Saturday, July 21, 2012

Analysis of Christianity Part 4 - “Salvation and TULIP”

(Previous:  Part 3 - “Basics”)

One of the most heated and controversial debates in Christianity, if not the most heated and controversial, is the doctrine regarding the mechanism of salvation.  The two general sides of this debate are the Reformed or Calvinistic view and the Arminian view.  The Reformed view states that one’s salvation is totally, completely God’s work.  This means He is the one who elects – before the foundation of this world – those He will save.  Thus, there are those who God has willed from the start to go to Hell and those God has willed to be saved from it.  The Arminian view, however, states that salvation is an equal opportunity for everybody.  Man has the capability to choose Christ – thus, salvation – or reject Christ – continuing in the path to damnation. 

With all due respect to my Arminian brothers, let me be frank by saying that they are wrong.  The Reformed view is the logical and – most importantly – biblical view on salvation.  It is clearly stated in the Scriptures that it is God who predestined those people He will save before the foundation of this world; that God has the right to grant mercy to those he wants to; and that it is God who chooses His people, not the other way around.  We have no right to tell God that He is unfair.  God is under no obligation whatsoever to mere Creations like us.  The fact that He would bother to totally complete and secure the salvation of some – by selecting to humble Himself, be reincarnated as Man, and to endure humiliation, torture, and death at the hands of His Creation (How absurd is that!) – portrays His extreme love!  Claiming that all these things that Christ went through merely made salvation possible – without completing anybody’s salvation – and that the salvation of someone is left to his personal capabilities and choices greatly undermines His love and sacrifice.     (To be fair with Arminians, they sincerely think that the Reformed view is actually the one that undermines God’s love instead of the other way around).               

Since I view the Reformed view of salvation as the true Christian view on salvation, it is what I will analyze in this installment.  We will use “The Five Points of Calvinisim” as aid since it’s the summary of the Reformed or Calvinistic view on salvation.  The Five Points is usually referred to by the acronym TULIP (for easier memorization).
TULIP stands for “Total Depravity”, “Unconditional Election”, “Limited Atonement”, “Irresistible Grace”, and “Perseverance of the Saints.”            

Total Depravity – Because of the Fall of Man, every human being is a slave to sin.  Man’s free will is dependently limited by his nature.  Thus, having a sinful nature, it is impossible for Man, to actually desire, seek, choose, and follow God.  Left to his own devices, Man is incapable of accepting the gift of salvation. 
Man is also incapable of refraining from evil.  Any “good” or “moral” deeds Man does are wicked in the eyes of God because the motivation of doing these are not for the glory of God but are based on self-centered motivations like personal passion, personal gratification, personal agenda, or personal desire. 
Only when God personally changes a person’s nature would he be able to ask Christ to come into his life and make Him his Savior and King.  Through God’s grace, He changes the heart and opens the eyes of those He elects.  With their new, God-given, and purified nature, by their own free will (because their free will is now enabled by their new nature), they will seek and follow God, accept His gift of salvation, and sincerely do good for His glory. 

Unconditional Election – Before the world is created, God had certain persons in mind that he predestined to be elected to receive mercy and salvation.  This election is not based on any factors or conditions regarding these certain persons.  One is elected by God – not due to anything inherent to him, or any action he does, or any belief he believes in – but solely according to God’s own independent and sovereign will.         

Limited Atonement – Christ’s atonement on the cross was exclusively for His elect only.  It is incorrect to say that God died for all.  Because if God died for all, then all is saved.  Indeed, Jesus’ blood is so precious that it is sufficient to save everyone, since salvation is secured for anybody whom Jesus’ blood is shed for.  But we already established that there are those who will be saved, and there are those who are meant to be damned.  Therefore, the blood of Christ – and the assurance of salvation – is only meant for those that God predestined.   

Irresistible Grace – As already mentioned above, Man, by his own free will, won’t be able to obtain salvation.  And it is only through God’s grace and own action will Man ever respond to Him.  When God opens the eyes and changes the heart of someone, he will be greatly compelled to receive His gift of salvation.  No, it is not violently forced into him against his will.  Since God will make him realize how precious and beautiful the Gift is, he won’t be able to resist it, and will receive it gladly by his own free will (again, as mentioned at the Total Depravity part, since God has already changed his nature, his free will will now choose God).  God gently but powerfully works with someone who He desires to receive the gift of salvation: He softens the heart to repentance, enlightens the mind to understanding, reveal the allure of His grace, and lovingly lead him by the hand to Christ.     

Perseverance of the Saints – Whoever God has elected to receive atonement by Christ’s blood will never lose his salvation.  Once saved, always saved.  A Christian will remain faithful till the end of time.  If there are such Christians who fall away or “backslide” in the faith, it’s either they were not really actually part of the elect (i.e. were not true Christians in the first place) or they will come back to the faith in a future time.  Since it is God who works for one’s salvation, He is the one who will sustain someone He had saved till the End of Age through the sanctification power of the Holy Spirit. 
One Christian writer argued that it is more applicable to term it “Preservation of the Saints” rather than “Perseverance of the Saints”, and I agree.  With “Perseverance of the Saints”, it gives a slight implication that the work is done by the saints.  But with “Preservation of the Saints”, the credit of the endurance of the saints’ faith goes to God, which is the point of the 5th Point in the first place.

Through TULIP, a Christian will greatly appreciate more that he is saved.  Instead of receiving a horrifying eternity in Hell, by God’s grace, he will enjoy an eternity of fellowship with God in Heaven.  (In fact, from writing this, I am being reminded of these truths, renewing my deep appreciation that I am a Christian… that God chose to save an undeserving sinner like me.) 

Reformed/Calvinists and Arminians have always been arguing what is the true view.  And that is not all the doctrinal debates there are.  These unfortunately cause divisions, but, at least, when it all comes to it, all Christians – regardless of doctrinal beliefs – are one in Christ.  And that’s all that matters.  Sincere Christians don’t really intend to cause divisions.  In fact, as much as possible, they aim to be perfectly united in mind and thought.  It just happens that because of human flaws as factors, there are conflicting opinions on what glorifies God.  Still, it is better to err in a belief or practice with a sincere heart that desires to glorify God rather than to err in a belief or practice because of selfish reasons.  Nonetheless, it should be a Christian’s main desire to search for truth, since the truth is still the best way to glorify God rightfully.  And any doctrinal debate among brothers in Christ should be intended to discourse for truth and not to cause more divisions.

(Battling for truth is just one of the battlefronts that a Christian has to fight in.  Which we’ll tackle in the next installment: Part 5 – “Onward, Christian Soldiers”)       

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