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3509 SW Burlingame Rd
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Pastor Ross' Blog

Why Lutherans Are Not T.U.L.I.P.

Daniel Ross

T.U.L.I.P. is an acronym that stands for:
T - Total Depravity (mankind is completely depraved)
U - Unconditional Election/Predestination (God's election is not dependent upon a person's actions)
L - Limited Atonement (Jesus only died for the elect)
I - Irresistible Grace (God's grace cannot be resisted)
P - Perseverance of the Saints (i.e. Once saved, always saved)

If you are Lutheran you can already see some problems here. While the first two points seem agreeable, the L, I, and P seem unbiblical. 

I am not one to reinvent the wheel. So, if somebody, like a seminary professor for example, already has a really good and short explanation of something then that is what I am going to use. It also just so happens that what my seminary professor expounded in class is used for the LCMS website explanation. So why do Lutherans reject TULIP? From the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website FAQ, a brief point-by-point summary:

Q: What are the major differences between the Missouri Synod and Reformed churches?
A: Just as there are many significant differences in theology and practice between Lutherans of varying denominations, the same is true when it comes to different churches within the Reformed tradition. Differences exist among Reformed churches even regarding such fundamental issues as the authority of Scripture and the nature and centrality of the doctrine of justification.
An engraving of John Calvin, age 53 By René Boyvin (1525-1598) [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. John Calvin is considered one of the fathers of the Reformed Church and TULIP is based on his teachings.

An engraving of John Calvin, age 53 By René Boyvin (1525-1598) [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

John Calvin is considered one of the fathers of the Reformed Church and TULIP is based on his teachings.

Historically, however, most Reformed churches adhere to the five points of Calvinist theology commonly summarized by the acrostic "tulip" as these were set forth at the Synod of Dort (1618-19). On page 41 in his book, Churches in America, Dr. Thomas Manteufel reviews these five points and explains how they compare and/or contrast with what Lutherans believe regarding these matters.
T (Total Depravity) The Calvinists rightly teach that all descendants of Adam are by nature totally corrupt in spiritual matters. People do not have freedom of the will to turn to God in faith or cooperate in their conversions (Eph. 2:1; John 3:5-6; Rom. 8:7).
U (Unconditional predestination) Scripture does teach that it is by grace that God has predestinated the elect to eternal salvation and given them justifying faith. It is not because of any condition fulfilled by them (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4-6; Phil. 1:29). However, the Bible does not teach, as do the Calvinists, that some are predestined for damnation. God wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).
L (Limited atonement) It is true that Christ died for the church and purchased it with His blood (Eph. 5:25; Acts 20:28). Furthermore, His atoning death does not mean that all people are saved (1 Cor. 1:18). However, Jesus died for all (2 Cor. 5:15).
I (Irresistible grace) We agree that God makes us alive by His mighty power, without our aid (Eph. 2:5; John 1:13). But Scripture warns that we can resist God’s gracious call (Matt. 23:37; Acts 7:51; 2 Cor. 6:1). And some people do resist God’s grace, or all would be saved (1 Tim 2:4). Furthermore, God warns us not to resist His grace (2 Cor. 6:1; Heb. 4:7).
Martin Luther, Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Luther insisted that all teachings of the church can only be those of Scripture, even if it seems to defy logic or reason.

Martin Luther, Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Luther insisted that all teachings of the church can only be those of Scripture, even if it seems to defy logic or reason.

P (Perseverance in grace) We affirm with Scripture that those who are predestined to salvation cannot be lost but will continue by God’s power to a blessed end (Rom. 8:30; 1 Peter 1:5). Scripture does not teach, however, that those who come to faith cannot lose that faith (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29; Ps. 51:11). God urges His people not to continue in sin but to live in repentance and faith (Rom. 6:1-4).
- Churches in America by Dr. Thomas Manteufel; p. 41 (St. Louis: CPH, 1994).

Some Reformed hold very strictly to TULIP and are referred to as "Five Point Calvinists." Others take objection to that because they claim that TULIP goes beyond what Calvin taught. As you can see from the above, we, as Lutherans, take Scripture very seriously. Doctrines, that is, the teachings of the church, must comply not simply with a verse here or there, but all of Scripture. After all, Scripture interprets Scripture.

Does this mean that we believe that Christians that do believe in TULIP are condemned for false teachings? No. If it were dependent on people being perfect to get into Heaven then nobody would ever make it. Instead, we rely on the grace of Christ to cover our and our brothers' sins. It is upon the perfectness and righteousness of Christ that we are welcomed into the heavenly kingdom of God.

It is also not our place to judge the eternal destination of anybody. Only God can do that. Instead, we treat our fellow Christians as Christ's love compels us to do so, with gentleness and respect.