08 February 2007

Motivation (32): Canons of Dort

Two final posts on motivation, this one from the Canons of Dort and the next and last one from the Westminster Standards.

The Synod of Dort met in the Netherlands in 1618-19, for the purpose of responding officially to the five points of contention arising out of the influence of Jacob Arminius (pictured). The resulting Canons of Dort include the following statements on conversion and regeneration, which I find pertinent to the motivation which, I believe, is necessarily concomitant with the new birth.

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine:
Human Corruption, Conversion to God,
and the Way It Occurs

Article 11: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Conversion
Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man’s power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent. . . .

Article 16: Regeneration’s Effect
However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and—in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright. . . .

Rejection of the Errors
Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

Who teach that in the true conversion of man new qualities, dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into his will by God, and indeed that the faith by which we first come to conversion and from which we receive the name “believers” is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be called a gift except in respect to the power of attaining faith. . . .

Who teach that grace and free choice are concurrent partial causes which cooperate to initiate conversion, and that grace does not precede—in the order of causality—the effective influence of the will; that is to say, that God does not effectively help man’s will to come to conversion before man’s will itself motivates and determines itself. . . .

And, from a statement quoted by Francis Turretin in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology:

“When God follows out this his good pleasure in the elect, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees that the gospel is preached externally to them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit penetrates to the inmost recesses of the man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, circumcises the uncircumcised, and infuses new qualities into the will, makes it alive from dead, from evil good, from unwilling willing, and acts upon and strengthens it, so that as a good tree it may bring forth the fruits of good actions. And it is that regeneration, new creation, raising from the dead, and vivification, so greatly spoken of in the Scriptures, which works in us without us.”

--Turretin, Institutes, 2:528. Cited as Acta Synodi Nationalis . . . Dordrechti, Head III-IV, Theses 11 and 12 [1619-20], 1:303.

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