Theology 101: Clearing the Confusion on Calvinism

{By Lindsay Chilton}

Whenever I mention the word Calvinism I immediately get looks of questioning or looks of dissension.

Theology is one of my favourite topics to discuss but I realized this summer that many did not know what Calvinism actually was and when I tried to explain it they often became confused in what they believed.

Theology can be intimidating if you don’t understand it and it can be frustrating.

john calvin


Today, I want to lay out the fundamentals of Calvinism in as much non-technical language as possible because overly fancy “churchspeak” adds to the confusion.

First, let’s go over the acronym T.U.L.I.P. No, it’s not the pretty flower that grows in the spring (although every time someone mentions it that’s exactly what I think of.). Each letter in the acronym represents some of the main points of Calvinism.

T- Total Depravity

This means that man is corrupt in every part of his being and incapable of doing any spiritual good. This is a consequence of the first sin and means that man is a slave to sin (Romans 6:20) and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14).

U- Unconditional Election

Also known as Predestination, this means that God decreed to elect a certain number of the fallen and condemned race to eternal life (Ephesians 1:4). The Westminster Confession of Faith states in Chapter 3, Part 5 that “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.” This is one of the most controversial points of Calvinism as many people think that it is unfair to not save everyone. It would be unfair if God owed us anything but He owes us nothing and it is by His grace and goodness that we are saved (Romans 9:14,15).

L- Limited Atonement

The primary purpose of atonement is to reconcile God to the sinner. It is the intent of God and Christ to save only the elect. Christ died for the Church (Acts 20:28) and for the elect (Romans 8:32-35). There is scripture which teaches that Christ died for the world (John 3:16) and many assume that the word “world” means every individual that’s ever lived. In 1 Corinthians 4:9, Romans 1:8, and Acts 11:28 the word “world” is much more limited and indicates that Jesus did not die just for the Jews but for every nation of the world.

I- Irresistible Grace

Through the Holy Spirit, the elect are called to salvation and cannot resist. There is the external calling, which is the universal call of the Gospel to all men and is not limited. Then there is the Internal calling, which is the calling by the Word of God and applied by the Holy Spirit so that the elect repent and come freely and willingly to the Lord (Romans 9:16)

P- Perseverance of the Saints

You cannot fall from the state of grace. It is not man but God that perseveres. This perseverance comes from the Holy Spirit continuously working in divine grace in our hearts. You are eternally secure in Christ. (John 10:28)


I don’t claim that Calvinism is completely perfect because the theological system was derived from the Reformer, John Calvin, who was also a sinful human being. I do however personally believe that this is the most Biblical view and that Scripture had the final authority in what was written here. If you’re interested in knowing more about Calvinism or you want to read about a contrasting theological viewpoint I would highly recommend the book Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Arminianism: A Workbook by Kenneth Talbot who has good insight on the subject.

Now, as one of my close friends would say, I’m going to leave you with the obligatory Christian unity verse:

Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16

What do you think about Calvinism? Comment below, we love hearing from you!