Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt, by Martyn McGeown. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2018. Hardcover. 384 pages. [Reviewed by Derrick Span, a member of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church]
Rev. Martyn McGeown's book, entitled Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt, emphasizes the necessity, as Reformed Christians, to thoroughly understand our creeds and confessions. These creeds and confessions exhibit what heresies our fathers fought against and what they clung to with ardent zeal. We might ask what value there is in reading a book about the Canons, or we might object that the Canons, Belgic Confession, and Heidelberg Catechism are only creeds. Should we be spending our time studying these old creeds and confessions when we have big enough problems understanding our Bible? Are we not supposed to hold to sola scriptura? While these areas of concern are essential, they express a misunderstanding that we cannot learn from those who came before us. We must be careful in speaking in that way. Instead, we ought to read and listen to those who fought for the truth, seeking the truth from them. By hearing them, we will be better equipped to read God’s word through an informed outlook. So I encourage the use of this book not just for informing us of what our fathers taught, but as a means to examine what we hold to and whether we maintain the understanding of God’s word. To encourage this mindset, a brief explanation of the book is necessary.
The author’s explanation of the Canons begins with the intent, namely to expose Arminianism as erroneous from the ground up. To accomplish this purpose, our fathers had to explain many different doctrines as clearly as possible to leave no room for Arminianism to stand. Where would they begin? Would they start with the main point that Arminian fought against, i.e., reprobation? As a reading of the Canons would illustrate, they did not begin with reprobation; in fact, they did not for some time. The Canons began with who God is and who man is in relation to God. McGeown and our forefathers teach us a crucial bit of wisdom by starting with God in their explanation.