Archive for category Limited Atonement

A 20th century revival of 17th century Tulip Mania

Tulip © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

Tulip © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Tulip as a flower first came to England in 1578. The very same year the complete Geneva Bible was first printed in England.

In those days there was such a thing as “Tulip Mania”. This began in 1594 in the Netherlands when the first Tulips were planted. It was a harmless move when it started but the craze for Tulips later became a status symbol and one tulip bulb could be worth as much as a house build beside one of the top canals in Amsterdam.

It was in this very same country, the Netherlands, where the Synod of Dordt was held in 1618. This synod was the first to declare the doctrinal position now known as ‘the five points of Calvinism‘.

In later centuries this doctrinal position earned the title “Tulip”. As far as I know, it is a term that is not found in writings prior to the 20th century?

Tulip stands for the following;

  1. T – Total Depravity
  2. U – Unconditional Election
  3. L – Limited Atonement
  4. I – Irresistible Grace
  5. P – Preservation or Perseverance of the Saints

IS TULIP FOUNDATIONAL?

Dr Charles Matthew McMahon in his book “A puritans mind” says the following; “The essential doctrines concerning salvation, which the puritans and all good Christians cling to, are summed up in the acronym T.U.L.IP

These words are problematic, especially when a reading Christian could be told in writing that he or she may not be a good Christian after all, and perhaps even an unbelieving one, lacking in faith, as he suggests in his book, quote; “There are two views concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, there is what we call Calvinism. Then, there are varying degrees of unbelief” Dr C Matthew McMahon. A Puritans Mind.

The above words are cruel and intellectually dishonest. They appear to read like some form of guilt based emotional blackmail. It seems that for so many 5 point Calvinists or new Calvinists, that T.U.L.I.P is the actual gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell?

This same idea, though more genuine, is made somewhat clear by 19th century English particular Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said the following; “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else

Spurgeon also said the following; “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” (C. H. Spurgeon. The early years. Autobiography 1. The early years. Page 168. Banner of Truth Trust)

Spurgeon stated that his beliefs were his “own private opinion“. I respect that. But he did not here stoop so low as to send his readers on an emotional guilt trip and accuse them of having a lack of faith and belief for differing with his beliefs.

I personally deny that ‘Tulip’ is in any way foundational to the Christian faith. It is a simple observation of mine that T.U.L.I.P cannot be a foundation to preaching Christ alone or the plain truth of the Gospel, or Christian doctrine, since T.U.L.I.P makes no direct references to the Virgin birth of Jesus, the Life and miracles of Jesus or the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Neither is there reference to His return or His judging of the quick and the dead. In many ways, T.U.L.I.P has a man centred focus.

No Christian is guilty of unbelief for denying, questioning or refuting Tulip, and should never be emotionally bullied or abused into thinking so! In my own opinion, I think Calvinism is unnecessarily lowered when it is reduced by individuals to making claims like those I have mentioned above. I don’t want to put all Calvinists in the same category but wouldn’t it be better if people learned how to reason and openly debate more. I want to encourage ‘all believers’ to feel absolutely free to measure all teachings and doctrines with careful analysis of the entire Bible and not be afraid of the implications of the text. To learn to live alongside other believers who differ. But never fall foul of emotional mind games of those who desire you to follow their favourite interpretations of the same Bible.

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An open letter to John Piper

An open letter to John PiperDear Pastor John Piper,

I am writing this letter to you because I know you are familiar with open letters.

All I ask of you is that you read it, test it, to see if it be of true. If it is true, I pray you will embrace it.

May the Lord be with us both as we remember this day.

Grace and peace

Simon Peter Sutherland

 

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Was the Reformation exclusive to Calvinism?

John Calvin © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

John Calvin © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

In only a few days now the actual 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be upon us.

31 October for me is a time that can inspire things to be straightened out. A time that inspires misconceptions to be challenged and for the voices of the people to be heard.

At this time of such a momentous anniversary, there is a common misunderstanding today that I have noticed for sometime, where popular preachers from America often associate the labelling of ‘reformed Theology’ as somewhat exclusive to Calvinism.

There are a lot of brothers in America who claim ‘reformed Theology’ is little more than Calvinism in a nutshell.

Calvinism they say, is nothing more than the pure Gospel.

These claims however are highly speculative and cannot be verified beyond doubt in the face of history and Scripture.

The facts remain that reformed theology can be divided into about four branches or positions.

  1. Lutheran
  2. Calvinist
  3. Anglican
  4. Hussite

The facts remain that when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg in 1517, John Calvin was only eight years old.

Calvin was born 10 July 1509 in Noyon, France, which is nearly 600 miles from Wittenberg. When Luther stood at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and the outbreak of the Reformation spread, Calvin was an 11 year old boy who went on to study Philosophy in Paris. He went on to study and pursue a career in law and would not experience a conversion to Christ until 1533 when he was about 24 years old.

By that time Luther had already been excommunicated, translated the New Testament into German and his complete German translation of the Bible was close to being published. The following year Tyndale’s New Testament was in its final revision and the majority of key reformation books had been published and distributed.

