The simplest and most common way to understand the essentials of Calvinism is to use the acronym TULIP. This acronym describes the “five points” of the theology of John Calvin, and is relatively easy to memorize.
As simple as that is, though, it is important to remember that not everyone who is a Calvinist would consider themselves to be a “five-point Calvinist.” Some might have a softer view of one or more components, and therefore might consider themselves to be a “four-point Calvinist.”
How would John Wesley respond to the five points of Calvinism? Here, we consider the elements of TULIP point by point.
Using TULIP to Compare the Two
|The Five Points of Calvinism (TULIP)||The Wesleyan-Arminian Response|
|Total Depravity – Humans are born totally fallen and ‘depraved’ and have no hope for salvation aside from God’s Grace.||Yes – On this point, Wesley would agree with Calvin. However, in Wesley’s view, the activity of Prevenient Grace partially restores the image of God in everyone. This is a critical area to understand – humans can respond to God’s offer of a saving relationship, but only by the activity of God’s Grace.|
|Unconditional Election – God has sovereignly predestined the Elect to be saved.||No – ‘Election’ is conditional on the free response of each individual to God’s invitation to a saving relationship. Further, Wesley strongly disagreed with the idea of Unconditional Election because, by predestining some to salvation, God would therefore also predestine everyone else to eternal damnation (an understanding of God’s very nature which Wesley found to be, in his words, “blasphemy”). Wesley lays out a thorough argument against this in his sermon entitled Free Grace.|
|Limited Atonement – The atoning sacrifice of Christ is only efficacious (that is, only effective for) those who are part of the Elect.||Yes – But the Grace that is irresistible is the activity of Prevenient Grace (not Saving Grace). However, although the presence and activity of Prevenient Grace cannot be stopped (and is therefore, in that sense, irresistible), it can be ignored. We all have the freedom to reject God.|
|Irresistible Grace – God’s Saving Grace is irresistible to those who are part of the Elect (that is, they cannot resist that Grace, and simply are saved).||Yes – But the Grace that is irresistible is the activity of Prevenient Grace (not Saving Grace). However, although the presence and activity of Prevenient Grace cannot be stopped (and is therefore, in that sense, irresistible), it can be ignored. We all have the freedom to reject God.|
|Perseverance of the Saints – Those who are part of the Elect cannot lose their salvation. God has predestined them to be saved, and nothing they can do can change that.||No – It is possible to lose one’s salvation (and then, perhaps, to regain it). The term backsliding is a word that is sometimes used to describe this.|