Calvinism – The Beginner’s Theological Vocabularium


“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”—Romans 8:29-30

Calvinism is a theological system based on the teaching of 16th century, French theologians and reformation leader Jean Cauvin (anglicized as John Calvin). It stresses the sovereignty of God over all things. Calvinism is often associate with what has been called the Five Points of Calvinism, named for the distinct theological stances taken by Calvin, although Calvin never used  the term himself. The Five Points are: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. Abbreviated as TULIP.

Total Depravity*

Due to sin all of mankind is completely sinful, or depraved. Every part of fallen man is corrupted by sin. He is a creature that incapable of obeying the law of God. We see in Romans 3:10 that no one is righteous, and in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Unconditional Election

The teaching that God’s rescuing of sinners is entirely due to His own will and good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). Salvation is not brought about in any way by our actions or decisions.

Limited Atonement

Calvinism is distinctive in that it teaches Jesus’ death on the cross did not merely make salvation possible for those who choose to receive it, but that it made salvation definite for those who have been elected by God.

When looking at this doctrine, it’s important to note that all theological frameworks “limit” the atonement in some respect (aside from Universalism, which falsely teaches that all will be saved).

Irresistible Grace

No one can be saved unless they are first drawn by God (John 6:44). Irresistible Grace does not teach that God’s calling cannot be resisted for a period of time, but that this resistance will ultimately be overcome.

Perseverance of the Saints

If you have been justified before God you cannot lose your salvation. Once a person is truly saved, this salvation is eternally secure.