The Five Points of Calvinism Book Tag

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Back in 2017 (or, you might say, in “eternity past”), Bookstooge put up a request for a “serious” book tag. At that time, I did not even know that Bookstooge existed (hard as that is to imagine). But in the providence of God, I stumbled upon that forlorn request recently, and this is the result.

The Five Points of Calvinism

These five points are not all of Christian theology, or even all of Reformed theology. There is a lot more to it, and it’s all good stuff. These five topics are simply things that Jacob Arminius and his followers disputed in the early 1600s, after the Reformation was well under way and John Calvin had been writing for some time. All of this caused a huge kerfuffle in the Dutch Reformed churches, and eventually, in 1619, the Synod of Dort adopted the Canons of Dort which answered the Arminians’ objections point by point. So, though these five points are not the whole of Reformed theology, they do represent some of the doctrines that people are most likely to have issues with, as demonstrated by Arminius, his followers, and in fact most people down to this day.

Due to their Dutch character, the five points, if put in terms that are somewhat misleading, can be shoehorned into the acrostic TULIP:

T – Total Depravity

U – Unconditional Election

L – Limited Atonement

I – Irresistible Grace

P – Perseverance of the Saints

Because this is a tag, I’m not going to parse or defend these points deeply. I’ll just explain each one in a short paragraph, then apply it to a book tag purpose. Since these things deal with the nature of man and God, they turn out to be fruitful for reminding us of our literary experiences.

T – Total Depravity

Arminius taught that people are free in their will to choose God or reject him. The doctrine of total depravity (or “sin nature”) holds instead that people, if left to themselves, are spiritually dead and will never voluntarily seek God. (Dead people cannot choose things.)

Name a book or a series that you appreciate for its jaundiced or realistic portrayal of human nature.

U – Unconditional Election

Election means that God chooses to draw some people to Himself, making alive their hearts so that they are then able to seek, hear, and trust in Him. Arminians taught that God elects people for salvation in this way on the basis of some quality in them, such as humility, faith, “responding to the light they have,” etc. The doctrine of unconditional election holds that God does not choose people because they are better than other people. He chooses them just because He wants to.

Name a book where someone chooses someone else unconditionally.

L – Limited Atonement

The most confusing of the five points as far as I am concerned, Limited Atonement means that Christ’s death was actually just for “his people” – those God chose to elect – not for everyone generally. If it were for everyone generally, and some people rejected salvation, that would mean that God’s work in salvation was ineffective in some cases, which would throw the determining factor back onto the individual.

This point is confusing for two reasons: 1) Since we don’t know who is going to be saved, we are commanded to proclaim the good news to everyone as if they were all elect. 2) We know that the number of those who believe will be a very great number, enough that Christ can be said to have saved “the whole world.” So, “limited” does not mean a small number of people.

This is one of those fine distinctions that is kind of hard to squeeze down into a two-word phrase, which then fits into a flower acrostic.

Name a book that has a complex, confusing, or seemingly unworkable philosophy behind its worldbuilding.

I – Irresistible Grace

When God chooses someone, He works on their heart, giving them a new heart with a will that is now able to choose Him. This also frees their mind to be able to hear and understand His word (since, as we know, our intellect is embarrassingly tied up with our will). When this happens, they freely choose Him, now that their will has been freed from the sin that bound it. It is never the case that God gives someone a new heart, and they then reject Him. His grace is irresistible.

What book did you find irresistible?

P – Perseverance of the Saints

This doctrine means that once someone has been regenerated, heard God’s word, and begun to believe, they will not ultimately, or permanently, fall away. You cannot “lose your salvation.” This is a very comforting doctrine, for without it, we tend to panic every time we fall into sin (or have some previously unnoticed sin revealed to us that, unfortunately, has been with us all along).

Name one of your favorite redemption arcs in a book or movie.

Go and Read Some More!

I tag Bookstooge (hope this is serious enough for you, Booksty!), and Colin cause I know he digs Reformed theology. Anyone else can do it if they want to.

