Doctrine > Confessions > Canons of Dordt > First Head of Doctrine > Rejection of Errors

Having explained the true doctrine of divine election and reprobation, Synod rejects the following errors:


Error: The will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and obedience is the whole and entire decree of election to salvation. Nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God’s Word.

Refutation: This error is deceptive and clearly contradicts Scripture, which declares not only that God will save those who believe but also that He has chosen specific persons from eternity. Within time He grants to these elect, above others, both faith in Christ and perseverance. I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world( Jn 17:6) . And all who were appointed for eternal life believed , ( Acts 13:48). For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight ( Eph 1:4).


Error: There are various kinds of divine election to eternal life. One is general and indefinite, another is particular and definite. The latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or it is complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. In the same fashion there is an election to faith and another to salvation. Therefore election can be to justifying faith, without being decisive to salvation.

Refutation: All this is an invention of the human mind without any basis in the Scriptures. The doctrine of election is thus corrupted and the golden chain of our salvation broken: And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified( Rom 8:30).


Error: The good pleasure and purpose of God of which Scripture speaks in the doctrine of election is not that He chose certain specific persons and not others, but that out of all possible conditions (such as the works of the law) He chose or selected the act of faith, which in itself is without merit, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation. In His grace He wished to count such faith as complete obedience and worthy of the reward of eternal life.

Refutation: This offensive error deprives God’s good pleasure and Christ’s merits of all efficacy, and draws people away from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture. It contradicts the word of the apostle: God has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time( 2 Tim 1:9).


Error: Election to faith depends on the condition that man should use the light of nature properly, and that he be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life.

Refutation: If this were true, election would depend on man. This smacks of the teaching of Pelagius and is in open conflict with the teaching of the apostle, All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast( in Ephesians 2:3-9) .


Error: Incomplete and non-decisive election of specific persons to salvation took place on the ground of foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness, which either began or continued for some time. Complete and decisive election, however, occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness till the end. This is the gracious and evangelical worthiness because of which the person who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. Therefore faith, obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits of unchangeable election to glory. Instead, they are necessary conditions and causes required and foreseen as accomplished in those who are to be fully elected.

Refutation: This error militates against all of Scripture, which constantly impresses the following upon us: Election is not by works but by Him who calls( Rom 9:11); And all who were appointed for eternal life believed ( Acts 13:48); He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight( Eph 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you ( Jn 15:16); And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace( Rom 11:6); This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins( 1 Jn 4:10).


Error: Not every election to salvation is unchangeable. Some of the elect can and do indeed perish everlastingly, notwithstanding any decree of God.

Refutation: This gross error makes God changeable, destroys the comfort which the believers obtain from the firmness of their election, and contradicts Holy Scripture: The elect can not be led astray ( Mt 24:24); And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day( Jn 6:39); those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified( Rom 8:30).


Error: In this life there is no fruit, consciousness, or certainty of the unchangeable election to glory, except such as is based upon a changeable and uncertain condition.

Refutation: To speak about an uncertain certainty is not only absurd but also contrary to the experience of the believers. As a result of the awareness of their election, they glory with the apostle in this favour of God. 1 With the disciples of Christ they rejoice that their names are written in heaven. 2 They put the consciousness of their election over against the flaming darts of the devil, when they exclaim: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen( Rom 8:33) ?


Error: God did not simply by an act of His righteous will decide to leave any person in the common state of sin and condemnation since his fall in Adam, nor did He decide to pass by any one in granting such grace as is necessary for faith and conversion.

Refutation: Scripture, however, states, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden( Rom 9:18). It also declares, The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them( Mt 13:11) . Likewise, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure( Mt 11:25, 26).


Error: God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another not merely and solely because of the good pleasure of His will, but because one people is better and worthier than another to which the gospel is not preached.

Refutation: Moses denies this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today( Deut 10:14, 15). And Christ says , Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes( Mt 11:21).


Canons of Dordt

First Head of Doctrine

Second Head of Doctrine

Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine

Fifth Head of Doctrine