Reformation Day 2019: Calvin on Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone: The Hinge and the Pernicious Hypocrisy

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Back in 2006 Presbyterian pastor/theologian Robert Reymond penned a powerful piece for The Trinity Review in which he defended the great Reformation gospel truth of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, especially in the face of the then fresh errors of what became known as Federal Vision teaching.

As we mark the 502nd anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation today, it is good to contemplate and embrace anew the glorious gospel that Luther, Calvin. and the other magisterial Reformers restored to the church over against the errors of the Roman Catholic Church.

Below is a portion of Reymond’s article, which is worth reading in its entirety, since the errors of Rome have infiltrated modern Evangelicalism, including many Reformed and Presbyterian churches. May we take heed and take heart in this ongoing battle for the “hinge” of gospel truth over against its “pernicious hypocrisy.”

In the sixteenth century John Calvin termed the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ the main hinge on which religion turns (Institutes, 3.11.1), the sum of all piety (Institutes, 3.15.7), and the first and keenest subject of controversy between Rome and the Reformation (Reply to Sadoleto). He treats justification by faith in his Institutes, Book 3, Chapters 11-19. Here Calvin first defines what he means by justification:

…he is justified who is reckoned in the condition not of a sinner, but of a righteous man; and for that reason, he stands firm before God’s judgment seat while all sinners fall. If an innocent accused person be summoned before the judgment seat of a fair judge, where he will be judged according to his innocence, he is said to be justified before the judge. Thus, justified before God is the man who, freed from the company of sinners, has God to witness and affirm his righteousness [Institutes, 3.11.2];

…justified by faith is he who, excluded from the righteousness of works, grasps the righteousness of Christ through faith, and clothed in it, appears in God’s sight not as a sinner but as a righteous man [Institutes, 3.11.2].

He then declares that the ground of our justification is Christ’s righteousness alone:

Therefore, we explain justification simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness [Institutes, 3.11.2];

…since God justifies us by the intercession of Christ, he absolves us not by the confirmation of our own innocence but by the imputation of righteousness, so that we who are not righteous in ourselves may be reckoned as such in Christ [Institutes, 3.11.3].

…the best passage of all on this matter [2 Corinthians 5:18-21] is the one in which [Paul] teaches that the sum of the Gospel embassy is to reconcile us to God, since God is willing to receive us into grace through Christ, not counting our sins against us. Let my readers carefully ponder the whole passage. For a little later Paul adds by way of explanation: Christ, who was without sin, was made sin for us,î to designate the means of reconciliation. Doubtless he means by the word reconciled nothing but justified. And surely, what he teaches elsewhere – that we are made righteous by Christ’s obedience – could not stand unless we are reckoned righteous before God in Christ and apart from ourselves [Institutes, 3.11.4, emphasis supplied].

Calvin then addresses the error of virtually all of professing Christendom, namely, the pernicious hypocrisy that we obtain righteousness before God by faith in Christ plus our own works of righteousness:

…a great part of mankind imagine that righteousness is composed of faith and works [but according to Philippians 3:8-9] a man who wishes to obtain Christ’s righteousness must abandon his own righteousness…. From this it follows that so long as any particle of works-righteousness remains some occasion for boasting remains with us [Institutes, 3.11.13].

…according to [the Sophists, that is, the medieval Schoolmen of the Sorbonne, the theological faculty of the University of Paris], man is justified by both faith and works provided they are not his own works but the gifts of Christ and the fruit of regeneration. [But] all works are excluded, whatever title may grace them… [Institutes, 3.11.14].

…Scripture, when it speaks of faith-righteousness, leads us…to turn aside from the contemplation of our own works and look solely upon God’s mercy and Christ’s perfection [Institutes, 3.11.16].

[The Sophists] cavil against our doctrine when we say that man is justified by faith alone. They dare not deny that man is justified by faith because it recurs so often in Scripture. But since the word alone is nowhere expressed, they do not allow this addition to be made. Is it so? But what will they reply to these words of Paul where he contends that righteousness cannot be of faith unless it be free? How will a free gift agree with works? With what chicaneries will they elude what he says in another passage, that God’s righteousness is revealed in the Gospel? If righteousness is revealed in the Gospel, surely no mutilated or half-righteousness but a full and perfect righteousness is contained there. The law therefore has no place in it. Not only by a false but an obviously ridiculous shift they insist upon excluding this adjective. Does not he who takes everything from works firmly enough ascribe everything to faith alone? What, I pray, do these expressions mean: His righteousness has been manifested apart from the law; and, Man is freely justified; and, Apart from the works of the law?î [Institutes, 3.11.19]

As we were made sinners by one man’s disobedience, so we have been justified by one man’s obedience. To declare that by him alone we are accounted righteous, what else is this but to lodge our righteousness in Christ’s obedience, because the obedience of Christ is reckoned to us as if it were our own [Institutes, 3.11.23].

The Real Power to Obey God’s Voice – J. Calvin

JCalvin1Hence we collect, that it is not in our power to obey what God commands us, except this power proceeds from him.

Here the Prophet narrates that he was chosen by the command of God. For God never prostrates his people so as to leave them lying upon the earth, but continually raises them afterwards. As to the reprobate, they are so frightened at the sight of God, that they utterly fall and never rise again. But it is different with the faithful, because the pride of the flesh is corrected in them; then God stretches forth his hand to them, and restores them, as it were, from death to life. And this difference we must mark diligently, because we see the impious often dread the voice of God. But if they disdainfully despise him when speaking, they are frightened by his hand when some signs of his wrath and vengeance appear: but yet they remain lifeless. In like manner the faithful dread the voice of God, but the result is altogether different, as we see here: because after God has humbled them, he commands them to be of good courage, and shows that he intended nothing else but to establish them by his power. At the same time the Prophet teaches that nothing was accomplished by this voice till the Spirit was added. God indeed works efficiently by his own words, but we must hold that this efficacy is not contained in the words themselves, but proceeds from the secret instinct of the Spirit. The Prophet therefore shows us both truths. On one side he says, I heard the voice of God, so that I stood on my feet: God thus wished to animate his confidence: but he adds that he was not raised up by the voice, until the Spirit placed him on his feet

This work of the Spirit, then, is joined with the word of God. But a distinction is made, that we may know that the external word is of no avail by itself, unless animated by the power of the Spirit. If any one should object, that the word was useless, because not efficacious by itself, the solution is at hand, that if God takes this method of acting there is no reason why we should object to it. But we have a still clearer reply: since God always works in the hearts of men by the Spirit, yet his word is not without fruit; because, as God enlightens us by the sun, and yet he alone is the Father of Lights, and the splendor of the sun is profitless except as God uses it as an instrument, so we must conclude concerning his word, because the Holy Spirit penetrates our hearts, and thus enlightens our minds. All power of action, then, resides in the Spirit himself, and thus all praise ought to be entirely referred to God alone. Meanwhile, what objection is there to the Spirit of God using instruments? We hold, therefore, that when God speaks, he adds the efficacy of his Spirit, since his word without it would be fruitless; and yet the word is effectual, because the instrument ought to be united with the author of the action. This doctrine, thus briefly expounded, may suffice to refute foolish objections, which are always in the mouths of many who fret about man’s free-will: they say, that we can either attend to the word which is offered to us or reject it: but we see what the Prophet says. If any of us is fit for rendering obedience to God, the Prophet certainly excelled in this disposition, and yet the word of God had no efficacy in his case, until the Spirit gave him strength to rise upon his feet. Hence we collect, that it is not in our power to obey what God commands us, except this power proceeds from him.

Taken from Calvin’s Commentary on Ezekiel, chap.2:1-2, which reads, “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. ” Emphasis (bold type) added.

 

Grace Worthy to Be Defined and Defended

Canons_of_Dort-1619The stereotype of old confessions like the Canons of Dort is that they take the theology of God’s Word and make it shrink-wrapped, freeze-dried, and boxed-up. Or, if we can mix metaphors, theologizing becomes nothing more than dissecting a dead frog.

But what if another analogy is more appropriate? What if the truth we are talking about is not cold and dead, but very much alive? What if, instead of thinking about dissecting a frog, you think about defining or defending your child? If someone mistook your child for someone else, or if someone ran off with your child, you would care very much about definitions. You would want people to know the name of your child. It wouldn’t be enough to just say, ‘I’m looking for a cute kid out there. Just bring me one.’ You would be precise about her name, her height, her hair, her eyes, and her voice. You would provide a careful definition of your child. Likewise, if someone misunderstood your child or attacked your child, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to defend him? Of course you would, because your child is precious.

And so it is with the truth of the God’s Word. Before the Synod of Dort conducted its business, each member took a solemn oath saying that ‘I will only aim at the glory of God, the peace of the Church, and especially the preservation of the purity of doctrine. They ended with a prayer: ‘So help me, my Savior, Jesus Christ! I beseech him to assist me by his Holy Spirit.’ The delegates at Dort were joyfully serious about the doctrine of the church.

Do we care as much about defining and defending grace?

…At their very heart, the Canons of Dort are about the nature of grace – supernatural, uniliateral, sovereign, effecting, redeeming, resurrecting grace, with all of its angularity, all of its offense to human pride, and all of its comfort for the weary soul. That’s what Dort wanted to settle. That’s what they were jealous to protect. Some words are worth the most careful definitions, just as some truths are too precious not to defend.

grace-defined-defended-deyoung-2019Taken from the “Introduction” of the newest book on the Synod and Canons of Dort in connection with her 400th anniversary. This is Kevin DeYoung’s Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400-Year-Old Confession Teaches Us About Sin, Salvation, and the Sovereignty of God (Crossway, 2019), pp.24-25.

I have a review copy from Crossway available for a serious reader who is willing to do a review for the Standard Bearer. I have also purchased a copy for the PRC seminary library.

 

An April 2019 Update in Pics from the PRC Seminary

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Typical for the month of April in West Michigan is up and down weather – from warm sunny days and sure signs of Spring to cold and snowy days with signs that Winter won’t die quickly. Twice this month we had measurable snow, burying green grass, fresh landscape bark, and bright daffodils.

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Last week the Lord gave us a snowy Sunday (April 14) and, while we were quick to complain, the scene Monday morning took our breath away.

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But now we are back to normal and the daffodils seem happier dressed in green rather than white.

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The work on the building addition (new archives and offices) has gone very well, with a mixture of inside work and outdoor work. Soon school will be done and the opening will be made between the library and the new part, with the library renovation set to kick into high gear in mid-May.

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And, yes, we are excited to finally have the Dordt400 Conference this weekend! Need I remind you that it is this Thursday evening (April 25 – 7 pm) through Saturday morning (April 27). Not only will there be great speeches and presentations on the Synod of Dordt and its work, but there will also be displays of fantastic Dordt artifacts – first edition Bibles, a copy of the original Canons, medallions, and pictures. And, of course, blessed fellowship with believers from all over the world! Join us for the whole conference or as much as you can take in. The venue is the beautiful Trinity PRC in the center of Hudsonville, MI.

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We hope to see you there!

Dordt’s Theological Significance: “Saving the Reformation” – R. Godfrey

saving-reformation-godfrey-2019Fresh off the press is W. Robert Godfrey’s book commemorating the 4ooth anniversary of the great Synod of Dordt (1618-19) and especially her Canons. I have referenced Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dordt previously, but now that I have the book in hand we can begin to examine its contents.

In this post we will listen to what Godfrey says in his Introduction to the book, taking a few quotations from that opening section:

…The Synod of Dort (1618-19), the greatest of the Reformed church assemblies, preserved the great heritage of the Reformation for the Calvinist churches. This synod is both interesting and significant, and its decisions are a theological and spiritual treasure for Christians. On the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of the synod, it is good to remember and be renewed in an appreciation of its accomplishments. But studying the canons is much more than a historical exercise. It will be spiritually profitable for Christians and churches today.

…In a profound sense, this synod saved the Reformation for the Reformed churches. While Lutherans would reject several elements of the canons, Calvinists saw clearly that a proper understanding of election was necessary to protect the Reformation’s ‘grace alone.’ The proper understanding of Christ’s atoning work was necessary to protect the Reformation’s ‘Christ alone.’ A proper understanding of the regenerating and preserving work of the Holy Spirit and of the Christian’s comfort in these doctrines was necessary to protect the Reformation’s ‘grace alone’ and ‘faith alone.’ Implicit in the canon’s conclusions is their commitment to the Reformation’s ‘Scripture alone’ as the only source of religious truth.

As the Reformation was a revival of biblical Augustinianism, so the Synod of Dort stands in the great Christian heritage that rejects Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. It stands in the tradition of Jesus against the Pharisees, Paul against the Judaizers, Athanasius against Arius, Augustine against Pelagius, and Luther against Erasmus. Dort against the Arminians continues this great commitment. The canons became the official teaching and sincere conviction of many churches and millions of Christians through the last four centuries [1-2].

The book consists of three main parts:

  1. Historical and Theological Background (2 chapters)
  2. The Canons of the Synod of Dort – A Pastoral Translation [a new translation by the author]
  3. An Exposition of the Canons of Dort (7 chapters)

The book closes with five appendices, including”Arminius: A New Look,” “An Outline of the Canons of Dort”, and “A New Translation of the Doctrinal Statement by the Synod of Dort on the Sabbath.”

You will also find the author giving a description of the Synod and his book in the short video below.

More on Dordt400: The PRC Seminary Conference, Dordt’s March Sessions, and “Grace and Assurance”

As the Reformed church world continues to mark the 400th anniversary of the great international Synod of Dordtrecht in the Netherlands (1618-19), we may note it here once more again. Dordt’s final session was on May 29, 1619, so we have a few months to remember and reflect.  Dordt-conf-flyer-speakers-colorFirst to note is the PRC Seminary’s Dordt400 Conference coming up in only a month – April 25-27. We hope you are planning to attend this significant event in Hudsonville, MI. The latest announcement serves as a powerful incentive:

Dordt400! April 25-27. Trinity PRC. The seminary-sponsored conference celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Great Synod is approaching! Please make plans to come to hear important speeches, see displays of 400-year-old artifacts from Dordt, learn the winners of the writing contest, and meet PRC friends coming from at least 10 different countries! Speakers are our seminary professors; Revs. B. Huizinga and W. Langerak; and Rev. A. Stewart (CPRC NI) and Rev. M. Shand (EPC Australia). Trinity PRC in Hudsonville, MI is our host. The conference will be live-streamed via Trinity’s website for those unable to attend. For more, see Dordt400.org.

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The second thing to note is closely related. Prof. Douglas Kuiper has been writing special posts for the Seminary conference blog. Of special note are the short summaries of Dordt’s sessions he has provided. Much of this detail is new to me, and my own appreciation for Dordt’s careful and diligent work in answering the Arminian errors has grown tremendously.

Here are a few recent samples of his description of the Synod’s work during this month of March, only in 1619:

Session 110: Tuesday, March 12 PM
Synod read the last of the judgments regarding the first article of the Remonstrants–those of the deputies from Drenthe and from the Walloon churches.

Synod then turned to the judgments of the various delegations regarding the second article of the Remonstrants, which pertained to the extent and effectiveness of Christ’s work. Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Great Britain, the Palatinate, Hesse, and Switzerland. The last three delegations stated that when Scripture says Christ died for all, it means He died for the elect, not for every individual. For the elect, they added, His death effectively saved.

The delegates from Great Britain did not touch on this point. These delegates had realized earlier (session 74) that they were not agreed among themselves on the interpretation of their own creed, the Thirty-Nine Articles. This realization led them to ask advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He responded that the British delegates should not speak more specifically than did the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Session 118: Monday, March 18 AM
The Synod of Dordt had been in session for four full months. Due to sickness and other circumstances, the delegates from Brandenburg had never arrived (see session 3). At session 118, Synod received a letter from the Marquis of Brandenberg explaining the absence of his delegates. Convinced that Synod’s response to the Remonstrants would conform to the Reformed confessions, the Marquis asked Synod to send him its final judgment so that the clergy in his realm might sign it. The Acts of Synod do not indicate how Synod responded to this letter.

Synod continued to read the judgments of the various delegations regarding the third and fourth articles of the Remonstrants. At this session Synod read the judgments of the delegates from South Holland, North Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht.

Grace_and_Assurance_mcgeown-2018Third, and finally, we reference again the new RFPA publication, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt, written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor laboring in Limerick Reformed Fellowship.

Tonight we take a quotation from the author’s treatment of Article 5 of the Second Head of doctrine, where Dordt is linking the preaching of God’s salvation promise to the effectual, atoning death of His Son, Jesus Christ. After showing that God’s promise of salvation is particular (for elect believers only) and unconditional (without dependency on the actions of the sinner), McGeown shows that God wills that this gospel promise be widely preached – in contrast to what the Arminians claimed was possible for the truly Reformed.

This particular, unconditional promise must be preached. The heirs of God’s promise, the elect, must some to hear of it. Notice how the Canons explain this: ‘This promise…ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction.’ The promise of particular, but the preaching is promiscuous, general or unrestricted. With the promise a second truth must be preached, which is the command or the call: ‘This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published’ (emphasis added). The promise is particular, but the preaching with the command or call to repent and believe is promiscuous, general or unrestricted. This is the response of Dordt to hyper-Calvinism, which is the belief and practice that the gospel should not be preached promiscuously, but only to the elect or to supposedly sensible sinners. Those who show signs of regeneration or receptivity to the truth are, in the minds of hyper-Calvinists, sensible sinners. To none other will a hyper-Calvinist issue the command or call to repent and believe. [pp.166-67]

There’s more, of course, to this answer, but you can see what Dordt’s basic reply was. And that answer still needs to be sounded plainly, because there is so much confusion and error concerning the call of the gospel, and not only from the side of the hyper-Calvinists. Those who claim the free or well-meant offer with its two-track theology need also hear Dordt’s clear statements.

We encourage all who love the Reformed faith to read and benefit from McGeown’s Grace and Assurance.

Prof. R. Cammenga Interviewed TODAY on “Saved by Grace” Book (UPDATE: Podcast Now Available!)

The Reformed Free Publishing Association is sponsoring and promoting this event today:

TODAY from 4-6pm EST,  Prof. Cammenga will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program Iron Sharpens Iron.

The subject will be the book, Saved by Grace: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, that he co-authored with Rev. Ron Hanko.

Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on the livestream box to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone at (563)999-9206; press #3 for Christian Radio when prompted.

Be sure to tune in today!

The sponsorship and promotion includes a free copy of the book to those who call in. We hope you take the time to listen and participate if you can.

And let us pray that the witness of the Reformed faith (biblical Calvinism!) for the glory of the God of sovereign, particular grace is advanced through this means!

*UPDATE: The podcast of yesterday’s interview with Prof. Cammenga is now available. You may find the audio file here.

Older Useful Works on the Synod/Canons of Dordt

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This week we are focusing on the Synod of Dordt and her work in connection with her 400th anniversary (1618-19/2018-19). Two days ago we looked at some of the new items being produced and published in connection with that historic event. Tonight we will look at a few of the older but still valuable books from the past.

The PRC Seminary library has several older works in Dutch, of course, and one could wish that some of these were translated or could be translated. One such work marks the 350th anniversary of Dordt and is a colorful illustrated history of Dordt.

But there are also plenty available in English, some major works and other minor. Here are a few.

The Deeper Faith: An Exposition of the Canons of Dort by Gordon Girod (former pastor of Seventh Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI), Baker Book House.

crisis in reformed chruches-py-dejongCrisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort, ed. by Peter Y. DeJong. One finds this description online:

Forty years ago the Board of Reformed Fellowship commissioned nine men, who today would be considered a ‘Who’s Who’ in Reformed theology, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Synod of Dort. Under the leadership of the editor, Dr. Peter Y. De Jong, these giants in the faith wrote on a variety of topics regarding this great event in Reformed history. Their contributions brought to the Christian community a greater understanding of the history and necessity of the Synod of Dort, the key figures involved in the Synod, and the application of the decisions made at the Synod to the tumultuous times within the church during the sixties. Each article reflected not only the expertise of the writer, but also his love for the Reformed faith…” With these words Wybren Oord, editor of The Outlook, begins the introduction to this new printing of Crisis in the Reformed Churches. Contributing authors: Peter Y. DeJong– pastor for several churches in the CRC; Professor of Practical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary; one of the founders of Mid-America Reformed Seminary. Simon Kistemaker– Professor of New Testament Emeritus, RTS; past president and secretary-treasurer, Evangelical Theological Society. Fred H. Klooster– professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. John Murray–professor of Systematic Theology and co-founder, Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia. Edwin H. Palmer– minister in the CRC; professor at Westminster Theological Seminary; executive secretary, Committee on Bible Translation (NIV). Louis Praamsma– minister in the CRC; professor of Church History, Calvin Theological Seminary. Klaas Runia– professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological College, Geelong, Australia; professor of Practical Theology, Theological Seminary, Kampen, Netherlands. Cornelius Van Til– professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary. Marten H. Woudstra– professor of Old Testament, Calvin Theological Seminary; translator, NIV.

but-for-the-grace-of-god_venemaBut For the Grace of God: An Exposition of the Canons of Dort by Cornel Venema, about which we find this information on the Reformed Fellowship website:

Dr. Cornel Venema, President and Professor of Doctrinal Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, clearly and engagingly leads the reader not only to understand the background and the doctrine of the Canons of Dort but also to see how its faithful exposition of biblical truth gives us great comfort and confidence in God’s promises.

• Nine chapters, with study questions after each chapter
• Excellent resource for study groups
• Includes the full text of the Canons of Dort.

revisiting-dordt-lieburgA larger work is Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), ed. by A. Goudriaan and F. Lieburg (Brill, 2010), part of Brill’s Series in Church History (V. 49). The publisher has this information on this title:

The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), the international assembly which ended the yearslong dispute between Arminians and Calvinists, was a defining event in the history of the Dutch Republic. This collected volume presents new facts and analyses concerning the Synod, its context, and its legacy. It includes contributions on the Synod’s international character (Genevan delegation, James Ussher), biased historiography ( John Hales and Walter alquanquall), scholasticism ( Johannes Maccovius), philosophical ramifications, and Arminian theology. New, manuscript-based details about the formation of the Canons of Dordt are presented. Other papers examine the Canons’ ascendency to confessional status, intentional pastoral style, and view on the salvation of infants. Finally, its reception in the Dutch context as reflected in prints and printed works is mapped out.

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Last, but not least, we also want to call attention to another RFPA publication on Dordt and her Canons – Voice of Our Fathers: An Exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht by Homer C, Hoeksema (2nd revised ed.).

We hope these books lists will encourage you to do some serious reading on Dordt and her work, as we remember God’s preserving work through His church in the 17th century.

New Books on the Synod/ Canons of Dordt

This week we are focusing on the Synod of Dordt and some of the new items that are being produced and published in connection with its 400th anniversary (1618-19/2018-19). We have featured a few new titles already, but let’s review those again.

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One was published last year by the Reformed Free Publishing Association: Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt, written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, a graduate of the PRC Theological Seminary and currently serving as missionary-pastor in Limerick Reformed Fellowship on behalf of Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland.

The RFPA gives this brief description of this new release:

In 1618-19 the great Synod of Dordt met to counter the Arminian error that was threatening the peace and welfare of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands. The fruit of their deliberations was the Canons of Dordt, a creed which has defined the Calvinist, Reformed faith for centuries.

This accessible commentary on the Canons leads readers through the comforting message of the creed: being wholly saved by God’s grace—not one’s own merit—comes with the steadfast assurance of eternal and unchangeable election.

saving-reformation-godfrey-2019Another we pointed to on Sunday in connection with this month’s issue of Tabletalk is Robert Godfrey’s Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort (Reformation Trust, Jan. 2019), due out in a few days.

Ligonier gives this summary of this book:

There has been renewed interest in the five points of Calvinism among many Christians today. But these doctrines are not a product of the twenty-first century. So where did they come from, and why are they so important? Dr. W. Robert Godfrey takes us back to 1618-19 when the Canons of Dort were written in response to a mounting theological assault on Reformed Christianity. Now, for its four-hundredth anniversary, he offers a new translation and pastoral commentary on the canons, equipping the next generation with these God-glorifying truths.

