The so-called Five Points of Calvinism, often referred to under the acronym TULIP, are:
- Total depravity
- Unconditional election
- Limited atonement
- Irresistible grace
- Perseverance of the saints.
These five doctrines, also known as The Doctrines of Grace, summarise the key points of the Biblical system of salvation, which is all of grace – all of God’s sovereign grace.
Although they were never formulated expressly in this way by John Calvin, they formed the backbone of the salvation taught by him, and are followed by all who subscribe to the method of salvation set forth in Scripture.
In the seventeenth century, a Dutch theologian named Jacobus Arminius strayed from the Reformed understanding of salvation at certain key points. After his death, his followers (called Remonstrants) produced a document (in 1610) called The Five Articles of Remonstrance, which set forth the views they held in common with Arminius. These doctrines, which together form the system known as Arminianism, basically put the whole matter of a sinner’s salvation into the hands of the sinner himself. Calvinism, on the other hand, whilst not denying the sinner’s responsibility, insists on a sinner’s salvation being ultimately in the hands of the all-sovereign God, who has “mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth” (Rom. 9:18).
The Remonstrants’ Articles were dealt with by a Synod which met in Dordrecht from 1618 to 1619. This Synod of Dort produced its own document called the Canons of Dort, which under five heads of doctrine gave its judgment against the Arminian views. It is these five heads of doctrine in the Canons of Dort which gave rise to the name Five Points of Calvinism.
The Canons of Dort, which can be read at the link, set forth clearly and thoroughly the Biblical system of salvation by Divine grace.