Friday, January 02, 2009

Akin's Tiptoe Through the TULIP (a response)

The recent challenge is over what Jimmy Akin has posted as
a Catholic or Thomist view of John Calvin's TULIP. Since this
is the case, I will now respond to Akin's article:

> A Tiptoe Through TULIP
> by James Akin

Akin's words will be preceded by ">" and mine will not be.
Jimmy's original article can be found here:

This response of mine can also be found in the
Catholic Debate Forum (click here).

> Predestination means many things to many people. All
> Christian churches believe in some form of predestination,
> because the Bible uses the term, but what predestination
> is and how it works are in dispute.
> In Protestant circles there are two major camps when it
> comes to predestination: Calvinism and Arminianism.
> Calvinism is common in Presbyterian, Reformed, and a
> few Baptist churches. Arminianism is common in
> Methodist, Pentecostal, and most Baptist churches.
> Even though Calvinists are a minority among Protestants
> today, their view has had enormous influence, especially
> in this country. This is partly because the Puritans and
> the Baptists who helped found America were Calvinists,
> but it is also because Calvinism traditionally has been
> found among the more intellectual Protestants, giving it
> a special influence.

I would beg to differ here. Calvinism does not have the
"enormous influence" which Akin attributes to them. They
ARE a minority. What they DO have an influence over is in
the apologetics community - for they tend to be among the
most vocal/verbose and as such many Catholic apologists
put an undo amount of focus in responding to them and I
am guilty of this too, largely due to the influence I put
myself into after I converted to the Catholic Faith. Prior to
my conversion I had scarcely even heard of John Calvin and
Calvinists - my upbringing was Lutheran, which is definitely
NOT Calvinist.

> Calvinists claim God predestines people by choosing which
> individuals will accept his offer of salvation. These people
> are known as "the elect". They are not saved against their
> will. It is because God has chosen them that they will desire
> to come to him in the first place. Those who are not among
> the elect, "the reprobate," will not desire to come to God,
> will not do so, and thus will not be saved.
> Arminians claim God predestines people by pronouncing
> (but not deciding) who will accept salvation. He makes this
> pronouncement using his foreknowledge, which enables
> him to see what people will do in the future. He sees who
> will choose to accept his offer of salvation. The people who
> God knows will repent are those he regards as his "elect"
> or "chosen" people.

The only point I would add here is that God is outside of what
WE consider to be "time." God is eternal. God always was,
is, and will be. What WE perceive as "future" - God just sees
for God just IS. He is I AM.

> The debate between Calvinists and Arminians is often fierce.
> These groups frequently accuse each other of teaching a
> false gospel, at least on a theoretical level, although on a
> practical level there is little difference between the two
> since bonow about these subjects: First, Catholics are often
> attacked by Calvinists who misunderstand the Catholic
> position on these issues. Second, Catholics often
> misunderstand the teaching of their own Church on
> predestination. Third, in recent years there has been a large
> number of Calvinists who have become Catholics. By
> understanding Calvinism better, Catholics can help more
> Calvinists make the jump.

I would add: Many Calvinist arguments against Catholics are
based in #2 - where they are responding to Catholics who do
not understand the Catholic stance on predestination.

> Total depravity
> Despite its name, the doctrine of total depravity does not
> mean men are always and only sinful. Calvinists do not
> think we are as sinful as we possibly could be. They
> claim our free will has been injured by original sin to the
> point that, unless God gives us special grace, we cannot
> free ourselves from sin and choose to serve God in love.
> We might choose to serve him out of fear, but not out of
> unselfish love.

True Calvinists would not say we "choose" anything of our
own Free Will.

> What would a Catholic think of this teaching? While he
> would not use the term "total depravity" to describe the
> doctrine, he would actually agree with it. The accepted
> Catholic teaching is that, because of the fall of Adam,
> man cannot do anything out of supernatural love unless
> God gives him special grace to do so.

Or, we can base our opinion on Scripture:
Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our
righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as
a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

> (St.) Thomas Aquinas declared that special grace is
> necessary for man to do any supernaturally good act, to
> love God, to fulfill God's commandments, to gain eternal
> life, to prepare for salvation, to rise from sin, to avoid sin,
> and to persevere.


> Unconditional election
> The doctrine of unconditional election means God does
> not base his choice (election) of certain individuals on
> anything other than his own good will. God chooses
> whomever he pleases and passes over the rest. The
> ones God chooses will desire to come to him, will
> accept his offer of salvation, and will do so precisely
> because he has chosen them.

In short, in Calvinism men are puppets. Calvinists
don't like to hear this, but that's the reality. In their
invented system, if God chooses you - you have no
real choice, you WILL choose to follow God, period.
If God DOESN'T choose you - then you are lost,
damned to Hell for all eternity.

> To show that God positively chooses, rather than
> merely foresees, those who will come to him, Calvinists
> cite passages such as Romans 9:15-18, which says,
> "[The Lord] says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on
> whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on
> whom I have compassion.' So it depends not upon
> man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy.... So
> then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he
> hardens the heart of whomever he wills."
> What would a Catholic say about this? He certainly
> is free to disagree with the Calvinist interpretation,
> but he also is free to agree. All Thomists and even
> some Molinists (such as Robert Bellarmine
> and Francisco Suarez) taught unconditional election.

Speaking for myself, I have long considered myself to
be a Thomist - but I do not agree with unconditional

> Thomas Aquinas wrote, "God wills to manifest his
> goodness in men: in respect to those whom he
> predestines, by means of his mercy, in sparing them;
> and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by
> means of his justice, in punishing them. This is the
> reason why God elects some and rejects others....
> Yet why he chooses some for glory and reprobates
> others has no reason except the divine will. Hence
> Augustine says, 'Why he draws one, and another he
> draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish
> to err.'"

With all due respect to St. Augustine, Scripture tells
us that ALL are drawn! John 12:32 states that when
Jesus is lifted up, He will draw "all men" to Him.

> Although a Catholic may agree with unconditional
> election, he may not affirm "double-predestination," a
> doctrine Calvinists often infer from it. This teaching
> claims that in addition to electing some people to
> salvation God also sends others to damnation.
> The alternative to double-predestination is to say that
> while God predestines some people, he simply passes
> over the remainder. They will not come to God, but it is
> because of their inherent sin, not because God damns
> them. This is the doctrine of passive reprobation, which
> Aquinas taught.

Or the wiser approach might be to not try to figure out the
Mind of God so much. A couple facts are clear, man
stands condemned by Original Sin. Without the grace of
God, NO man can be saved. Then when we couple these
facts with the statement from John 12:32 - we know that
"all men" are drawn - thus those who do NOT come to
Him are the ones who failed. God has not failed to
redeem the world. My position is also confirmed in what
Mr. Akin quotes from the Council of Trent:

> The Council of Trent stated, "If anyone says that it is
> not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that
> God produces the evil as well as the good works, not
> only by permission, but also properly and of himself,
> so that the betrayal of Judas is no less his own proper
> work than the vocation of Paul, let him be anathema....
> If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is
> attained by those only who are predestined unto life,
> but that all others, who are called, are called indeed,
> but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine
> power predestined to evil, let him be anathema."

> Limited Atonement
> Calvinists believe the atonement is limited, that Christ
> offered it for some men but not for all. They claim
> Christ died only for the elect. To prove this they cite
> verses which say Christ died for his sheep
> (John 10:11), for his friends (John 15:13-14a), and for
> the Church (Acts 20:28, Eph. 5:25).
> One cannot use these verses to prove Christ died
> only for the elect. A person may be said to have given
> himself for one person or group without denying that
> he gave himself for others as well. Biblical proof of this
> principle is found in Galatians 2:20, where Paul says
> that Christ "loved me and gave himself for me," not at
> all implying that Christ did not also give himself for
> other people. That Christ is said to have given himself
> in a special way for his sheep, his friends, or the
> Church cannot be used to prove Christ did not also
> give himself for all men in a different way.
> The Bible maintains that there is a sense in which
> Christ died for all men. John 4:42 describes Christ as
> "the Savior of the world," and 1 John 2:2 states that
> Christ "is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours
> only but also for the whole world." 1 Timothy 4:10
> describes God as "the Savior of all men, especially
> of those who believe." These passages, as well as
> the official teaching of the Church, require the
> Catholic to affirm that Christ died to atone for all men.

