The 5 Points of Calvinism




Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as “totally depraved,” they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality — his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.

The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called “Total Inability.” The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God’s making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).


Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would “accept” the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8).

This doctrine does not rule out, however, man’s responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Scripture presents a tension between God’s sovereignty in salvation, and man’s responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. Both are true — to deny man’s responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-calvinism; to deny God’s sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism.

The elect are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall, good works are a result of God’s saving grace. This is what Peter means when he admonishes the Christian reader to make his “calling” and “election” sure (2 Peter 1:10). Bearing the fruit of good works is an indication that God has sown seeds of grace in fertile soil.


Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, “for whose sins did Christ atone?” The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25).

This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). Christ’s death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus’ death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ’s act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved. Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine, for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners, and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died!


Irresistible Grace

The result of God’s Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!


Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God’s hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ’s promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.

From Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics


9 thoughts on “The 5 Points of Calvinism”

  1. robert donaldson new zealand said:

    it is important that those professing this man added to scripture teaching of tulip, that they read their bibles….i hear the words of our loving heavenly Father of the bible saying ……if anyone adds to my words, I will add to him the plagues described in this book.
    shame on those that preach such things.

  2. Mr. Robert Donaldson:

    The quote you are referring to is found in the book of Revelation and it says:
    “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

    Now the words “this book” which the author uses, tells us that he is speaking of the book of Revelation. The first verse that I quoted up there points this fact out quite well. “…who hears the words of the prophecy of this book”. I am not condoning adding to or taking away from the Bible just trying to keep verses of scripture where they belong, in their own context. Just because you do not agree with “TULIP” and can find no defense for your own position (due, perhaps, to conviction of the Holy Spirit) does not mean you can take verses of Holy writ out of context and try to create a defense. (Oh, and as a side note; when you take scripture out of context to prove a point aren’t you yourself guilty of the crime you attribute to Calvin?)

    Lastly, most of the people who disagree with Calvin and his five points tend to believe they have a firmer grip on Biblical doctrine than he did, and most, if not all, of these people are wrong. Though I exalt no man too highly, Calvin was a theological giant and cannot be flouted. He, like all the early theologians and some of the contemporary ones, should be read and studied before any decisions are made about the legitimacy of their work. I suggest that you start with Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion for a better understanding of his theology. I pray that you will come to know the Truth of God and His word. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2Corinthians13:14)

  3. willnotbesilent said:

    Regarding “Limited Atonement” . . . What have you to say regarding the following verses?

    “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9

    He wants ALL MEN to repent. If Limited Atonement is true, and there isn’t enough of Jesus’ blood to go around, why would God desire that all, with no exception, come to repentance?

    “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” — Romans 5:18

    The free gift of salvation came (according to Paul) unto ALL MEN through Christ’s sacrifice. This does not express limitations here, the way I read it.

    “[Speaking of God] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” — 1 Timothy 2:4

    If God desires that ALL MEN be saved, would He institute the concept of Limited Atonement?

    “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” . . . — Titus 2:11

    Would God have made that grace appear unto all men if all men were not called unto salvation? Wouldn’t that be just a little cruel?

    Regarding Unconditional Election (aka Predestination) — please explain the following verses.

    “. . . Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” — 1 Peter 1:2

    If we were just arbitrarily selected for salvation, why did Peter describe the recipients of his letter as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God”? This indicates to me that we were not saved at random, but that God knew, even at the beginning, that we would come to Him for salvation.

    “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” — Romans 8:29

    He foreknew us ALL (Jeremiah 1:5). You might say that these verses indicate Predestination, but when you take them in context with the verses I quote above regarding Limited Atonement (that God wishes ALL MEN to come to repentance), then the idea that God randomly picked His elect and left the rest to suffer damnation seems to me to paint a picture of an unfair and cruel God, besides fly in the face of Scripture.

  4. willnotbesilent,

    Here are two articles I think you will find very helpful…
    Misunderstandings of the Doctrine of Elections by Wayne Grudem and Limited Atonement by James White.

    Also, check the Greek. At the StudyLight website, using an Interlinear Study Bible, I found the definition for the word “all” you referred to in Titus 2:11.

    1. individually
    a. each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
    b. some of all types

    … “the whole world has gone after him” Did all the world go after Christ? “then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan.”Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan? “Ye are of God, little children”, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one”. Does the whole world there mean everybody? The words “world” and “all” are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the “all” means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts– some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile.

    And from the ESV Study Bible notes…

    Titus 2:11 Bringing salvation for all people is sometimes misunderstood as meaning that all people will be saved. However, such a reading is not necessary here and flatly contradicts other Scripture (see note on 1 Tim. 2:4). It means, rather, that salvation has been offered to all people (including all ethnic groups), not just to some.

