At Grace Community Bible Church, we believe the Canons of Dordt are an accurate summary of what the Bible teaches about key doctrines regarding salvation. Sometimes the Canons of Dordt are referred to as the “Doctrines of Grace.” But I have always wondered how my Arminian friends feel about this title. Is their system not “doctrines of grace”?
It wasn’t until a recent study of the Canons of Dordt, I found that it might be better to refer to the teaching of the Canons of Dordt as “The Doctrines of Power” or “The Doctrines of Powerful Grace,” for, God’s power and effectiveness in salvation is truly what is at stake in the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.
Election is powerful.
God the Father, before time eternal, elected a certain number of sinful people for his own, based on his sheer power, purposes, and grace (Rom 9:11, 16; Eph 1:5, 11; 2 Tim 1:9). I say election is powerful because I know of nothing else in all the world that demonstrates true power than for the Creator of the universe to elect to salvation a particular number of people dead in their sins.
Atonement is powerful.
The Bible teaches that Christ’s death actually accomplished propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, substitution and the forgiveness of sins (Rom 3:25; 5:10; Eph 1:7; Col 1:22; Heb 9:26; 1 Pet 2:24). The problem with the Arminian understanding of the atonement is that Christ’s death has limited power because a person’s faith is what makes the atonement effective. In the Calvinistic understanding, however, the atonement is powerful in itself, and effective in accomplishing the salvation of God’s people.
Sin is powerful.
The Bible teaches that sin is powerful, so much so that humans are in bondage, unable to do any spiritual good, in their fallen, natural state (Rom 8:7-8; Eph 2:1). Sin has left humanity hopelessly lost and powerless to do anything about it.
Grace is powerful.
In contrast to human sin, God’s grace is more powerful (Rom 5:20; 1 Pet 1:3; Jam 1:18). Though man is stubborn and inclined to his own way, the power of the gospel is effective to crush human rebellion and resistance.
Perseverance is powerful.
If election, atonement, and grace are the power of God in the gospel towards sinners, then certainly God has power to preserve his children to the end. Indeed, he does: nothing shall separate us from Christ (Rom 8:35-39; Jude 24-25)!
Yes, the Canons of Dordt are about “doctrines of grace.” But this is a particular kind of grace: a powerful grace. Indeed, powerful grace is what the good news is all about: “For the gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe” (Rom 1:16).
In case you missed it and want more understanding on these issues, see the eight-part series on Calvinism and Arminianism here.