Question: "What is Calvinism and is it Biblical? What are the five points of Calvinism?"

Answer: The five points of Calvinism can be summarized by the acronym TULIP. T stands for total depravity, U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints. Here are the definitions and Scripture references Calvinists use to defend their beliefs:

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

Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response (Romans 8:29-30; 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12) because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to.

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

Irresistible Grace – Those whom God elected and Christ died for, God draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds (John 6:37,44; 10:16).

Perseverance of the Saints – The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14).

While all these doctrines have a biblical basis, many people reject all or some of them. So-called “four-point Calvinists” accept Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints as biblical doctrines. Man is definitely sinful and incapable of believing in God on his own. God elects people based on His will alone – it is not based on any merit in the person chosen. All those whom God has chosen will come to faith. All those who are truly born-again will persevere in their faith. As for Limited Atonement, however, four-point Calvinists believe that atonement in unlimited, arguing that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, not just for the sins of the elect. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Other verses in opposition to limited atonement are John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6; 2 Peter 2:1.

The five-point Calvinists, however, see problems with four-point Calvinism. First, they argue, if Total Depravity is true, then Unlimited Atonement cannot possibly be true because if Jesus died for the sins of every person, then whether or not His death is applicable to an individual depends on whether or not that person “accepts” Christ. But as we have seen from the above description of Total Depravity, man in his natural state has no capacity whatsoever to choose God, nor does he want to. In addition, if Unlimited Atonement is true, then hell is full of people for whom Christ died and He shed His blood in vain for them. To the five-point Calvinist, this is unthinkable. Please note – this article is only a brief summary of the five points of Calvinism. For a more in in-depth look, please visit the following pages: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White.

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The above was taken directly from the GotQuestions Web site and is a good summary of the teaching. It is not intended to be judgmental, argumentative, or to persuade anyone of anything. Persuasion of scriptural truth is always a work of the Holy Spirit.

20 responses to “Question: "What is Calvinism and is it Biblical? What are the five points of Calvinism?"

  1. It is interesting how we as humans tend to focus on one side or the other. God is sovereign, we are his children by virtue of creation. Man’s will became a slave of sin at the fall. It isn’t that man can’t choose but his choices are dictated by sin, and he enjoys that sin. God in His mercy sets us free from sin so that we can choose to do what is right in His sight. The tulip ideology is an incomplete understanding of the scriptures for it leaves man looking like a robot. The problem stems from a lack of knowledge of how God’s covenant with man works. There is something God promises and does there is a part I play in that covenant. Salvation is God’s work, yet it doesn’t become mine until I accept Christ. We live in a world were everything depends on me, so the opposite would be everything is all God’s. The solution is simple I obey God and trust Him to supply what is lacking in my life. This aspect of Calvinism is over looked and misunderstood. By the Calvinism will not save me, its doctrines are only guides to help us read the scripture. For man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Notice man’s part and God’s part God speaks, man lives

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  2. Thank you for your comment.This was posted because the intent was to examine Calvinism in the light of Scripture. I will also be posting the articles linked to in the article.

    Your objection to Calvinism turning us into robots is a common one. Perhaps the remaining articles will shed some light on that.

    Yes, we are responsible to ‘respond’ to the message of salvation. The question behind that is “Why does anyone respond in the affirmative?” The remaining articles will share the position of Calvinism concerning that question.

    I would only add to that the need to realize that long before the littole Frenchman was born, the doctrines that bear his name were the beliefs held by the majority of the church.

    Feel free to respond the the remaining articles.

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  3. I grew up in a reformed church, I am well aware of Calvinism. I am aware of its short comings, its failures and its slavery. It has become an intellectual understanding, a way of believing and doing things. Does the five points of Calvinism cause one to trust God, or does it cause one to trust in the system of believe? Does the five points of Calvinism included everything that Calvinism stands for and understand, no it does not. It points out incompletely man’s inability to save himself, it points out incompletely God’s working. Being in Calvinism leaves you with the understanding that you are not good enough that is you are not worthy to be loved, that when you become a Christian you have to work real hard at doing right so that God won’t be angry at you. What appears to be intellectually correct on paper is not how the outcome of that understanding is. Calvinism is not the answer but God’s wisdom which he revealed at the cross is. Any doctrine that does not require an absolute trust in Christ will eventually become a method of legal works. This is what has happened in Calvinism a set of rules and traditions. All that God has provided is true in Christ alone, eternal security is in Christ alone, salvation is in Christ alone. When we are born again God places us in Christ. These things are not in or of ourselves but of Christ and they remain in Him. This is were Calvinism fails its focus is man’s failure, its focus is God’s anger it in a sense is still trying to do penance to be made worthy of salvation. God indeed is sovereign and this understanding has been lost and replaced with the goodness of man, but going back to Calvinism is not going to fix man’s heart only receiving Jesus as my master will.

