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Total Depravity (The “T” in TULIP)

Posted on : 10-20-2007 | By : Andy | In : Calvinism / Arminianism, religion, TEDS


First of all, if you haven’t read it yet, please read my opening remarks and disclaimers on these posts on Calvinism. It’s worth it, trust me.

Total depravity as purported by Calvinists, states that there’s nothing we do that’s “good” at all. We’re totally depraved, and thus cannot bring anything good from ourselves. The big proof text? Romans 14:23, which states “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin”.

Excuse me when I scream “CONTEXT!!!!”

Paul is talking about eating food dedicated to idols, and other questionable practices that, if done with the wrong motives, can be sin. He’s not talking about every single act imaginable.

Let me clarify. When I eat breakfast in the morning, I do not do so out of faith. I do so out of hunger, or habit. According to Piper’s reasoning, eating breakfast in such a matter would be considered sin.

Or how about going a little deeper? The main point of Total Depravity is that it means we can’t be the origin of saving faith, for that faith can only come from the Grace of God. If then, our faith doesn’t come from faith (for how could it?) this reasoning would make that faith itself sin. Kind of twisted, huh?

The intended point is that man cannot even come up with the faith required to accept God’s grace, because they’re entirely against him. Therefore, Salvation originates entirely in God, and “free will” has nothing to do with it.

I personally don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I look at it this way:

  1. We are flawed, sinful creatures, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t do good
  2. What good we may do, however, can’t earn us favor in God’s eyes, because they are stained with our other sins (Is 64:6)
  3. Just like Adam and Eve, despite being perfect beings, were able to sin even though that wasn’t “in their nature”, so we as humans have the capacity to make right choices, even if we are fundamentally evil

The whole bit about men being condemned regardless of what they do is fine by me—once man has fallen the only way to remove the guilt of sin is death (Rom 6:23)—but using this reasoning to prove we can’t have faith without God forcing us to, is a weak argument at best.

Rollin’ in the Hebrew Wagon

Posted on : 09-27-2007 | By : Andy | In : fun, TEDS


A picture is worth a thousand words in hebrew.

Choo Choo Baby

An introduction to my arguments on Calvinism.

Posted on : 09-13-2007 | By : Andy | In : Calvinism / Arminianism, religion, TEDS


When I refer to Piper in these upcoming posts, I am citing “What We Believe about the Five Points of Calvinism”, a position paper of the pastoral staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church, written by John Piper, and available from Piper’s website.

Outside of this treatise, my arguments will come from two sources: Scripture, and my own human reasoning. There are two things to keep in mind here:

  1. I hold Scripture to be infallible in its original writings. This means that our modern translations could be slightly off on some wordings, but I believe that God has been faithful to preserve the root meaning of the text for our use.

    However, this also means that I believe nit-picking at words and such—while it can be tremendously helpful at times—is de facto a risky enterprise, and could lead us to reading a lot into a text that was never intended to be there. I have witnessed very smart, educated, well-intentioned readers and scholars mis-interpret literature (as confirmed by the authors themselves) in the past, so I understand the danger.

    That is to say, I heartily accept that seeking clarification in the original languages of scripture is both beneficial, and indeed, necessary in many cases, but I also caution scholars that one of the marks of a false teacher that Paul laid out to Timothy is “He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (1 Timothy 6:4b-5, NIV)

  2. I understand myself to be human. This means that both my interpretation of said infallible Scriptures, and my own human reasoning should be examined in light of the Scriptures. I pray that I listen to the Holy Spirit well enough to properly see God through these two mediums, but I dare not consider myself infallible. I will state what I state as it if were fact, because I in all sincerity believe it to be so, but I also accept that I have made mistakes in the past (see my previous blog entries if you want proof of my fallibility!) and that I will make mistakes in the future.

    By this same reasoning, when I question Piper (or Calvinists in general) I do not intend to make him out to be evil nor purposely deceptive, (for I am sure that he believes he is faithfully perceiving the truth of God) but rather assert that he, too, is human and therefore inherently fallible.

Finally, I must also state that this doctrinal disagreement seems pointless to waste too much time on. Some of the most heated arguments occur between two side who will both categorically state that salvation is by grace alone through faith. While it may have further theological impact farther on down the road, if you are reading this (or interested in the debate) out of curiosity of whether or not you’re actually “saved”, simply ask yourself this:

Do you believe that Christ was the Son of God who died for the forgiveness of sins, and have you trusted that act to be the sole reason for your salvation?

If you’ve answered “yes,” both sides would probably agree that you’re saved. I certainly do.

Now, if that satisfies you, I would advise that you move along to other more pressing concerns in your mind rather than blindly plunging ahead into this endless circle of debate. If God ever lays it on your heart to revisit this issue, or if you’re up for a lot of smart people arguing against each other about where that faith came from, I suppose you could read on. I don’t want to say that the question isn’t a valid one, but I do want to say that there are much better things you could be thinking about, and much more useful ways you could be growing in your Christian walk.

