By Larry Ray Hafley
Five major tenets are the basis of Calvinism. It is identified and signified by the famous acrostic, TULIP.
T – Total Hereditary Depravity
U – Unconditional Election
L – Limited Atonement
I – Irresistible Grace
P – Perseverance
All men are born “wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body” (Total Hereditary Depravity). “By the decree of God some men are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death” (Unconditional Election). Christ’s death, the shedding of His blood, was for the elect only; He did not die for those “foreordained to everlasting death” (Limited Atonement). The Holy Spirit effectually calls and regenerates only those who were “predestinated unto everlasting life,” only those for whom Christ died (Irresistible Grace). The unconditionally elect, those whom the Spirit calls, cannot fall from the grace and favor of God (Perseverance).
Questions And Pertinent Parallels
Our purpose is to consider a few parallels with regard to three of the elements of Calvinism; namely, total hereditary depravity, irresistible grace and perseverance. Man, born totally depraved, cannot act so as to effect his salvation, so the Spirit performs His direct work on the heart of the sinner and the elect inevitably persevere. With that in mind, let us review the case of Adam.
Adam came, body and soul, from the perfect hand of God. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). Adam had never sinned in body or soul. He was the very essence of pristine purity, clean and clear as crystal. Could we not safely assume, therefore, that he was, in this state, “totally hereditarily righteous”?
If man today is totally depraved and cannot act so as to effect his salvation, how came man to sin? Being totally hereditarily righteous did not preclude the possibility of sin. Did the devil perform a direct, immediate work on the heart of Adam to degenerate him? No, he appealed to man through motive, incentive, inducement. He used words; he appealed to the mind of man. “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4,5). Though man was initially totally hereditarily righteous, he succumbed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).
A mystical, mysterious, direct inner working on the heart was not necessary. Despite the fact that man was totally hereditarily righteous, he was susceptible to the words and allurements of the devil. Are we to assume, granting that man is born totally depraved, that the gospel is unable to appeal to the heart of man? Is the devil’s word more effective and powerful than the gospel of Christ? If totally righteous man could be led to sin without a direct spiritual work on his heart, why cannot totally depraved man be led to forgiveness without a direct spiritual work on his heart? If the devil’s gospel could seduce and cause totally righteous man to act contrary to his sinless nature, why cannot totally depraved man be induced and cause to act contrary to his sinful nature?
Further, when the elect are regenerated, we are told that they will persevere unto eternal life, i.e., “once saved, always saved.” When totally righteous man sinned in the garden, was he then “once lost, always lost”? The creed says he became “dead in sin.” Was he unable to respond to Divine communication, unable to obey God? No, for after man sinned, he talked with God; he heard and heeded His word (Gen. 3:8ff.). Therefore, man “dead in sin” is able to understand and act in obedience to the will of God.
Conversely, the saint is said to be “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:2; 1 Pet. 2:24). Is he unable to respond to the devil’s word? The Calvinist says man cannot so sin as to be eternally lost. But we have seen that man who was “dead to sin” still could hear and obey God. Why cannot the saved man who is “dead to sin” turn and hear and obey the devil? If it works one way, why not the other?
Surely, Adam was “dead to sin,” having never sinned. However, in this condition man was led to sin; he thus “fell from (his) original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of body and soul.” Alright, then, why is it not possible for the elect who are, as Adam was, “‘dead to sin” (Rom. 6:2) to likewise fall from his righteousness and communion with God, and so (again) become dead in sin, wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of body and soul?
These and a myriad of similar questions deserve answers if the Calvinian system is to stand.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 24, pp. 739-740
December 20, 1984