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My Journey into Calvinism: Part Two

November 26, 2014 admin

Written by: Dan Stump

In part 1 of this series I shared how I went from having no understanding of Calvinism, to not believing it and not liking it, to believing it was true but still not liking it, to finally loving these doctrines. Many call Calvinism the Doctrines of Grace. I imagine John Calvin himself wouldn’t love the idea of having a theology named after him. For me, it isn’t about following a man, but digging into God’s word to see what it says. 

I don’t really care what you call it. I just want it to be true.

One thing you will find when researching Calvinism is the acronym TULIP. It isn’t the most helpful and can lead to some unhelpful assumptions, but since it is so well known, I plan to use it as a frame of reference when discussing this theology. Here is what it stands for:

T – total depravity.

U – unconditional election.

L – limited atonement

I – irresistible grace

P – perseverance of the saints

Total depravity is a good place to start. What is the condition of humanity after the Fall? Are we able to choose to follow God? Total depravity is also referred to as total inability, which I think presents a more accurate picture. 

Total depravity can conjure up images of people who are rotten to the core and as awful as humanly possible. While we see some pretty horrific things happen in this world, we know from experience that everyone is not a bad as possible. People choose to do good things all the time. The idea behind this doctrine is not that we are as bad as we could be, but that on our own, we are unable to come to Christ due to our sin. It has affected us completely. Our mind, will, and emotions are corrupted. In fact the Bible portrays it as worse than just corruption. We are spiritually dead. Without a work of God, we would all be lost in our sin forever. 

The biblical support for this doctrine is immense. I will touch on a few key passages to get things started.

Paul lays out our rebellion in
Romans 3:9–18. “I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one seeks for God….There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Later in Romans 8:7–8 Paul says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 

Finally, in Ephesians 2:1, we are told that we are dead in our sins. Until God makes us alive, by His mercy and love, we will remain spiritually dead.

A small sample of some more passages would include: Mark 7:21–23; Jeremiah 17:9; Titus 1:15–16; Psalm 51:5; Colossians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Isaiah 53:6.

The picture that we get from God’s word is that sin has totally corrupted us. It has spiritually killed us. We have no desire to submit to God, and we are unable to do so. Jesus tells us in John 3:36 that God’s wrath is on those who reject Him. In fact we are born under God’s wrath because of our nature (Ephesians 2:3). This is what all mankind is deserving of, and destined for. In and of ourselves we have no hope. 
Luckily Ephesians 2:4 has some of the sweetest words in the Bible, “But God”. 

We are hopeless, “But God”We are spiritually dead, “But God”We are deserving of His wrath, “But God”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4–5).

Our merciful God has stooped down out of love to breathe life into spiritually dead people. The only way out of our hopeless situation is God. The next post will explore whether or not God has given spiritual life to everyone.