These two are more popular works, that is, written for the regular churchman and churchwoman. But there are other works being produced of a more academic nature, for the serious teacher, student, and and researcher. We also point to two of these tonight.

early-sessions-dordt-2-2First is the second in a new series on the official “Acts” of the Synod of Dordt (“critical edition”), part of a projected nine-volume set. The first volume was published in 2014, while the second was published in 2017. That one is Acta Et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618-1619) : Early Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (Acta Et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618-1619), edited by Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser, Herman J. Selderhuis, Johanna Roelevink (Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2017, 964 pp.). Both of these volumes may be found in our seminary library.

election-reformed-persp-dort-2018The second was published late last Fall and is part of the Refo500 Academic Studies Series (#51): The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective: Historical and Theological Investigations of the Synod of Dordt 1618-1619 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018, 260 pp.). I have ordered this work and am anticipating its arrival any day.

Concerning this work, the publisher has this:

In 11 essays The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective reflect ongoing investigations concerning the doctrine of election, with special focus on the Synod of Dort 1618–19. Important lines of demarcation between different Reformed orthodox groups and denominations find their root divergence, as well as historical concentration point, in relation to this very issue. The ongoing research presented in this collection can open up a fresh field of fertile investigation for theological discussion. Moreover, she may lead to interdisciplinary perspectives and a cooperative approach to research, also beyond the field of theology. For this too is the field of philosophers and historians, those who trace the history of Christianity or are studying early modern Europe.

The volume consists of three sections. In the first Part three essays reflect historical and philosophical issues before the Synod of Dort. Part Two explores aspects of the Synod of Dort itself. The focus in Part Three is on the reception of the Synod of Dort. Finally, the following question is answered: How were the Canons of Dort regarded in the 17th–19th century, and what does the history of their editions tell us?

The editor, Frank van der Pol, was the program leader of the combined research group Early Modern Reformed Theology (EMRT) of the theological universities Apeldoorn and Kampen. In cooperation with the A Lasco Bibliothek Emden the EMRT organized an international conference on Oct. 29 and 30, 2014 about the doctrine of election in reformed perspective. The research group is convinced that the dual line of research on history and theology of the Reformation tradition must continue and be strengthened. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, the researchers, wanting to do their work in a broader context with a wider dialogue, make their proceedings accessible for more people and institutes by publishing them in this volume.

Next time, we will point to some older but still profitable titles on Dordt and her work and theology.

What Is Arminianism? ~ J. I. Packer

What Is Arminianism?1

Historically, Arminianism has appeared as a reaction against Calvinism, affirming, in the words of W. R. Bagnall, “conditional in opposition to absolute predestination, and general in opposition to particular redemption.”2 This verbal antithesis is not in fact as simple or clear as it looks, for changing the adjective involves redefining the noun. What Bagnall should have said is that Calvinism affirms a concept of predestination from which conditionality is excluded, and a concept of redemption to which particularity is essential, and Arminianism denies both. The difference is this. To Calvinism, predestination means foreordination, whereas to Arminianism it means only foresight of events not foreordained. On the Calvinist view, election, which is a predestinating act on God’s part, means the foreordaining of particular sinners to be saved by Jesus Christ, through faith, and redemption, the first step in working out God’s electing purpose, is an achievement actually securing certain salvation—calling, pardon, adoption, preservation, final glory—for all the elect. On the Arminian view, however, what the death of Christ secured was a possibility of salvation for sinners generally, a possibility which, so far as God is concerned, might never have been actualized in any single case; and the electing of individuals to salvation is no more than God noting in advance who will believe and qualify for glory, as a matter of contingent (not foreordained) fact. Whereas to Calvinism election is God’s resolve to save, and the cross Christ’s act of saving, for Arminianism salvation rests neither on God’s election nor on Christ’s cross, but on a man’s own cooperation with grace, which is something that God does not Himself guarantee.

Drawn from Packer’s excellent introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (first published in 1647). The title to this introduction is simply “Arminianisms.” The work is also found in this collection of Packer’s writings: Puritan Papers – Vol. 5, 1968-1969. We hope to continue to pull some quotations from this work in the next few months, and you will see why in the next paragraph.

This week we will be focusing on some Canons of Dordt items in connection with the 400th anniversary (1618-19/2018-19). There are some new and exciting resources available on the “great Synod” and its work. Watch for these posts in the days to come!

If you wish to continue reading Packer’s essay, visit the link below.

Source: Arminianisms | Monergism