Saturday, February 06, 2010

On The Acronym TULIP: Who's Responsible?

Where did the acronym TULIP come from? In preparing some lecture materials, I came across the following web page: The Points of Calvinism: Retrospect and Prospect (PDF alert). The author asserts the TULIP acronym may be of late origin. He asserts the earliest reference to the acronym is in Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932). The author documents his sifting through Reformed literature over the centuries. While I don't agree with all the points being made, it was a very interesting read. I've often wondered who coined the acronym.

Boettner simply states: "The Five Points may be more easily remembered if they are associated with the word T-U-L-I-P; T, Total Inability ; U, Unconditional Election; L, Limited Atonement; I, Irresistible (Efficacious) Grace;and P, Perseverance of the Saints." Simply because he uses it, doesn't mean he was the mastermind of the acronym, but it is a rather curious fact that his is the first book to use it.

From TurretinFan: He found a Google book that predates Boettner:

Some eight years ago I had the privilege of hearing a popular lecture, by Dr. McAfee, of Brooklyn, upon the Five Points of Calvinism,given before the Presbyterian Union of Newark, New Jersey, which was most interesting as well as instructive. To aid the mind in remembering the Five Points, Dr. McAfee made use of the word Tulip, which, possessing five letters, lends itself nicely to the subject in hand, especially as it ends with the letter P, as will be seen later.

Taking the five letters, Dr. McAfee used them as follows:

1st, T stands for Total Depravity.

2d, U " " Universal Sovereignty.

3d, L " " Limited Atonement.

4th,I " " Irresistible Grace.

5th,P " " Perseverance of the Saints. Source


Edward Reiss said...


If the acronym wasn't used, I wonder how old the terms are? Since TULIP is a sort of theological mnemonic it could be that the acronym came forst, or the terms came first.

Turretinfan said...

Dr. McAfee some time prior to 1913 (the date of this publication that report his usage of it: is the earliest I've found. That beats Bottner by a couple decades.

James Swan said...


Well done!

Edward Reiss said...


The "U" is "Universal Sovereignty" in Dr. McAfee's work. Is this the same concept as "Unconditional Election"?

Andrew said...

I think universal sovereignty is a wider category than is unconditional election. Unconditional election certainly would fit inside of universal sovereignty. As always, I welcome correction from my more learned brothers and sisters. TF, is that about right?