The Canons of Dort: Doctrines of Grace

The Synod of Dort: The Canons of Dort

400 years ago in a little port city in the Netherlands known as Dordrecht, a synod was held to deal with a growing theological controversy in the church.  The Synod was called together in large part to deal with a problem that had precipitated in the Dutch church, a problem that started back with Jacobus Arminius. Arminius was a theological professor at Leiden University who died in 1609. Not long after his followers pooled together to create a group known as the “Remonstrants”, and wrote a document called “The Remonstrance,” outlining the ways they disagreed with Calvin on crucial doctrines related to the doctrine of salvation. The Synod of Dort was convened to answer these objections.

The Remonstrance was made up of five specific objections, particularly addressing the doctrines of grace. The first objection had to do with the doctrine of election. The second objection had to do with atonement. The third had to do with total depravity. The fourth had to do with irresistible grace. The final objection had to do with perseverance of the saints. This is where the acrostic ‘TULIP’ comes from, although it was not discussed or argued in this order.  The synod felt like the response should start with the doctrine of Election because they believed tehy should start God’s sovereignty over His creation, and the rest flows from there.

So, the Synod of Dort was convened to answer these five objections, which resulted in the Canons of Dort. These canons have five heads of doctrine answering each one of these points of the Remonstrants. Under each of these heads of doctrine, there are numerous articles explaining what they mean, relying heavily on Scripture. Also, there are a number of paragraphs under each head titled “Rejections.” The Canons of Dort not only outlined what the Synod affirmed, but they also outlined what the Synod rejected.

Study them here.