Preaching, TULIP, and the Canons of Dort

 One crisis in many Reformed/Presbyterian churches today is that the doctrines of grace (aka TULIP) are ignored, avoided, or thought to be irrelevant.  To be sure, a church that doesn’t clearly preach, teach, believe, and defend the doctrines of grace cannot really be called Reformed or Presbyterian.  But the crisis is there. 

The crisis is not new, however.   Something similar happened in the early 17th century.  Back then, in Holland, the doctrines of grace weren’t avoided or ignored, they were opposed and said to be unbiblical.  The Synod of Dort met to discuss these things: election, grace, depravity, the atonement, and perseverance.   We know the story: the Remonstrants/Arminians had five points that the Synod prayerfully studied.  The Synod came up with five points of their own, which are found in the Canons of Dort (TULIP – but in this order: ULTIP).

Here’s a good book that talks about the Synod and Canons of Dort: Crisis in the Reformed Churches ed. P. Y De Jong.  This book contains essays by men like Fred Klooster, John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, and Edwin Palmer (just to name a few).  Some chapter titles include these: “The Background of the Arminian Controversy 1586-1618,” “Leading Figures at the Synod of Dort,” “Preaching and the Synod of Dort,” and “Calvin, Dort, and Westminster on Predestination – a Comparative Study.”  There are also several helpful appendices that give timelines, dates, names, the Remonstrants’ points, and the Canons of Dort.  Crisis in the Reformed Churches is sort of a mini-library on the Synod and Canons of Dort.

I especially liked the chapter on preaching by P. Y. De Jong.  He well argued that the Canons of Dort have everything to do with the church’s preaching and piety.  Here are a few helpful quotes.

“If salvation is solely of God, then preaching as the chief calling of the church will have quite another content than if salvation is viewed as a venture in which God and man in some sense cooperate.”

“Interwoven with all the doctrines [of the Canons] here defined are statements concerning the necessity, nature, message, efficacy, and consequences of gospel proclamation.”

“Because the proclamation of God’s love in Christ Jesus is the divine antidote to the deadly poison of sin that dooms men to death.  Apart from the gospel none can or will come to a saving knowledge of God in Christ Jesus.  It is this desperate plight that, according to the Canons, must continually be set before men’s eyes and mind and hearts.  In such preaching sinners are addressed by the God of all grace and justice.”

“Such preaching alone is relevant.  It speaks truly to the need of man.  It humbles the proud.  It warns the impenitent.  It encourages those who sorrow for their sins and seek after God.  It begins and ends with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise, honor, and adoration forever and ever.”

Here’s the full info on the book: Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort, 1618-1619 ed. Peter Y. De Jong (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, repr. 2008).

shane lems