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The Doctrines of Grace: TULIP Revisited
by Carol Berubee

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How is it that anyone is saved? Who is in control of salvation? Do you have free will to choose God?

In this series, we will follow the acronym, TULIP:
Total Depravity,
Unconditional Election,
Limited Atonement,
Irresistible Grace,
Perseverance of the Saints
We will not go into the origins of the acronym or the details of the debate between Arminius and Calvin, so if you are not familiar with that, you may want to do some reading elsewhere on that particular subject. Or, you may choose to read this series first and then get into the detailed history of the Reformation afterward.

We will, however, state that we are neither Arminian nor Calvinist in the classic sense; nor are we "Calminian." We firmly believe the "doctrines of grace," but we reject Calvin's insistence on Mosaic Law as incumbent upon Gentiles in general, but especially Christians, whom Paul makes clear, are not under law but grace; we also reject some of Calvin's other teachings concerning ecclesiology. We believe that the five points as summed up in TULIP are, as Spurgeon said, simply the Biblical truth, no matter who summarized them. However, we will offer a few tweaks to these five points.

We will begin with the doctrine of Total Depravity and, as you will notice, we cannot help but touch on the next section, Unconditional Election. Then we will continue on with Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption), Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.

Total Depravity, Part I

A Scriptural Basis
Psalm 51:5-10
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Here, we learn that man is conceived in iniquity. David does not mean that his parents had conceived him of some illicit affair. He is not saying that his mother had committed some particular sin concerning his conception. Rather, he is saying that man, from birth, is sinful.

Psalm 58:3
"The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies."

Again, David says that from birth, people are wicked and speak lies. Is he saying that only those who are wicked are the ones who go on into adulthood as wicked, while other people are born with goodness and do not speak lies? As we will see as we continue on, all have sinned and all are wicked.

Job 14:1, 4
"Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble...Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!"

Here, in speaking of man, Job recognizes that all flesh is unclean; therefore, the offspring of the flesh is also unclean. We are all unclean from birth.

Jeremiah 17:9
"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?"

Jeremiah declares that the human heart is desperately wicked. Again, this points to man's sin nature and it's manifestation of sinful deeds.

Romans 3:9-11
"...For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks [Gentiles] that they are all under sin. As it is written:
'There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.'"

Paul first declares that all men are under sin, as he does again in Galatians 3:22. He then goes on to quote from the Old Testament when he says that no one is righteous, no one has understanding of God, nor does anyone seek after God. Why? Because all are in bondage to sin and are therefore incapable of understanding or seeking after God. Man is depraved; man has a "sin nature" and therefore has no righteousness of his own. Because of this sin nature, man cannot understand God (1 Corinthians 2:14), nor seek after Him.

God set apart a people -- the Jews -- to whom He would reveal Himself; and through whom He would make Himself known even to the Gentiles. As we study His dealings with the Hebrew nation, and His relationship with the Jewish people, we see that He was showing them their depravity. For example, the Old Testament command to circumcise an 8-day-old newborn shows us that even at that age, the infant's flesh must be cut away, for it is corrupt. And the rituals concerning the purification of the mother in child-birth show us that humanity, at birth, is corrupt and defiled. These rituals were designed to show us our spiritual condition.

The Limits of Depravity
Some have begun using the term "total inability" rather than total depravity, fearing that "depravity" is too strong a word that may offend people or keep them from investigating any further. The problem with "total inability" is that it does not accurately convey the fallen state of man. It implies that the only problem with man is that he is unable to do something; yet, we know that a simple inability to do something does not necessarily indicate sinfulness. In addition, inability is but a subset of depravity. "Depravity" more clearly conveys the proper state of man: His sinful nature, his sinfulness, his separation from God, and his inability to reconcile himself to God.

Total depravity does not mean that man has no qualities that are pleasing to men or to this world system. When we compare one person to another, we inevitably find some people to be "good" when judged by human standards. The problem for the depraved sinner is that God does not judge by human standards. In His eyes, man is depraved because there is no part of man that meets God's standard of perfection.

Total depravity refers to the extent of original sin (the fact that no part of man is unscathed by Adam's sin), but does not mean that every person exhibits sinful behavior to the fullest degree possible.

The Will is Bound
Matthew 7:17-18
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."

Yeshua is saying that a corrupt soul cannot do good; that is, the unregenerate sinner cannot please God, nor can he choose God. The sinner sins and brings forth evil fruit. This is not to say that all saved people never sin and that all unsaved people never do "good" things. It's just that "good" is all relative. To God, no one is good.

John 3:6
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

Yeshua says that it is the Spirit who brings forth life unto the corrupt flesh. When the flesh is born, does the flesh have control over that birth? Likewise, when the spirit is awakened, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:3
"Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"

The natural man cannot perceive the Kingdom, much less be a member of it. He must be born again of the Spirit, which is a work of the Spirit.

John 6:64-65
"'But there are some of you that believe not.' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, 'Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.'"

No one can come to Christ unless it is the will of the Father. Why is that? The natural man, whose will is bound in sin, cannot understand the things of God, nor can he perceive the Kingdom of God. It is only by God's will that a man can be awakened to the truth.

1 Corinthians 2:14
"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned."

The will does not operate independent of man's sinful nature. The will is part of man and is subject to man's sin nature. We will always act according to our nature. Consider that God is perfect and there is no sin in Him. He cannot sin; it is impossible. God's will is always perfect and good, and He cannot operate outside of His nature. God has "free will" to make decisions and do as He pleases, but because His nature is good, He cannot do evil. He is always free, but His freedom is always in accordance with His nature. Likewise, man is free to make choices and do as he pleases, but because his nature is sinful, he cannot do good. The unregenerate man is free only insofar as his sin nature will take him. He is bound by his sin nature and cannot choose God, for "the natural [unregenerate] man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God...nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned."

Matthew 11:27
"No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him."

In other words, no one can choose God, much less know Him, unless the Son wills. No one knows the Son or the Father except those to whom revelation is given. If man is depraved and cannot know the things of God, it becomes clear that his will is not going to help him. Only the Son can sovereignly choose to whom He will reveal His Father.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
"And if our Gospel is veiled it is veiled to them that perish; in whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them."

All men are under the rule of Satan until God intervenes. All men have been taken captive by Satan to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26). How can a man whose will is bound by sin, and whose very soul has been taken captive by Satan, possibly "choose God of his own free will"?

We are all born with a will, but this will never wants God (Romans 3:11, 8:7), unless and until God intervenes and sets us free. John 8:34 says, "whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." All have sinned (Romans 3:23); therefore, all are slaves of sin who actively practice sin. All of us are born with a sin nature and do sin; all of us are, by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

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