God’s Power and Man’s Free Will – Part 2 – Calvin’s TULIP

So much can be said about God’s power in relation to man’s free will that our simple collective heads might just explode. It’s true, this topic has been debated by geniuses for thousands of years and there remains controversy and misunderstandings. In hope of any Simple Catholic (Truth) progress, I would like to constrain the discussion to that of Salvation. Ha, you might say, that really isn’t limiting the topic much and to a point you are correct.

However, unless we try to “divide and conquer” we won’t be able to make any progress at all.  So, with that said, I’d like to continue Part 2 of the series of God’s Power vs. Man’s Free Will by taking a look at what I would hold as the extreme limit of the debate, and that is the Calvinistic interpretation of God’s Power in relation to man’s free will. Calvin concluded in his TULIP theology that as far as salvation was concerned, man had no free will at all.

Another motivation to discuss the Calvinist reformed position is that many of our local “Protestant” churches here in Southern California such as Friends Christian, Presbyterian, and Saddleback hold to some form of the Calvinist position on salvation. To properly dialog with our Christian brothers and sisters we must try to understand their position and offer intelligent, reasonable, and Bible-based rebuttals. Understanding first – rebuttals next.
Let’s start with understanding… In future posts we’ll examine the sources of these doctrines, the errors and the theological ramifications but for now lets just look at Calvinism – trying to understand.

The Calvinist position on salvation theology has often been summarized with the acronym “TULIP”, tulip-picand trying to be absolutely fair, I will paste below the descriptions from various Calvin websites with limited editorial modifications (edited only for time and space reasons).


In my next post I’ll explore the meaning of these statements and I’ll offer some commentary on the Catholic position. Sometimes Catholic teaching is in perfect agreement as long as we understand the terms correctly… but for others, we Catholics must be informed and strong in our disagreement. So, lets begin by stating what the Calvinist position is regarding salvation:

Basically, Calvinism theology on salvation is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.

T  otal Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
U  nconditional Election
L  imited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
I  rresistible Grace
P  erseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

Total Depravity:

Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. [man] does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12).
The Calvinist asks the question, “In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?” The answer is, “He cannot. Therefore God must predestine.”
Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13).

Unconditional Election:

God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).

Limited Atonement:

Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect.

Irresistible Grace:

When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God.

Perseverance of the Saints:

You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ.


End comments:

Ok, there we have a summary statement of Calvinism which as I said earlier represents the extreme limit of the theology of God’s Power vs. Man’s Free Will. In a nut shell, Calvinism holds that man either has no free will at all, or man’s free will has nothing to do with his/her salvation. This leads to the necessary conclusion that Calvinism embraces the idea of “double predestination” whereby God created some for eternal joy in heaven and He created others for eternal damnation in hell. We’ll discuss that later.

To set up my next posting where I will present a Catholic commentary on each of these Calvinist positions, I will further distill (for simplicity) the Calvinist “TULIP” positions below for you to consider:

T – We are completely sinful. [man] does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12)….  Therefore God must predestine.

U – He [God] chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will … without any consideration of merit within the individual.

L – Jesus died only for the elect.

I – When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist.

P – You cannot lose your salvation.


I know this might appear like a pretty heavy theological topic, but keep in mind that this is extremely important in understanding Catholic teaching of our lives and eternal salvation. It is also very important in dialoging with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I assure you that in the future posts I won’t get too abstract or irrelevant. Please stay tuned and I think you will get a good understanding of the SimpleCatholicTruth of God’s plan for our eternal destiny.

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