A Short on Perseverance & Assurance in the Canons of Dort


I had argued in an earlier post, “Some Quick Reminders of what TULIP is NOT,” the following:

The perseverance of a believer is not due to a subjective state of heart and mind that, once achieved, guarantees future glorification, come what may. The perseverance of a believer is the preserving power and faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This section of the article (covering the “P”) seems to have met with the most resistance, largely because it (1) appeared to imply that “true faith” can be lost—that one who is once a true believer can thereafter “fall away,” and (2) appeared to some to imply that there is therefore no basis for true assurance since something more like the subjective “once truly believed, always will believe” model is a better basis of assurance.

But I am nevertheless completely certain that what I had offered was indeed the actual teaching of the Reformers and specifically the Canons of Dort, the very document that has given us the so called “TULIP” to begin with.  First, let’s take a look at the Fourth/Fifth Head of Doctrine of the Canons, Article 3:

Article 3

By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and also because of the temptations of the world and of Satan, those who are converted could not persevere in that grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.

This article is quite clear: even the truly converted would in fact fall away—in every case!—if not for God keeping and preserving His elect until the end. As before, it was Jesus who prayed that Peter’s faith not fail, thereby preserving him; it was not the quality of Peter’s internal mental/heart state that guaranteed his perseverance (Lk. 22:31-32).

And a couple of articles later in the same Head of Doctrine, we read the following of Assurance:

Article 10

This assurance, however, is not produced by any peculiar revelation contrary to or independent of the Word of God, but springs from faith in God’s promises, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort; from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit that we are children and heirs of God (Rom. 8:16); and lastly, from a serious and holy desire to preserve a good conscience and to perform good works. And if the elect of God were deprived of this solid comfort that they shall finally obtain the victory, and of this infallible pledge of eternal glory, they would be of all men most miserable.

So, where does one find assurance according to the Canons of Dort? By believing in God’s faithfulness as a promise keeper, from God’s Spirit in us crying “Abba, Father!”, and from a true desire and pursuit of good works. In short, Assurance is also a God doing just as is the Preservation of Article 3.  We look outside of ourselves to the true Covenant Keeper, long for Him as a Father by the Spirit’s working, and live out our regeneration through an amended life. To be sure,

Article 11

The Scripture moreover testifies that believers in this life have to struggle with various carnal doubts, and that under grievous temptations they do not always feel this full assurance of faith and certainty of persevering. But God, who is the Father of all consolation, does not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able, but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that they may be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13), and by the Holy Spirit again inspires them with the comfortable assurance of persevering.

As I concluded in the earlier post, “it is not in ourselves that we find this hope and assurance of future glory, but in daily looking to and relying upon our faithful Covenant Partner to preserve and keep us to the end.”

This is the teaching of the Canons of Dort; a “TULIP” that doesn’t match this is just a poor caricature.


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