Sunday, August 8, 2010

Doctrines of Grace

These are my thoughts about the Doctrines of Grace (also known as Tulip) for those of my friends who may not know what these doctrines are. Now, some who hold to these doctrines may disagree with the further thoughts I provide. My intentions, however, were only to discuss these doctrines and play out possibilities with them. In the end, the doctrines by themselves stand not because they are not formatted by Theologians but because they are clearly evident in Scripture. So, enjoy a long read and I hope that it informs :)

Doctrines of Grace (Also known as Tulip)

Total Depravity (Doctrine of Inability) (Romans 1-3:23, Genesis 6:1-5)
The doctrine of Total Depravity claims that the entire human race is bound in sin. The ability to sin is the only thing we are capable of doing apart from God. In our current age we like to view people as seekers of God, attempting to “fill that God shaped hole in their heart.” The problem is that the Bible claims that, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12). This is not me saying this, this is what Scripture itself says. This is not something that someone made up one day, it is not a lens that we look through, it is clear in Scripture and it is a teaching that Scripture demands us to accept with humility.*

* Now let me say something about good before I continue. How is it possible to say this when we see people doing “good” around us? The problem is that we do not give credit to the One who enables us to do good to begin with (essentially we become idolaters placing ourselves above God). If all good comes from God (James 1:17), then we must claim that our own good also comes from God. If we take the Apostle Paul into consideration he tells us that we are earthen vessels to show that it is God in us and not by our own selves (II Corinthians 4:7). Some may say that this is a warped view of the human race, however let me remind you that humanity is warped. Besides, as Christians is it not our desire to do all that which is in the will of the Father and bring Him all the glory honor and praise?

Unconditional Election (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 9:14-18, Acts 13:38, Ephesians 1:4-5)
As we reflect on total depravity, we must now come to Unconditional election. This is the doctrine which claims that because people are radically depraved God elects those whom He saves not based on any conditions that they meet, but instead by His own Sovereign grace and choice. If God were to base election on let’s say His foreknowledge of those who would better “receive” salvation, then we must then claim that there is some good in these people. This, however, goes against Scripture which states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is for this reason that we understand faith as a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8) which reminds us that none are allowed to boast in salvation, because it comes from God (Romans 3).*

**It is my opinion that any who boasts in salvation does not truly understand it. The Biblical view of this is not that we are special in and of ourselves, it is not us, it is by God alone that we are saved and therefore we are excluded from boasting. It reminds us to be humble because unless God intervened in our lives we would not acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.

Limited Atonement (Also known as Particular Redemption) (Exodus 19:5-6, John 6:65-71, John 10:26, Romans 9, Acts 13:48)
Christ’s atonement of sin is not for everyone, but covers only those chosen. This does not mean that Christ’s atonement cannot fulfill atonement for all, but instead God limits it. Again if we say that this is cruel of God we must go back to total depravity. If all humanity is totally depraved as the Bible teaches, then God could justly let all humanity walk into hell and He would still be as righteous, holy and loving as He is now. For His own glory, however, He has chosen that some would be spared for His own sake and His own glory (it is not for the elect themselves) (Titus: 2:14).

*** When I say not for the chosen/elect, we must understand that if God were to do anything for any other reason than Himself He would be an idolater. Therefore, we must come to the conclusion (not through philosophy or logic but through Scripture) that God does all things for His own glorious Name as Scripture teaches (I Samuel 12:22, Psalm 23:3, Isaiah 48:11, Ezekiel 20:9, Malachi 1:11 and for redemption and the blotting out of sin see I John 2:12).

Irresistible Grace (John 10, Romans 9, Acts 13:38)
When God means to save someone, that person will be saved. That persons will, which is free, will not resist God’s calling. The reason for this is that God regenerates the person’s heart and mind upon hearing the Gospel message. Therefore it becomes irresistible because of the regeneration process which causes us to long for God where we once hated Him.***

**** This does not mean that a Christian cannot be outside of the will of God. We see this happen with Paul, Peter, David, Elijah, Abraham etc. Each of these Biblical figures did things that were outside of God’s will for their lives; however we also understand that God does things in mysterious ways (Genesis 50:15:21). From this Genesis narrative we see that though Joseph’s brothers are outside of the will of God in regards to loving and caring for their brother, God’s providence steps in and His will is ultimately accomplished despite what they had intended. As Christians, we are called to constantly be renewing our minds and seeking out God’s will (Romans 12) so that we may know the steps we are to take. We are unable to simply live in whatever way we desire, because we are called to walk a certain way, and to be holy and separate from the world (I Peter 1:15-16). Though if we should, because of our inability, fall out of God’s will for our lives, we can rest assure in our knowledge of two things, the first is that if we are truly in salvation God will bring us back, and that during this time God will still be glorified despite our inability to fully walk as we should.

So though we may not always do what we should, we recognize that God uses even our inability for His glory (See Genesis-Revelation for more info :) ).

Perseverance of the Saints (Philippians 1:6, John 10:27-29)
Those who are saved will continue in salvation (to live in faith) until the end. In essence, it does mean once saved always saved, with the exception that those who fall away were never truly saved (sorry). In a sense, this is a reminder that God keeps us. I do not believe that this is about our own ability to persevere, but instead it is about God keeping those whom He has chosen. So though we may fall, we may stumble, we may not always hit the mark, we can rest in the knowledge that God will always keep us in His steadfast Love and Mercy.****

***** Christians do sin (see above), everyone knows this. Despite being chosen we still have our own free wills which still allow us to be tempted and to fall by those same temptations. The difference between a Christian and an unbeliever, however, is that a Christian cannot live in sin as a way of life (See especially  Hebrews 10:26-31). So while we stumble and we still fall, we understand that God will not allow His chosen to continually live in a perpetual state of sin. An unbeliever has free will, but in their free will they always choose to sin. The Christian is truly the only free person, for (after salvation) they are able to choose to either fall into temptation or to follow God (Romans 6).
^  See Ephesians 2:1-10
(See the second paragraph on Total Depravity to see why a Christian’s accurate response would be to praise and honor God for the good that is done in their lives and not become puffed up by the good that God does in their lives).

A Few Thoughts:

The verse list is not extensive (in fact there are many more verses that help support these doctrines) however because of time and life I was unable to gather them all. I believe that the verses used do strengthen and give great weight to the stated doctrines above. So, research the Scriptures, wrestle with what’s being said, and see where you stand. Do you agree or disagree? As for me, I affirm these doctrines and stand on their side, not for their sake or the sake of the people who originally held to these Truths, but because Scripture beckons us to believe them.

I also recognize my own inabilities and that I may not have accurately cited the verses correctly, or may have taken them out of context. I expect those who read to check to make sure that this is Biblical and that the verses are not taken out of context (I do not believe they are). If you question why one of the verses was used ask me and I will gladly discuss it with you.

This is not something that needs to be dividing, and my goal is to help people (specifically my friends) understand these doctrines and show why they are significant. If you deny that these are accurate, then please don’t hesitate to say what you think the Biblical passages cited are teaching. If, however, the Biblical passages are clear and we recognize the Truth being shown and the doctrines reflect only what the Bible is teaching us, then it is our responsibility to bow down and accept God as Sovereign over our lives and praise and honor Him for every breath we breathe! This is a cause to rejoice!

These doctrines are very important to me. They help me by putting names to things that the Bible does not specifically name but does teach. I can easily see how Romans (especially 1-3:23) deals with Total Depravity. This does not mean that the Doctrine defines the Scripture, but conversely, that the Scripture defines the doctrine. The same goes with the other doctrines presented. The Scriptures state what these doctrines claim and that is all (it is not my belief that they attempt to change Scripture, but point to it and glorify God by saying this is Truth).

Why even discuss this?
Lane, a brother in Christ, answers the question of why we need to debate in his blog. I recommend clicking here and giving it a read because it’s a wonderfully written blog entry (something new for those who may actually read my blogs!) and worth reading.

As for my own reasoning, I believe that as Christians we are called to constantly renew our minds according to the Scripture and we are called to constantly be seeking out God. These doctrines aim to do two things, the first is place God exactly where He belongs as Sovereign over the cosmos, and the second is to place man where man belongs under God. Our American culture hates being subjected to another’s rule. This is why so many Americans blanch at the idea of a Sovereign God who elects. The problem is that we have been drowning in our culture (which aims to self-satisfy) and not in Scripture (which aims to glorify God).

If your response to these doctrines is something like, “Well I don’t like that and therefore I will not believe it” then I will tell you are wrong. If your response is, “Well, the Bible teaches this and this is why I can’t believe this” then we can at least discuss it. The problem, however, is that you must look at the Scriptures provided above and actually come to a conclusion about them that is not based upon your own self satisfying nature. You cannot say, Scripture says this therefore that Scripture is irrelevant either!  Shall we then say that the Word of God contradicts in its own theology? Let it never be! It is our responsibility to accept the Word of God and recognize that it does one thing throughout the whole, and that is to place God as head of all.

(For more information on at least Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace see the 10 Minute Paul Washer video below to get a better perspective on it. He gives a clearer understanding of what it truly means to be sinners and outside the glory of God, but ultimately how wonderful it is to then be partakers of that glory because of Christ)

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