Calvin and the Canons of Dordt (1619)

in Church History and Religious Culture
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Despite the fact that the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” are based on the five main points of the Canons of Dordt, it is misleading to assume that these five points are drawn directly from Calvin. The documents of the Synod of Dordt rarely refer to any theological source, including Calvin. However, a comparison of Calvin and the Canons suggests that Calvin was a probable influence on the Canons on the issue of double predestination and a possible influence on the themes of the universal call of the gospel, human depravity, efficacious grace, and perseverance. But Calvin was an unlikely influence on the Canons’ infralapsarian stance and on its formulations regarding negative-positive reprobation, particular grace, and the sufficient-efficient distinction. These latter issues became formulated in a more precise manner after Calvin, so later Reformed theologians were more likely influences. In sum, Calvin’s influence on the Canons could only have been moderate.

Calvin and the Canons of Dordt (1619)

in Church History and Religious Culture




In the session of 7 December 1618each member of the synod swore an oath in which he promised before God that in all synodical transactions regarding doctrine he would “not use any human writings but the Word of God alone as the sure and undoubted rule of faith.” Acta (see above n. 1) session 23.


Donald Sinnema‘Beza’s View of Predestination in Historical Perspective,’ in Théodore de Bèze (1519–1605)ed. Irena Backus (Geneva 2007) pp. 225–229.


P. Rouwendal‘Calvin’s Forgotten Classical Position on the Extent of the Atonement: About Sufficiency, Efficiency, and Anachronism,’ Westminster Theological Journal 70 (2008) 317–335. According to Rouwendal the classical position common since it was formulated by Peter Lombard held that Christ died sufficiently for all men but efficiently only for the elect. He argues that the particular and universal atonement positions arose only after Calvin’s death. Rouwendal’s thesis is alluring but the textual evidence is very thin.


Calvin‘Acts of the Council of Trent, with Antidote,’ in Selected Works (see above n. 16) 3: 109.


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