Frank van der Pol
The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective
Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) 51,
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57070-8
In 11 essays The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective reflect ongoing investigations concerning the doctrine of election, with special focus on the Synod of Dort 1618–19. Important lines of demarcation between different Reformed orthodox groups and denominations find their root divergence, as well as historical concentration point, in relation to this very issue. The ongoing research presented in this collection can open up a fresh field of fertile investigation for theological discussion. Moreover, she may lead to interdisciplinary perspectives and a cooperative approach to research, also beyond the field of theology. For this too is the field of philosophers and historians, those who trace the history of Christianity or are studying early modern Europe.
The volume consists of three sections. In the first Part three essays reflect historical and philosophical issues before the Synod of Dort. Part Two explores aspects of the Synod of Dort itself. The focus in Part Three is on the reception of the Synod of Dort. Finally, the following question is answered: How were the Canons of Dort regarded in the 17th–19th century, and what does the history of their editions tell us?
The editor, Frank van der Pol, was the program leader of the combined research group Early Modern Reformed Theology (EMRT) of the theological universities Apeldoorn and Kampen. In cooperation with the A Lasco Bibliothek Emden the EMRT organized an international conference on Oct. 29 and 30, 2014 about the doctrine of election in reformed perspective. The research group is convinced that the dual line of research on history and theology of the Reformation tradition must continue and be strengthened. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, the researchers, wanting to do their work in a broader context with a wider dialogue, make their proceedings accessible for more people and institutes by publishing them in this volume.
When people think about the doctrine of election they normally, if they think about it at all, link election with predestination and once they begin down that road, they invariably like predestination with the dual notion of predestination to heaven and predestination to hell (the so-called ‘double decree’). And that has become, in the popular mind, an idea of Calvin.
But all of that is wrong. Election and predestination are not the same thing and the double decree has absolutely nothing to do with Calvin but instead with his descendants, the hyper-calvinists. Indeed, Calvin’s own view of predestination was very reserved.
But of course most ‘YRR’ readers and even more of the general populace are completely oblivious concerning the facts of what they profess to believe.
Hence, we arrive at the present volume. Here, in eleven essays by as ten authors (see the table of contents in the book description at the link above) set readers on the straight and narrow path of a correct understand of the outgrowth of the doctrine’s examination at the Synod of Dort.
In both German and English, the essays in the book take us from the consequences of Dort’s decisions in the Netherlands to the influence of Melanchthon to the towering figure of Calvin to critically important discussions of election at Dort itself to John Cameron’s Universalism and into the first half of the seventeenth century and then onto Remonstrant views of predestination and even further into the views of Schleiermacher on the doctrine of predestination. We end with a description of the various incarnations of the Canons of Dort from the 17th through the 19th centuries.
Interestingly written and insightfully so, these essays are a much needed corrective to various popular misunderstandings of the Synod of Dort’s presentation of the important doctrine of Election and the reception history (for lack of a better term) of that doctrine post Dort.
Especially intriguing are the contributions of Selderhuis, de Boer (both of his), van Lieburg, Sinnema, and van der Pol. They were all first presented as papers at a 2014 Conference at the John a Lasco library in Emden. A conference, I regret, I was unable to attend. And that’s one of the reasons why the present work (and those like it) which collect and disseminate Conference papers to a much wider audience are so important both for the guild and for scholars as individuals.
The aim of the editors is to
…stimulate further discussion on both this synod and on the doctrine of election.
I think they have succeeded wonderfully. If Dort or Election are of interest to you, then I cannot but recommend that you read this volume.