The following is a portion from an interview about PROOF found in the May 2014 issue Towers Magazine, the campus magazine for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
MD: How does your [PROOF] acronym relate to TULIP? Are you replacing it?
TPJ: Well, it’s somewhat unfortunate that, if someone has heard of Reformed soteriology, it’s typically been described to them in terms of “five points of Calvinism” and summarized using a flower from the land of windmills and wooden shoes.
I suspect that John Calvin would have deplored the thought that any theological system might bear his name. Calvin didn’t even want his name to appear on his own tombstone! His desire was to be buried in an unmarked grave alongside the common citizens of Geneva. And, of course, the “five points” didn’t emerge until the Synod of Dort in 1619 summarized their soteriology in five doctrinal headings, more than a half-century after Calvin’s death. That’s not to say that Calvin wouldn’t have assented to the five points — I think he would have — but the representatives of the Reformed churches at the Synod of Dort arrived at these five points through vigorous discussions with one another and rigorous exegesis of Scripture, not because of anything John Calvin said or did.
As far as I have been able to find at this point — and I’m certainly open to correction on this if anyone finds something earlier — the TULIP acronym itself didn’t emerge until the early twentieth century, although all of the individual phrases used in the TULIP can be found in the nineteenth century or earlier. Phillip Schaff, in an article from the 1890s, specifically referenced all five, using all of the now-familiar terms.
We believe that PROOF makes the same points as TULIP in a way that’s more memorable and truer to the proceedings of the Synod of Dort. “Planned grace” is analogous to limited atonement, “resurrecting grace” points to total depravity, “outrageous grace” goes with unconditional election, “overcoming grace” is the term that Timothy George has suggested in place of irresistible grace and “forever grace” is the same as perseverance of the saints.
MD: What keeps people from discovering and living in, as you write, “the intoxicating joy of God’s wild and free grace”? What’s the solution?
TPJ: Martin Luther once pointed out that humanity after the fall is no longer able to imagine or to conceive any way to be made right with God other than works. That’s why it’s crucial that we return again and again to an emphasis on grace alone. If we pull back from a consistent proclamation and explanation of grace, the people in our churches tend to take one of two wrong turns in their Christian faith: Some confuse grace with divine approval and see grace as God’s acceptance of whatever they do or desire to make them happy; the result of this wrong turn is a diluted sentimentalism that downplays holiness and never calls for transformation. Others begin to see grace as the starting-point for their salvation but then become convinced that it’s up to their efforts to maintain God’s favor; this wrong turn leads toward legalism or simply to exhaustion and frustration, with people forgetting that Christ has already delivered everything that God’s justice demands. Freedom and joy come when we simultaneously rest completely in Christ and recognize this rest in Christ as a foundation for our active pursuit of holiness. Grace not only liberates us from the demands of the law but also frees us and enables us to pursue holiness.