TULIP is an acronym used to summarize the Five Points of Calvinism, which were codified in the Canons of Dort by the Synod of Dort in 1618 and 1619, which met to address the points raised by the Arminians of that day.


History of TULIP

There is no certainty regarding the origin of the acronym TULIP. However, the five points of Calvinism were discussed, as such, before the popular rise of this acronym, for example in R. L. Dabney's work, The Five Points of Calvinism, circa 1878. Dabney's five headings are total depravity, effectual calling, God's election, particular redemption, and perseverance of the saints.^[1]^

The earliest use of TULIP in this regard appears to be in 1905 by Rev. Cleland Boyd McAfee, in a lecture before the Presbyterian Union, Newark, NJ, as recorded by William H. Vail, writing in The New Outlook (1913).^[2]^

The popular use of TULIP as a teaching device was stimulated by Loraine Boettner in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination first published in 1932.^[3]^

The Five Points of Calvinism

Total depravity

In the Canons of Dort:

_See main page: Canons of Dort_ Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform. (Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs, Article 3)^[4]^

In the Westminster Confession:

_See main page: Westminster Confession_ Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. (Chapter 9, Paragraph 3)^[5]^

_See main page: Total depravity_ _Contrast with Universal prevenient grace_

Unconditional election

In the Canons of Dort:

The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For "all his works are known to God from eternity" (Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act--unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just--of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words. (Divine Election and Reprobation, Article 6)^[6]^

In the Westminster Confession:

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. (Chapter 3 Paragraph 3)^[7]^

These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (Chapter 3 Paragraph 4)^[8]^

_See main page: Unconditional election_ _See also Election, Predestination, and Foreknowledge of God_

Limited atonement

In the Canons of Dort:

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit's other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle. (Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through It, Article 8)^[9]^

In the Westminster Confession:

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. (Chapter 11 Paragraph 4)^[10]^

_See main page: Limited atonement_ _See also Atonement of Christ and Penal substitutionary atonement_

Irresistible grace

In the Canons of Dort:

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture. (Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs, Article 10)^[11]^

In the Westminster Confession:

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Chapter 10 Paragraph 1)^[12]^

_See main page: Irresistible grace_ See also Faith, Repentance, and Regeneration

Perseverance of the saints

In the Canons of Dort:

Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end. (The Perseverance of the Saints, Article 3)^[13]^

In the Westminster Confession:

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. (Chapter 17 Paragraph 1)^ [14]^

_See main page: Perseverance of the saints_ _See also Lordship salvation and Assurance of salvation_


Various ways of expressing the same Five Points may be found in a number of books dealing with the Calvinistic understanding of salvation. Some novel conceptions by notable authors are indicated below:

James Boice and Philip Ryken

  • Radical Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Particular Redemption
  • Efficacious Grace
  • Persevering Grace

From "The Doctrines of Grace"

R.C. Sproul

  • Radical Corruption
  • Sovereign Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Effectual Grace
  • Preservation of the Saints

From "Chosen By God"

Michael Horton

  • Rebels Without A Cause
  • Grace Before Time
  • Mission Accomplished
  • Intoxicating Grace
  • No Lost Causes

From "Putting Amazing Back Into Grace"

Timothy George

  • Radical depravity
  • Overcoming grace
  • Sovereign election
  • Eternal life
  • Singular redemption

_From TULIPs or ROSES_

Roger Nicole

  • Grace
  • Obligatory grace
  • Sovereign grace
  • Provision-making grace
  • Effectual grace
  • Lasting grace


  1. Robert Lewis Dabney, The Five Points of Calvinism (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publications, 1895) [1].
  2. William H. Vail, The Five Points of Calvinism Historically Considered, The New Outlook, Vol. 104 (1913), p. 394.
  3. "Ever since the appearance of Loraine Boettner's magisterial The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, it has been customary to refer to the five points according to the acrostic TULIP." Steele, David N., Curtis C. Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing) 2004, p. xiv.
  4. http://www.crca.org.au/AboutUs/WhatWeBelieve/CanonsOfDordt/HumanCorruptionConversiontoGodandtheWayItOccurs
  5. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm
  6. http://www.crca.org.au/AboutUs/WhatWeBelieve/CanonsOfDordt/DivineElectionandReprobation
  7. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm
  8. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm
  9. http://www.crca.org.au/AboutUs/WhatWeBelieve/CanonsOfDordt/ChristsDeathandHumanRedemptionThroughIt
  10. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm
  11. http://www.crca.org.au/AboutUs/WhatWeBelieve/CanonsOfDordt/HumanCorruptionConversiontoGodandtheWayItOccurs
  12. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm
  13. http://www.crca.org.au/AboutUs/WhatWeBelieve/CanonsOfDordt/ThePerseveranceoftheSaints
  14. http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm

See also