I was just thinking, it’s not like me to not post on why I reject TULIP theology; and yet, I haven’t really posted any kind of provocative post in that vein for quite awhile — it’s like I’m almost going soft or something 😉 .
Let me just re-affirm for those of you whom may be starting to think that Bobby is in fact going soft on popular TULIP soteriology; I AM NOT! I still think the TULIP presents serious and terrible consequences for anyone who internalizes it, and understands its theological implications. One of my primary pastoral concerns about the TULIP, is that it fosters an introspective navel-gazing spirituality (historically known as experimental predestinarianism). This is the practice wherein a totally depraved, unconditionally elected person seeks to verify that he/she has actually been limitedly atoned for, and thus a recipient of irressitable grace by discerning through their good works that they indeed are a persevering saint. If they reach a certain threshold, and sense that indeed they have met their perceived good works quota; then they can finally rest assured that they are of those who have truly believed, and have the assurance that they didn’t just receive a temporary faith, but a real and saving faith (practical syllogism). This is one of the main reasons, pastorally, that I believe that TULIP Calvinism is a blight on Christian theology. I know too many thinking, introspective Christians — who aren’t cock-sure types about their election — who have suffered psychological woes over the problem that this TULIP (and the Arminian FACTS) system has created. In fact, the fact that folks were having these psychological woes over this issue, because of the classical theistic paradigm, made me pause for a long time and take a good look at the heritage that this TULIP theology has handed to us. The reality is clear, there are pastoral problems, because there are dogmatic problems. TULIP theology suffers from a radically wrong doctrine of God, and since all subsequent theology flows from a respective doctrine of God; TULIP soteriology and thus spirituality is also heteropraxic. This is why I still reject the Flower. What about you, do you still like the smell of the tulip?
Here’s how a Purtian layman named Humphrey Mills felt once he found release from the TULIP theology taught to him by TULIP theologian par exellence, William Perkins (he found this release through the teaching of the Puritan, Richard Sibbes who taught a non-TULIP soteriology known as “Free Grace” or “Affective Theology”):
I was for three years together wounded for sins, and under a sense of my corruptions, which were many; and I followed sermons, pursuing the means, and was constant in duties and doing: looking for Heaven that way. And then I was so precise for outward formalities, that I censured all to be reprobates, that wore their hair anything long, and not short above the ears; or that wore great ruffs, and gorgets, or fashions, and follies. But yet I was distracted in my mind, wounded in conscience, and wept often and bitterly, and prayed earnestly, but yet had no comfort, till I heard that sweet saint . . . Doctor Sibbs, by whose means and ministry I was brought to peace and joy in my spirit. His sweet soul-melting Gospel-sermons won my heart and refreshed me much, for by him I saw and had muchof God and was confident in Christ, and could overlook the world . . . My heart held firm and resolved and my desires all heaven-ward. (Ron Frost. Kelly Kapic and Randall Gleason, eds., “The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics,” Frost is quoting from: John Rogers, Ohel or Bethshemesh, A Tabernacle for the Sun (London, n.p., 1653)
Caveat: To be very clear, I’m not attacking good Calvinist or Arminian people; I know there are sincere Christ loving people who are genuinely committed to TULIP Calvinism. In fact, my motivation and passion for this, is because I love these people, and I want to jolt them out of the slumberous spirituality that TULIP Calvinism leads someone into. Obviously, I’m very convinced that there is something really wrong with TULIP Calvinism; I think it fails on exegetical grounds as well as dogmatic/theological grounds, and thus impinges on people’s daily walks with Jesus Christ! TULIP Calvinism is much too popular in America for my liking, its over-communicated and under-communicated — just the fact that it’s communicated at all is a problem. My hope with posts like this, as snarky and punky as it is; is intended to provoke and pick a fight with anyone who endorses TULIP Calvinism. I want to fight over your doctrine of God and your subsequent view of salvation; I think it’s wacky, and (seriously) has real life consequences for folks that are not good (yet, it’s not the “consequences of belief” that shape my beef with TULIP Calvinism, it is TULIP Calvinism itself that is problematic). One more point: I am obviously not a pluralist or normative relativist (which qualifies my type of “Evangelicalism” 😉 ); I actually believe that there is a more right view and a more wrong view, guess which side of those that I think I am on 😉 ? I’m convinced of something, are you . . . ? [yet, I don’t also think I have it all figured out either]