The third of our doctrinal standards of the Reformed Church is the “Canons of Dort,” also called the “Five Articles against the Remonstrants.” These are statements of doctrine adopted by the great Reformed Synod of Dort in 1618-1619. This Synod had a truly international character, since it was composed not only of the delegates of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands but also 27 delegates from foreign countries.
The Synod of Dordrecht was held in view of the serious disturbance in the Reformed churches caused by the rise and spread of Arminianism. Arminius, a theological professor at the University of Leyden, departed from the Reformed faith in his teaching concerning five important points. He taught conditional election on the grounds of foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. These views were rejected by the Synod, and the opposite views were embodied in what in now called the Canons of Dort or the Five Articles against the Remonstrants. In these Canons, the Synod set forth the Reformed doctrines on these points, namely unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.
Each of the Canons consists of a positive and a negative part, the former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, and the latter a repudiation of the corresponding Arminian error. Although in form there are only four chapters, occasioned by the combination of the third and fourth heads of doctrine into one, we speak properly of five Canons, and the third chapter is always designated as Chapter 3–4.
The Heads of Doctrine
First: Divine Election and Reprobation
Second: The Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby
Third & Fourth: The Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof
Fifth: The Perseverance of the Saints