The covenant and Dordt (10)
Total depravity: Children incapable of fulfilling a condition
The Canons’ positive treatment of the Reformed doctrine of total depravity is straightforward and relatively brief. And yet, all nine articles of the Rejection of Errors condemn errors of the Remonstrants connected with total depravity. The reason for this is simple. The Canons set forth the Reformed truth over against the specific teaching of the Remonstrants. However, the Reformed doctrine of total depravity was explicitly set forth in the existing confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession of Faith. The Remonstrants did not write what they really believed about fallen man. If they had, they would obviously contradict the confessions; it would indicate that their theology was not Reformed. Accordingly, their “third point,” on fallen man’s condition, though meandering, is something with which Reformed believers could agree, though most would want to state it clearer.
The covenant and Dordt: Election, the foundation
The doctrine of election is the foundation of the Reformed truth of salvation by grace alone. The first head of the Canons of Dordt establishes the doctrine of double predestination in answer to the first point of the Remonstrants. The Arminians placed this doctrine first in their five objections (remonstrances), knowing that if they could successfully change the Reformed teaching of election to a conditional election, the rest of their teaching (errors) would follow logically. If election (and therefore, salvation) depended on man’s choosing it, then Christ died for all to make that choice a possibility, and fallen man is not dead, and grace is resistible, and perseverance unto eternal life depends on man.
The editorial in this special Synod issue focuses on one particular issue faced by Synod 2018, namely, the place of obedience (good works) in the believer’s experience of covenant fellowship.
The issue of the place of good works in the covenant life is important because the covenant and salvation are inseparable. A Reformed man will confess concerning salvation that 1) it is all of God; 2) salvation is found in Christ alone; 3) God sovereignly saves His elect through faith in Christ alone. Likewise a Reformed man will say that 1) the covenant is all of God; 2) the covenant is established with Christ and therefore with those chosen in Him; 3) God effectually brings His elect into the covenant and gives access to fellowship with Him through faith in Christ.
—Read more in Synod 2018: Obedience and covenant fellowship by Prof. Russell Dykstra in the upcoming July 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.
The preaching in Christ’s church sets forth the doctrine of the gospel in all its glory and power. It is pure, unmixed with the errors of Pelagius or Arminius that ascribe to man a part in his salvation. It is uncorrupted with Romish or Federal Vision errors that require man to perform works that will in some way contribute to his salvation. The opinions and philosophies of men are excluded. It must be the pure doctrine of the gospel.
Preaching the pure doctrine of the gospel is the chief mark of the true church of Christ. Every sermon, whether it is expounding prophecy, a psalm, an epistle, or biblical history, is the preaching of the gospel. Sermons on Genesis 1 (creation), Exodus 20 (the law), Haggai 1 (God’s rebuke of Israel), or Matthew 3 (the life of Jesus) must set forth the truth of the text in the light of Christ crucified—the gospel.
—Read more in the article ‘The true church of Jesus Christ—Her marks’ by Prof. Russell Dykstra in the upcoming June 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.