Archive for May, 2013

The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 5

by Ronnie Rogers

Perseverance of the Saints: This includes both preservation by God and perseverance by the saints. The Westminster Confession says, with regard to the truly elect, they “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of Grace.”[i] J.P. Boyce notes in his Abstract of Systematic Theology, “It is not merely preservation by God, but also perseverance of the believer, in faith and holiness, unto the end.”[ii] Within Calvinism, God’s preservation of the truly elect is standard, while there is variation in understanding of how eternal security, internal and external assurances, and warning passages of the Scripture relate to knowing one is elect in this life.

This petal is not a simple affirmation of the eternal security of the believer. Since there does seem to be such acceptable variance in defining perseverance of the saints as long as one does not question the security of the truly elect, this point does not seem to be as biblically problematic as the other four petals—a point with which some disagree.

Therefore, if a person believes the Scripture teaches the following, he cannot be a Calvinist: anyone who hears the gospel can accept the gospel by faith and thereby become eternally secure in the safe-keeping of God; those so saved do demonstrate evidence of such. As well as believing the Scripture does not teach the other calvinistically defined petals of the tulip. These truths are embraced in other biblical approaches but not in Calvinism.

Ronnie is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., and is the author of  “Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist.”


[i] Westminster Confession 17. 1.

[ii] James Petigru Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, (reprinted by the den Dulk Christian Foundation, Escondido, CA, 1887), 431-432.

The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 4

by Ronnie Rogers

Irresistible Grace: The Holy Spirit efficaciously applies salvation to those unconditionally elected sinners whom He personally calls to Christ.

Calvinism believes that the general call of the gospel extends to everyone, but the internal efficacious call of the Holy Spirit that is both required and inexorably results in salvation is only extended to the unconditionally elect. The nature of these two calls is that the former can only be rejected and the latter can only be accepted. That is to say, the non-elect can never do anything but reject the preaching of the gospel, and the elect will do the same until they receive the internal efficacious call, which they can only respond to by believing.

Regeneration is monergistic (God alone), and man is totally passive until regeneration is accomplished. After God regenerates an elect individual, then and only then does the relationship become synergistic. Calvinism’s understanding of God’s work of regeneration (sometimes referred to as or included in the concept of the efficacious call) necessarily involves irresistibility in purpose, availability to the unconditionally elect only, and the inevitability of a subsequent free exercise of faith.

Worth noting is that the adjectives “general” and “efficacious” in both order and description are not explicitly taught in Scripture, but rather are understandings of Calvinism. I would suggest that the term “general call” be replaced with the much more biblically congruent term “sufficient call;” additionally, that the efficacious call (if there is such a thing) be understood as consummating (securing) salvation for all who accept the sufficient call rather than initiating salvation for the unconditionally elect.

It is important to understand that while, according to Calvinism, the act of faith that follows regeneration is a free act, the act of regeneration which inescapably leads to this free exercise of faith is forced upon the totally passive and depraved unconditionally elect (monergism and compatibilism). That is to say, the “free act of faith” is more accurately defined as an eternally predetermined free act of choosing, which excludes any idea of having choices (i.e. compatibilism). Thus, eliminating even the remotest possibility for the elect to do other than what he did in fact do and the non-elect the same end. While this is Calvinism’s portrait of the inner workings of the gospel, I do not believe it is the picture of the gospel painted by Scripture.

God’s choice to ration His salvific grace to only the unconditionally elect necessarily means that the lack of faith and resistance to the gospel by the non-elect is as equally and inviolably a predetermined free act as is the predetermined free exercise of faith of the unconditionally elect. Therefore, the offer of salvation to some and the withholding from the incalculable majority were predetermined by God’s good pleasure; thereby, making the gospel the most unfathomably and ghoulishly macabre news for the great majority of God’s humanity.

Therefore, if a person believes the Scripture teaches the following, he cannot be a Calvinist: the gospel is good news for everyone and not merely some who hear the words “whosever” or “who wishes take the water of life without cost;” God has grace enabled all who hear the good news to receive His forgiveness by faith in the gospel. These truths are embraced by other biblical approaches but not in Calvinism.

Ronnie is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., and is the author of  “Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist.”

The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 3

by Ronnie Rogers

3. Limited Atonement: Christ’s death is of infinite value, but He died salvifically only for the unconditionally elect.

Calvinism understands limited atonement to mean that Christ’s death did not in any eternally meaningful way pay for the sins of the non-elect. Thus, there is not even the remotest possibility of even one of the unconditionally non-elect experiencing salvation in spite of such opportunity being so lucidly and compellingly commanded and presented in the simple call of the gospel for everyone to repent and believe; correspondingly, this point, along with the aforementioned points, gives rise to the need for and creation of the extra-biblical “good faith offer.”

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The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 2

by Ronnie Rogers

  1. Unconditional Election: God chose for some to be the objects of His unmerited favor, and salvation is totally a work of God—monergistic.Calvinism’s understanding of unconditional election necessarily includes that God has selected to give the salvifically required new nature to only some of His vast humanity even though all are in equally desperate need of such in order to experience salvation. Accordingly, it has pleased God to select some of His created people to experience incomprehensible eternal bliss while being equally pleased to withhold this surety from the vast majority of His humanity; thereby, ensuring their equally incomprehensible eternal suffering in the cauldron of inescapable torment of pain and the absolute loss of love and hope in hell.

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The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 1

by Ronnie Rogers

Before you make the TULIP your flower of choice, consider it in full bloom.

TULIP is used acronymically to succinctly point out the major emphases of Calvinism. I well understand that the use of the TULIP does not fully illustrate the depth and breadth of Calvinism. I do understand that some believe the acronym has outlived its usefulness. However, it still enjoys ubiquitous usage among Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. I find this to be particularly true among those seeking to explain Calvinism to people who may demonstrate some interest in understanding Calvinism, or as a simple tool to convince young people of its biblical and systematic cogency. I am not considering this acronym in order to either portray Calvinism simplistically or inaccurately. Rather, I use it in the manner described by Roger Nicole when he said, “the five points provide a classic framework which is quite well adapted for the expression of certain distinguishing emphases of Calvinism.”

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