June 1, 2013

Richard Muller on Common Misunderstandings of the Canons of Dort

Common Misunderstandings of the Canons

Of the three Forms of Unity, the Canons of Dort have been the least understood and least appreciated. Much of the reason for this lies in a reductionist reading of the Can­ons through the lens of the rather unfortunate phrase, “five points of Calvinism” and the even more problematic attempt to explain the canons with the acronym TULIP. There are five doctrinal topics addressed by the Canons not, however, because “Calvinism” can be collapsed into “five points” but because the articles of doctrine put forth by the Remon­strants contained five main sections. The broader teachings of the “Calvinist” or, as more accurately named, “Reformed” church­es remain in the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. The Canons of Dort serve as an interpretive codicil or appendix to the two main confessional documents, set against the Remonstrant articles for the purpose of preventing a mistaken reading of Reformed doctrine. The acronym TULIP is a modern attempt, originating probably in the early twentieth century and certainly not in use before the late nineteenth century. Not only is it reductionistic, it has often led to a very mistaken and narrow reading of the Canons. The best use that one can make of it is to indicate how the Canons cannot be easily wedged into its terms.
Richard Muller, “The Canons of Dort,” Forum 20.1 (Winter 2013): 11.

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