of theology and tulips

First off, a beautiful photo, courtesy of the interwebs… tulip

but more importantly, a beautiful truth from the Word.  (Quick note – this isn’t meant to be an explanation of the Gospel from scratch, but rather a hopefully-helpful short guide for Christians who hear these terms thrown around and wonder what all the fuss is about.)

“TULIP” is an acronym from the early Protestant Reformation, designed as a clear and simple way to express 5 critical truths of the Christian faith.  These points are not exhaustive, in regards to either the character of God or His glorious gift of salvation, just helpful.

T – Total Depravity.  In Adam, all mankind sinned, and so we are depraved, or morally corrupt.  When we say this condition is total, we aren’t saying that we are as bad as we could possibly be, just that every part of us – every word, every thought, every deed, every emotion – is tainted by the presence of sin.  And being morally corrupt beings tainted by sin, we are both unwilling to turn from our sin and unable to save ourselves from the penalty of our sin, which is death.  So are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners?  The Biblical answer is a resounding “yes!” (Romans 1-3, Ephesians 2)

U – Unconditional Election.   Elect is the Biblical term for those who have been chosen by God to be saved,  from before the foundation of the world.  We see this glorious truth worked out around us on a daily basis as people are saved by grace through faith, and so become part of the church, or the elect.  Unconditional simply means that this election on the part of God is not because of anything we have done, or any condition we have met.  In other words, God isn’t saving the “good” people who have earned it, He is saving those whom it is His good pleasure to save, for we all justly deserve Hell.  This salvation is not determined by the sinner, but by God Himself.  (Romans 8-9, Ephesians 1-2)

L – Limited Atonement. Limited atonement simply means the redemption of the cross was particular to a group of people; or in other words, that every sin of those being saved was absolutely forgiven, forever, through Jesus’ atoning death there.  Instead of limited some scholars use the word definite, in that Jesus went to cross as part of a concise plan of salvation, put in motion by God before the foundations of the world.  When Jesus declared the debt of sin paid, it wasn’t potentially paid, or partially paid, it was fully paid.  Period.  And that’s the story of Scripture from one end to the other: God expressing His sovereignty in the salvation of a particular (not universal) group of people. We don’t tend to freak out when we read in Exodus that God redeemed Israel at the expense of Egypt, because of time and cultural distance, but this phrase above all others – calling the atonement limited – often throws Christians into fits.  All the doctrine of limited atonement states is the clear Scriptural principle that God is working out His plan to save His church, the bride of Christ, and Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of His bride – not the whole world, or the whole world would then be forgiven and be His bride. Thus, the word “limited” is used to describe the atonement. (Genesis 12, Exodus 3, John 19, Ephesians 5)

I – Irresistible Grace.  The grace of God expressed in salvation is irresistible in the sense that those God has purposed to save will be saved.  People do make real choices in the real world that have real consequences, and the best way to understand this truth is to understand that in our basic sinful natures, not one of us seeks God.  Not one of us wants to seek God, and so we do what we want instead of what He wants.  We act consistently with our nature.  As the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, the nature of that heart is changed, and so responds to the Gospel by faith, in accordance with it’s new nature.  Again a real choice is made in the real world by a real person, and once again that choice is consistent with the new nature of the person in question.  So God’s grace is absolutely irresistible, and our choices absolutely are real moral choices; these truths are not incompatible. (Romans 3, Ephesians 2)

P – Perseverance of the Saints.  God’s mark upon the Christian (literally, His seal of redemption upon us) is the Holy Spirit.  Those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit are well and truly saved: eternally saved.  Our salvation is both complete, and still being worked out in our daily lives as God sanctifies us (makes us more like Christ).  But the Bible leaves no doubt whatsoever that those whom God has purposed to save, will be saved, as we stated under irresistible grace.  And our glorious hope comes from the fact that God keeps His word and does not fail His people: His deliverance has been promised, and to His own glory He will save us.  As for those who appear to be part of the church and then fall away or leave the church, the reality is just that: they never came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, they merely maintained the appearance for a time.  Those whom He knows, He keeps, and no one can take us away from Him. (Matthew 7, John 10, Romans 5-8, Ephesians 1-2)

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Progress?

It's not a sofa, it's a KLIPPAN.

