TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture – Duane Edward Spencer (1979)

TULIP, by Duane Edward Spencer surveys the historical debate between Arminians and Calvinists.  Spencer introduces readers to the five points of Arminianism that were developed by the Remonstrants in 1610 – only months after the passing of Jacob Arminius.  The five points include:

Free Will (Total Inability)

Conditional Election (Election According to Foreknowledge)

Universal Atonement (Unlimited Atonement)

Obstructable Grace (Irresistable Grace)

Falling from Grace (Loss of Salvation)

The Reformed Christians in Holland formally responded to the Remostrants and declared each plank “contrary to Scripture.”  Indeed, none of the five points of Arminianism as set forth by the Remonstrants find Scriptural support.  This council of Reformed Christians, known as the Synod of Dort offered a theological counter-punch to Arminianism.  Their response is reflected in the acronym, TULIP is also known as the five points of Calvinism (even though Calvin went to be with the Lord almost 54 years before).  The points include:

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

The author defends each point that was set forth at the Synod of Dort.  He defines each respective point, clears any misunderstandings, and demonstrates how each doctrine is derived from Scripture.  These points are contrasted with the corresponding point of Arminianism.

Dr. Spencer fairly represents each historic position and does a commendable job in his defense of Calvinism.  However, one point needs adjusting that concerns free will.  At one point the author insists that unregenerate people do not have free will.  However, he modifies this view when he argues that “total depravity insists that man does not have a free will in the sense that he is free to trust Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.'”

Spencer unwittingly creates confusion in the mind of readers who seek to gain a better understanding of the nature of free will.  He would  serve readers better by admitting that all unconverted people  do in fact, have free will.  Totally depraved people are free to do good or evil but they are only able to do evil because of the radical nature of their sinful condition (John 8:34).  That is to say, the unconverted are enslaved in sin and unable to come to Christ apart from God’s empowerment (John 6:44; 63-65).

Overall, Spencer’s work is helpful.  It is a clear introduction to the debate that has raged since the days of Augustine and Pelagius.  Readers should also be aware of some other resources that are helpful in explaining the debate:

Still Sovereign – Bruce A. Ware and Tom Schreiner

The Five Points of Calvinism – David Steele

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination – Lorraine Boettner

Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul

Grace Unknown – R.C. Sproul

Why I Am Not An Arminian – Robert Peterson and Michale Williams

The Doctrines of Grace – James Boice and Philip Graham Ryken

The Forgotten Spurgeon – Iain Murray

The Five Points of Calvinism – Edwin Palmer

The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism – Craig Brown

At the end of the day, Spurgeon reminds us of the importance of Calvinistic theology: “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God.  I cannot shape the truth.  I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine.  John Knox’s gospel is my gospel.  That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again … I love to proclaim those strong old doctrines nicknamed Calvinism, but which are surely revealed and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.”

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