Skip to main content

TULIP and Reformed Soteriology

The branch of theology that deals with salvation is known as soteriology. It strives to answer three main questions:

  1. What did Christ’s death on the Cross accomplish?
  2. How do I get saved?
  3. Once I’m saved, what happens?

The first question deals with the subject of atonement, and the third deals with conversion and sanctification (the process of holiness). Although there are many competing views of atonement and sanctification, these two subjects are relatively uncontroversial compared to the second question. It is here that we wonder how we are saved and to what extent humans and/or works have to do in the salvation process.

I want to talk primarily about the means of salvation according to the two main camps: Reformed and Arminian theologies.

What is Salvation?
It helps to begin with a working definition of salvation. Salvation is the process by which we are saved from sin and welcomed into new life with Christ. It is not simply a one-time event; the ramifications of it follow Christians through their entire lives. Salvation is a two-fold event; it begins with conversion, which we would traditionally call “getting saved.” Then, sanctification is initiated, which is the process of being made holy and into the image God intended us to be.

Reformed Soteriology
The teachings of John Calvin lead us to the Reformed (also called Calvinist) faith. Calvinists believe that salvation is monergistic, meaning that there is only one actor in the salvation process – that actor is God alone. In fact, Calvinism is seen as a revival of the teachings of St. Augustine, who was a monergistic bishop, and is the most popular form of monergism in the Christian church.

Tip-Toe Through the T.U.L.I.P.
Calvinists believe in a logical progression of soteriology. Established in the Canons of Dort, this five-point doctrine is neither exhaustive nor fully believed by every Calvinist on God’s green earth, but it holds the essentials of its beliefs. The mnemonic to remember the five points of Calvinism is frequently referred to as T.U.L.I.P. – ironically, this acronym was created by Calvinist’s opponents in order to attack its argument!

Total Depravity. Humans are sinful and broken by nature because of the Fall.
Unconditional Election. God has elected (predestined) those who will be saved.
Limited Atonement. Christ’s death only covers the sins of the elect.
Irresistible Grace. Grace cannot be rejected if you are elected.
Perseverance of the Saints. Also called eternal security. You cannot lose your salvation.

Notice how, as we “tiptoe through the TULIP,” we see a very logical progression. First sin, then the workings of grace, and then life after salvation.


Popular posts from this blog

Review: Trinity Without Hierarchy

Some recent evangelical trends have insisted that the Son is subordinate to the Father. It is in response to such complementarian theologians that the contributors to Trinity Without Hierarchy: Reclaiming Nicene Orthodoxy in Evangelical Theology (Kregel Academic, 2019) write. Edited by Mike Bird and Scott Harrower, sixteen respected theologians from around the world have come together to rescue the doctrine of the Trinity and reclaim the Nicene position, that all persons of the Trinity are co-eternal and co-equal.

The first essays introduce the doctrine of the Trinity from a New Testament standpoint, followed by a set of essays that trace Nicene Trinitarianism through church history, from Athanasius to the Reformers to Pannenberg. Although written with varying levels of difficulty—from introductory surveys to advanced theological treatments—each essay is short and digestible. The implications of the doctrine of the Trinity meet the challenges of modern evangelicalism, particularly su…

Review: Practicing the Preaching Life

Most preachers burn out. So claims celebrated homiletician and preaching professor David Ward. Ward contends that, while preaching is a life-giving activity, most practices of it lead to exhaustion and life waste. In his new book, Practicing the Preaching Life (Abingdon, 2019), Ward sets out to paint a practical theology of preaching that spiritually forms preachers and brings renewal, not only to preachers, but to their listeners as well.

Ward, as a student in the New Homiletic, draws heavily on Augustine and Aristotle, who view preaching as a means to embed virtues within the preacher. He begins by establishing a correct theology of preaching: what makes good preaching "good"? What are the offices of the preacher? From there, he moves toward practical applications, including weekly sermon preparation routines and sermon forms. Ward's approach to preaching practice, however, diverges from traditional books that either offer homiletical theory with little application, o…

Review: The Significance of Singleness

In this much-needed book, theologian Christian Hitchcock develops a vision for singleness and the church. Recent evangelical tendencies, argues Hitchcock, view singleness as a problem rather than an asset, a curse rather than a blessing. Drawing from her own experiences as a single Christian woman, Hitchcock skillfully combines personal reflection, historical evidence, and biblical-theological support to claim that single persons are themselves a theologically significant group.

Hitchcock begins by tackling the problem of singleness head-on. She describes the perception of the “problem of singleness,” from pop culture to the Marriage Mandate Movement. In her view, American evangelicalism views marriage as the most desired social institution, under which nothing can compare. Most of her examples come from her experience as a student and professor at small Christian colleges, which have a notorious tendency to inflate issues of marriage. Hitchcock then turns to three figures from churc…