Reformation Today is a magazine published by Cuckfield Baptist Church, Sussex, England. Its editor is Errol1 Hulse, with whose writings I first became acquainted through his little booklet, Billy Graham, The Pastor’s Dilemma. The magazine mentioned above is the voice of a whole group of so-called Reformed Baptists. However, it is becoming increasingly evident, especially from their increasing emphasis on the so-called “free offer of the gospel” and a proportionate decreasing emphasis on and departure from genuine Reformed and Calvinist truths, that there is little that is Reformed and much that is after all Arminian about them. This is disappointing. When I first read the booklet mentioned above, I was somehow led to hope that Mr. Hulse, who was at one time deeply involved in Graham’s crusade evangelism, was moving in the right direction. Apparently this is not the case. For his recent writings indicate an increasing movement in the direction of Arminian generalism. Some time ago we criticized his booklet on the “free offer.” The September-October, 1978 issue of Reformation Today contains two extensive articles from Hulse’s pen which militate strongly against the Reformed faith.
The first article is entitled “Are we on the right track?” (pp. 14-16). The Standard Bearer probably would have criticized it anyway; but at the special request of a reader in England we offer a more detailed criticism of it and of the second article, “Did Christ Come To Save The Whole World?”
Mr. Hulse begins by misrepresenting both Dordrecht and TULIP. He writes:
Are we producing ‘TULIP Calvinists’ or ‘Biblical Calvinists’? We need to remember the origin of TULIP. Arminius reacted against Beza who unlike Calvin, his predecessor, did not hold the doctrines of grace in an harmonious proportion. Orthodox Dutch Christians in turn reacted against Arminius. They produced the formularies of Dordt. These were fine Scriptural statements. Part of the Confession consisted of a refutation of Arminius’ five points. The five points countering Arminius came to be known as the five points of Calvinism, even though Calvin had no part in composing them.
In the next paragraph Hulse continues: “Since Dordt (1620) scores of books have been written based upon the outline known as TULIP. It is here that many have gone off the right track. They have forgotten that a system taken from a controversy in the past has to be studied in that context. It is so easy to go off balance on the one side or the other.”
Now there is considerable mythology in this little introduction:
1. There is the slanderous myth that Beza differed doctrinally from Calvin. Mr. Hulse is not alone in this; in fact, he must have learned this tale from someone else. But it is nevertheless a slander of a very godly and learned Reformed scholar, for whom Calvin himself had only the highest respect and warmest friendship.
2. It is not true that Arminius reacted against Beza, and especially not that he reacted. against Beza in distinction from Calvin. The truth is that he reacted against the Reformed faith as it was already established and confessed in the Netherlands, even to the extent that the Arminian party sought a revision of the existent creeds, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession (neither of which can be traced to Beza, by the way). Arminius and his followers (among whom were friends and fellow-travelers of the Socinians!) manifested a fundamental antipathy against Calvinism itself, not merely against a supposedly extreme brand of Calvinism taught by Beza. The battle was not between moderate and extreme Calvinists, but between Calvinists and anti-Calvinists.
3. TULIP did not originate at Dordrecht. The Synod of Dordrecht did not cultivate a TULIP. A cursory study of the Canons of Dordrecht will make this plain. TULIP is a mnemonic (memory aid) to assist in remembering the so-called Five Points of Calvinism in the following order: 1) Total depravity; 2) Unconditional election; 3) Limited Atonement; 4) Irresistible grace; 5) Perseverance of the saints. But the above five points are not the same as the Canons of Dordrecht either in order or in language. The Canons of Dordrecht are the following: 1) Of Divine Predestination; 2) Of The Death Of Christ, And The Redemption Of Men Thereby; 3 & 4) Of The Corruption Of Man, His Conversion To God, And The Mann& Thereof; 5) Of The Perseverance Of The Saints. It is obvious that significant differences in order and language prevent the use of TULIP with application to the Canons of Dordrecht. However famous the Netherlands may be for its tulips, this “TULIP” was not cultivated at Dordrecht.
4. Mr. Hulse nevertheless draws a false disjunction between what he calls “TULIP Calvinists” and “Biblical Calvinists.” For if it is true, as he says, that “the formularies of Dordt” were “fine Scriptural statements, “then it also follows that what he calls “TULIP Calvinists” must be identical with “Biblical Calvinists.”
All of which is not to say that there is anything fundamentally wrong with TULIP—provided, of course, that one remembers that it is nothing more than a mnemonic, a pons assinorum, an “asses bridge.” One must certainly not elevate either the order or the terminology of a mnemonic to the status of dogma. And as is the case with all mnemonics, if one remembers the mnemonic, but fails to remember that of which it is intended to be a reminder, the mnemonic is of no value. Still more, one must remember not only the names of the Five Points of Calvinism, but must know and understand and believe the doctrines covered by those names. If he does that, he will unreservedly take his stand with the Canons of Dordrecht, those “fine Scriptural statements.” And then eventually he will find little or no need of a mnemonic such as TULIP.
Nevertheless, it is historically inaccurate to ascribe the cultivation of TULIP to Dordrecht.