    Here’s the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:4…

    1 Tim. 2:4 Evangelistic prayer for all people is rooted in the fact that God desires all people to be saved. It appears that Paul is countering an exclusivist tendency in the false teachers or at least their downplaying of the importance of evangelizing the Gentiles (along with their emphasis on the Jewish law). This statement figures prominently in theological disagreements over the extent of the atonement. It cannot be read as suggesting that everyone will be saved (universalism) because the rest of the letter makes it clear that some will not be saved (4:1; 5:24; 6:10; cf. Matt. 25:30, 41, 46; Rev. 14:9–11). Does that mean God desires something (all people being saved) that he cannot fulfill? Both Arminian and Calvinist theologians respond that God “desires” something more than universal salvation. Arminians hold that God’s greater desire is to preserve genuine human freedom (which is necessary for genuine love) and therefore he must allow that some may choose to reject his offer of salvation. Calvinists hold that God’s greater desire is to display the full range of his glory (Rom. 9:22–23), which results in election depending upon the freedom of his mercy and not upon human choice (Rom. 9:15–18). However one understands the extent of the atonement, this passage clearly teaches the free and universal offer of the gospel to every single human being; “desires” shows that this offer is a bona fide expression of God’s good will. Come to the knowledge of the truth highlights the cognitive aspect of conversion, i.e., individuals must come to understand key truths in order to be converted. “The truth” occurs often in the Pastorals as a synonym for the gospel (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:15, 18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:4; Titus 1:1, 14). -Dani

  5. willnotbesilent said:

    I’m not suggesting universalism. I do not believe that literally ALL men will be saved. I do, however, know that all men have the OPPORTUNITY to be saved.

    My point is that God did not pick and choose us arbitrarily for salvation out of a world in which ALL are sinners. He left it up to us. This is where I find basis for the Arminian view on the matter, and little or no basis for the Calvinistic view. If God merely picked and chose at random those who would be saved, He would not have made His Word available to everyone. This is where the parable of the sower comes in. God spread His Word throughout the world. Some of the seeds never sprouted. Some did, but soon died. But others sprang forth and produced. The sower did not decide which seeds would grow to maturity. He spread it throughout the whole field in hopes of a good harvest — the rest was up to the seed and the conditions of the place where it fell. In the ideal situation, ALL the seeds would grow. The actual situation was, some seed did not grow, but much of it did.

    God does desire that ALL men come to repentance (the ideal situation), else He would not have made the Gospel available to ALL men. However, reality is that not ALL men will accept the Gospel. Some will not, and consign themselves to the damnation from which Jesus came to rescue them.

  6. My point is that God did not pick and choose us arbitrarily for salvation out of a world in which ALL are sinners. There are many Scriptures that say He did choose us (Ephesians 1:4).

    He left it up to us. If that were true, that He left it up to us, then who would get the glory? God or us? Who should get all the glory? Besides, if it were all up to us, then it would be a work and we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8).

    This is where I find basis for the Arminian view on the matter, and little or no basis for the Calvinistic view. There are Scriptures that say it is man’s responsibility to come to Christ (John 7:37). But at the same time there are Scriptures that say we can’t come to Him on our own (John 6:44). There are Scriptures that say we should repent (Matthew 4:17), but other Scriptures that say God grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:25-26). There are many of these seemingly contradictory verses that must be reconciled. Do you believe in the Trinity? If you do, then you have already reconciled verses that seem to contradict each other and have learned that it would be a grievous error to claim only one set of verses to be true. To make that claim would automatically deem your view as incorrect because you are eliminating part of God’s Word. This is what happens within the context of Arminianism and also Hypercalvinism. Within Calvinism on the other hand, there is harmony of the Scriptures. And it’s here we come to know the God of the Bible who is sovereign over all things including salvation! And that we are children of wrath and spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3) but by His grace He gives us the desire and ability to put our trust in Him!

    If God merely picked and chose at random those who would be saved, He would not have made His Word available to everyone. That is according to your logic, not necessarily God’s. -Dani

  7. robert donaldson said:

    hello Ryan …i will not be silent on this sadly misinformed evil of a man that was misdirected on his tulip, was it with darwins evilution…might i .suggest you look at…Prov 30:6 .. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar…Deuteronomy 12:32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
    Ryan do you think these words of our heavenly Father relate only to me it is clear..He is saying to us do not change my words for if ye do, so at your own therfore what does this say about mr calvin and many others that do such things.?.
    bessings to you

  8. Ryan Washburn said:

    Mr. Donaldson,

    I do appreciate you showing me those Scriptures because they will come in handy for debates I have with one of my friends. I believe the Bible to be inerrant because I believe it is the Word of God. Therefore, I would never condone changing it in any way. It is to be read and studied and used in our everyday lives as professing Christians.

    That being said I believe the point about the scriptures in reference to Calvin to be moot due to the fact that Calvin did not add or take away from the Word in any way shape or form. You believe he did however. Can you tell me how he has added or taken away from God’s Word?

    Grace and Peace.

  9. “Test the spirits, to see if they are of the Lord.”

    There is, indeed, an arrogant spirit in Calvinism. Let me preface that, in retrospect, by saying that I have great respect for many modern day theologians who promote a calvinist approach to salvation.

    May I suggest that they have committed an intellectual error in trying to comprehend something God didn’t intend them to comprehend?

    Paul preaches the mystery of the gospel. There is a mystery here that is beyond us friends. God is sovereign, He is all knowing, and we have responsibility to choose or not to choose, to hold to our faith or to wander from it. It’s clear in the scriptures. Let the word speak, not men.

    Christ has indeed died for all men and women, for all of the sins of all men and women thru all time. The atonement is unlimited…God has covered sin. The only sin is not believing the Holy Spirit’s message about God’s goodness and salvation in Jesus. Just read the gospels.

    I will not argue here. If you cannot see the truth from the scriptures re: this it is because you don’t want to. Stop trying to understand things that your mind cannot comprehend. “The hidden things belong to the Lord,” and “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling”…it doesn’t say “work out your salvation through completely comprehending salvation”…this we cannot do, nor should we. The tree of Life is the mystery of the gospel…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is stopping in our sanctification in order to try and figure out the tree of life…

    Why can’t we let God be God?

    -from one who has eaten a-plenty from the aforementioned forbidden tree, and aspires to do so never again, in favor of a better fruit.

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