The tenets of Calvinism have been summed up using the acronym TULIP. Here is a very brief description of each point, as taken from Dr. McMahon's website, A Puritan's Mind:
- Total Depravity: This does not mean that people are as a bad as they can be, but rather, that the effects of the Fall have completely ruined the total being of man.
- Unconditional Election: God did, by His most wise and holy counsel, of His own, freely and unchangeably ordain some men to heaven and some men to hell by the nature of His good pleasure.
- Limited Atonement: That fundamental Christian doctrine which states that Jesus Christ came and died for a limited number of people. He did not die, or redeem, every individual for all of time, but for some individuals, i.e. His sheep.
- Irresistable Grace: When the Spirit of God is sent to change a person's heart, that person cannot resist the change.
- Perseverance of the Saints: Once God has renewed the heart of a sinner through the application of the redemption wrought by Christ upon the cross, he will continue to be saved and show forth the fruits of that salvation.
- I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
(From A Defense of Calvinism.)