It’s not a sofa, it’s a KLIPPAN.

(This is a continuation of a thought, it started here.)

So then, progress.  As I was asking before, who doesn’t like to make progress?

But when I pull that IKEA furniture out of those nifty flat boxes, I know I’m building a couch (or a SCHWERGENKLEIN, or something).  I know where I’m supposed to be going, even if it takes me a while to get there.  Ok, a long while.  And a few drinks.

But what is our modern progressive movement building?  What are we progressing towards?

The two great arms of the modern Democratic party are encircling America at this point, and I have no doubt at all that it was intended to be a hug.  But while the one arm gives me a gentle pat full of tolerance, non-discrimination, of letting me do pretty much whatever I’d like to do with full government and legal sanction, the other is squeezing way too tight and micro-managing my behavior, right down to how much sugar I eat, because I certainly can’t be trusted to make my own decisions responsibly.

And here is where it all breaks down, because somewhere in this contradictory mix we think we’re making progress.  And while I do agree that some things should be different than they are, perhaps we should pull out those instructions, count the screws [insert political joke here], and get a clear picture of what we’re building before we start with the hammering and the sawing.

Just a thought.  Now I need a drink.

Progress!

Forward.

Forward.

Progress.

Forward.

Evolving.

All these words are finding their place in the gay marriage debate, front and center on our national stage.  And all I’m asking you to do today is consider them, what they mean, and what they imply.

To move forward, to make progress, and in the sense that we use the world ‘evolve,’ a person (or group of people) must be going somewhere, moving toward some goal, some end.

So what is it?  Where is the goal?  What is the endgame?

That’s not the end of my thought here, but it is the key question.  It was actually a conservative politician who got me thinking about this, Matt Salmon (R-AZ) who has a homosexual son.  In his comments, he stated publicly that he did not support gay marriage by saying this:

“It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with some of the issues. It just means I haven’t evolved to that stage.”

Hm.

So in essence, Mr. Salmon is saying that if he were more evolved, further along the path, he would hold the position of being in favor of gay marriage.

And so, if gay marriage is progress along a path, presumably (to its proponents) a good, dare we say righteous, path…

Where does that path end?  When does the progressive who wants to change things until we get it right become the conservative who thinks we have it right?

Just some stuff to think about as you continue on with your day.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this; drop me a line in the comments.

in vanity, hope

As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes and Paul echoes in Romans, this world under the sun is very broken: broken to the point of utter futility.  We respond to this in several ways:

the hedonist enjoys the best of this world, seeking solace in pleasure… if only the religious would sip a little wine, they could loosen up and really live.
the religious makes the best of this world, seeking order through structure… if only the hedonist would put the wine down and obey, everything would work.
the redeemed understand this world does not contain the best of anything, seeking not just their own redemption, but the promised redemption of everything.

There is work do while we live under the sun, to His glory and our good, and therein lies our hope.  We don’t have to fix it all, and we have so many more moments than this one to live for.

on death (a glorious thought)

The promise of the Gospel is, as Lewis said, that death itself begins to work backwards. Death to the man who dies in rebellion is the end of everything good, for with his final breath all hope flees and the night looms eternal; death to the regenerate man is simply the end of sin, both in the giving and the receiving. Sin, and nothing more.

The real living follows the dying.

For this He died: that you, my friend, might truly live.

pain

In storms of words and faces rage ignites
Flaring into false life: heat, flame, fury –
Shredding blood and bone and deeper still
A beast given solitary thought: kill.

Before this shade I stand in strength unknown
The locus of your hate, your anger’s core
Unarmed, unshielded, with arms held open wide
I’ll fight on faith alone right by your side.

For at the end, there’s only one defense
One single truth that stands against the night;
I love you as I’m loved by Another
And He alone can set the wrongs things right.

-Charles Baldon, January 2013

Some of the most important battles we fight in this world are not the conflicts that we often glamorize in our stories and films, but the inward struggles of the wounded heart (soul).  In the face of reckless anger, love – true love – shows its quality.  Not simply as emotion, but as choice: the decision to approach in kindness and gentleness, instead of withdraw into a shriveled husk of bitterness.

This is what Truth has done for us: this is what Truth compels us to emulate.