I wrote a paper on Reformed theology found in the Gospel of John. These doctrines are not limited to one book, but it is encouraging to see these popping up blatantly and often. The next several weeks will feature snippets of the paper until it is done. If you would like the paper in full, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taken directly from the paper called, That You May Believe and Have Life in His Name: TULIP in the Gospel of John:
There have been few doctrines, save justification and the authority of the Bible, that have been more hotly contest in the history of the church than so-called “Calvinism.” The system of doctrine no doubt gets its infamous nickname from the 16th century French Reformer, John Calvin. Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, developed in its most coherent form during the Reformation. The famous “Five Points of Calvinism” arose first, not out of confessional drafting, but in defense. The Remonstrance of the early 17th century proposed a series of five doctrines that countered the popular Reformed teaching at the time. See, the Reformed position on soteriology in particular has been widely regarded as orthodox for much of the history of the church. Indeed, Arminianism started as a group of students dissatisfied with the teaching of then Geneva schoolmaster, Theodore Beza. Jacob Arminius became the federal head for the new sect, deeply influenced by Pelagian philosophy and Jesuit theology. Similar movements, namely Molinism, came from much of the same stock.
Five heads of doctrines characterized the novel Arminian position: partial depravity, conditional election, unlimited or general atonement, prevenient grace, and the conditional salvation of the believer. In defense of orthodoxy, Reformed believers developed five counterpoints to the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort. The five points were canonized in the Canons of Dort, a document still used today in Reformed churches. These points served as a foil to the Remonstrance. It is important to note that Reformational theology was first centered around five other points. These are called the five solas. The heart of Calvinistic doctrine is the glory of God, seen and savored by the believer for the purposed of magnifying Christ and His intrinsic worth. After all, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The Reformers saw this and developed five particular points of doctrine, arising plainly from the text of Scripture, that are particularly glorifying to God. The center was the principle of soli deo gloria. The Latin means, “glory to God alone.” The next three solas spell out the God glorifying gospel, in which God saves unilaterally. Sola gratia, meaning that salvation is motivated by God’s grace alone; sola fide, meaning that this salvation comes by the instrument of faith and not faithfulness; and solus Christus, meaning that the object of saving faith is Christ in His person and finished work. All these doctrines arise from the sufficient, authoritative written word, hence sola Scriptura.
These doctrines must be kept in mind when thinking of the five points of Calvinism. The heart of Reformed theology is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The atonement and justification by faith is at the heart of Calvinist soteriology. Reformed soteriology is strikingly Trinitarian while maintaining biblical Christocentricity. The Father elects, the Son redeems and the Spirit applies redemption. As Spurgeon said, Calvinism is simply a nickname for the gospel. Spurgeon meant that the five points undergird the gospel and the free grace of God. A denial of these points has shown to be a slippery slope.
At last, we must list and briefly explain the so-called “five points.” The acrostic TULIP was proposed to help summarize the five Dortian heads of doctrine. The origin of TULIP is actually unknown but has become the most recognizable summarization of Reformation theology.
The T stands for “total depravity.” Total depravity is a doctrine of the radical sinfulness of man. Depravity is total, not in that man is a bad as he possibly could be, but that all of man’s faculties are affected by the Fall. All in Adam are left dead in sin. Being dead in sin means the sinner is both unwilling and unable to come to Christ in faith and repentance (Eph 2:1-3). The sinner is evil, a God-hater who does not seek God (Ro 3:9-20). Apart from the gifting of faith and repentance, man will remain quite happily in his sin with the wrath of God resting over against him.
The U in TULIP refers to “unconditional election.” This is the doctrine of predestination. Unconditional election says that before the foundation of the world God chose to save a people from the depraved world, not based on any wherewithal found in man but in the good pleasure of His will. Election then is unconditional, not conditioned by foreseen faith or human works. God in His free graces elects some and passes over others.
The L stands for “Limited Atonement.” It is the Arminians, with all due respect, that limit the atonement. Some would rather use the term “Definite Atonement.” This doctrine answers the question, “for whom did Christ die?” The Calvinist says that Christ died effectively for the elect. This is the best exegetical and systematic argument. The consistency of the Godhead in redemption begs this conclusion. The atonement was sufficient for all but only effective for those whom God has elected. This pattern was set in the Old Testament sacrificial system, a shadow of the reality to come in Christ.
I stands for “Irresistible Grace.” The Calvinist does not deny that God’s grace can be resisted for a time but realizes that ultimately it cannot. God calls effectually by the power of the gospel. This doctrine goes hand in hand with the doctrine of monergistic regeneration. Irresistible grace is a necessity when one sees what the Bible says about sin and depravity. God creates new life, enabling the sinner to see Christ as He is thusly drawing the man freely. The will, only free to do what its nature demands, is finally relieved from the bondage of sin. This point has been wonderfully expounded by Luther in the “Bondage of the Will” and in Jonathan Edwards’ “The Freedom of the Will.”
Finally comes the P of the TULIP. This beautiful doctrine has come to be called the “Perseverance of the Saints.” Far from being a flimsy, irresponsible once-saved-always-saved, this doctrine simply says the God will continue the believer in the faith. This is not due to the faithfulness of the believer but in the keeping of God (Jude 24-25). God will not allow someone truly under grace to leave Him. God finishes what He starts.
The burden of this paper is to show these doctrines from the Bible. If it cannot be shown, it should not be believed. But o how clear it is! For the purpose of this paper, the focus will be on the Gospel of John. Every page of the Bible testifies to the sovereign grace of God. This narrow focus will allow the reader to see the heavy volume of texts in just one book of the Bible that proves the Reformed tradition. The Reformed tradition should be known as one that loves the Bible. More than that, the Reformed tradition is rich in doxology. The purpose of this paper is far from simple persuasion. The aim is worship. Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people, to quote John Piper. In fact, the theme of this paper is drawn from the book of John itself. Hear the Word of the Lord:
“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:31 ESV)
This paper is written so that you will believe and have life in Christ’s name. God is glorified in the gladness of His people in Him. Man’s satisfaction, indeed His joy will only increase the more he knows the God of His salvation and knows Him as He has revealed Himself. So may we now, together, behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ with an unveiled face (2 Cor 3:18).
Space will not allow for saying all that could be said about the passages that will be discussed in the pages to follow. Methodologically, it is the aim to look briefly at several texts as they are found chronologically in the book of John. Certain hermeneutical principles will be at play. This is inescapable, as all come to the Bible with a systematic theology. Scriptures will be interpreted in their original context but with an eye to Bible doctrine. It is the aim to show the sheer volume and prevalence of these doctrines as they arise in John. May God be magnified in this endeavor!