A Brief Outline of the Canons of Dordt (), the Original Five Points of Calvinism. Rev. Angus Stewart. Head I: Of Divine Predestination (Unconditional. The Canons of Dordt of , the Reformed Tradition’s response to the Arminiam views of the Remonstrants in the Dutch Reformed Church. Everyone knows the acronym TULIP, but not everyone knows where this acronym comes from. The Canons of Dordt are among the most.
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The Canons of Dordt were a response to a controversy within the Reformed churches of the Netherlands in the late canona and early seventeenth centuries. While Arminius did not depart far from the Reformed position, he gave a larger place to the faith of the believer and came to a position of conditional predestination rather than the absolute predestination of Calvin and the double predestination of Beza.
The Canons of Dordt
While it was occasioned by the controversy within the Netherlands, there were delegates to the Synod from eight other countries, which gave the Canons more widespread authority.
It must be admitted that this was not a purely theological move, since there were several subtle political factors at work. Since the church was closely intertwined in both political and social spheres, such sharp theological dissension threatened to spill over into political unrest.
However, the Synod basically dealt with the five points of the Remonstrants in affirming Reformed Orthodoxy. While the Remonstrants had hoped to gain a hearing for their views, they were functionally condemned as heretics by the Synod and banished from the church until the political climate changed with the death in of Prince Maurice, who along with Franciscus Gomarus had led the movement to suppress the views of Arminius.
The document is organized around the five points, first presenting a summary of the Reformed position and then rejecting what they saw as erroneous teachings of the Remonstrants, frequently labeling them Pelagian. Even though Arminius and the Remonstrants were condemned, the controversy did not end and had a liberalizing effect on theology in Europe and England, as well as the American colonies.
By the mid s the basic positions of Arminius were refined and expanded in England under the movement begun by John and Charles Wesley. In both England and the newly formed United States, Methodism and an array of churches followed what became known as Arminian-Wesleyan theology. However, the views of Arminius and the Remonstrants are still held as heretical by many in the Reformed tradition.
The Canons of Dordt are placed with the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confessionas well as the Westminster Confessionas articulating the basic Faith confession of many Reformed churches. Since all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Romans 3: But in this the love of God was manifested, that he sent his only begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
So that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom he will and at what time he pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? The wrath of God abides upon those who do not believe this gospel. But such as receive it, and embrace Jesus the Savior by a true and living faith are by him delivered from the wrath of God and from destruction, and have the gift of eternal life conferred upon them.
The cause or guilt of this unbelief as well as of all other sins is no wise in God, but in man himself; whereas faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through him is the free gift of God, as it is written: That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree, “For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world,” Acts According to that decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy.
In this is especially displayed the profound and merciful, and at the same time the righteous, discrimination between men equally involved lost.
This is that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet affords unspeakable consolation to holy and godly souls.
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God by which he has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, before the foundation of the world, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of Salvation.
The Canons of Dordt ()
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than the others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification.
Having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, God decreed to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those who shall be saved, both under the Old and New Testament, since the scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he has chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation, in which he has ordained that we should walk.
This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc.
The good pleasure of God is dirdt sole cause of this gracious election; which does not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition if salvation; but that he was pleased out of canohs common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, “For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil,” etc.
And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted dorst changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished. The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by eordt prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.
The sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before him, for adoring the depth of his mercies, for cleansing themselves, and rendering grateful returns of ardent love to him, who first manifested so great love towards them. The consideration of this doctrine of election is so far cankns encouraging remissness in the observance of the divine commands, or from sinking men in carnal security, that these, in the just judgment of God, are the usual effects of rash presumption, or of idle and wanton trifling with the grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.
As the doctrine of divine election by the most wise counsel of God, was declared by the prophets, by Christ himself, and by the apostles, and is clearly revealed in the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, so it is still to be published in due time and place in the Church of God, for which it was peculiarly designed, provided it be done with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and piety, for the glory of God’s most holy name, and for enlivening and comforting his people, without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the Most High.
What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal election of God; whom God, out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but leaving them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, cwnons condemn and punish cnaons forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins.
And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin the very thought of which is blasphemybut declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.
Those who do not yet experience a lively faith in Christ, an dprdt confidence of soul, peace of conscience, an earnest endeavor after filial obedience, and glorying in God through Christ, efficaciously wrought in them, and do nevertheless persist in the use of the means which God has appointed for working these graces in us, ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to rank themselves among the reprobate, but diligently to persevere in the use of means, and with ardent desires, devoutly and humbly to wait for cwnons season of richer grace.