And as I referred to earlier, John 12:32 states that when
Jesus is lifted up, He will draw ALL MEN to Him. The
case for limited atonement is just non-existent.

> Aquinas stated, "Christ's passion was not only a
> sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins
> of the human race; according to 1 John 2:2, 'He is
> the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only,
> but also for those of the whole world.'"
> This is not to say there is no sense in which
> limitation may be ascribed to the atonement. While
> the grace it provided is sufficient to pay for the sins
> of all men, this grace is not made efficacious (put
> into effect) in the case of everyone. One may say
> that although the sufficiency of the atonement is
> not limited, its efficiency is limited. This is something
> everyone who believes in hell must acknowledge
> because, if the atonement was made efficacious for
> everyone, then no one would end up in hell.


> The difference between the atonement's sufficiency
> and its efficiency accounts for Paul's statement that
> God is "the Savior of all men, especially those who
> believe." God is the Savior of all men because he
> arranged a sacrifice sufficient for all men. He is the
> Savior of those who believe in a special and superior
> sense because these have the sacrifice made
> efficacious for them. According to Aquinas, "[Christ]
> is the propitiation for our sins, efficaciously for
> some, but sufficiently for all, because the price of
> his blood is sufficient for the salvation of all; but it
> has its effect only in the elect."


> A Catholic also may say that, in going to the cross,
> Christ intended to make salvation possible for all
> men, but he did not intend to make salvation actual
> for all men--otherwise we would have to say that
> Christ went to the cross intending that all men
> would end up in heaven. This is clearly not the case.
> A Catholic therefore may say that the atonement is
> limited in efficacy, if not in sufficiency, and that God
> intended it to be this way. While a Catholic could
> not say that the atonement was limited in that it
> was made only for the elect, he could say that the
> atonement was limited in that God only intended it
> to be efficacious for the elect (although he intended
> it to be sufficient for all).

While I agree with the essence of what Akin says here,
I do not feel the need to be drawn into accepting the
terms of Calvinism at all. God is not limited, period.

> Irresistible Grace
> Calvinists teach that when God gives a person the
> grace that enables him to come to salvation, the
> person always responds and never rejects this grace.
> For this reason many have called this the doctrine of
> irresistible grace.

Can anyone tell me how the "I" is really any different
from the "U" in TULIP? Both speak to the inability of
man to play any role in the economy of salvation.
They are both statements of predestination. It seems
to me someone just wanted to make sure all the letters
in the acronym were used! With unconditional election
you're either of the elect - or not. With irresistible
grace, if you're given the grace you can't refuse it, but
if you're not given the grace, there's no way to get it.
Both the U and the I pretty much destroy the TRUE
Gospel we are given in Scripture.

> This designation has the drawback of making it sound
> as though God forces people against their will to
> come to him (like a policeman shouting, "Resistance
> is useless! Throw down your weapons and surrender!")

Or if you're a Sci-Fi fan, like the Borg saying, "Resistance
is futile, you will be assimilated."

> The designation also sounds unbiblical, since Scripture
> indicates grace can be resisted. In Acts 7:51 Stephen
> tells the Sanhedrin, "You always resist the Holy Spirit!"


> For this reason many Calvinists are displeased with the
> phrase "irresistible grace." Some have proposed alternatives.
> Loraine Boettner, perhaps best known to readers of
> This Rock as the author of the wildly inaccurate
> Roman Catholicism, prefers "efficacious grace."

But then it would be "TULEP" and that just doesn't work! (grin)

> The idea is that God's enabling grace is intrinsically
> efficacious, so it always produces salvation.
> This is the principal issue between Thomists and Molinists.
> Thomists claim this enabling grace is intrinsically efficacious;
> by its very nature, because of the kind of grace it is, it always
> produces the effect of salvation. Molinists claim God's
> enabling grace is only sufficient and is made efficacious by
> man's free choice rather than by the nature of the grace itself.
> For this reason Molinists say that enabling grace is
> extrinsically efficacious rather than intrinsically efficacious.

