TULIP and the Church Fathers

(This is the first part of my series on TULIP. The second part, based on the writings of historical Protestant leaders, is available here.)

Calvinists occasionally claim that their beliefs — commonly expressed with the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” — are totally in line with historical Christianity, but below are some quotes from the Church Fathers that disprove the claim. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but I think it best summarizes the Church’s points.

Total Depravity – “..as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

(NOTE: Catholics believe in this, to an extent — after all, our faith and our works only have meaning because of God’s grace — but the concept of Total Depravity is often taken to an extreme.)

“If any one is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.” – St. Ignatius of Antioch [1]

“‘But unto them that are contentious,’ he [St. Paul] says [in Romans 2:8]. Again, he deprives of excuse those that live in wickedness, and shows that it is from a kind of disputatiousness and carelessness that they fall into unrighteousness. ‘And do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.’ See, here is another accusation again. For what defense can he set up, who flees from the light and chooses the dark? And he does not say, who are ‘compelled by,’ ‘lorded over by,’ but who ‘obey unrighteousness,’ that one may learn that the fall is one of free choice, the crime not of necessity.” – St. John Chrysostom [2]

Unconditional Election – “God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.”

“There is not a class of souls sinning by nature and a class of souls [practicing] righteousness by nature; but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only and alike in all.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem [3]

“For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting.” – St. Theophilus of Antioch [4]

Limited Atonement – “..God’s design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death were designed for and accrue only to believers.”

“Now if all have sinned, how come some to be saved, and some to perish? It is because all were not minded to come to Him, since for His part all were saved, for all were called. … Whence then are some vessels of wrath, and some of mercy? Of their own free choice. God, however, being very good, shows the same kindness to both. For it was not those in a state of salvation only to whom He showed mercy, but also Pharaoh, as far as His part went. For of the same long-suffering, both they and he had the advantage. And if he was not saved, it was quite owing to his own will: since, as for what concerns God, he had as much done for him as they who were saved.” – St. John Chrysostom [5]

Irresistible Grace – “..the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save, whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”

“This expression [of our Lord], ‘How often would I have gathered your children together, and you would not,’ [Matthew 23:37] set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually.” – St. Irenaeus [6]

Perseverance of the saints – “..those who are truly saved [those who truly believe] will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.”

“And I hold, further, that such as have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back from some cause to the legal dispensation, and have denied that this man is Christ, and have repented not before death, shall by no means be saved.” – St. Justin Martyr [7]

“Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time.” – The Didache [8]

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John Calvin

John Calvin

References:

1. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians (Chapter 5) [link 1] [link 2]

2. Homily 5 on Romans

3. Catechetical Lecture 4

4. Theophilus to Autolycus (Book 2, Chapter 27) [link 1] [link 2] [link 3]

5. Homily 16 on Romans

6. Against Heresies (Book 4, Chapter 37)

7. Dialogue with Trypho (Chapter 47)

8. The Didache (Chapter 16)

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About Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson is a college student in the Diocese of Little Rock. He was raised in multiple Protestant denominations before eventually converting to Catholicism on 7 April 2012. His primary interests are theology, Church history, and ecumenism. He is privately discerning the possibility of God calling him to the priesthood. He has a blog, Answering Protestants. He also has a Twitter account, @crucifixwearer.

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