Saturday, November 08, 2008

Founders vs. Dort?


I have noticed the use of the term "Dortian" by some critics of the Founders Ministries in reference to the "Calvinism" advocated by the Tom Ascol--led group. Actually, the type of "Reformed" theology held by the Founders and some others is post-Dort in its development. To use "Dortian" in reference to the Founders would imply that the Founders agree with the Canons of Dort, and this is clearly not the case.

While I have been an outspoken critic of the Founders, I do not understand that the Founders are representative of the views expressed in the Canons of Dort (1619) but advocate a post-Dort view on "regeneration" which alleges that "regeneration precedes faith."

If one is going to use a term for Founders' theology, I think it would be more appropriate to use "Turretinism" after Francis Turretin (1623-1687).

The Canons of Dort

The Canons of Dort (A. D. 1619), published in response to the "five points" of the Arminian Remonstrants, insist that "What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law could do, God performs by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the word or ministry of reconciliation: which is the glad tidings concerning the Messiah, by MEANS whereof it hath pleased God to save such as believe, as well under the Old as under the New Testament" (III and IV Heads, Article VI, Schaff's Creeds of Christendom, Vol. III, pages 588, 589).

Article XI of the same section says that God "causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by His Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God;" (Schaff, ibid, page 590).

And Article XVII unmistakably states: "As the almighty operation of God whereby He brings forth and supports this our natural life does not exclude but require the USE OF MEANS by which God, of His infinite mercy and goodness, has chosen to exert His influence, so also the aforementioned supernatural operation of God by which we are regenerated in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the GOSPEL, which the most wise God has ordained to be the SEED OF REGENERATION and food of the soul." (Schaff's Creeds of Christendom, Volume 3, page 592).

It apparently, therefore, was a post-Dort development among Pedobaptist Calvinists, who did not ahdere to this view on regeneration, and was incorporated in an "ordo salutis" (order of salvation) which has regeneration preceding faith in Christ. This is the theory which has become prevalent among many post-17th century Reformed theologians, and is admittedly a departure from earlier Calvinists and the Puritans.

W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2, pages 492-494:

The divines of the seventeenth century very generally do not distinguish between regeneration and conversion, but employ the two as synonyms. Owen does this continually: On the Spirit, III. v. And Charnock likewise: Attributes, Practical Atheism. The Westminster [Confession] does not use the term regeneration. In stead of it, it employs the term vocation, or effectual calling. This comprises the entire work of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption. . . . But this wide use of the term regeneration led to confusion of ideas and views. As there are two distinct words in the language, regeneration and conversion, there are also two distinct notions denoted by them. Consequently, there arose gradually a stricter use of the term regeneration, and its discrimination from conversion. Turrettin (XV. iv. 13) defines two kinds of conversion, as the term was employed in his day. . . . After thus defining, Turrettin remarks that the first kind of conversion is better denominated 'regeneration,' because it has reference to the new birth by which man is renewed in the image of his Maker; and the second kind of conversion is better denominated 'conversion,' because it includes the operation and agency of man himself. . . . We shall adopt this distinction between regeneration and conversion. . . . Regeneration is a cause; conversion is an effect."

J. I. Packer :

Many seventeenth century Reformed theologians equated regeneration with effectual calling and conversion with regeneration . . . LATER REFORMED THEOLOGY has defined regeneration more narrowly, as the implanting of the "seed" from which faith and repentance spring (I John 3:9) in the course of effectual calling.

Louis Berkhof:
"It is true that some Reformed authors have occasionally used the term 'regeneration' as including even sanctification, but that was in the days when the ORDO SALUTIS was not as fully developed as it is today" (Systematic Theology, page 468).

The Founders' leadership has followed the "Turretinism" as advocated by Shedd and Berkhof. This view is also followed by Iain Murray, R. C. Sproul, Tom and Bill Ascol, James White, Tom Netlles and others who are known to advocate that "regeneration precedes faith," or a person is "born again before faith."

Berkhof is promoted by Iain Murray -- who is the virtual "godfather" of the Founders due to Murray's influence on Founders founder Ernest Reisinger -- as "expounding Christianity according to the historic Reformed position." (Banner of Truth 2002 catalog, page 19).

It is highly significant that Berkhof acknowledges that his view on regeneration and conversion differs from Luther, Calvin, the Canons of Dort and several seventeenth century writers (which would include Puritan Stephen Charnock) (page 466, 470, 476).

I do not understand the Founders and other modern Pedobaptist Reformed theologians to properly reflect the view of the Canons of Dort on regeneration, therefore are not "Dortian" in their view. See my article at --

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At Saturday, November 08, 2008 6:37:00 PM, Blogger Ian D. Elsasser said...


This is a good word, very instructive. Is it not interesting that the Calvinists who penned the Canons of Dort could teach the glory of God in salvation and total depravity while holding to the truth that the gospel or word of God is the instrumental cause of regeneration? Steve Camp may need to explain to them how they got it wrong without teaching that regeneration precedes faith.

At Saturday, November 08, 2008 8:25:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Ian Idelsasser has posted this comment on Peter Lumpkins' blog:

"It is unfortunate that Reformed Theology has adandoned the Scriptural view of regeneration which is found in the works of Calvin and the Puritans for a view -- regeneration prededes faith -- that weakens the word as the instrument which the Spirit uses to effect the new birth."

At Sunday, November 09, 2008 1:05:00 AM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


The link to Ian Elsasser's comment per the previous post is See HERE


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