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    • You sound like me before I actually learned the truth about John Calvin and the ‘flowery’ doctrine. Perhaps you should read the Intsitutes. It doesn’t sound like you know the real Calvin, or the doctrines of sovereign grace. What you describe to me concerning what you think Calvinism is, seems a bit off the mark, to say the least. You and Calvin both believe in the Five Solas. Calvin was about the sovereignty of God in all things, including the salvation of sinners, from beginning to end, and I find great comfort in that. The legalistic ‘bent’ which you describe is in no way John Calvin. I think you would agree on many things, actually.

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  4. It is interesting how we begin to depend on man’s understanding of what the Bible says rather than on what God says. Calvinism assume you are born again through baptism as a child, rather than coming to see how corrupt man really is and turn to accept Christ. It is good to know God is in charge of all things and he has provided Jesus as the solution to man’s need. Salvation is God’s work but I have to work out my salvation for it is God that is at work in me Phillipians 2:12 – 15 There is more to Christianity the the 5 sola’s but it won’t fix what ails Christianity. I preach Christ and Him crucified and end to me and freedom from this world

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    • Simon, good Morning.

      “Calvinism assumes you are born again through baptism as a child, rather than coming to see how corrupt man really is and turn to accept Christ.”

      Calvin believed in infant baptism as a sign of the covenant but not that it is a guarantee of salvation, as many covenentalists still believe.

      “Baptism does not PROCURE salvation but it accepts and confirms the promises of God” – Calvin (Intsitutes, Book 4.15)

      Calvin, like Luther, Augustine, and Paul, believed in the complete inability of man, or any work of man to procure salvation for anyone. Perhaps you do not know Calvin as well as you think you do?

      I do not claim to be a Calvinist. What I believe about sovereign grace I believe from the pages of scripture, much of which is articulated in the articles I am posting.

      And by all means, we preach Christ and Him crucified for OUR sin! Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

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  5. are you aware that a lot of Calvinism is based upon the covenant with Abraham and that infant baptism is based totally upon it that the sign and seal of the covenant is baptism instead of circumcision ? True baptism is a proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and my participation in it. It is much more than accepting the promises of God but participating in it. For the promise of Abraham is Christ, the covenant of Abraham ends in Christ since Christ is the fulfilment of the covenant. What is the promise of the Father eternal life, who receives it but he who has the Son 1 John 5:12. All the promises of God find their Amen in Christ. God present His son as salvation and nothing can be added to it or taken from it.

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  6. Simon,

    I just said that.

    “Calvin believed in infant baptism as a sign of the covenant but not that it is a guarantee of salvation, as many covenentalists still believe.”

    I also know that Baptism as a sign of covenan,t and as a proclamation of the death, burial and resurrection both have scriptural support. of both. to dogmatically state that one is TRUE, intimating that the other is not, may not be wise. Personally, I see merit in both positions, and since scripture does not ‘explicitly’ states that only one is TRUE, I certainly will not.

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  7. Calvinism has one problem, predestination has been viewed from the wrong respective.
    1) In Adam all men already are on the way to hell, it is a choice Adam made and all posterity suffer from it. To assume God creates some for hell and others not; is erroneous, since in Adam all are consigned to disobedience, (Romans 11:32) so that He may have mercy on all. No one is without excuse for all have seen his handy work in creation (Romans 1). God in His great mercy sent Jesus into this world to save the lost since all in Adam die, all in Christ will be made righteous. God reveals Himself to all but not all respond unless God draws him. Coming to Christ is an act of mercy on God’s part and an act of repentance on ours. God has predestined us in Christ to conform to Christ’s image (Romans 8) It is the supposition that God predestines some to salvation and some to hell that is incomplete, God steps into man’s headlong flight to hell to save those whom, he chooses.
    2) Man’s will so corrupted by sin is both unwilling to surrender to Christ unless God intervenes, it isn’t that man can’t choose, but he is unable because of sin. It is a hard thing for us to accept that there dwells no good thing in us or in the flesh that by nature we are failures in desperate need of salvation. It is this sinful will (or heart) that God both sets free and trains to walk righteously. What great delivery!
    3) God desires to save all men, yet many are called but few are chosen
    4) God’s love is meant to lead us to repentance yet we can resit the call of the Holy Spirit even after we are saved. God’s grace draws but we have a part to play obedience and faithfulness
    5) The perseverance of the saints this is something God does: For unless the Lord builds the house they that labour over it labour over it in vain. All God requires is submission to Him and he will do the rest.

