Drinking Deeply

Thursday, November 02, 2006 at 10:53 PM

TULIP intro

All my friends are doing it. So in classic new-Calvinist form, I'm going to go ahead and blog through the five points of Calvinism.

TULIP is an acronym used to summarize the five points of Calvinism. They are laid forth clearly in the Canons of Dordt. They are set down in response to the teachings of Jacob Arminius. After his death, his followers put forth the Remonstrance, putting forth their views on five points of disagreement with the prevailing notions of Christian theology at the time.

With this in mind, we can make a few qualifications. These five points do not summarize all that the Bible teaches upon the sovereignty of God, but rather put forth doctrine on points of disagreement. TULIP is a convenient acronym, but not necessarily the suggested mode of presenting Calvinism. The term Calvinism is misleading in that it is put forth as doctrines that John Calvin taught. While this is true, many (if not all) Calvinists would say they believe in Calvinism because they find it to be biblical, not because of commitment to a person. I presume “Arminians” would say the same.

The points and a quick summary of what they are as follows. I'll tie them together logically at the end.

T – Total Depravity

Man is, by nature after the fall, sinful. Not only have they committed sins, but the sinfulness (depravity) is total, extending to every single part of their being. This is not to mean that they are all mass murders, but simply that they cannot, without the grace of God, will anything that is good or pleasing to God. Even those works that look “good” to us, are not done in faith and thus are not pleasing to God. There is nothing good in man after the fall.

U – Unconditional Election

God's choice to save people is unconditional, based upon His will and His will alone, and not upon anything that they have done, earned, or will do in the future. Notably, His election of people is not based upon his foreknowledge of their decision to choose Him. Their faith is a gift of God as well, and dependent upon His election of them.

L – Limited Atonement

Christ's death secures salvation for the elect (those that God has chosen). Those that He died for have their sins forgiven. The word “Limited” refers to the extent of the atonement (Christ's death). If Christ's death secures salvation, then the fact that someone isn't saved means that Christ didn't die for them. (Limited carries a negative connotation, which is unfortunate)

I – Irresistible Grace

For those that God has chosen, there comes a point where God will save them by the working of His Holy Spirit in their lives, bringing them to repentance and faith. This call, done by God's grace, is thus termed “irresistible” as He overcomes all obstacles to faith and saves people.

P – Preservation of the Saints

For those God has chosen, He will also preserve them to the end, so that they will not fall away (they will remain saints).

These five points (rough summaries), are set in contrast to the five points brought up by the followers of Arminius, which were: Partial depravity, election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement, resistible grace, and the possibility of falling away from faith.

They tie together nicely as follows:

If someone is totally depraved and unwilling to choose good, then, on their own, they cannot and will not choose God. God's choice of saving them cannot then be based upon anything they do (since they do nothing good), but upon His will alone.

If someone is unconditionally chosen by God, then that means God much do the entire work of salvation. Namely, Jesus' death upon the cross must be sufficient to save them. (Total Depravity again). This means His death is the sufficient and necessary condition for salvation, and Christ did not die for everyone (as, if He did, then everyone would be saved).

If Christ's death is sufficient to save someone completely, God has unconditionally chosen them for salvation, and they, on their own, are totally depraved, then that means God must break through their hardness of heart to bring them to faith and repentance. Left to their own devices, they would resist God until the bitter end. The only way they're going to be saved is if God completely transforms their heart, so that His grace is then irresistible.

If God has unconditionally chosen to save the elect and He has provided all things necessary for their salvation in Christ, then as part of the provision in Christ, He has also provided an endurance to the end in Christ.

Notice that if we deny one point, we will eventually deny all points.

As an example:

Grace is resistible -> Man is not totally depraved (for if they were, they'd resist God's grace to the point of death, but some are saved) -> God's election not based completely on self (resisting or not is also a determining factor) -> Those that are saved can fall away (As if they can resist now, what stops them from resisting later?)-> Christ's death isn't sufficient

One point also implies the others.


People are preserved to the end - > Since this must be effected supernaturally, it must be conditioned upon God and not man (U) -> Christ's death is sufficient to save (L) -> Man cannot add to his own salvation (T) -> God, applying Christ's death, cannot be resisted. (I)


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Blogger jefe said...

i think you're right that the five points hang pretty closely together, but i think you've overstated your case considerably when you say that each point implies all of the others, or even the weaker claim that each point is implied by the others taken together--at least without a lot of other theory thrown in.

take total depravity, for instance. it's logically consistent to deny that and affirm ULIP: suppose that man is capable of doing good apart from grace, but that this good is incapable of making any difference one way or the other for salvation or election. since the other four are about election and soteriology, there's no logical overlap.

(maybe what you meant by "total depravity", is really something about soteriology or election, but if that's so, then it's best to say so and not exaggerate the claim.)

similarly, L is the only one that says anything about atonement. so, without some bridge principles besides L that link atonement to election or something like that, L is logically independent of TUIP.

this is all kind of nitpicky, but i think it's worth being careful about these sorts of claims. saying that the "4-pointer"'s position is logically inconsistent just isn't true. if it's inconsistent with other principles, then we should be explicit about what those principles are: maybe we don't all agree about them.  


Anonymous theocentric522 said...


Each point of TULIP is not defined in logical terms, they are biblically defined. This is no less true with "God." We don't start with an arbitary definition, we start with a biblical one. I don't think this it true, but I'll grant that logically T doesn't have to overlap with ULIP. You have to add more premises to deduce T to U, to L, to I, to P. Yet I'd argue that if you were to build a biblical concept of T, you cannot properly do so without implying U, L, I, and P. For example, your claim, "...this good is incapable of making any difference one way or the other for salvation..." is foreign to scripture.  


Blogger mxu said...


I don't want to get entirely bogged down in these logical issues, because I'm planning on defending each point from Scripture, and that's where this debate will be settled.

But I'll make a few points to respond here-

T - Salvation is based upon good works. Cursed is the person who does not follow the whole of the law. Thus if someone is able to do good works, then they can contribute to their salvation. So there is a logical overlap there.

Regarding the atonement, I'm not too sure what you mean that it's logically independent.

L includes the statement that Christ's death is sufficient and necessary for salvation of the elect. I don't see how much closer we can get to election (whom God chooses to save) or soteriology.

Regarding the claim that 4-pointers are logically inconsistent, you're right that my statement is incomplete (aka, I need another premise). Stay tuned.

thanks for your comment jefe  


Blogger jefe said...


yeah, that's right. i also don't want to get you too bogged down here. i think you're right that there are connections, but making them brings a lot more of your big scriptural picture into play than just the five points. and in that bigger picture there are a lot of places someone might disagree with you.

(small point: i was taking L to mean something like "anyone atoned for is elect"; since the other statements don't say anything at all about atonement, they are logically independent of this statement.

also small point: re T. say i grant the extra premise that keeping the whole law accomplishes salvation. that doesn't imply that keeping half the law accomplishes half of salvation. the point isn't that T is false. the point is that justifying T requires a lot more theological machinery than what's on the table.)


i agree that these things are not "defined in logical terms"--but, like any statements, they have logical implications and connections, to each other and to the statements in scripture. and it's best to be as clear as we can about what those connections are, so that we can really understand the basis for what we believe, and so we can communicate effectively and charitably when we reach disagreement. that's my main point.  


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