And that is one reason I consider myself to be a Thomist!

> A Catholic can agree with the idea that enabling grace is
> intrinsically efficacious and, consequently, that all who
> receive this grace will repent and come to God. Aquinas
> taught, "God's intention cannot fail... Hence if God
> intends, while moving it, that the one whose heart he
> moves should attain to grace, he will infallibly attain to it,
> according to John 6:45, 'Everyone that has heard and
> learned from the Father comes to me.'" Catholics must
> say that, while God may give efficacious grace only to
> some, he gives sufficient grace to all. This is presupposed
> by the fact that he intended the atonement to be sufficient
> for all.

Well, I would say ALL grace from God is efficacious, but not
all will choose to RECEIVE that grace. There is no grace
from God which would NOT be efficacious, it is rather silly
to consider such, in my humble opinion.

> Vatican II stated, "[S]ince Christ died for all men, and
> since the ultimate calling of man is in fact one and divine,
> we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known
> only to God offers to every man the possibility of being
> associated with this paschal mystery."


> Perseverance of the saints
> Calvinists teach that if a person enters a state of grace
> he never will leave it but will persevere to the end of life.
> This doctrine is normally called the perseverance of the
> saints. All those who are at any time saints (in a state
> of sanctifying grace, to use Catholic terminology) will
> remain so forever. No matter what trials they face, they
> will always persevere, so their salvation is eternally
> secure.
> Analogies are used to support this teaching. Calvinists
> point out that when we become Christians we become
> God's children. They infer that, just as a child's position
> in the family is secure, our position in God's family is
> secure. A father would not kick his son out, so God will
> not kick us out.
> This reasoning is faulty. The analogy does not prove
> what it is supposed to. Children do not have "eternal
> security" in their families. First, they can be disowned.
> Second, even if a father would not kick anyone out, a
> child can leave the house on his own, disown his
> parents, and sever all ties with the family. Third,
> children can die; we, as God's children, can die
> spiritual deaths after we have been spiritually "born
> again."
> Calvinists also use Bible passages to teach
> perseverance of the saints. The chief ones are
> John 6:37-39, 10:27-29, and Romans 8:35-39. The
> Calvinist interpretation of these passages takes them
> out of context, and there are numerous other
> exegetical problems with their interpretation.

And I might add, perhaps the best example against the
doctrine of perseverance of saints is the story of the
Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The Prodigal was
considered to be "dead" by the father, but upon his
return the father considered him alive again.

> Calvinists assume perseverance of the saints is
> entailed by the idea of predestination. If one is
> predestined to be saved, does it not follow he must
> persevere to the end?

The argument is based in the presupposition that the
Calvinist view of predestination in the first place is
correct - which it is not.

> This involves a confusion about what people are
> predestined to: Is it predestination to initial salvation
> or final salvation? The two are not the same. A
> person might be predestined to one, but this does
> not mean he is predestined necessarily to the other.
> One must define which kind of predestination is
> being discussed.

Well, I would not even give them these two types of
salvation. Salvation is the prize, in the words of St.
Paul, at the end of the race.

> If one is talking about predestination to initial salvation,
> then the fact that a person will come to God does not
> of itself mean he will stay with God. If one is talking
> about predestination to final salvation, then a
> predestined person will stay with God, but this does
> not mean the predestined are the only ones who
> experience initial salvation. Some might genuinely
> come to God (because they were predestined to
> initial salvation) and then genuinely leave (because
> they were not predestined to final salvation). Either
> way, predestination to initial salvation does not entail
> predestination to final salvation.

Again, this whole concept of "initial salvation" I would not
agree to. I would call that "initial grace" or "initial
justification" but not "salvation."

> There is no reason why a person cannot be
> predestined to "believe for a while" but "in time of
> temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).


