Excerpt from Plucking the TULIP  – An Orthodox Critique of the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Robert Arakaki

The doctrine of double predestination is the hallmark of John Calvin and Reformed theology. (#1)  It is the belief that just as God predestined his elect to eternal life in Christ, he likewise predestined (reprobated) the rest to hell.

With blunt frankness Calvin wrote:

We call predestination God’s eternal decree, which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man.  For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others (Institutes 3.21.5; Calvin 1960:926).

Double predestination was one Calvin’s more controversial teachings and he wrote extensively to defend this belief.  In the final edition of his Institutes, Calvin devoted some eighty pages to defending this doctrine. (#2)  Despite its controversial nature, double predestination became the official position of the Reformed churches.

This blog posting will provide an Orthodox critique of Reformed theology.  More specifically, it will focus on the doctrinal formula TULIP, because TULIP provides a clear and concise summary of Reformed theology.  The acronym is a catchy way of conveying the five major points of the Canons of Dort: T = total depravity, U = unconditional election; L = limited atonement, I = irresistible grace, and P = perseverance of the saints.

The Canons of Dort represent the Dutch Reformed Church’s affirmation of predestination in the face of the Remonstrant movement (popularly known as Arminianism) which attempted in the early 1600s to temper the rigor of predestination by allowing for human free will in salvation. (#3)  Although the Canons of Dort form the official confession of the Dutch Reformed Church, its affirmation of predestination parallels that found in other major confessions, e.g., the Westminster Confession, the Second Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. (#4)

Calvinism and Eastern Orthodoxy represent two radically different theological traditions.  Orthodoxy has its roots in the early Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers, whereas Calvinism emerged as a reaction to medieval Roman Catholicism.  Aside from a brief encounter in the early seventeenth century, there has been very little interaction between the two traditions. (#5)  This is beginning to change with the growing interest among Evangelicals and mainstream Protestants in Orthodoxy. (#6)  This lacuna has often presented a challenge for Protestants in the Reformed tradition who wanted to become Orthodox and Orthodox Christians who want to reach out to their Reformed/Calvinist friends.  This is why I created the OrthodoxBridge (see Welcome) and why I am tackling such difficult issues like the doctrine of predestination.

Read the full critique here

Response to criticism here