or to the instruments who are used to bring this salvation (Rom. 9.16; John 1.13). Why did God so act in our salvation? The answer of God's Word is, “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1.6; Rom. 9.23).

Redemption Resolved (TU) - from all eternity, out of the mass of fallen humanity, God resolved not to allow all humanity to perish in their rebellion, but rather to intervene and provide redemption for a specific people to the 'glory of His grace'. He could have chosen to save all (universalism); He could have chosen to save none (as He did with the fallen angels); but praise Him, He did choose to save some (Eph. 1.4-5; 2 Thess. 2.13-14). This is known in scripture as ‘Election’ - God's eternal choice to save sinners. The choice was based not on foreseen merit or worthiness in the sinner, but purely motivated by the unconditional love and mercy of God (1 John 4.19; Eph. 2.4).

Atonement Accomplished (UL) - When Jesus died, his satisfaction of the wrath of God was surely sufficient for the redemption of the entire world many times over, but is only efficient for those who believe in Him. The triumph of the cross did not merely make salvation possible, but rather, it actually secured the salvation of everyone who would, by God's grace, believe in Him (Heb. 9.12; Rom. 5.8-9) - those who are called the "elect" in scripture. Atonement for such sinners was completely accomplished - Christ made certain the salvation of everyone who would believe in Him, the very ones who were entrusted to Him by the Father (John 6.35-40; 10.24-29; 17.2,6, 9-12, 24-26). If atonement were not objectively secured for anyone, then the salvation of no one would be certain. And, if atonement were objectively secured for everyone, then no one could ever be condemned (resulting in universalism). Thus the shorthand: 'sufficient for the world, efficient only for the elect'.

Conversion Completed (TI) - the work of God's grace in conversion is known as regeneration (‘being born again’) and is always completed (John 1.12-13). The soul that is quickened by God's grace (Eph. 2.4-5) will willingly come to repentance and faith, though before reaching that point may run, resist and hide (Phil. 1.29; 2 Tim. 2.25-26). When we consider what the Bible has to say about our need to be 'born again', we understand that our human nature is completely influenced and corrupted by sin (1 Cor. 2.14). Left to our own will and to our own desire, no one would ever come to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 6.64-65). Thank God that His grace intervenes and liberates us from the bondage of our sin, that we might joyfully and freely embrace Jesus Christ (John 6.37).

Endurance Ensured (UP) - As salvation from beginning to end is a free work of God's grace alone, so each and every redeemed soul shall be empowered by His grace to endure in faith 'till the end (1 Pet. 1.3-5; Matt. 24.13). We persevere as God Himself preserves us. His grace ensures our endurance and eternal salvation (Titus 1.1-2). Those who fall away from the faith do so because they have never truly been born again (1 John 2.19). A child of God, once adopted by grace, will forever be counted among God's people.

I hope this is helpful to others, as it has been to me. :)

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