One of the recent Arminian efforts to counteract the resurgence of Reformed theology among fundamentalists and evangelicals comes on the heels of Dave Hunt’s feeble efforts, by Albert James Dager, of Media Spotlight, a fundamentalist, Pentecostal, Arminian “discernment” ministry newsletter on which I cut my theological teeth. I’ve come a long way, Baby! I was amused to discover yesterday that my beloved Brother Dager has dealt at length with the doctrine nowadays labelled, “Eternal Security.” What amused me about it was that, now that I’m a Calvinist, I get to see how Al Dager deals with the fact that John Calvin once walked the face of the earth. While I was amused, at the same time I was interested by the fact that his reason for dealing with Calvin was because he at least recognizes that eternal security is a modern version of the Calvinist doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. I was fascinated as I was reforming to notice how that the Independent Baptist Articles of Faith to which I had subscribed over the years, all contained an article under the title “Perseverance of the Saints.” I had always experienced Baptists teaching “once saved, always saved,” which seems to stray from their formal doctrinal standard in that what they preached more often resembled the easy-believism of Zane Hodges and the so-called “Free Grace” theologians, which contends that a professing believer can even fall away from the faith and work against Christianity to his grave and yet go to heaven anyway. Realizing that all modern Baptists (probably even the Free Willers) used to be Calvinists, it struck me just how little the Baptists, at least that I associated with, were regulated by their formal doctrinal standards.
I’m in the process of going through Al Dager’s Media Spotlight report, “Eternal Security: What Hath Calvin Wrought?”
and I’ll try to post on an issue raised for some of my next several posts. To kick things off, let’s examine how he treats the idea of describing the doctrines of grace by the acronym, TULIP:
Calvinism’s doctrines related to Grace have been conveniently categorized into the English acronym, TULIP. These letters stand for the pillars of
Calvinism’s theology of man’s relation to God. Total Depravity of Man It would be more correct to head the acronym with a “D” since “depravity” is the primary noun, and “total” is an adjective that describes the noun. This applies to almost all the elements of this acronym which would be more accurately stated as DEAGP. But religious men, being what they are, like to make things neat for us so that we unlearned can more easily understand, and thus embrace, their theological systems.
It’s caustic comments like this last sentence that motivated me to call myself, “Captain Headknowledge.” They so despise sound scholarship when it comes to spiritual things, that they have to hold up those of us who respect it as whipping boys and spit at us like we think we’re better than they are. But it’s commitment to sound scholarship that does a better job of preserving orthodoxy than does glamorizing “Spirit-led” ignorance.
But as for his opinion of TULIP, I submit that it is “more accurately” labeled by the adjectives because the adjectives describe the distinctively Pauline, Augustinian, Calvinistic nature of each doctrine.
Everyone knows man is depraved, but Calvinists differ with others on the extent of man’s depravity; Calvinism confesses that the Bible teaches that man is so depraved that he not only will not be subject to God’s law, but cannot be (Romans 8:7
Everyone agrees that God elects certain people to be saved, but Calvinism confesses that Scripture reveals the unconditional nature of his election of sinners (Romans 9:11
Everyone agrees that Christ atoned for sin, but Calvinists confess the Scriptural extent (Ephesians 5:25
) and effectuality (Hebrews 9:12
) of his atonement.
Everyone agrees that the Holy Spirit is at work when a sinner is converted, but Calvinists confess the biblical doctrine that the sovereign Spirit’s calling (Romans 8:30
) irresistably, or effectually, converts the sinner.
Since Dager agrues with eternal security, and doesn’t dispute the placement of the letter P, I will leave it untreated. Although, it is a fact that not everyone agrees on the Perseverance of the Saints, for Arminians and Pelagians teach that saints retain their salvation by their perseverance, while Calvinists confess the biblical doctrine that saints work out and give evidence of their salvation by their perseverance, relying on God alone to eternally preserve them in the faith.