R. C. Sproul – What is Calvinism?

The Calvinist believes that salvation is wholly an act of God, initiated and worked out and completed by God. How this is achieved can be summarized in the five points, which is traditionally recalled through the acronym T.U.L.I.P. [1]

T- Total depravity. This is the doctrine that affirms the whole corruption of man’s nature -no one is capable of pleasing God through the efforts of his own natural disposition – all parts of our beings are corrupted by sin, and therefore there is nothing in us which can naturally commend us to God.  

U- Unconditional election – in order to be saved it is necessary for God to initiate salvation – not according to each one’s own merit – those whom He will save is effectual from before the foundation of the world. The Calvinist denies the notion of free-will, as well as any idea that God and man works together in synergy in order to accomplish salvation.

L – Limited atonement. Since salvation is based solely on the desire and will of God, and not on the will of man, and since God unconditionally elects those whom He saves, while damning others, the atonement is logically therefore limited only to those whom He has elected.

I – Irresistible grace.  God’s absolute sovereignty means that God’s grace cannot be resisted, and that men cannot choose or resist the efficacious grace of God.

P – Perserverance of the Saints. Those who are born of God will persevere to the end. God’s salvation is guaranteed to the end. The Calvinist rejects the doctrine that one can be saved, then fall away from grace, or lose his salvation.

Conclusion:  God alone is responsible for every aspect of salvation, from beginning to end, election to glory, and man contributes nothing to it.

Teachers who affirm the five points are J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Geerhardus Vos, Herman Bavinck and others.

Questions for Calvinists:

  • Is faith in TULIP necessary for salvation?
  • Does faith in TULIP produce salvation or does salvation produce faith in TULIP?
  • Why is TULIP taught to those who will not be saved?
  • Why is TULIP taught to those who are saved?

Picture from John O’Neill’s contribution to Wikimedia Commons.


[1] Five points of Calvinism: TULIP defined found at Essortment.

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  • Andrew

    When I first heard this my response was … Huh ?

    • Anonymous

      Huh? has been my response as well. But arguments against these specific
      points (except the last one) seem as unbelievable to me. I believe extreme
      views of the *sovereignty of God* and man’s *free will* adds confusion to
      the gospel. Some mysteries are best left alone.

  • Roseshel Orourke

    My Calvinist friend believes they need to teach TULIP to others because it will help them find the others who need to be “awakened” to realize that they are chosen by God. One their hearts are “quickened,” it will be as if God turned on a light switch and NOW they will understand TULIP. But, before then, they will not get it. So, it’s important to the Calvinist to spread their beliefs so Calvinists can find OTHER Calvinists, is my understanding. But after hearing this, in the end, I was like commenter Andrew below, “Huh?” :) ))) Tee-hee-hee.

    • Anonymous

      That makes it seem like the Calvinist message is more important than the
      gospel message.

    • Theresa Turner

      If it is true that salvation is all OF God and HIS orchestration, then ultimately it is none of man’s action. I believe this to be so. Ultimately, if GOD chooses mankind as a tool in HIS ACT OF SAVING those he has CHOSEN… it is still GOD. AND if GOD wants to orchestrate it all through all of HIS OWN ENLIGHTENING, that is his discretion as well, BUT STILL mankind is nothing and GOD is EVERYTHING. I find peace in knowing this.

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  • Bruce

    By grace ye are saved through faith, faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ alone and complete. He does choose us and we surrender our will to His. Its not about a religion or being a christian. It’s about being washed in the blood of the lamb(Christ) and being a Christ follower. God knows how difficult we make it but it really doesn’t have to be.

  • Michael Krucher

    There seem to be too many verses that claim salvation is for all. I believe the “Elect” is based on God’s omniscient foreknowledge. God knows everything so He knows who would put their faith in Christ, therefore He predestines them, in order to sanctify them, toward Christ-likeness based on His foreknowledge of their saving faith. I think the problem lies in the discernment of whether saving faith is a work or not. I believe it is not a work, but a result of responding to the conviction placed upon us by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:8,9 still holds true because we can never take credit for our salvation. The same heat from the sun (SON) can either melt a heart or harden it as in the case of the Pharaoah and Moses. I do not believe God chooses people for salvation or eternal damnation. I believe He works through His foreknowledge. I also believe there is scriptural proof to back that up.