Home > Brian's Blogs, Theology > The Canons of Dort Part 13: Summary Thoughts

The Canons of Dort Part 13: Summary Thoughts

Over the last several weeks I have posted a brief summary/commentary on the Canons of Dort, the source of the famous “five points of Calvinism” or “TULIP.” Now that my summary is complete, it is appropriate to make a few general observations regarding the practical implications of the Canons of Dort and TULIP.

The following summary is taken from a class discussion at Calvin Theological Seminary, led by Dr. Lyle Bierma. The primary source for Dr. Bierma’s reflections is a wonderful little book by Richard Mouw (now the President of Fuller Theological Seminary) titled, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport. I highly recommend this book for anyone that wants to discuss the practical implications of the Canons of Dort.

What are we to think of and do with the Canons of Dort today?  Here are a few thoughts.

  1. The Canons of Dort should never be the foundation of evangelism. We must always keep in mind the original context; the Canons of Dort were written as a response to a theological debate within the academy.  Although those debates in “Christendom Europe” did spill over into the public square much more easily and frequently than today, the Canons were never intended to represent the sum total of Christianity that must be shared with both Christians and non-Christians.  I think the “early Calvinists” would agree with this wholeheartedly. For example, John Calvin saved his discussion of predestination until Book III of his Institutes (in other words predestination is not a top priority, even for Calvin). For another example, the Canons themselves warn against discussing election evangelistically.  The First Main Point of Doctrine says it should be taught “with a spirit of discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place, without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High.”  So TULIP, while important, is not so important that it must be used evangelistically or even in regular congregational teaching.
  2. TULIP should not temper our zeal for evangelism. Again, the Canons of Dort repeatedly urge Christians to preach the gospel “without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people” (Second Main Point of Doctrine). That is, every Christian should proclaim Christ to each and every person they encounter. Furthermore, every Christian should challenge each and every person they encounter to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ. Just because we believe in election does not mean we don’t proclaim Christ to all people. Afterall, we don’t know who is elect and who isn’t!
  3. TULIP is not the whole of Calvinism. It is unfortunate that people often believe, implicitly or explicitly, that Calvinism = TULIP. The Canons of Dort are merely one expression of one aspect of Calvinism. There are a lot of other aspects to Calvinism and Reformed theology. In fact, to be Reformed (according to the CRC and RCA) is to hold to three expressions of Calvinism: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. Therefore, in the technical sense, even though I personally believe in the Canons of Dort, I am not officially “Reformed” because I do not wholeheartedly accept the Heidelberg Catechism or the Belgic Confession.
  4. The Canons still leave us with mysteries and we must learn how to live with them. The Canons of Dort cannot and do not explain the entirety of God’s purposes. No one can.  The Canons represent an attempt to understand salvation from God’s perspective based upon Scripture, but does not claim exhaustive knowledge on the subject.  Calvinists be warned about how dogmatically you hold TULIP.  In other words, denying TULIP does not make one a heretic!!

This concludes my brief review of the Canons of Dort.  It has been fun for me to reread them and consider their implications for today.  I pray it benefited someone else in the world as well.

  1. June 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Broadcaster

  1. May 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

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