Tuesday, March 24, 2009

But for the Grace of God by Cornelis P. Venema

But for the Grace of God: An Exposition of the Canons of Dort
by Cornelis P. Venema, Reformed Fellowship Inc., 1994, 145pp
We've all heard of the so-called "Five Points of Calvinism", usually referred to under the acronym TULIP, meaning Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Final Perseverance. But how many of us have actually read, let alone studied the Canons of Dort that first gave expression to the "Five Points"? In this helpful little book, Cornelis Venema sets the Synod of Dort in its historical context and gives us an insightful exposition of the Canons. He works through each point of doctrine in turn, giving a clear statement of the teaching of the Calvinistic divines and then subjecting their theology to biblical scrutiny. His aim throughout is to consider whether the Canons of Dort reflect the teaching of Scripture. The book concludes with an Appendix where the Canons of Dort are reproduced in full.
Although I would claim to be a "Five Point Calvinist", I must admit that I hadn't done an awful lot of work on the Synod of Dort. What I found here was an unexpected joy and delight. Contrary to what some might suggest, the Canons are far from being a relic of Reformed scholasticism or simply a reaction to the Arminianism of the Remonstrants. While not being a comprehensive confession of faith, they set forth the biblical teaching on the areas covered with clarity, sensitivity and care. Misunderstandings are cleared up and objections to the Calvinistic doctrine are refuted graciously yet firmly.
The theology of the Canons of Dort is in no way a hindrance to evangelism. Quite the contrary. The sacrificial death of the Son is of "infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world". (Second main point, Article 3). His death effects the salvation of all those for whom he died. On that basis the promise of the gospel that all who repent and believe will not perish, but have eternal life, "ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people" (Second main point, Article 5).
The great concern of the Synod of Dort was to insist that salvation is by the grace of our Triune Redeemer alone. The one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit planned, executed and will effectively apply the great work of salvation. To him belongs all the glory for saving lost sinners. TULIP may not ammount to the the gospel in its totality, but leave out any one point and the gospel is seriously diminished.

No comments: