THE CALVINISTIC “TULIP”
TULIP is the acronym for the basic ideas of classical Calvinism.
(The simplistic version)
T — total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.
U — unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.
L — limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.
I — irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.
P — perseverence of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.
(The TULIP in full bloom)
TOTAL DEPRAVITY OR INABILITY (= “T” of TULIP)
The first point asserts that the entire or TOTAL human being–body and soul, intellect and will, etc.–is fallen and that everyone is born spiritually dead, helpless, and passive; indeed, everyone is worse than volitionally dead or unable to desire spiritual good but is actually enslaved to sin, positively and actively hostile to the things of the Spirit (Calvinists cite, e.g., John. 1:13; 8:43, 47; 10:26; 12:37-40; 18:37; Romans. 7:18; 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians. 2:9-14).
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION (= “U” of TULIP)
The second point inescapably follows from the first: since one is born totally depraved and enslaved to sin, one’s ELECTION cannot be dependent or CONTINGENT on any spiritually worthy actions one commits. According to this point, God predestines or chooses to soften the hard, sin-enslaved hearts of certain fallen individuals and liberate them from their death not because of any merit they have but despite their demerits–i.e., He ELECTS to change their hearts (and thereby join them to Christ and His saving work) DESPITE the fact that they hate God and oppose Him and have hard hearts, not soft hearts, and have sin-enslaved wills, not free wills. Thus, believers have no reason to boast about themselves or their own actions: the only thing that differentiates them from Judas, Esau, or others who never respond in faith is that God gave them grace that He withheld from such reprobates (Calvinists cite, e.g., Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Rom. 9:11-18; 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:8-10; cf. Jn. 1:13; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Phil. 2:13).
LIMITED ATONEMENT or Particular Redemption (= “L” of TULIP)
This point says that while Christ’s blood–indeed, His entire life, death, and resurrection–is infinitely INTENSIVE in saving power and thus unlimited in one sense, it is not infinitely EXTENSIVE and is thus limited, not universal, in the extent of its application; for while everyone CONDITIONALLY or “provisionally” shares in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (thus, if everyone believed, everyone would be joined or married to Christ), only members of Christ’s body or bride or flock (ELECT believers) actually share in His blood (Calvinists cite, e.g., Jn. 10:11, 15, 26; 17:9; cf. 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6, 24).
IRRESISTIBLE (SUFFICIENT) GRACE (= “I” of TULIP)
This is virtually a synonym for Luther’s slogan “grace alone” (sola gratia) and is logically implied by points “T” and “U” above. It teaches that God’s INWARD CALL is perfectly EFFECTUAL or SUFFICIENT–a hard, fleshly, sinful heart need not add anything to God’s grace, such as “co-operation,” for this special call or grace is invincible, overpowering all hatred and melting all opposition (Calvinists cite, e.g., Jn. 3:6-8). Here Calvinists distinguish God’s inward, effectual call–i.e., IRRESISTIBLE GRACE or sufficient, effective grace–from His outward call, which is simply His commandments written on tablets of stone. The latter is eminently resistible, insufficient, and ineffective to give life to a dead soul or liberate a sin-enslaved heart (e.g., Acts 7:51; 13:39; Rom. 8:3).
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS or Eternal Security (= “P” of TULIP)
This is not the idea that no matter what a believer does he or she cannot lose his or her salvation but the idea that ” . . . He who began a good work in you will perfect it . . ” (Phil. 1:6 [NASB]; cf., e.g., Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:31-39)–i.e., the idea that whenever God creates faith in our hearts and thereby joins us to Christ and His saving work, He will sustain that faith, that saving relationship with Christ, causing us, by His grace, to persevere in faith.
An Explanation of the TULIP
The aforementioned “TULIP” was fashioned at the Synod of Dordt (Dordrecht) in the early 1600s only in REACTION to five assertions of the Arminians (the “Remonstrants” or Dutch “semi-Pelagian” protesters). As a result, these five points aren’t the clearest, most coherent, or most comprehensive presentation of the Calvinistic doctrine of salvation. By the way, Luther, Cranmer, Zwingli, Bullinger, Bucer, et al., were all strict predestinarians and fully Augustinian in their view of grace, etc., but the AP test seems to associate predestination only with Calvin and Zwingli).
Nonetheless, once one understands the essence of the Calvinistic order of salvation (ordo salutis), then TULIP makes sense. According to both English and American Puritans and Continental Calvinists, SALVATION is conditional, whereas ELECTION is unconditional (U = UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION). This distinction is vital to understanding TULIP: ELECTION is God’s eternal decree, outside of time, of who will have faith in Christ and thereby become a member of His body and thus be spotless and righteous and obtain eternal life; in contrast, SALVATION is God’s historical outworking of this decree in time. Thus, according to Calvinism, there is an entire chain of necessary and sufficient CONDITIONS one must meet in order to be “saved” or obtain “SALVATION”: if and only if one believes will one be joined to Christ’s body and participate in His blood and His fulfillment of the law; if and only if one is thus joined to Christ will one be justified or declared legally righteous; if and only if one is thus justified will one be adopted and volitionally sanctified and persevere in Christ; if and only if one thus perseveres will one be physically glorified and receive a transformed resurrected body and spend eternity with Christ.
HOWEVER, according to Calvinism, while one can thus ask “What must I do to be SAVED” (Acts 16:30), it is nonsense to ask “What must I do to be ELECTED?” Why? Because a volitional corpse or a spiritually dead person simply cannot read the Word or pray to God in a way that will volitionally resurrect himself (herself) or soften his (her) heart’s hostility to God–i.e., in regeneration or in being “born again,” one is passive. In a word, the unregenerate, fleshly person is TOTALLY UNABLE (= “T” of “TULIP”) to do any spiritual good–he or she can’t even co-operate or work “synergistically” with the Holy Spirit (hence Calvinism teaches a pure monergism, as did St. Augustine). Thus, if one is born a slave to sin and spiritually dead–is “TOTALLY DEPRAVED or spiritually unable”–then salvation must ULTIMATELY be a free or UNCONDITIONAL gift, in no way finally dependent or contingent on one’s actions–back to the “U” or “UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION”: God simply reaches down and chooses to breathe life into some spiritual corpses and pass over others.
The Five Points of Calvinism
There are two mains camps of theology within Christianity in America today: Arminianism and Calvinism. Calvinism is a system of biblical interpretation taught by John Calvin. Calvin lived in France in the 1500’s at the time of Martin Luther who sparked the Reformation.
The system of Calvinism adheres to a very high view of scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual where he is then able and wants to choose God; and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation.
Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined, but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation).
Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P.
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
These five categories do not comprise Calvinism in totality. They simply represent some of its main points.
Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.
The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, “In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?” The answer is, “He cannot. Therefore God must predestine.”
Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23).
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).
Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many’; John 10:11, 15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bore the sins of many (not all).
When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out,” (John 6:37).
Perseverance of the Saints:
You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return.