What Were the Five Basic Puritan Beliefs?

by Kevin Wandrei

Puritanism, a strict Calvinist form of Protestant Christianity, distinguished itself from mainline Christianity through five principle beliefs. These beliefs formed the Puritans' path to salvation and created a religion with a strict and rigid morality. Basic Puritan beliefs are summarized by the acronym T.U.L.I.P.: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints.

Total Depravity

Stain glass illustration of Adam and Eve

Most Christian sects believe in the concept of Original Sin -- rooted in Adam and Eve's temptation and fall -- and the Puritans were no exception. Puritans took the concept of Original Sin to mean total depravity. To the Puritans, people were not only sinful, but there was no horrendous crime people were not capable of committing. They believed that, like Adam and Eve before them, all people were susceptible to temptation and sin.

Unconditional Election

Illustration of

In other Calvinist Christian sects, the concept of unconditional election is often called predestination. Puritans believed that God chose who would be saved and who would be chosen for eternal damnation. A person couldn't do anything to determine God's choice, and being a member of the Puritan church was not enough to be elected for salvation.

Limited Atonement

Illustration of Christ's crucifixion and death

Like other Christians, Puritans believed that Jesus Christ died to atone for the sins of man. Puritans, however, believed that Christ's atonement did not extend to everyone. Only those who God elected received the salvation benefits of Christ's atonement. Those elected were part of an exclusive group, and not all Puritans were necessarily considered saved.

Irresistible Grace

Open Bible on table

Puritans believed that, once God chose to elect someone for salvation, that person could never resist God's grace. Being chosen meant that a person had found the path to salvation, which included "ecstatic intimacy with the divine." Puritans could be called on both internally and externally. Being chosen internally meant that God changed a person's heart to respond to the Gospel. The external calling was to preach the word of God to others.

Perseverance of the Saints

Hands praying to God

A person elected by God's grace would never depart from the path to salvation. The person would have complete power to understand the word of God, and would never turn towards evil. By definition, understanding the word of God meant that someone would never depart from God's commands. The person would instead persevere towards salvation.

About the Author

Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images