A Short on Perseverance & Assurance in the Canons of Dort

Canons

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:

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Some Quick Reminders of what TULIP is NOT

Tulip Exposures, J. Wehtje X-ray Black and White Flowers 16x20 Print 1

The doctrines summarized by the acronym “TULIP” have become to many the hallmark doctrines of the Reformed faith, even called the “Five Points of Calvinism” by some. In reality, this acronym is rarely heard in Reformed churches or found in Reformed literature.  To the Reformed, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints are not the core of Christianity, nor even the core soteriology of Christianity, but rather five doctrinal clarifications produced by the Synod of Dordt in response to a group of Dutch ministers questioning important suppositions of the Heidelberg Catechism. While they are indeed very important truths, they do not eclipse the total system of doctrine as received in the Reformed Confessions.

But, as pervasive as this caricature of the Reformed Faith is, even more troubling is that these doctrines themselves are often presented as but poor caricatures of the actual Canons produced at Dordt—even by many who claim to profess them. I have thought it helpful here to write a few quick reminders of what TULIP is not, historically speaking.

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