Post Author: Darrell
Five Point Calvinism is commonly referred to by the acronym TULIP. The “T” in TULIP stands for Total Depravity. Theopedia defines it as follows: “[E]very person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.” The “I” in TULIP stands for Irresistible Grace, which according to Theopedia teaches that “the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect), whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”
Critics of Five Point Calvinism claim that a strong interpretation of these two doctrines makes God out to be unloving at best and monstrous at worse. The reasoning for this can be stated as follows. A strong view of Total Depravity says that man is unable to choose God unless God first regenerates him, thereby giving him the ability to have faith. In addition, Irresistible Grace says that if God gives a man faith, that individual is unable to resist the call and will come to God in faith. In other words, those to whom God gives faith are going to heaven. In fact, they are unable not to go to Heaven, for God’s grace is irresistible. However, those to whom He does not give faith have absolutely no chance for Heaven because they are totally depraved and are unable to choose God.
Here is the sticky point though – if man cannot choose God unless God first gives him faith, and if those to whom God does give faith are definitely going to Heaven, why doesn’t God give everybody faith? Those He doesn’t are destined for Hell and have no other options. God could save them, but He doesn’t. How is it all-loving for God to give faith to some yet leave others with absolutely no options other than Hell?
One response I have received when discussing this dilemma with Strong Calvinists is that whatever God chooses to do is perfectly just simply because God wills it. They then tell me to suggest otherwise is wrong because I am presuming to judge God. I would like to point out two problems with this response. First, it is begging the question that the Strong Calvinist positions on Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace are correct. However, that is precisely the point being discussed. Therefore, I am not judging God’s actions; rather, I am judging the merit of the Strong Calvinist’s opinion of what God’s actions have been. Second, this response employs a radical form of Voluntarism – the belief that something is right simply because God wills it is to be so. Voluntarism creates some serious problems for the Calvinist, for it leads to inconsistency in their position on the nature of God and renders the doctrine that God is a simple unchangeable being (a central doctrine of traditional Christianity) untenable. In his book Chosen But Free, Dr. Norman Geisler pointed this out quite eloquently.
[Strong Calvinists] are inconsistent with their own position on the nature of God. On the one hand, they claim God’s mercy is based in His supreme and sovereign will – He can will anything He wants to will and show mercy on anyone to whom He wants to show mercy. On the other hand, they claim that God’s holiness and justice are unchanging. He cannot be unholy or unjust, even if He wanted to be. By His very nature God must punish sin. But they cannot have it both ways. For as a simple unchangeable being, all of His attributes are unchangeable. If He is just (and He is), then He must be unchangeably just at all times to all persons in all circumstances. And if He is loving (and He is), then he must be unchangeably loving to all persons at all times in all circumstances. To be other than this would be to act contrary to his unchangeable nature, which is impossible (Chosen But Free, Pg.246).
I couldn’t have said it better.
Bottom line – if God is all-loving, He has to be loving to all. To irresistibly save some by giving them faith, yet withhold the ability to exercise faith from others, thereby dooming them to Hell, is most certainly not all-loving. In addition, parsing up God’s loving nature by saying He can show love to some and withhold it from others violates His nature as a simple unchangeable being. In my opinion, this presents some serious challenges to the Strong Calvinist positions of Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace.