The Canons Of Dort (1): Introduction And Background

Few of our Reformed confessional documents are as valuable and yet as neglected as the Canons of Dort. Today most who know about them think of them as the so-called and quite misleading “Five Points of Calvinism” or TULIP: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Strangely, for many, especially those in the self-described Young, Restless, and Reformed movement, the “Five Points” have become the be all and end all of “Reformed theology.” The truth is that there is much more to Reformed theology than the five points. Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (3): Synod Approaches

We live now in a “victim culture.” The best example of this is so-called “intersectionality.” This is a reference to the different ways in which one has been victimized. They intersect in the victim. It is like a game, the one with the great number of claims to victim status wins. Heather MacDonald explains: “‘Intersectionality’ refers to the increased oppression allegedly experienced by individuals who can check off several categories of victimhood—being female, black, and trans, say.” Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (4): Unconditonal Grace

In the preface to the Canons of Dort, Synod characterized the challenges she faced and the promise on which she relied to face those challenges. The preface characterized the Christian life as a “this wretched pilgrimage.” It is one, however, that is conducted under the shepherding care of Jesus, our high priest, who has “entered the heavenly sanctuary to go to his Father,” who is fulfilling the Great Promise behind the Great Commission: “A Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (5): God Ordains Means To Call His Elect

The first thing that the Reformed churches said in response to the Remonstrants, whom the Reformed saw as seeking to take the churches back toward the medieval system of salvation by grace and our cooperation with grace, was, in effect, “we are too sinful to be saved by any other way than by God’s unconditional favor” (sola gratia). The second thing that the Reformed did in response to the Remonstrants was to quote two passages: 1 John 1:9 and John 3:16. Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (6): God Is The Cause Of Salvation But Not Of Reprobation

Perhaps the most fundamental complaint of the Remonstrants against Reformed theology, the concern that most animated Arminius’ desire to revise Reformed theology, was the charge that the Reformed view makes God the author of evil. In his desire to fix this problem . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (7): God Graciously Chose His Elect Out Of The Mass Of Fallen Humanity

The Synod of Dort gathered for several reasons but among them two were chief: to defend basic Augustinian anti-Pelagian theology and preserve the Protestant Reformation doctrines of salvation by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide). They Reformed churches from . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (8): There Is Only One Kind Of Election

The Remonstrants were dissatisfied with the basic insights of the Reformation and thus of the Reformed faith. They did not agree with the Protestant articulation of the gospel, that Christ came for his elect, to be their obedient, righteous substitute, to die . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (9): The God Who Elects Unconditionally Does Not Change

One of the most remarkable developments in late modern evangelical theology was the rise of the so-called doctrine of “Open Theism.” This doctrine holds that the future is genuinely unknown to God. It is “open” to him and he to it. According . . . Continue reading →

The Canons Of Dort (10): Unconditional Grace Gives Assurance

The Remonstrants were convinced that the Protestant doctrine of salvation by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide) did not and could not produce sufficient sanctification (holiness) and obedience. Thus, without admitting to it, they turned the covenant of grace . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (11): The Doctrine Of Predestination Is Edifying And Should Be Taught Wisely

We would expect those outside the Augustinian mainstream of the Western church to object to the teaching of doctrine of predestination (i.e., the doctrines of election and reprobation) since they reject the doctrines. The reader might be surprised, however, to learn that . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (14): Only We Sinned But Only God Saves

According to its critics, including the Remonstrants, the great fault of the Reformed doctrine of the atonement is that it is too exclusive. That, however, is not how the Reformed Churches presented their understanding of Scripture. Their opening note under the Second . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (16): Scripture Teaches Both Definite Atonement And The Free Offer Of The Gospel

Rationalism is a word that gets tossed around rather casually at times. It is used without careful definition. E.g., sometimes Lutherans accuse the Reformed of rationalism because we do not accept their Christology or doctrine of the Supper. They accuse us of . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (18): It Was God’s Sovereign Will To Accomplish Complete Salvation For All The Elect

There are those, who one suspects, have spent little time investigating the actual differences between the Reformed Churches and their Remonstrant critics, who have attempted to position themselves between the Reformed and the Remonstrants. Some of these call themselves “tweeners.” There are . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (19): Unconditional Atonement

In 1611, Franciscus Gormarus (1563–1641), one of the principals in the controversy surrounding Arminius resigned his position in the theology faculty in the University of Leiden. He was frustrated by the fact that after Arminius’ death, the governors of the University had . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (22): The Application Of Redemption Is A Mystery Wrought Through Means

Christians have long struggled to affirm the truth that God saves freely, sovereignly, unconditionally and the truth that he uses means to bring his elect to new life and true faith. During the Middle Ages particularly, the church came to think that . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (25): Perservance Is Not A Covenant Of Works

In the previous essay we saw that the Reformed Churches defended perseverance by grace alone (sola gratia) against the Remonstrant attempt to deny perseverance by making grace resistible and conditional rather than sovereign and free. To see that we looked at the . . . Continue reading →

Canons Of Dort (26): Perseverance Is Good News For Sinners

Under this head of doctrine we have considered the errors that Synod rejected—the Remonstrants turned the perseverance into a covenant of works—so now we turn to what Synod confessed positively about how Christ graciously preserves his people through their pilgrimage in this . . . Continue reading →