On the complexities of being Reformed


“The Synod of Dordt and The Complexities of being Reformed” is an excellent article written by Steven Wedgeworth at the Biblical Horizons Blog.

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It is well worth your time both in terms of why a good grasp of Church history is so impactful to how we understand ourselves and, as to how we understand our own doctrinal positions.

I’ve provided a starter taste below.

The Synod of Dort and the Complexities of Being Reformed

January 31, 2008 by Steven W

When I was first introduced to Reformed theology, I encountered “the five points of Calvinism” and “TULIP.” I was told that these came from the Synod of Dort, which essentially decided that Calvinism would be the accepted religion of the Reformed churches in Europe. Calvinism and TULIP were for the most part equivalent.

As I moved from a Reformed Baptist to a Presbyterian, I began to hear pastors mention that Calvinism was more than the five points. I began to learn about “covenant theology,” which served as the basis for baptizing infants. Calvinism now included the TULIP as well as covenant theology and infant baptism. Still later in my studies, I began to learn about the Calvinistic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. My understanding of Calvinism broadened, but I still had a tendency to think of Dort when I heard the term Calvinist.

Given the central place of Dort in the history of Calvinism, I was surprised when I began to read R. L. Dabney’s Systematic Theology and his book The Five Points of Calvinism. He nearly dismissed the five points saying, “Historically, this title is of little accuracy or worth.”[1] As I continued to read in Dabney, I began to discover there were various schools within Calvinism, some of which disagreed in key places. Amazingly, Dabney, Charles Hodge, and William Shedd all distance themselves from theologians like Francis Turretin on the relationship between the decree of God and the cross of Christ, and even go so far as to explicitly reject key exegesis that underlies the “limited atonement” argument found in John Owen’s The Death of Death.[2] These 19th century Presbyterians were neither Arminians, nor Amyraldians though, but rather they represent what is called, for better or for worse, moderate Calvinism.[3]

How is it, I wondered, that I had never heard of this distinction before? Why have I been taught that the Five Points of Calvinism are the summary of Reformed theology? What is limited atonement? This brought on a bit of theological dizziness, and I was eager to learn more about the true history of Calvinism and the Synod of Dort. What did it teach concerning these matters, and what is its place in the larger Reformed church history?

Read the rest HERE – It will be well worth the time.

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2 thoughts on “On the complexities of being Reformed

  1. We don’t believe it’s proper for you to lift the entire text of this Biblical Horizons post without prior approval from the author (Steven Wedgeworth). At the very least, it’s not proper net etiquette. Please include a few paragraphs with a link to the full essay on the BH site. Thank you!

  2. Hi Jeff – I certainly don’t want to do anything improper regarding this. But I DID include two links – 1 to the article itself, and the other to the blog. Also, I gave Steve full credit. I am sorry if that is problematic in anyway and will gladly just leave the links if that what is desired. Once again, my sincere apology if I offended anyone or did anything wrong.

    Do you speak for Steve and/or the Blog and would you then prefer I edit the article out and only leave the links? I am willing to do so if that is preferred.

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