The familiar caricature of Calvin’s theology is symbolized by the mnenomic device TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. These so called “five points of Calvinism” arose in the seventeenth century, amid great political and theological turmoil in the Netherlands.

In the early seventeenth century, Jacob Arminius, professor of theology at the University of Leiden, came under suspicion by the more orthodox Dutch Calvinists. Arminius was viewed to have seriously deviated from the orthodox doctrines of justification and election. Charges of Pelagianism were made, and the matter quickly escalated.

In retrospect, Arminius’ views were not, strictly speaking, Pelagian. He did, however, differ from Calvinist orthodoxy on a number of issues. He denied the doctrine of perserverance and questioned whether grace was necessary for one to come to faith. He also challenged the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. The desire of Arminius was to uphold the goodness and mercy of God. He was concerned that Calvinist doctrines made God the author of sin and wanted to stress the importance of faith and holiness in the Christian life.

His untimely death provided only a temporary reprieve. The fires were soon rekindled by his followers. Under the leadership of John Uytenbogaert, the Arminians met in 1610 to draw up what was called a remonstrance. It was simply a petition for toleration and a summation of their views in five points. They modified the doctrine of unconditional election, asserting that God did not elect individuals. They argued that God’s election was more general and had reference to that group of men who exercised faith. Like Arminius, they also denied perseverance ...

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