ic: Wittenberg, Germany, 1536 in the time of Martin Luther

Five Hundred and One years later, as a Protestant, what are you Protesting? If you grew up in church and at some point in your life realized it was not a Catholic church, do you know why? Martin Luther is known for starting the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his 95 Thesis to the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Though at the time he did not plan on creating a schism from Rome later called “Protestant”, he did in fact initiate through God’s divine providence a movement away from unbiblical doctrines and back to the teachings of Scripture.

Let’s first examine some of the key theological doctrines you may hold to as a Protestant and contrast them against Catholicism. (This article assumes you are not a Calvinist, and not Reformed or new to those concepts. So, if that is the case, share this blog post with the intended audience to aid their growth in the conformity to the image of Christ [Romans 8:29])

In the next few blog posts we are going to look at the opposing points of view to the Doctrines of Grace, also know as the Five Points of Calvinism. These five points are:

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints.

These are summed up in the acrostic TULIP. Now, if you are not a Calvinist, you may find yourself believing just the opposite of those five points. We will walk through each one together and see how by rejecting these five points, you are in fact no longer protesting Rome as your name would imply, but rather are in agreement with her over and against your Reformed brethren in affirming non-biblical teachings.

Let us now turn our focus to the first doctrine that opposes the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity….

Free Will:

Having grown up in a typical church, you have more than likely been told that man has “free will”. For the purpose of this article I define free will to mean the following: the ability of the natural man aided or unaided by God, to positively respond to the command to repent and believe the Gospel. Further, man is able, if he so chooses, to do so and repent or free to reject the offer of salvation. After this repentance, man would then be born again. In other words, faith precedes regeneration.

If you find yourself holding to this doctrinal position, the question must be asked, how are you different than a Roman Catholic? For Rome teaches in its Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us. To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults.” "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Source

In this section, Rome is saying that God’s will is that in order to save man, man must work with Him. Man must agree to cooperate with the work done by God, commonly known as “synergism”. What we see here is a clear rejection and denial of Paul’s words in Romans 8:7-8 where under inspiration of the Holy Spirit he wrote the following: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Taking Rome at its word, it would imply that Paul was wrong, man can please God, and in fact God planned for man to please Him by repenting and accepting the offer that has been out stretched to him.

Maybe by this point you are thinking that the above reference from the Roman Catechism is cursory and doesn’t really deal with the issue at hand here. Allow me to present to you another clear example from Rome which utterly rejects what Paul taught and what the Reformers were trying to awaken Christendom to. Canon 9 of the Council of Trent from 1545-1563 states: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema." Source

This Canon has never been rescinded by Rome and is in effect as you are reading this. So strongly held is this belief by Rome that the very last word states that all who reject their position are accursed. At this point I will provide you with scripture documentation that refutes these claims of Rome, then I pray you are challenged to look deeper into the Bible and see why the Reformers rejected the doctrine of free will and stood in direct opposition to Rome.

  • Romans 3:20: because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
  • Titus 3:5: He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 14:23: But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

These are a few of the clearest verses where Paul makes the case that the natural man cannot please God, hates God, and cannot understand the things of God. This is the Doctrine of Total Depravity worked out. Unlike Roman theology, the Bible is telling us that man is dead in sin, utterly unable to respond to the command to repent. In other words, total depravity leads to total inability.

This is why the Reformers believed that regeneration or being “born again” must be “monergistic”, or the work of God alone. In Jesus’ own words we find the answer to this dilemma. Man is commanded to repent and yet is unable and unwilling. Christ provides the remedy here in John 6:65: And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Jesus directly states, no one can, or, is able, to come to Him unless that ability is granted to them by the Father. This statement of Christ stands in direct and overwhelming opposition to Roman Theology, which you may find yourself affirming. 

Now at this point one must ask, what are you Protesting? For if you also reject these scriptures regarding man’s inability to respond to the call of the Gospel, then why are you not a Catholic?

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  • Harry WWC
    • Harry WWC
    • January 6, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    Interesting series of posts – well, I expect that they will be if you continue in the manner which you have started.
    I have been reading “Tabletalk” magazine January (2019) edition where they discuss the Synod of Dort from whence the TULIP acronym comes. The article “Five Main Points of Doctrine” explains that TULIP was developed as a direct response to Arminianism’s ‘five opinions’. It also expands saying that Calvinism is not limited to the five Doctrines of Grace, although it seems that many try to constrain Calvinism to just those five points.

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