Five Points of Calvinism

The Five Points of Calvinism


The doctrines taught in the Five Points are an attempt to summarize the biblical teaching on salvation.  Calvinism is a label with a variety of meanings.  The term “The Five Points of Calvinism” is in some ways misleading. These doctrines have been taught in the church since the apostles.  But a challenge to faith is often helpful in clarifying it.  The Five Points actually stem from a rebuttal to Jacobus Arminius at the Synod of Dordt (1618-19) well after John Calvin’s death in 1564.  Extensive explanations are available on the web and in print, so they will not be duplicated here. Rather, this is an attempt to, in a clear and concise manner, explain the term and the relevance of the doctrine to everyday life.  Many are wary of “theology,” believing it to be dry and deadening.  Since the word means “study of God” it is impossible that true theology would be soul-killingly-boring, but many have done a poor job of showing the beauty of God through doctrine.  

The Five Points are often referred to by the acronym TULIP


Total Depravity-After Adam sinned, the nature of humanity changed. There are no morally neutral people seeking truth for its own sake. The natural state of a man or woman is to hide and pretend.  The holiness of God is fearful for it exposes our own wickedness, something that we desperately want to avoid.  Therefore, this doctrine teaches that every inclination of a person will be to run and hide from God.  It does not say that a person is as depraved as possible, rather that depravity is the state of every aspect of a person when they are born.


Unconditional Election-Every one of Adam and Eve’s natural descendants has chosen to rebel against and hate God, but God chose some, from the beginning of time, to work in their lives in a special way to bring them to a state of humility and repentance.  A person must choose Christ. Any who truly repent will be forgiven. Unconditional election merely says that without a supernatural act of God, none could do so. God has chosen, because of His great love, to save some.  If you have (or will now) repented in humility and thrown yourself to Christ’s mercy, knowing that nothing other than God Himself dying for you could save you, then know that this means God loved you with an everlasting love before time began. This love is not conditioned upon your actions. We do not earn it. It is given to His chosen ones for no reason we may discern. This doctrine causes a Christian to have a deep humility, for there is nothing about a Christian that makes him or her better than any other human, and yet also to have immense worth seeing that God set His love on him or her from all of eternity.


Limited Atonement-This doctrine teaches that Christ died only for those that God gave to Him.  The Bible teaches that a person is adopted by God, becoming a son or daughter of God and a brother to Jesus, at the moment of conversion.  The orphan does not choose the parents, the parents choose the orphan.  Jesus came into this world to claim and rescue His own, not to make it possible for us to work our way into His family.

Irresistible Grace-One whom God has chosen, may not resist His grace, try though they might.  My favorite explanation of this is the metaphor of a lion in a zoo. If for a hundred straight days the zoo keeper offered the lion cabbage or steak for dinner, for a hundred straight days the lion, in his own free will, would choose to eat the steak and leave the cabbage. The nature of the lion is to love the one and despise the other.  We have free will, but our nature is such that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, we will find God detestable and darkness desirable. In the conversion process, a person is wooed and seduced by God and her or his nature changed, so that which was once abhorrent, now becomes life itself and that which was loved is now cast aside.

Perseverance of the Saints-Those who are chosen by God and changed by the Spirit will be held by Christ. He will guard us through life. This gives us great peace, that our relationship with God depends on Him and not on us.  Many perceive God as the father in the recliner reading his newspaper with the TV on in the background.  In this mindset, God is reticent to relate to us apart from our efforts to engage Him. In reality, God is the Father that desires us with a burning passion and He uses all of His energy to guard His relationship with us.