TULIP from a Wesleyan Perspective

I like acronyms, nay, I love acronyms.  I know they’re corny, but they can be uber helpful.  I ran across one such useful acronym some years ago and have gotten enormous mileage out of it.  GROWTH: Go to God daily in prayer; Read the Bible daily; Obey God; Witness to your faith; Trust God; have the Holy Spirit lead you.  We’ve even developed a study guide for this and use it in our recovery ministry.  One that I made up and use often comes from Philippians 4:8 (NIV).  I use this acronym to remind people what they should put into their brain PLANTERs in order to yield good fruit – think on whatever is Praiseworthy/Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Noble, Excellent, Right.

acronym [ak-ruh-nim] – a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in set phrase or series of words and pronounced as a separate word

One famous theological acronym is TULIP.  This acronym came as a response to the teachings of Arminians (not to be confused with the ethnic group called Armenians).

Total Depravity – humanity is utterly and completely depraved (hopeless, void of any good) and they remain that way

Unconditional Election – God, in his sovereignty, has chosen some to be saved (and therefore some to be damned)

Limited Atonement – Jesus’ death on the cross was efficacious for all, but only applicable to the elect (in other words, Jesus did not die for all)

Irresistable Grace – God’s election and atonement is an act of grace that cannot be refused by the elect

Perseverance of the Saints – Since this is all God’s doing once elected to salvation, always elected to salvation

As a system of theology this acronym is pretty tight knit.  Now every once in a while you will hear someone say, “I’m a 2-point Calvinist,” or maybe, “I’m a 3-point Calvinist.”  What they think they are saying is that they agree with two or three points of TULIP (usually the T and the P).  Really what they are saying is, “I don’t understand what the points mean and I am really a confused Calvinist or an Arminian, who doesn’t know what that means.”

So, I’d like to offer TULIP from a Wesleyan Perspective.

Tweaked Depravity – We agree that we are totally depraved.  Sin has destroyed us and continues to destroy us.  Sin has an entropic force on our lives.  However, we also believe in prevenient grace, that grace of God which “comes before” – before we are aware of God, before we aware of our sinfulness, before we are aware of … – and tweaks us just enough that we can begin to respond to the light which Jesus shines into the lives of every person.

Unconditional Love – God is love and loves all.  In regards to the elect you have Israel and you have those who are in Christ.  You can either be part of the elect or not, as an individual.  The choice is not based on God’s sovereignty, but rather in God’s loving nature.

Limitless Atonement – God is what we might call a hopeful universalist, desiring that all be saved.  Jesus’s death was not only efficacious for all, but applicable to all, because of God’s unconditional love.  The fact that we have been tweaked means that we can freely choose to receive God’s freely given love, or we can reject it.  The atonement is not limited by God’s decision, but by our rejection.

Invitational Grace – God is not making us an offer we can’t refuse.  He has given us an invitation to something so amazing we would be crazy not to accept it!  God offers us his grace – his sneaky, pardoning, cleansing, perfecting grace.  But like all invitations, we are free to make some excuse and decline to RSVP.

Progressive Sanctification – Ben Witherington III said in a 7 Minute Seminary episode, “You’re not eternally secure, until you’re securely in eternity.”  Jesus invites us to abide in him as he abided in the Father.  He reminds us that fruitless branches are taken away, gathered up, thrown into the fire and burned.  But fruitful branches are pruned so they can produce even more fruit and bring greater glory to God.

So, go ahead and take a moment to stop and smell the tulips.


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