By 1536 Calvin was working hard to reform the Church in Geneva and his publication of ‘the Institutes of the Christian Religion’ was in its 1st edition. And through his preaching and influence in Geneva, Calvin’s branch of the reformation spread throughout Geneva and the reformation reached its peak by 1545 and by influence continued on till about 1620. By 1545, many publications had been published and the majority position of the Reformation was Lutheran. Calvinism mainly taking root in France, Netherlands, and Scotland and remaining until after the counter reformation of 1648.

From the mid 16th century – the mid 17th century, Calvinism had taken root in England, Scotland, Greece, and Wales during the Puritan era, while Lutheranism held a majority throughout Europe, even making its way back to Rome itself. Thus, the simple facts remain that although Calvin’s influence had branches within the Reformation, it was probably not referred to as Calvinism until the 18th or 19th centuries, the majority of Calvinistic thought process at that time being the development and spread of the doctrines proclaimed in 1618 at the Synod of Dort and the Puritans who left England during the 17th century for America.

Geneva arms © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Geneva arms © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

John Calvin’s steadfast work and devotion to the faith is to be admired and admonished, and I value his contribution to the reformation. I regard Calvin’s commentaries on Scripture among the best available. But, I am less favourable concerning the common claims that reformed theology is nothing more than Calvinism. On the contrary, the claim is little more than a fictitious propagation of this centuries favourite American Calvinist preachers, who because of their position on believers baptism, would probably have been either imprisoned or drowned by the very same people they claim to revere.

Surely it is time now for this fallacious claim to be amended!

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An appeal to 5 point Calvinists in America

The Gospel of John in Greek  © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Gospel of John in Greek
© 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

For the time is come, that judgement must begin at the house of God; and if it first start with us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?. ” 1 Peter 4: 17

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The time has come for you to re-examine the Scriptures, and cease to deny those which do not reaffirm your message.

Too long have your teachers embraced a loyalty within their hearts to the Separatist theories and histories which landed on your shores so long ago.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I know you love the Scriptures and are loyal to them, but the reason why some of you wrestle with the Scriptures, is because they speak contrary to some of the doctrines of which you hold dear. It is time for change.

Too long have your teachers upheld Scripture in one place, while denying them in another. I know that they are loyal to the Truth and I know they try and be loyal to Scripture, but they have another love in their hearts. The loyalty to their much loved friends and historical people, has taken the pure milk of the word out of their hearts.

Friends; you need not be loyal to the doctrines upheld by your close friends, pastors, beloved teachers, historical people and their books. Our loyalty is to God alone and the Scriptures which He has set in their place. And if a doctrine has no place in Scripture, it should have no place within our hearts.

On the basis of Scripture and in the quest for Truth, I appeal to you to re-think your position with Scripture and plain reason. 

If you open your hearts to what Scripture says, the Scripture will come into you and breathe. But if you shut up your hearts and close your minds, you alone will close them up.

Remember that you who uphold and teach doctrines, will be judged more highly than those who do not . This is why James wrote, “My brethren be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3: 1.)

With that Truth in mind, I urge you for the good of yourselves and all people; be not be like those of old who affirmed Salvation for themselves, while denying it for others. All the while, looking at the decline of your own while denying their Salvation at the same time. For, if this be an untruth, you will receive judgement for teaching it.

I appeal to you who know the Scriptures, to spend some time in the close examination of them once again. For it is the Church which is to be judged by the Scriptures, not the Scriptures by the Church. It is the Body of Christ to whom the message of Salvation has been entrusted. And she cannot be alarmed by her country’s denial of Scripture, while she herself denies them too.

I appeal to you this day, to re-examine the Scriptures and seek the Lord who gave them. To seek the Word of the Prophets and Apostles who wrote them down and sent the Words to you by the Power of the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven.

The Scripture says “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” 1 Peter 1: 2. Through which is revealed the original purpose of God, to indiscriminately bring Salvation both to Jews and Gentiles, who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, in which, if it follows that if no man is excluded from calling upon God, Salvation must be ready available for him.

I urge and plead with you to re-examine your hearts and minds and be not like those of old, who were chosen, but in the time of Our Lord did deny salvation for everyone, but themselves alone. They too used Scripture to affirm it.

Brothers and sisters, I plead with you, on behalf of Truth and the souls of those who are perishing and the pure testimony of divine Scripture, ‘gird up the loins of your minds, be sober and repent’. And if you have tasted that the Lord be gracious to you, remember His grace towards others, who were like yourselves, not the people of God, even so should you be merciful, as you yourselves have obtained mercy.

If the doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’ be true, then it is not a ‘doctrine of Grace’. It is a doctrine of damnation for all those who either cannot, or will not believe in it.

Dearly beloved, judgement is coming, but it will not come until the house of God is set in order first. Time is short, I beseech you, as strangers yet as brothers and sisters, to submit yourselves to every Word of God. And pray, pray, pray.’

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