TULIP: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION (Part 1 of 6)                                by Jeffrey D. Hagan, (ThD), MA, MCC


This is the introduction to a six-part collection of articles explaining Calvin’s Reformed theology. The acronym used to describe this theology is known as “TULIP.” Therefore, as an introduction this is article one. Article two will address the “T” in TULIP, article three the “U” in TULIP, article four the “L” in TULIP, article five the “I” in TULIP, and article six the “P” in TULIP. The acronym TULIP is also recognized and referred to as The Five Points of Calvinism: each point being one of the letters in TULIP consecutively. The Five Points of Calvinism, or the terms used for the TULIP acronym if you prefer, are as follows: T stands for total depravity, U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints. The definitions and some of the Scripture references Calvinists use to defend their position are as follows:

 T-Total Depravity:

As a result of Adam’s sin, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sins. Humanity is unable to save themselves (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).

 U-Unconditional Election:

Because humanity is dead in sin, we are unable to initiate a response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected (or chose) certain individuals for salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not conditioned, or based, on our response (Romans 8:29-30; 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12) because we are unable to respond, nor do we desire to.

 L-Limited Atonement:

Because God determined that certain individuals should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He planned for Jesus Christ to die only for the elect. All whom God has elected and for whom Jesus died will be saved (Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25).

 I-Irresistible Grace:

Those whom God elected He draws to Himself by grace which cannot be resisted. God is the one who makes humanity willing to come to Him. When God calls, we respond (John 6:37, 44; 10:16).

 P-Perseverance of the Saints:

The specific ones which God has elected and drawn to Himself by the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. No one God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure. A common saying for this position is “Once saved always saved” (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14).

While all of these doctrines have a biblical foundation, many people refuse to accept all or some of them. Those considered “four-point Calvinists” adhere to Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. But they reject Limited Atonement. They agree that humanity is definitely sinful and cannot believe in God on their own; God elects people by His will alone – election is not based on any worth in the person God chooses; all of those God has chosen will come to faith; and all those who are truly born-again, or regenerated, will persevere in their faith (remain eternally secure by God). However, when it comes to atonement four-point Calvinists believe that it is unlimited, claiming that Jesus died for the sins of the the entire world (literally), and not just for the sins of the elect. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (NIV). Some other verses used to oppose limited atonement are John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6; and 2 Peter 2:1.

Five-point Calvinists see problems with four-point Calvinism. They argue, if Total Depravity is true, then Unlimited Atonement cannot be true because if Jesus died for the sins of every person in the world, then whether or not His death can be applied to an individual would depend on whether or not the person “accepts” Christ. But we have seen in the brief description of Total Depravity, humanity in their (our) natural state has no ability whatsoever to choose God nor would we desire to. Also, if Unlimited Atonement is true, then hell is full of people that Christ died for. If so, He shed His blood in vain for them. To five-point Calvinists, this is unimaginable.

(This article is just a very brief summary of the five points of Calvinism and is part one of a six part series. For a deeper look, please read my articles two through six which can be found on www.booksie.com/truegraceministries).


Copyright 2013 Jeffrey D. Hagan. All rights reserved.



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