I recently came across a social media post that described the Calvinist TULIP in the following way:
T= everyone hates God with all their heart even from the womb
U = for a mysterious reason God only loves and “elects” a few and damns the rest
L = Contrary to scripture, Jesus only died for some
I = God forces a few to love Jesus
P = irrelevant in light of Evanescent Grace
I have heard similar mischaracterizations before. However, comments under this post from Calvinists(!) attempted to defend TULIP without correcting this mischaracterization!
I am not that surprised. For years, I have heard Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike make odd claims about Calvinism and TULIP.
This post and its comments provide a useful teaching moment about what TULIP means.
Total depravity means that each faculty within a human has been corrupted: intellect, will, etc. It does not mean we hate God with our whole heart. It means every (total) faculty of a human being is depraved, corrupted.
God calls all people to repentance, and those who believe do so because they respond to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. By this electing grace, dead hearts awaken to new life. The distinction between secondary causality—our choice and the regular order of reality—and God’s first order causality is not one of cause and effect as we understand it.
God’s causality is beyond space, time, change—or anything within created reality. It’s not possible for us to conceive of it. And it ensures that we have genuine freedom of choice. And yes: apart from God’s grace, our hearts cannot will to believe or do works of condign merit since we choose evil, darkness over God. In this sense, our will is bound and not free. God frees our will.
The Synod of Dordt allows for the affirmation that God died for all, as Scripture affirms. It’s called hypothetical universalism, and I will let the theology nerds battle this one out. Purchase Michael Lynch’s monograph on the subject by clicking here.
God loves everyone, even Calvin said that God leaves in every human something to love. Nobody is forced to love Jesus. They choose to. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of first and second order causality to say that because some believe, they are forced to do so. No, they choose to.
Yes, their hearts needed freedom from the servitude to sin. And yes this happens according to God’s inscrutable will, the First Cause—which is again, an order of causality impossible for us to conceive of since we exist in time, place, and change.
Perseverance of the Saints
The Spirit indwells us and perfects the work of God in us through the work of God in our hearts and our spirit-driven efforts. As Paul says, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13) and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Both statements are true.
At base, the fundamental misunderstanding that I often see is that people assume that God’s level of causality is the same as ours, as if God is just Zeus in heaven and not the Immortal, Invisible, Simple, Spirit—the true God.
I have seen comments like OP frequently by both Calvinists and non-Calvinists. In fact, if one goes on Twitter to see the original post, you will see many a Calvinist attempting to affirm the very points that this poster makes—even though they do not represent Calvinism!
And yes: the contexts where I have seen such arguments have usually been in Baptistic spaces, given my background. Apologies to the Presbyterians whose confessions protect against this silliness (actually, they don’t always!).