Editor’s (admin’s) Note. Copy of a blast email I sent out to members of an online adult faith formation/book study group that Debi and I co-facilitate. (It meets Sundays at 6 p.m. — hence the name.) Archived here for what it says about interfaith relations, since we’re studying a book by a United Methodist minister who surveys the Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist traditions and says, “I want to be clear that the focus in this book is not to convince you that United Methodists are better Christians than others. […] My aim in each of these chapters is to help us learn from the traditions we are studying and to allow each of them to deepen our own faith and our experience of God.” As a spiritual mutt, I like his approach.

The email also links — because I couldn’t resist a truly awful pun on a classic acronym for the main points of Calvinist theology — to an equally classic performance of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim. 

Hi everybody!

Our next Sundays@6 meeting will be Sunday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. We’ll be discussing Chapter 4 of “Christianity’s Family Tree” by Adam Hamilton, on the Presbyterians (aka the Reformed churches, the followers of Swiss theologian John Calvin). A Participant Handout is attached, and here’s the Zoom link from our announcement in News You Can Use [our parish newsletter]:


(If this one doesn’t work, you can go to Friday’s NYCU and click on the one there; and our phone number is [redacted] if there are glitches.)

Adam Hamilton does a fine job of explaining 16th-century Calvinism, and the “TULIP” memory aid he cites has helped students learn the fundamentals of this very complicated theology for many years:

  • T – Total depravity: Human beings are born into sin and cannot save themselves.
  • U – Unconditional election: There are some people who were elected or chosen by God before the foundation of the earth to be saved; others were chosen for eternal damnation.
  • L – Limited atonement: Jesus’ death on the cross atones for the sins of the elect only.
  • I – Irresistible grace: If you are elect, God has chosen you from the foundation of the earth; there is nothing you can do to resist God’s grace.
  • P – Perseverance of the saints: If you are chosen by God for salvation, you cannot lose your salvation.

Pete can never read this without thinking of Tiny Tim’s hit song of the 1960s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcSlcNfThUA), but it’s the easiest way of keeping track of the theology. In the leader’s guide, Hamilton asks, “Do all Presbyterians today hold fast to these ideas? Where do you agree and disagree with these ideas?” Here’s another question: How much do the fine points of theology matter today? 

A related issue: ELCA is in full communion with the Presbyterian Church USA; the Reformed Church in America; and the United Church of Christ, another Calvinist denomination descended from the Congregationalists. Here’s a link to a summary of our Formula of Agreement with the Calvinist/Reformed churches: 

(Hang onto that link. We’re also in full communion with the Episcopalians, whom we’ll study next week; the Moravians; and the United Methodist Church). How do these ecumenical partnerships enrich our faith? How do they show respect for the different partners’ faith traditions? 

— Debi and Pete 

[Uplinked Oct. 8, 2022]

3 thoughts on “Sundays@6: Tiptoeing through the TULIPs as a parish book study group reads up on 16th- and 17th-century Calvinism

  1. I have thought of you two lately as I am reading a novel set in 1904 in a logging camp in Washington. The Finns there build an Evangelical Lutheran Church. Only the second time I had ever heard of the denomination(you being the first.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to hear from you! “Evangelical” was Luther’s preferred name for his new church (he did *not* want it to be named after him), and the Lutheran churches in Europe used the term “evangelical Lutheran” for a long time. (The Swedish and Norwegian immigrants I study formed “evangelisk-luterisk” churches almost as soon as they got here, for example.) But they dropped the “evangelical” as more and more of them spoke English. It’s still in ELCA’s formal name (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), but it’s controversial because no one wants to be confused with today’s right-wing evangelicals.

      Liked by 1 person

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