Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Calvinism: TULIP & the Bible

That (Scots) Calvinism is the ghost in the post-1945 Scottish literary machine is a commonplace: indeed, it is explict in our course fiction. We, however, need not merely acknowledge but understand this, academically. The TULIP formula given today in lecture to that end, provoked two excellent question. The first is, how does one know whether one is among the Elect or the damned? This is the crux, in my view. Short answer is, on Earth, one does not know: can not know. A fair hearing can be found at this link at the Rutgers U. site. John Calvin's answer, here from his Institutes of the Christian Religion, is the concept of "calling": if you hear the call, you are among the Elect.

In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals His elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of His name and the sanctification of His Spirit, He affords an indication of the judgment that awaits them.

But since Calvin elsewhere declared (& rejoiced in) the fact that God causes some Damned to think on Earth that they are Elect in order that their torment in Hell will be greater, this is merely a fudge. That being said, I note in Calvin's defense that every human system has its flaw. Calvin wanted to assert God's sovereignty and to give believers certainty in their Salvation. These two things he did -- but at the cost of removing intellectual knowledge of Salvation. We must also be mindful of avoiding the vice of chronological chauvanism: in Calvin's day, to his public, the doctrines that we find abstruse changed the world and were embraced by millions.

The question arising from lecture today was over support from scripture for the five points of Calvinist dogma. We should turn here to the Calvinists themselves: I have found this suitable link with the TULIP formula and Bible verses in support of each. It is, of course, lamentably easy to cite selectively from any text to support a favoured position; and indeed Calvin drew respondants who laid against him the evidentiary charge of omitting passages that gave a more full and a balanced soteriological picture.

To close, here, again from the Institutes, is Calvin himself on these dogmas.

In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all
determined, both whom He would admit to salvation, and whom He would condemn to destruction.

Predestination we call the eternal decree of God by which He has determined in Himself what would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death.

No comments: