the “L”

Yet another go-round in the blogosphere has me thinking. Thinking about relating and an interesting exchange we had in my class (at a secular college)

It's about the "L" in the TULIP - "limited atonement".

I believe that atonement is limited, so I'm not arguing that point at all. In either Arminianism or Calvinism - or any variation on either of the themes, atonement is limited - the controversy is whether atonement is limited by God or by man. (Strong's says atonement is "in the NT of the restoration of the favour of God to sinners that repent and put their trust in the expiatory death of Christ" - so clearly atonement is limited to believers). The divisiveness within the circles I read is more complicated than that, but again - that is not where my thoughts are.

Some folks say (my words) - "if you don't preach the "L", you're not preaching the whole Gospel." (or you're preaching a watered down Gospel)

My question is "why?" Why does this "L" cause so much disturbance in the peace between brothers and sisters?

Should the "L" make a difference in the way I treat unbelievers?

Should the "L" make a difference in the way I treat believers?

Should the "L" in TULIP affect my behavior more or less than the "L" in 1 Corinthians 13:13?

(I end up having to say a lot: "I live in a very special place.")

Here is the exchange:
(these are not the exact words, but it definitely hits the all the points)

I was in class (at a secular college) Tuesday night and we were going over the philosophy of Rene Descartes. The last class we had gone over Thomas Aquinas.

(I live in a very special place.)
There is a young man that often sits near me - it's a pretty small class - and Tuesday night we went back to talking about Aquinas. Somebody asked again about (the way Aquinas put it) "The problem of evil". That brought us to the tension between God's perfection and the existence of evil. That brought us to free will.

(I live in a very special place.)
A couple of people tried to explain evil in terms of free will.

The professor asked, "Why would a perfect God create man if He knew that they were going to sin?"

We heard the normal answers and one student answered, "So that He could send a Saviour. He knew that we were all going to sin and the only reason that we can be saved is because God sent Jesus."

In my weekly reflection writing, I've been very open about my theology, so the professor kind of looked at I jumped in.

(I live in a very special place.)
"Well, I'm reformed. So any tension between free will and the sovereignty of God really doesn't bother me much." Everybody was looking at me.

"Why would a perfect God create man if He knew that they were going to sin?"

"Everything points to the glory of God. How can we know what Good is, unless we've seen evil? How can we understand light unless we've seen darkness? God is the only perfection that is."

The young man (I have gotten the impression that he might be a Buddhist or something of the sort) had moved right over next to me. "Are you really saying that we have to meet Satan before we can meet God?"

I looked right at him and said, "We all do. I did."

Somebody else said, "You have to know that you're a sinner before you can accept Christ."
A young woman added, "You have to be sorry that you're a sinner."

What would you call this exchange?
- The only perfect being is God.
- Everybody is a sinner.
- You have to be "sorry".
- The only way we can be saved is through Christ.
- All of this is for the glory of God.

But then again...I missed the "L" in TULIP.

So, what do you call this exchange? (and did I mention that I live in a very special place?)

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8 thoughts on “the “L”

  1. I think I'm being set up! What is the exchange???

    Could it be the Gospel? I think I see the necessary elements, albeit with some equivocation in the words - God's perfectness (holiness), estranged people due to sin, sorrow (repentance?), the One way to salvation, not for man's sake but for God's glory.

    ..and you live in a special place.

    C'mon Ellen - you're kiling me!

    P.S. I purchased the books you recommended and have begun my journey.

  2. If that's not the Gospel, it's darn close (I think).

    What got me going on these thoughts was a group of bloggers who seem to feel that if you're not preaching all FIVE of the TULIP points, you're not doing it right.

    And the equivocation of the language - if you take into account the diversity of the group (Reformed, Free-will Baptist, "Church of God in Christ", and a general non-demon, plus a couple of others), I think as a group the language sort of "got there".

  3. Gotcha, that's fascinating - as the UA (uninformed Arminian) I really wasn't aware that there is controversy within the points, but I'm not naive enough to think that within Arminianism there are differences of opinion also (e.g. Pelagianism, Classic vs Contemporary Armininiansim, etc). Your explanation now makes sense as I realized I glossed over your opening statements regarding to limited atonement. My bad!

    BTW, I know it was a typo but I must admit that I chuckled over your reference to the "general non-demon"! Is that a person synonymous with a so called "garden variety pagan"?

  4. Ellen,

    First, let me compliment you on your open-mindedness and patience.

    But, doesn’t it concern you that the attitudes of men like Jason Robertson, Frank Turk, Phil Johnson, David Bayly, Tim Bayly and Joseph Bayly are so unkind (and in my opinion unchristian)?

    As one who believes in Irresistible Grace you may not be concerned about them turning people away from Christ. But as one who believes in Free Will and responsibility for one’s choices, I am terribly saddened.


  5. Pastor Rod, if you've read any of my comments, you'd know that I have the same concerns. I've really trimmed down my "favorites" list and it includes only one of the blogs on your list - for the reason that you just named.

    Dave, I'd blush to admit to some of the other typos I make - a couple of them end up sounding "off-color"

  6. Anonymous

    pastor rod, i think the way you are guilt trippin' shows years of exerience. people have oppinions supressing them here will only feul the fire of anti-christian witin them. to listen , nod and respond is a much more useful (and Christ-like) way to work.

  7. Dear ....,

    I did not ask my question of Ellen to induce guilt in her or anyone else. I recognize in her a person who is objective and intelligent. I have a growing respect for her, especially seeing the kind of treatment she has been enduring from people who call themselves defenders of the faith.

    I really have no idea what you mean by, "people have oppinions supressing them here will only feul the fire of anti-christian witin them."

    You are accusing me of being "unhelpful" and "unChristlike" because I raise the issue of others' bullying tactics?

    This reminds me of comments made at those very sites where attempts to defend people who were being attacked were called "hypocritical" and "mean-spirited."

    I truly don't get it.

    (Ellen, sorry to sidetrack your thread with this response to Anon.)


  8. Anon...I don't see "guilt-trippin'" - I spent years with that and I know it when I see it. Pastor Rod is as sincere in his conviction as I am of mine, that's all.

    As one who believes in Irresistible Grace you may not be concerned about them turning people away from Christ.

    Pastor Rod, first, thank you.

    Second, regarding the words that I quoted, I believe that God has not only ordained the end, He has ordained the means - that would be us and the Great Commission. To turn away from that command is grave sin, no matter what side of the fence you're on.


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