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  8. Submission is not just obedience but a dependency on God for strength and wisdom, the secret to victory is not faith (I will be called a heretic) but humility for my trust must be in God alone. I am not interested in ideology but what God says is true. Ideology leads to bondage submission leads to joy. I place the emphasis not on knowledge but on knowing God through Jesus Christ. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.

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    • Yet we are told that “This is eternal life, to know God and the one the He sent. Since what can be known of God is in his written work, knowledge of his word is of great importance, not of any ‘ism’s but of the written word. That which is true in the theological system of Calvinism was true long before he was ever born.

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  9. Are we called to follow a theological system? Has not our own society found that the system creates slaves and is in rebellion toward that system? Systems don’t change hearts, just creates another layer of bureaucracy and a straight jacket of obedience for behind this system lies a desire for dominion over others. God desires changed hearts which no system can ever do. TULIP might be a nice system of doctrines but following it places one back under the law not under grace. Something my generation hated it hated the rules of the church it’s
    control it had over every day life. I can understand why some many call this system wrong. Whether you want to admit or not it is full of half truths and these half truths will always lead to bondage. You call me a closet Calvinist no just a reformed or changed one, one who has been set free from Calvinism. Jesus set us free from this world that also includes the religion. For all that man makes ends up being ruled by sin.

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  10. Newsflash, the following:

    “Submission is not just obedience but a dependency on God for strength and wisdom, the secret to victory is not faith (I will be called a heretic) but humility for my trust must be in God alone. I am not interested in ideology but what God says is true. Ideology leads to bondage submission leads to joy. I place the emphasis not on knowledge but on knowing God through Jesus Christ. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”

    is a system.

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  11. What is faith? the word for faith in the Greek is very close to the word trust. Nowadays faith has become a method or a force in order to get things done. True faith always rest in Christ for that is whom God has provided for all our needs. God has done all things this way so that our hope and trust might be in God alone. We might see many good works, many people healed and yet there is this great emptiness on the inside only Jesus can fill that emptiness. Calvinism fills you up with knowledge but leaves you empty on the inside. I am not saying knowledge doesn’t have its place but it is no substitute for knowing Christ. What ever we have our pride in (when our pride is not in Christ) and often uses the things we think are weak to teach us.

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  12. Jason: if you have a bible and are willing to read John chapters 14 to 17 you will begin to discover that what I write is true. Jesus calls us to abide in Him there is no other way but to submit to Him. He is all that we need this is not a system but a lifestyle. God has made us in a servant place dependent on Him. There is no real joy and pleasure in this life without submission to Jesus Christ.

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  13. Often the word know in the Bible refers to knowing someone by walking with them. It implies a knowledge that comes by communicating with someone what he is like, how or what he thinks how he acts. In today’s language it is a knowledge that comes by relationship.
    Our society looks at things backwards we want knowledge before relationship whereas God wants relationship before knowledge. Because many words in the English language has more than one meaning it is often the one most commonly used that is accepted as the right one. However often in the Bible the words use their alternate meaning. It seems to me we have lost the ability to read in context to ascertain the correct meaning. This is something John Calvin stressed to read the Bible in its context and never assume anything.

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  14. Simon, perhaps you forgot that this, and other posts about Calvinism were orrered to inform, educate, and perhaps counter popular beliefs about Calvinism. This and the other posts are offered without personal comment. You have absolutely no ground to charge that these are aout following John Calvin or his system of theology. Before John Calvin there was Martin Luther, Augustine and the Apostle Paul (to name only a few notables), who held to the same ‘system’.

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  15. you offered personal comment when you accused me of being a closet Calvinist and told that I lack trust in God. I have only responded to that accusation.

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