Can’t … Stop … Posting … Isaiah

As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain,

so were we in your presence, O LORD.

We were with child, we writhed in pain,

but we gave birth to wind.

We have not brought salvation to the earth;

we have not given birth to people of the world.

But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.

You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.

Your dew is like the dew of the morning;

the earth will give birth to her dead.

Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you;

hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.

See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling

to punish the people of the earth for their sins.

The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her;

she will conceal her slain no longer.

Isaiah 26:17 – 21

Knitted Baby Moccasins

I got this pattern from a book called Wee Garter Stitch. I found it in my then local library, and knew I would want to make this pattern again and again. With the way you can vary the color of the mocs and the kind of fabric you sew on the instep, it is just so versatile. The original pattern called for brown cotton yarn – which I use here – but it had the fringe being all one color. As you can see, in this iteration I decided to change it up.

First, you make the moccasin part. These are made by knitting a simple rectangle, adding a tongue, and sewing the whole thing together. They might be uncomfortable to walk on, but for a baby, they are basically just socks. The pattern suggests you sew the optional fabric onto the instep after the mocs are completed, but I have found that it’s easier to add the fabric before starting on the fringe.

Then, you pick up stitches around the open edge of the moc and start “making a loop” on every stitch every round or two. This pattern taught me the “make a loop” technique, which is pretty cool. It was at this point that I started switching out the colors, partly because I didn’t have enough yarn of just one color. I actually ran out of white cotton yard and had to sub in wool for the last few rounds on one moc.

You do that for a while, and, voila! it’s time to knit four rounds of rib and cast off. Then you cut the loops and even up the fringe.

I don’t actually know how easy or difficult these are to put on a baby, because I’ve never heard back from any of the moms I’ve given such mocs to. But I have a feeling that this time, I’m going to get lucky.

Here is another pair that I made with a different color scheme.

I stuff gift paper into them, to get them to hold their shape and stand up.

Caesar Decreed that the Entire World Be Taxed

“See those men on the door? They look like the Watch. They’ve got big truncheons. And everyone’s showing them a bit of paper as they go past. I don’t like the look of that,” said Maurice. “That looks like government to me.”

“We haven’t done anything wrong,” said the kid. “Not here, anyway.”

“You never know, with governments,” said Maurice.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett, p. 32

The Whole Earth — Judged, and Renewed

Wow! Here we are at the last Isaiah passage before Christmas! And I haven’t even gotten to the famous messianic passages like chapters 41 through 44, and chapter 53. But this one is really good too, so buckle up.

See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it;

he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants —

it will be the same

for priest as for people,

for master as for servant,

for mistress as for maid,

for seller as for buyer,

for borrower as for lender,

for debtor as for creditor.

The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered.

The LORD has spoken this word.

The floodgates of the heavens are opened,

the foundations of the earth shake.

The earth is broken up,

the earth is split asunder,

the earth is thoroughly shaken.

The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind;

so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion

that it falls — never to rise again.

In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above

and the kings on the earth below.

They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon;

they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days.

The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed;

for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem

and before its elders, gloriously.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare

a feast of rich food for all peoples,

a banquet of aged wine — the best of meals and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,

the sheet that covers all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;

he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.

The LORD has spoken.

Isaiah 24:1-3, 18 – 23; 25:6 – 8

The Angel is Not Impressed: A Poem

Were you bitter, Zechariah? Many fruitless years had you

asked and asked God for a child, just to see your prayers fall through?

Standing slack-jawed at the altar, towering o’er you, Gabriel’s face:

not a chance you could have doubted God’s real power in that place.

But those dark years were your downfall, and your anger was your sin.

Now’s my chance, your sad heart whispered, Just to get one good dig in.

“It’s too late — You should have given us a baby long ago!”

Any man could understand it, but not the angel Gabriel.

