Home > Brian's Blogs, Theology > The Canons of Dort Part 9: Irresistible Grace

The Canons of Dort Part 9: Irresistible Grace

Today I want to continue my series on the Canons of Dort with a summary of the fourth main point of doctrine (which is in reality a continuation of the third main point of doctrine): irresistible grace.

Before reading this summary, I strongly encourage you to review the summary of the third main point of doctrine: total depravity. Again, I encourage this because, in its original form, the Canons of Dort have the these two points under one title: Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs. What we call the third main point of doctrine deals with “Human Corruption.” What we call the fourth main point of doctrine deals with “Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs.”

The Gospel Call

  1. Since both humans and the law are unable to provide salvation, “God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation.” The content of the Gospel, for both Old and New Testament believers, is the Messiah.
  2. God reveals this Gospel to whomever he pleases (“to the free good pleasure and undeserved love of God”). He revealed his Gospel to a “small number” of people in the OT and a “large number” of people in the NT. This Gospel revelation is a “call.”
  3. God “calls” all people. That is, God sends forth his Gospel to both the elect and non-elect.
  4. Those who fail to respond to the Gospel call can only blame themselves and not God, Christ, or the Gospel.

Conversion

  1. Those who do respond to the Gospel call cannot take any credit for themselves.
  2. Those who do respond to the Gospel must credit the Holy Spirit for their conversion.  It is the Holy Spirit who “enlightens their minds…so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God.”  It is the Holy Spirit who “penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised.  He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.”
  3. This work of the Holy Spirit (regeneration) leads to people who are “certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe.”  However, it is still rightly said that a person believes in God by an act of their will.  A person’s will, “now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active.  For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and repent.”
  4. It is not possible for man to fully comprehend this conversion and regeneration.

Faith

  1. Faith is a gift from God.  It is not a gift offered that man chooses or rejects, but it is a gift “bestowed on man, breathed and infused into him.”  God “produces in man both the will to believe and the belief itself.”

The Result of God’s Grace in Conversion

  1. The person who receives God’s grace should respond with thankfulness to God and God alone, should love those who profess faith in Christ, and should pray for those who do not yet profess faith in Christ.

More on Regeneration

  1. God’s regeneration of man  “does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and – in a manner at once pleasing and powerful – bends it back.”
  2. God utilizes means outside himself in the process of regeneration.
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  1. May 7, 2008 at 11:49 am

    How does the “Canons of Dort” reconcile:
    Those who fail to respond to the Gospel call can only blame themselves and not God, Christ, or the Gospel.
    with
    Those who do respond to the Gospel call cannot take any credit for themselves.

    Doesn’t this basically say that we CAN choose to NOT accept salvation, but we CAN’T choose TO accept it? Logically that doesn’t make any sense. If God calls/chooses His elect, then He has already made the choice for the non-elect.

  2. May 7, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I think that is basically correct. The Canons base this view on their understanding of sin. According to them (and I agree), sin has distorted our wills so much that we cannot choose Christ, but we regularly choose sin. Here is the key: the Canons believe in free choice but not free will. Your “choice” is a product of your “will.” Therefore, a sinful person’s will is always directed toward sin, but you have free choice in how you will manifest that sin. The key to regeneration is the Holy Spirit reorienting the will so that it is directed toward God so we choose God.

    See my next post for further descriptions.

  1. May 7, 2008 at 1:08 pm

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