> A Catholic must affirm that there are people who
> experience initial salvation and who do not go on
> to final salvation, but he is free to hold to a form of
> perseverance of the saints. The question is how
> one defines the term "saints"--in the Calvinist way,
> as all those who ever enter a state of sanctifying
> grace, or in a more Catholic way, as those who
> will go on to have their sanctification (their
> "saintification") completed. If one defines "saint"
> in the latter sense, a Catholic may believe in
> perseverance of the saints, since a person
> predestined to final salvation must by definition
> persevere to the end. Catholics even have a special
> name for the grace God gives these people: "the
> gift of final perseverance."
> The Church formally teaches that there is a gift of
> final perseverance. [Aquinas (and even Molina) said
> this grace always ensures that a person will
> persevere. Aquinas said, "Predestination [to final
> salvation] most certainly and infallibly takes effect."
> But not all who come to God receive this grace.
> Aquinas said the gift of final perseverance is "the
> abiding in good to the end of life. In order to have
> this perseverance man...needs the divine
> assistance guiding and guarding him against the
> attacks of the passions...[A]fter anyone has been
> justified by grace, he still needs to beseech God
> for the aforesaid gift of perseverance, that he may
> be kept from evil till the end of life. For to many
> grace is given to whom perseverance in grace is
> not give."

I like St. Thomas' approach!

> The idea that a person can be predestined to come
> to God yet not be predestined to stay the course
> may be new to Calvinists and may sound strange
> to them, but it did not sound strange to Augustine,
> Aquinas, or even Luther. Calvinists frequently cite
> these men as "Calvinists before Calvin." While they
> did hold high views of predestination, they did not
> draw Calvin's inference that all who are ever saved
> are predestined to remain in grace. Instead, their
> faith was informed by the biblical teaching that some
> who enter the sphere of grace go on to leave it.


> If one defines "saint" as one who will have his
> "saintification" completed, a Catholic can say he
> believes in a "perseverance of the saints" (all and
> only the people predestined to be saints will
> persevere). But because of the historic associations
> of the phrase it is advisable to make some change
> in it to avoid confusing the Thomist and Calvinist
> understandings of perseverance. Since in Catholic
> theology those who will persevere are called "the
> predestined" or "the elect," one might replace
> "perseverance of the saints" with "perseverance of
> the predestined" or, better, with "perseverance of
> the elect."

Or, as St. Thomas said, those who have received the
gift of perseverance.

> A Thomistic TULIP
> In view of this all, we might propose a Thomist version
> of TULIP:
> T = Total inability (to please God without special grace)
> U = Unconditional election
> L = Limited intent (for the atonement's efficacy)
> I = Intrinsically efficacious grace (for salvation)
> P = Perseverance of the elect (until the end of life).

> There are other ways to construct a Thomist version of
> TULIP, of course, but the fact there is even one way
> demonstrates that a Calvinist would not have to repudiate
> his understanding of predestination and grace to become
> Catholic. He simply would have to do greater justice to
> the teaching of Scripture and would have to refine his
> understanding of perseverance.

That is well and good, but the criticism of using their terminology
still exists (as with my initial article which did much the same as
Akin's here does). If one is to convert to the True Church, then
why hang on to errors of the past at all? When one converts, they
need to RENOUNCE their past - and EMBRACE that which they
now KNOW to be the Truth. Let's not "tiptoe through TULIP," let's
just crush the TULIP so they can move on and know the Truth.



  1. I also want to make it clear, I am not in disagreement with Jimmy Akin's presentation. I am not in favor of taking an anti-Catholic acronym and making it "Catholic" (though I did the same thing with TULIP years ago, and can't find my rendition of it now) as that may lead to confusion by the readership. One sitting on the fence may feel, "If I don't have to give up TULIP, then why should I become a Catholic?" Yes, a weak argument to be sure - but we're not talking about one firmly rooted in the Faith.

    In short, to present a "Catholic TULIP" may seem like a false ecumenism. I know it is not. I know it is an attempt to convert the falseness of Calvinism to the truth of Catholicism - but is that really necessary?

