March 8, 2005

A Primer on Calvinism

So I've been doing some reading for this little blogger discussion with Adam. And I figured, hey, our audiences may or may not know about the basics - and so here they are:


That's all you need to know. Well, thanks for joining us, we hope you enjoyed ... what? Oh, right. What's with the flower. Ok, so seriously, it's an acronym. T.U.L.I.P. It's the five core doctrines set forth by John Calvin in the Reformation five hundred years ago in Geneva, Switzerland.

Let me first off say that John Calvin seems to have been a pretty smart guy. Originally, he was a lawyer, which seems to have been the result of his father's influence, but Calvin's original passion was theology. He spent a lot of time studying theology, studying at several noted universities (Orleans, Paris, etc.), before moving to Geneva just after he'd been converted to Protestantism (remember, everyone around this time is supposed to be Catholic). And so he writes this book called the "Institutes of the Christian Religion" and the Swiss (really, French-Swiss) liked it. They were Protestant already, due to many missionary efforts from the rest of Switzerland and Germany, and so Calvin had an easier task persuading them to his views.

TULIP is a summation of Calvin's theology. Each letter stands for a core value:

T = Total Depravity
U = Unconditional Election
L = Limited Attonement
I = Irresistable Grace
P = Perseverence of the Saints

So that's pretty cute - I know that most religions wish they had some cute acronym for everything they stand for, and I'm pretty sure that some do, but most don't cover so much ground. Let's look at each one.

Total Depravity: Some Calvinists say "man is incapable of good" and some say "man is not born good, but is occasionally capable of good works." While they're not totally that different, the underlying sentiment seems to be that nobody is without sin. See Romans 3:23.

Unconditional Election: This is one half of the predestination thing that's the main controversey between most Christians-at-large (meaning Christians who are something other than Calvinists) and most Christians who are Calvinists - Calvin believed, according to my research, that man cannot do ANYTHING at all to achieve salvation. So God must be the one to intervene for any human He chooses to save - the person He chooses cannot help, therefore, God must "do all the work," as it were.

Limited Attonement (Particular Redemption): God has chosen to redeem a certain "elect" from humanity. This is the second half to the predestination issue - because of Unconditional Election, God has predestined (set aside) a certain number of specific people (Bob, Jane, etc.) to join Him in heaven after the judgement; no more, no less - the list is already made and set in stone, so to speak.

Perseverence of the Saints: This means that once saved, a person can never fall away from God's Grace. In other words, once saved, always saved. A person chosen by God cannot forfeit his or her salvation, even if he or she wants to. However, it would seem that a fair sign that a person is not of the elect is that they do not want God to be a part of their life.

So that's Calvinism. Once John Calvin put this into a working governmental system in Geneva, the city seems to have become a virtual paradise (from some views) and a place of limited freedom (from other views). Some say that Geneva was wonderful, a place of spiritual vitality and growth, a place where God alone was worshipped, a place of order and virtually free of sin. Others say that Geneva was a city hiding its dark side, a city where conformity was forced, a rigid system in which the people were either guilted or forced or blackmailed into following Calvin's teachings.

Next time, I'll start actually telling you where I stand on the five points.

1 comment:

nathaniel adam king said...

I commented on this: