What Is The Origin Of ‘Tulip’?

There is no certainty as to the origin of the acronym ‘TULIP.’ This is of English origin and is a label for the declaration of faith made by Synod of Dordt, mentioned later in this article. To properly understand the development of what are called the “Five Points of Calvinism,” or “TULIP,” it is important to see its development in the overall history of Europe beginning in the 16th century.

The state of the religion during the close of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century in Europe, even as today, was one of complete darkness. There was a lot of pomp and outward show, but few places of true worship where the Gospel was faithful preached except for pockets of believers meeting together outside organized religion. Beautiful church buildings had been erected in the Middle Ages, but within these buildings the truth of God’s grace in Christ Jesus was not preached.

In this darkness, what has been called the Reformation began with men known as Reformers. Martin Luther in Germany nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517. Ulrich Zwingli led the Reformation movement in the northern part of Switzerland, and ultimately died in a civil war when Catholics invaded the canton of Zurich in 1531. John Calvin wrote his Institutes in France and dedicated them to the king of France hoping that it would convince him that the persecution of those who were part of the Reformation was wrong. He later fled to Switzerland in 1535. After Luther’s death in 1536, all who had become convinced of the errors of the Roman Catholic Church looked to Calvin for guidance and instruction. The problem with these men is that they took truth from the Scripture and endeavored to preach it in order to reform the Church, rather than see themselves and their congregations as lost and in need of complete transformation rather than reformation. Like so many, they tried to put new wine in old wine skins.

The term Calvinism comes out of the seventeenth century, largely in opposition to the teachings of Arminius, a Dutch theolgian who was educated at Leyden, Basle, and Geneva. He went to Amsterdam to serve as minister of the Reformed congregation (1588). Holland had become a center of Calvinism during the sixteenth century, but during his fifteen years as pastor, Arminius came to question some of the teachings of Calvinism. Disputes arose, and he left the pastorate and became professor of theology at the University of Leyden. The conflict continued until it divided the student body as well as the ministers in the Reformed Church.

Within a year after the death of Arminius, his followers issued the Remonstrance of 1610 that outlines the system known as Arminianism. The major points of departure were that

1. The decree of salvation applies to all, and that one must believe to make it effectual for oneself.
2. Christ died for all men without exception.
3. The Holy Spirit helps sinners do what they should (such as having faith in Christ). However, men must work it out themselves.
4. God’s saving grace is resistible. 5. It is possible for those who are Christians to fall from grace.

“Calvinism” is largely derived from Calvin’s writings and expositions of Scripture. John Calvin himself would not have used the term “Calvinism” , but his followers did in an effort to combat Arminianism. It is a shame today that what is preached as the true Gospel is often branded as Calvinism as a defense against having to deal with the truth. People would rather say, ‘O! That’s Calvinism,” rather than admit that what they are really fighting is THE GOSPEL!

While this system of thought was made explicit by Calvin in his writings, it was further elaborated in the latter part of the sixteenth century, and partially summarized in the Canons of the Synod of Dort (1618), almost 50 years after his death; and nine years after the death of Arminius. Each of the five points of Calvinism under the acronym TULIP is in answer to the five points of Arminianism.


All people are totally contaminated by sin and corrupt in everything the say, do, or think. They do not possess a free will because they are bound by their sin nature and spiritually dead, blind, and deaf in the things of God – The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, 1 Corinthians 2:14.


God chose many sinners to salvation by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He chose those whom He will save, of His free will and sovereign purpose, even before He created the world. His choice was not conditioned on anything in sinners, but entirely on the Son of God as the Lamb slain before the world’s foundation. “predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” Ephesians 1:11.


Christ died only for those whom the Father gave Him to save. If Christ died for all, then all would be saved. Since God purposed only to save the elect, then Christ died only for them. The blood of Christ is infinitely sufficient to atone for all, but Christ died to save no more than the number that the Father ordained to salvation. “I know my sheep and am known of mine…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14,15


God acts in sovereign grace in such a way that the elect will find Christ irresistible. God does not forcibly bring sinners to His Son, but rather, gives them life and draws them irresistibly to Him. “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him,” (John 6:44). “All that the Father gives me shall come to me!” (John 6:37).


The redeemed of God will surely persevere because He has given them His promise that no creature can take them away from Him (including themselves). “For the Lord…forsaketh not His saints, the are preserved forever.” Psalm 37:28

By Ken Wimer

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