It is important that we who hold to the five points of Calvinism, made famous by the TULIP acronym, remember the TULIP as we continue to develop our theology. In fact, the biblical doctrines of TULIP should be the ground upon which our theology is constructed. I believe today’s growing recovery of the gospel within the churches has come because of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter along with video sites like YouTube. The ability for anyone who can afford an internet connection to send information instantly to thousands or even millions of people will make truth visible in the midst of darkness in a manner similar to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Except this time, most everyone has a printing press.
Truth has a way of rising above the cacophony of noise that the various philosophies of today boisterously voice, precisely because it rings true in the minds of those who hear it, regardless of whether they submit to it or not in their hearts. But in order for the cream of the gospel to continue to rise to the top, in order for biblical truth to influence not only the Church but the culture at large, the TULIP must be a foundation for all thinking and doing. It may seem unlikely that a Calvinist would forget Calvinism, but I think the danger is the unnoticed, gradual drift away from the foundation. I’m not talking about losing the understanding that regeneration precedes faith; I am talking about forgetting that total depravity means a needed daily relying upon God’s strength by praying to be more like Him instead of thinking we automatically beat sin by knowing more stuff. I am talking about forgetting both the power of that reality and the importance of building upon it consistently.
The gospel is the foundation for Christianity, but all of Christian life is probing the depths of Scripture and building upon the gospel message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. In order to remain true to the gospel, to remain true to the five points of Calvinism, to live the tulip driven life, there are several main beliefs and convictions that must remain at the forefront and pursued passionately by every Christian. This will come not by simply affirming certain things or doing certain things but by approaching all of life from a certain posture that will enable us to speak and act in the way God calls us to speak and act in the things we affirm and do. We must not simply believe that the TULIP is biblical teaching, but we must trust in the truth of the biblical teaching of the TULIP in a righteous way, in a humble yet passionate posture; not only must we speak the truth of TULIP in love, but we must believe and live in light of the TULIP in love, with blistering passion. Each chapter will hone in on a different situation or scenario that the aforementioned posture with which we believe, speak, and live out our TULIP theology should express itself in the life of a believer. In short, each chapter is intended as a correct and consistent application of the doctrines of grace that should manifest in the intellect, affection, temperament, and actions of the believer who is striving to live the TULIP driven life.
The first chapter will discuss coming to church as sheep. This means coming to church to seek out spiritual food, even when we do not agree with everything the preacher in the pulpit is saying, even when we do not respect him very much personally, and even when there isn’t much food being served. When we cease to come together with other believers to feed under the authority of the undershepherd God has placed over us, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.
The second chapter will focus on the daily reading of Scripture. It is easy to become so intellectually bent that we turn to books on theology or philosophy before we turn to the Bible to deal with our sin problems. But it is the Word of God alone that speaks with absolute authority so as to bind the conscience of man. It is when we come to God’s Word that we recognize that God, and not man’s theologizing, is our daily bread, our sustenance to grow into holiness and true delight in God. When we cease to turn to the Bible first to be convicted of sin and to see the glory and goodness of God, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.
The third chapter will turn to prayer. God is sovereign, therefore we pray. Merely grasping theology rightly will not produce a love and motive to serve and obey God. Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase. Prayer asks God to increase us, to give us more of a heart for Him, a deeper hatred of sin, and greater love for pure and lovely things. When we fail to make prayer a daily habit and devotion, we fail to live the TULIP driven life.
The fourth chapter will look at applying theological truths practically. The Puritans and men like Charles Spurgeon were masters of this. Preaching needs to take theology and apply it to everyday struggles with sin in the context of our culture and present day situation. This has been, in my estimation, woefully neglected in Calvinistic circles. Theology is practical, therefore, theology should be preached practically. The pastor should exhort with the text. The gospel saves and sanctifies, but that takes on manifold forms. There is a full armor of God, not a one piece suit. We are commanded not to merely trust in the promises of God and the gospel, but to also make war against the flesh by the power of the Spirit. When we cease to seek to apply theology practically and make war with the flesh by the power of the Spirit, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.
The fifth chapter will explore diversity in unity. There is a tendency for those of the TULIP to think that their thing should be everyone’s thing. But God has comprised the body of Christ with different parts, varying gifts, and sundry callings. The street preacher boldly proclaiming the gospel of grace is one calling; the refined, academic professor who spends most of his time in the ivory towers teaching soon-to-be pastors another. Neither should look down upon the other, and yet, both should probably spend some time in the other person’s world. Then there is the calling of working a typical job in the secular culture, whether as an artist, a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, or a worker at Wal-Mart. We need Christians in every sphere living out their faith quietly, humbly, respectfully, and yet steadfastly, sprinkling salt and shining light within every vocation. When we cease to recognize a multiplicity of callings that the Holy Spirit Himself has beautifully comprised to shape and form the body of Christ, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.
The sixth chapter will turn to the family unit and the importance of raising families in the ways of the Lord. If we spend too much time on the internet arguing with people we do not even know, or have our noses in head-splitting theological works all day long, or spend too much time reflecting on theodicy so as to neglect our first calling, our spouse and children, then we have ceased to live the TULIP driven life.
The seventh chapter will look at the arts and the importance of beauty. God specifically empowered Bezalel and Ohiliab with the Holy Spirit to beautifully craft the artwork in God’s temple. Revelation speaks of the jewels and beauty that will be in the roads and constructions in the New Jerusalem. There is a beauty in writing, in speaking, in music, in painting, in physical work itself, and God designed it all to reflect His multi-faceted glory. To neglect the importance of glorifying God by expressing our artistry is to neglect the creativity God has given His people, and to fail to recognize that as image bearers of God we are called to create beauty as God created the beauty of this world. To denigrate and/or neglect the calling of artistry, creativity, and beautifying this world is to neglect to live the TULIP driven life. Finally, in the eighth chapter, the primacy of apologetics and the gospel will be addressed. Whatever calling we find ourselves in, we will always come into at least some contact with unbelievers, for God has called us to enter into the fray of this world armed with a defense to unbelievers of the hope that lies within us and the proclamation of the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. When we retreat wholly from the unbelieving world and think that God has called us to be separatists so as to not be concerned with the salvation of the lost sheep or defend the faith against the attacks of the world, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.