Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Dreaded TULIP...What More Can They Say?

A few years ago, someone sent me an article they had found on the internet dealing with Calvinism in an attempt to refute the Doctrines of Grace. The article, which was written by Mike Riley (a church of Christ minister, but of whom I know nothing more), set out to, first tell the reader what Calvinism is (using the famous acrostic TULIP), and then to tell us why each of the doctrines that are ascribed to each letter are wrong. Unfortunately, I think you’ll see that the effort not only suffers from a woeful lack of scholarly investigation and knowledge, but also it is characterized by an amazing lack of understanding as to what Calvinism truly is.

It is unfortunate that so many well-intentioned people attempt to refute doctrines that they know little about. At the same time, however, someone who is first, a minister and then one who takes it upon himself to speak against doctrines in a public manner should ensure that they are well informed about the subject they propose to engage. It is irresponsible for individuals to seek to refute doctrines when they have not taken the time or expended the effort to know just what it is they’re refuting. In this day and age when anyone with a keyboard seems to fashion him or herself an authority, you find a plethora of such articles on the internet. What sets articles like this one apart, however, is the fact that, as I already mentioned, this person is a minister who owes it to his congregation and to his readers to represent the other side fairly.

It is in that spirit, then, that I will be reviewing this article. I do so in hopes that those who read it will benefit from it. I also hope that, if you’re on the side of this person’s doctrinal position, you will examine the claims herein and will determine whether what I write is true. It may be that in the end you will not agree that Calvinism is correct. But I do hope that, if you reach that conclusion, you will not follow in this individual’s footsteps in misrepresenting Calvinistic doctrine. If you are a Calvinist, I hope this series of articles will encourage you and help you to understand that what we call the Doctrines of Grace are true and biblical, but also that you should represent the other side fairly when and if you’re called to refute its doctrines.

Note: I have set Mr. Riley’s comments in bold.

It is impossible to be consistent when one holds doctrinal error. A long time ago men started believing that the human soul was corrupt at birth. As a result of this false belief, these men had to develop a whole system of theology in order to attempt to be consistent. In order to make this system of beliefs easier to remember, they called it “TULIP”. Each letter of this word stands for one of their doctrines. It would be beneficial for us to know of these doctrines because they are highly prominent in the religious world around us. The following are the basic teachings of “TULIP”:

I don’t know this gentleman, but when you begin your supposed refutation of a doctrine saying things like “a long time ago men started believing” something, you know we’re in for some interesting musings. I’m not sure what this person means by someone beginning to believe that the human soul was corrupt at birth. This gives the impression that there is something that happens to the soul at birth that makes it corrupt. In fact, as will be seen later on, this individual believes that what the Calvinist is saying is that God gives human beings a corrupt soul. And don't miss the fact that he thinks that TULIP originated with the Reformers who explained the doctrines. Aside from the fact that nearly none of the early Reformers (except for Knox and a few others) spoke English, it was not they but the Synod of Dort, 100 years later, that first set forth the five points.

As to the charge of developing a whole set of doctrines in order to be consistent, not sure what he meant, but to develop doctrines in order to be consistent is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, when you examine the tenets of false religions, one of the things that will always come to the fore is that they are amazingly inconsistent: with the Word of God, with the world around us and even within the religions themselves. Consistency is a good thing, as long as it is applied to the right doctrines. This gentleman obviously does not believe  that Calvinism is true. Fair enough. But it would be nice if he attempted to refute what Calvinists actually say rather than what he thinks they say. As we shall see, however, that is not the case.

Next time: An examination of Mr. Riley's take on Total Depravity.


  1. Some of thickest fogs come out of Abilene....

    1. Indeed, all too true! Missed you today. Hope you're doing well.