Bitter mouths ought to be silenced, so the angel struck you dumb.

And so, dazed and unhappy, out into the light you come.

In a comedy of errors, Luke says you “kept making signs,”

till those gathered came to realize God had come to you inside.

Sometimes silence is a blessing. Yours was not empty but full

as you watched your once-hard neighbors come to wish Elizabeth well,

like an acorn dead below ground till its time comes to unfurl.

Nine months dumb, your mouth was ready to unsay its bitter ways:

Ready to croon to a baby, ready to explode in praise.

When Christmas Comes: A Book Review

Andrew Klavan brought this novel out in time for Christmas. I got it for a loved one, and of course I had to pre-read it.

The first thing I noticed was the texture. The jacket, and the book cover beneath it, both have a unique velvety feel that makes you want to pet them. I refrained from petting, and in fact tried to touch the book as little as possible. It is supposed to be a gift, after all.

On to the contents.

This is not the best Andrew Klavan novel I’ve read, but it is still very professional … and very Christmassy.

Klavan introduces a new sleuth, Cameron Winter: handsome, lonely, etc., etc., with a tragic back story that is only partly revealed in this book. Winter is a former (spy?), now an English Lit professor. Is Klavan trying to push the buttons on the female reading population or what? On the plus side, it does allow him to put in as many literary references as he wants, without straining credibility. I also learned some new words, like “homunculus.”

I get the impression Klavan is planning to turn out a Winter series. Also, I might have heard him hint at something like this on air. He’s said that he never before invented a sleuth who seemed to have enough depth to carry a series, but now he thinks he has one.

Of course, Winter’s name makes for many thematic puns in this volume. It was a little hard for me to relate to Winter (too perfect?). He does have that intuitive, beneath-the-surface-of-the-mind method of solving crimes that I love because it’s similar to my own thought processes, and that some of Klavan’s other sleuths have also had. But it’s hard to believe of him, because the rest of him seems too Tortured Golden Boy. For example, one of Klavan’s other sleuths who had this intuitive method was a portly, aging, kindhearted private detective with vices. Lots and lots of vices. His shambling presence made his intuitive methods seem more believable, and also made his sharp mind gleam out like a bright jewel in a dark setting. Not so with Winter. But perhaps Winter will grow on me as the series progresses. Yes, I will give him at least one more book to do so. 

I also think that I figured out the setting for this book! Sweet Haven is a little town surrounded by wooded hills, set near a large lake. It is within driving distance of the Big City, which is ALSO set near a large lake … which is, in turn, within driving distance of “the capitol,” which is where the university is where Winter teaches English Lit. At one point, Winter goes to Chicago, so Chicago must be sort of nearby but can’t be the Big City. Throughout the book, the skies are dull and grey, the temps are low, and there is plenty of snow, so we’re probably not in the South.

So, after getting about a quarter of the way through the book, I decided that it is set in Michigan. I think the Big City is Detroit. I pictured Sweet Haven set some way up the coast from Detroit, on the shores of Lake Huron. That would make the capitol Lansing. So naturally I assumed that Winter is a professor at MSU, and the MSU campus is where I pictured him going, including having the awesome fight scene in his tiny on-campus office. Setting this book in Michigan, and especially at MSU, will make it even more of a personal gift for its intended recipient.

Quote of the Week: About Social Class

They drove past the grand old Victorian houses just beyond the center of town. There were understated wreaths on their painted doors. There were trimmed pines laced with white fairy lights standing erect on their snowed-over lawns. …

As they got farther from the main road, the houses became more modest. As the houses became more modest, the Christmas displays became more elaborate. Some of the homes were wholly outlined in blinking lights. Outside of one, a life-sized Santa Claus climbed into a sleigh with a full complement of reindeer. “Merry Christmas” flashed boldly in the window of another — as if it were a tavern, [Cameron] Winter thought.

When Christmas Comes, by Andrew Klavan, pp. 67 – 68

So where is your house on this continuum?