    I invite others to post their comments here as well. I'd especially like to hear from Jimmy! I'm dropping him a message too, I don't know that I did previously as I would appreciate his take on my response too.

    In JMJ,

  2. We're going on two years without additional comments here! I just want to emphasize that while it is interesting to come up with a "Catholic TULIP" or a "Thomist TULIP" - I see a real danger in using such terminology. It may encourage a Calvinist to become complacent... "If I don't have to give up my TULIP, why even convert?" Of course the answer to that is quite obvious because Calvinism and Catholicism are not mutually acceptable at all, but if someone is looking for an excuse, the use of such terminology may crush the conversion at the bulb.

    In JMJ,

  3. Mr. Windsor wrote:
    "With all due respect to St. Augustine, Scripture tells us that ALL are drawn! John 12:32 states that when Jesus is lifted up, He will draw "all men" to Him."

    FYI, "men" in John 12:32 does not appear in Greek.

  4. Jeph writes: FYI, "men" in John 12:32 does not appear in Greek.

    The Strong's Concordance would agree with you here - however context would dictate that the "all" here refers to "all men." After all, we're not thinking He refers to all goats or all ants, but the subject. Another way to look at this is going back to verse 31 - where the context is the judgment of this world - and going back a few more verses to 26 He says "if any man serve Me, let him follow Me."

    Now there is room in this passage to say Jesus was referring to all types of men - but you would have to read John 12:32 in a vacuum, apart from the context of the rest of Scripture - even John himself in chapter 3, verse 16 where it is recorded that God so loved the world (not just a part of it) that whosoever (not just a select few) believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

    So, in context, John 12:32 is referring to "all men" - even if the word "men" is not in the Greek.

    In JMJ,

  5. The context of John 6 dictates that the drawing referred to (in John 6) is exclusive. Read the whole chapter, especially verses 63-65.

    Christ explained that the reason why only some believe him is that NOBODY CAN COME to the Father unless they were drawn. COnsequently, the reason why others do not believe is that they were NOT drawn.

    At this point I should appeal to the unity of Scripture in its divine teachings. It cannot contradict itself, so your interpretation on John 12 is automatically incorrect.

    Good day and God bless!@

  6. Hi Jeph,
    I assure you I've read through the entire chapter of John 6 numerous times, and it is not I who is reading this wrong. Please note it says "no man CAN (emphasis mine) come to the Father unless he is drawn." That means once there is a drawing it is POSSIBLE to come to the Father. Thus, in John 12:32 where ALL are drawn to Him, that drawing of ALL does not mean that ALL will heed the calling/drawing. For many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14). This is a clear statement that the number called (or drawn) is larger than the number actually chosen (or who come).

    There is no contradiction in the Catholic understanding of John 6 compared to John 12.

    I may reblog on this soon - since the post you're responding to is more than 2 weeks old, all comments require a moderator to approve before they are published - so until I do reblog, please pardon any delays in your comments being posted. Since the topic you're discussing is somewhat tangential to "Akin's Tiptoe..." I may just compose a new blog on John 6 and 12 and direct your comments there.

    In JMJ,

  7. Jeph, to get you started - earlier this year (2010) I posted the following article on John 6 as being primarily a Eucharistic treatise:

    The person I was responding to is (or was anyway) a huge James White fan, so some of the focus is spent responding to White's Fatal Flaw (White's first book on Catholicism which he wrote after and primarily based upon debates he had with me, a new convert at the time).

    In JMJ,

  8. "At this point I should appeal to the unity of Scripture in its divine teachings. It cannot contradict itself, so your interpretation on John 12 is automatically incorrect."

    Ironic considering all the other scripture referenced in this blog that supports the author's position that the above quoted critic chose to ignore.

    Anyway, THANK YOU for writing this. I always enjoy seeing more and more examples of just how Biblical Catholicism really is. Of course, for us Catholics, that seems excruciatingly obvious. However, for those who aren't, these examples are necessary. It is sadly ironic, though, that those who scream Sola Scriptura from the rooftops promote theology that must, by necessity, reject some scripture. :(


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