I learned today, from The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, that the phrase "Damned if you do and damned if you don't" was coined by Lorenzo Dow, the 19th century American preacher. According to said publication, Dow was speaking specifically about the Calvinist doctrine of "Particular Election".

I've not heard of Particular Election before, but I am familiar with Unconditional Election, and, judging by the phrase, that sounds rather like what Dow was getting at. Are Particular Election and Unconditional Election synonymous? If not, please give me a condensed version of what Particular Election entails.

1 Answer 1


A common way of describing the Calvinist "doctrines of grace" is to use the mnemonic TULIP which stand for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverence of the saints.

Particular election is synonymous not with Unconditional election but rather with Limited atonement: in his death Christ was dying for a particular, limited number of people, i.e. his people: "he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21) (and "you do not believe because you are not of my sheep" (John 10:26)).

We are all by nature Totally depraved, enemies of God, corrupted in our affections, logic and wills, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Only those who God, by his Irresistible grace, wakes up from the dead can and will be saved through faith.

These his people are not chosen for any good in themselves, nor for any response on their part to the grace of God, "for being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purposes of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls it was said to her the elder shall serve the younger" (Romans 9:11-12): and so election is an Unconditional election, being not dependent upon anything within the persons so elected.

God only wakes up his own particular people chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). So within the scope of Calvinist doctine you can say that these people, his people, are the recipients of particular election and the beneficiaries of a Limited atonement.

As such they will have the Perseverance of the saints to the end, or rather God will persevere with them to the end, so that they will certainly enter the glorious land.

"Where then is boasting? It is excluded." (Romans 3:27)

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