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The Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 2

Synod%20of%20Dort.jpgHere's the next installment of my notes on the Canons of Dort.  An introduction to the Canons can be found here -- Click here: Riddleblog - Notes on the Canons of Dort (Introduction) and my notes on the first head of doctrine, article one can be found here -- Click here: Riddleblog - Notes on the Canons of Dort (First Head)

Article 2: The Manifestation of God's Love

But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

In the opening articles, the Canons are careful to demonstrate that any possible deliverance from our sinful condition (guilt, condemnation and the inability to save ourselves) arises from something good in God--specifically his love for his rebellious creatures--and not because there is something “good” that God sees in the sinner which motivates him to act to save them.

Because of our guilt and sinfulness, God is under no obligation to save anyone.  In fact, the entire human race is already under his just judgment and sentence of death (Romans 5:12, 18; 6:23).  But because of his great love for us, God sends Jesus Christ to secure for us our redemption (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10).

This means that it is God who seeks sinners, not sinners who seek God.  We must be clear about this fact.  Jesus himself made it perfectly clear that the essence of his own mission was that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

But the American religion, on the other hand, understands the manifestation of God’s love to be a response to the goodness and worth that God sees within sinful men and women.  But what is there in us that is good?  The Scripture says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).  We do not seek God, we do not understand the things of God and every inch of us is tainted, stained, and ruined by sin (Romans 3:9-20).  Indeed, the prophet Habakkuk declares about God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13).

This is why we must be careful to realize that the very essence of grace is that it is purely gracious.  As one Puritan divine puts it, “there is no reason to be given for grace but grace.”  The only place to look for an answer to the questions about sin and grace then is in the justice, the love and the mercy of God, not in the supposed "goodness" of sinful men and women.

This is why God sent his Son into this world, not because we are worthy, but because he is gracious.  And this love is most clearly visible in this—
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Yes, the Canons of Dort actually quote John 3:16 in the second article!  Imagine that?

Reader Comments (1)

Good stuff!!

Who says the Revivalists have a monopoly on John 3:16, the love of God, etc.? I really do think we Reformed could do much better on seeing how our tradition (since it is patently biblical) can do both the the justice AND love of God instead of being poorly satisfied with being the "counter agent to the emphasis on love, etc." Ours is an organic project, not a mechanical one. Like Ragu, it's all in there(!). We don't have to sub-contract with the Revivalists. And we may, indeed should, use the L-word.

Sorry to gush, but I love it when I see stuff like this amongst us.

(BTW, I do think some "God didn't have to save us" sentiments can be just as worthy of the sop-heap as "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," or "God hates the sin but loves the sinner." While it is certainly true he owes us nothing, very often I get the sense that such things are uttered in a pagan-ish manner that more elicits ungodly fright than demands godly fear; the former seems more interested in painting a god hungry to suck up as much sniveling as possible and invoking a fright-laden slavishness, while the latter seeks to gain a proper fear and glory and compelling a wholesome gratitude.)

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

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