The Five Points of Calvinism Book Tag

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Back in 2017 (or, you might say, in “eternity past”), Bookstooge put up a request for a “serious” book tag. At that time, I did not even know that Bookstooge existed (hard as that is to imagine). But in the providence of God, I stumbled upon that forlorn request recently, and this is the result.

The Five Points of Calvinism

These five points are not all of Christian theology, or even all of Reformed theology. There is a lot more to it, and it’s all good stuff. These five topics are simply things that Jacob Arminius and his followers disputed in the early 1600s, after the Reformation was well under way and John Calvin had been writing for some time. All of this caused a huge kerfuffle in the Dutch Reformed churches, and eventually, in 1619, the Synod of Dort adopted the Canons of Dort which answered the Arminians’ objections point by point. So, though these five points are not the whole of Reformed theology, they do represent some of the doctrines that people are most likely to have issues with, as demonstrated by Arminius, his followers, and in fact most people down to this day.

Due to their Dutch character, the five points, if put in terms that are somewhat misleading, can be shoehorned into the acrostic TULIP:

T – Total Depravity

U – Unconditional Election

L – Limited Atonement

I – Irresistible Grace

P – Perseverance of the Saints

Because this is a tag, I’m not going to parse or defend these points deeply. I’ll just explain each one in a short paragraph, then apply it to a book tag purpose. Since these things deal with the nature of man and God, they turn out to be fruitful for reminding us of our literary experiences.

T – Total Depravity

Arminius taught that people are free in their will to choose God or reject him. The doctrine of total depravity (or “sin nature”) holds instead that people, if left to themselves, are spiritually dead and will never voluntarily seek God. (Dead people cannot choose things.)

Name a book or a series that you appreciate for its jaundiced or realistic portrayal of human nature.

U – Unconditional Election

Election means that God chooses to draw some people to Himself, making alive their hearts so that they are then able to seek, hear, and trust in Him. Arminians taught that God elects people for salvation in this way on the basis of some quality in them, such as humility, faith, “responding to the light they have,” etc. The doctrine of unconditional election holds that God does not choose people because they are better than other people. He chooses them just because He wants to.

Name a book where someone chooses someone else unconditionally.

L – Limited Atonement

The most confusing of the five points as far as I am concerned, Limited Atonement means that Christ’s death was actually just for “his people” – those God chose to elect – not for everyone generally. If it were for everyone generally, and some people rejected salvation, that would mean that God’s work in salvation was ineffective in some cases, which would throw the determining factor back onto the individual.

This point is confusing for two reasons: 1) Since we don’t know who is going to be saved, we are commanded to proclaim the good news to everyone as if they were all elect. 2) We know that the number of those who believe will be a very great number, enough that Christ can be said to have saved “the whole world.” So, “limited” does not mean a small number of people.

This is one of those fine distinctions that is kind of hard to squeeze down into a two-word phrase, which then fits into a flower acrostic.

Name a book that has a complex, confusing, or seemingly unworkable philosophy behind its worldbuilding.

I – Irresistible Grace

When God chooses someone, He works on their heart, giving them a new heart with a will that is now able to choose Him. This also frees their mind to be able to hear and understand His word (since, as we know, our intellect is embarrassingly tied up with our will). When this happens, they freely choose Him, now that their will has been freed from the sin that bound it. It is never the case that God gives someone a new heart, and they then reject Him. His grace is irresistible.

What book did you find irresistible?

P – Perseverance of the Saints

This doctrine means that once someone has been regenerated, heard God’s word, and begun to believe, they will not ultimately, or permanently, fall away. You cannot “lose your salvation.” This is a very comforting doctrine, for without it, we tend to panic every time we fall into sin (or have some previously unnoticed sin revealed to us that, unfortunately, has been with us all along).

Name one of your favorite redemption arcs in a book or movie.

Go and Read Some More!

I tag Bookstooge (hope this is serious enough for you, Booksty!), and Colin cause I know he digs Reformed theology. Anyone else can do it if they want to.

13 thoughts on “The Five Points of Calvinism Book Tag

  1. Holy smoke! This was AWESOME (and I mean that in the most modern sense of the word, not it’s actual meaning. sigh. gotta love living languages). I like the seriousness of it. The older I get, the more Calvinistic I get too, as I realize the utter sovereignty of God and His will. The sad thing is that it is an easy point for people to point to and use as an excuse to reject God. But I’ve also come to realize that I’m not responsible for everyone else, thank goodness!, but just for myself and then telling them.

    I am all booked up for January but I have yet to choose a tag post for February, so this is definitely going to be it.

    I can’t believe it has really been 4 years. It DOES feel like an eternity…..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Guten Tag,

        Ja, Jean Calvin war von seinem Credo so überzeugt, dass seine Anhänger bis heute felsenfest daran glauben, was aus seinem Munde kam.

        Die Offenbarung, wird in jedem Menschen, durch neue Einsicht der Seele, im Traum offenbart.

        Die Menschwerdung ist noch nicht abgeschlossen.

        Ich wünsche Ihnen von Herzen, alles Gute.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, I became a Calvinist not because I came under the influence of Calvin personally (that was before my time), but because I became convinced that the five points and other teachings in the Reformed tradition are well grounded in the Bible as well as in human experience. I think, if we seek revelation within our own hearts, through dreams and so forth, we are sunk. The human heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know it?”. However, I continue to appreciate your visits. Did you find me through Dyami?


          1. Hello Jennifer Mugrage,

            The dreams, not the self-made ones, arise whether we like it or not.

            Man’s experiences, both spoken and written, are those of the ancestors on whose shoulders we stand.

            That a God good, merciful, he wants to spread his will over the whole world, over all peoples and men; but man is evil, not worthy of dignity, one has to believe that.

            The Lord has never been an event to me in my experience.

            I am responsible for my sin;
            without a human providence,
            in relation to his beliefs,
            to submit to his teaching.

            As a heretic, Jean Calvin would have pronounced me the death sentence.

            I wish you a wonderful lifetime.

            ps. I don’t know who Dyami is

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I think T is something I believe. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about some of the unhealthy vices I have that don’t serve me emotionally at all. I think they actually really hurt me and my relationships with others. I’m thinking I need to get back into religion. “Spiritually dead” is exactly how I feel right now.
    (This is the human formally known as Jyvur btw-new pen name new start).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, hi and welcome! I’m pleased that you came back so quickly.

      G.K. Chesterton once said, somewhat tongue in cheek, that T is “the only doctrine of Christianity that can really be proved.” I, too, have found it it confirmed again and again the more I learn about human nature and the better I get to know my own deceitful heart. People think it is a gloomy doctrine, but the fact that the phrase “spiritually dead” strikes a chord in you may be a sign that your heart is in the process of being transformed.


  3. Pingback: The Five Points of Calvinism: The TULIP Tag – Bookstooge's Reviews on the Road

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