Much less cause have they to be terrified by the doctrine of reprobation, who, though they seriously desire to be turned to God, to please him only, and to be delivered from the body of death, cannot yet reach that measure of holiness and faith to which they aspire; since a merciful God has promised that he will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed.
But this doctrine is justly terrible to those, who, regardless of God and of the Savior Jesus Christ, have wholly given themselves up to the cares of the world, and the pleasures of the flesh, so long as they are not seriously converted to God.
Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children, whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.
To those who murmur at the free grace of election, and just severity of reprobation, we answer with the apostle: And therefore with holy adoration of these mysteries, we exclaim in the words of the apostle: For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
For of him, and through him, and to him are all things: The true doctrine concerning Election and Reprobation having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:. That the will of God to save those who would believe and would persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith, is the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decree dirdt been revealed in God’s Word.
For these deceive the simple and plainly contradict the Scriptures, which declare that God will not only save those who will believe, but that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular persons to whom above others he in time will grant both faith in Christ and perseverance; as it written: That dofdt are various kinds of election of God unto eternal life: For this is a fancy of men’s minds, invented regardless of the Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of election is corrupted, and this golden cannos of our salvation is broken: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this that he chose out of all possible conditions among which are also the works of the lawor out of the whole order of things, the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its incomplete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life.
For by this injurious error the pleasure of God and the merits of Christ are made of none effect, and men are drawn away by useless canonw from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture, and this declaration of the Apostle is charged as untrue: For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: That the incomplete and doret election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because of foreseen perseverance unto the end in faith, conversion, holiness and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy than he who is dotdt chosen; and that therefore faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions, which, being required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not out of works, but of him that calls. That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect can not be led astray, Matthew That there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness of the unchangeable election to glory, nor any certainty, except that which depends on a changeable and uncertain condition.
For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain certainty, but also contrary to the experience of the saints, who by virtue of the consciousness of their election rejoice with the Apostle and praise this favor of God, Ephesians 1; who according to Christ’s admonition rejoice with his disciples that their names are written in heaven, Luke That God, simply by virtue of his righteous will, did not decide either to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation, or to pass anyone by in the communication of grace which is necessary for faith and conversion.
For this is firmly decreed: That the reason why God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely canone good pleasure of God, but rather the fact that one people is better and worthier than another to whom the gospel is not communicated.
Canons of Dordt
For this Moses denies, addressing the people of Israel as follows: Only Jehovah had a delight in your fathers to love him, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples, as at this day,” Deuteronomy God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just.
And his justice requires as he has revealed himself in his Wordthat our sins committed against his infinite majesty should be punished, not only with temporal but with eternal punishment, both in body and soul. This we cannot escape, unless satisfaction be made to the justice of God. Since therefore we are unable to make that satisfaction in our own persons, or to deliver ourselves from the wrath of God, he has been pleased in his infinite mercy to give his only begotten Son, for our surety, who was made sin, and became a curse for us and in our stead, that he might make satisfaction to divine justice on our behalf.
The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world. This death derives its infinite value and dignity from these considerations, because the person who submitted to it was not only really man, and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute him a Savior for us; and because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.
Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believes in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel.
And, whereas many who are called by the gospel, do not repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief; this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.
But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own. For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there never may be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.
That God the Father has ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person.
For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to Scripture. For thus says our Savior: And the prophet Isaiah says concerning the Savior: Finally, this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church. That it was not the purpose of the death of Christ that he should confirm the new covenant of grace through his blood, but only that he should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish with man such a covenant as he might please, whether of grace or of works.
For this is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that Christ has become the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, the new covenant, and that a testament is of force where death has occurred. That Christ by his satisfaction merited neither salvation itself for anyone, nor faith, whereby this satisfaction of Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but that he merited for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as he might desire, obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should fulfill these conditions.
For these adjudge too contemptuously of the death of Christ, do in no wise acknowledge the most important fruit or benefit thereby gained, and bring again out of hell the Pelagian error. That the new covenant of grace, which God the Father through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by faith, in as much as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact that God having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace.
For these contradict the Scriptures: And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church. That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin.
For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. That Christ neither could die, needed to die, nor did die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, and did not die for these, since these do not need the death of Christ.
For they contradict the Apostle, who declares: It is God that justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus that died,” Romans 8: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” John Man was originally formed after the image of God.