In the question of Calvinism, ignorance is bliss, and I would argue that it’s not always necessarily a detrimental type of bliss.

TULIP – Calvinism, and the doctrine of election

Posted on : 08-14-2007 | By : Andy | In : Calvinism / Arminianism, religion, TEDS


I figure that I’ll certainly be behind some of my classmates entering school this fall, since I have no really formal Biblical training. (Unless you count a high school sunday school class and 18 years of listening to sermons)

So I decided that now was as good a time as any to start getting educated, and since I’ve had a few discussions about Calvinism/Arminianism in the past, I decided to start by reading John Piper’s position paper on the issue. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, [click here for a primer].


came about when a theologian named Jacob Arminius came to reject 5 specific aspects of the broad set of doctrines known in the 1500s as Calvinism (they were largely influenced by the work of John Calvin). When Arminius began to teach in opposition to these parts of Calvinism, his doctrine began to gather weight, and in 1610 a group of Arminianists published Five Articles under the name Remonstrance. As a result, the Calvinists came back with an official response that clearly defined the Five Points of Calvinism in opposition to these Articles.


is based on an overwhelming emphasis on God’s sovereignty, and at its core (from what I now understand of it) states that man really has nothing to do with becoming saved, and that said salvation cannot be lost once it is attained. It’s a very involved theology to get to that point, but the end result is that Calvinists believe in the doctrine of election, which asserts that: 1) God chooses (or “predestines”) all who will be saved, 2) if he chooses you, his Grace overwhelms you to the point where it’s impossible to NOT “choose” Him, and 3) if you’re not chosen, there’s nothing you can do to ever be saved, because you’re a worthless pile of sinning crap, incapable of believing. The five points start with letters that form the acronym TULIP.

This info was take from “TULIP: What We Believe about the Five Points of Calvinism” by The Pastoral Staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church, May 1997.

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistable grace
  • Perseverance of the saints

These five points make up the most notorious bit of Calvinism, and are what people generally assume you to believe these days if you call yourself a Calvinist. This is not the whole entirety of what Calvin taught, but certainly the five points that have caused the biggest controversy, and the five that are in contrast to Arminianism.

Now, I am no expert on Arminianism. In fact, I’ve never read Remonstrances (although I hope to do it soon) and I don’t claim to be an Arminianist, because I’d hate to align myself with something that I don’t even know what it says. That being said, I’ve got some disagreements with Calvinism. I’ll be posting my way through the five points—please feel free to comment, and point out my logical fallacies. Please do not throw lots of scholarly references and high-faluting mumbo-jumbo at me, because I’m a simple guy, and I could care less what Saint whoever said 800 years ago unless it can be simply shown to be scriptural—and if it’s scriptural, just point at it in the Bible, and maybe comment that the idea started with said Saint holy-guy so he doesn’t come out of the grave and sue you for stealing his intellectual property.

I’ve got little respect for scholarship for scholarship’s sake alone: if the idea has merit, it shouldn’t have to stand solely on the reputation of some famous guy.

Standard Biblical Content Test

Posted on : 08-03-2007 | By : Andy | In : religion, TEDS


Such an innocuous title, sounds so easy, right? After all, this is standard content, so most “well-informed” Christians should be able to pass it, no problem-o. (Or so I thought)

The SBCT is something Trinity Evangelical Divinity School does to ensure that incoming Divinity students are up-to-speed enough on the Bible to not flounder their way through their first couple years. The idea: wonderful. The execution: maybe a little sketchy.

In case you’re an incoming Divinity Student at TEDS studying for your SBCT, and want some advice: read the Bible a lot. There’s really no way to cram for this test unless someone gives you all the questions, and I’m not going to do that. The content test focuses not on big, important things, as you might expect, but less-crucial minutiae. For example, you might be expected to know:

What region is [some random city] in?
What is the reationship between [some guy] and [some other guy]?
In what book is [some bible verse] written?
How would you describe [some OT king]?
and, my favorite,
What city/region is [some minor character] from?

Unfortunately, if you’re not good with names, locations, and marginal characters, this test could be a bugger. Thankfully, it’s all multiple-choice, and you get two attempts. While the test is randomly-chosen questions, you do get a bit of overlap, so if you fail the first time, hopefully you’ll know what gaps you have in your Biblical Content Knowledge.

Your studying philosophy should not be “what is crucial to life and doctrine?”, but “where was this guy from? where did this happen? who was he related to? what was his occupation?” I suppose at the end of the day it will certainly weed out anyone who’s not very familiar with the Bible, but unfortunately could weed out a whole lot of people who don’t have a Christian School eduction or a mind for random (often useless) facts.

If you’re going to take this test: good luck! At the worst, you have to end up paying about $600/credit hours for NT and/or OT review courses. $1800 because you didn’t know that one guy was a tentmaker? Yikes!