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

In the nature of grace, it is free, earned for us by Christ, and freely given to us in him and applied by the Holy Spirit.

We have already seen that the Remonstrants rejected the doctrine of unconditional election. They also rejected the doctrine of reprobation as it was taught in the Reformed churches. In the Opinions of the Remonstrants (13 December 1618).

 

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 there have been those within the Reformed tradition who have held that the should not be taught. In On The Bondage of the Will (1525) Luther stoutly defended the doctrine of predestination against Erasmus. Calvin wrote a treatise defending the doctrine of predestination in 1543 against Albert Pighius in The Liberation and Bondage of the Will and in 1555 Beza defended the propriety and spiritual usefulness of teaching the doctrine. Of course the Remonstrants did not think that the doctrine should be taught, even though they made their case from within the Reformed church, because they no longer believed it. We have already seen that the Remonstrants rejected the doctrine of unconditional election. They also rejected the doctrine of reprobation as it was taught in the Reformed churches. In the Opinions of the Remonstrants (13 December 1618). In their “Opinion Regarding the First Article Dealing With Predestination” they confessed,

1.1 God has not decided to elect anyone to eternal life, or to reject anyone from the same, prior to the decree to create him, without any consideration of preceding obedience or disobedience, according to His good pleasure, for the demonstration of the glory of His mercy and justice, or of His absolute power and dominion.

1.2 Since the decree of God concerning both the salvation and perdition of each man is not a decree of the end absolutely intended, it follows that neither are such means subordinated to that same decree by which the elect and the reprobate are efficaciously and inevitably led to their final destination.

To be sure, the Remonstrants clouded the issue by addressing only the minority Supralapsarian position (that the elect and reprobate are considered as potentials and not as created and fallen) and not the majority infralapsarian position (that the elect and reprobate are considered as created and fallen) among the Reformed. Clearly they rejected unconditional election. When they say the decree of perdition (reprobation) is “not a decree of end absolutely intended, they rejected both the infralapsarian and supralapsarian positions. Remember, Arminius himself rejected both in favor of so-called middle knowledge. On this see the earlier essays in the series.

The delegates to Synod however, who came from across Europe (the French delegates were forbidden by the French crown to attend) and the British Isles reflected the consensus that, indeed, it is encouraging to believers to know that God has loved and chosen them, not for anything in them or done by them, and therefore he will not abandon them. This is a great comfort in the midst of spiritual trials, doubt, and struggle.

Further, it is not as if the Scriptures themselves do not clearly teach that God unconditionally elects his people and allows others to remain in their sin and unbelief. Synod responded to the Remonstrants thus in 1.14:

Art. XIV. 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.

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