Doctrine > Confessions > Canons of Dordt > Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine > Rejection of Errors

Having explained the true doctrine of the corruption of man and his conversion to God, Synod rejects the following errors:


Error: Properly speaking, it cannot be said that original sin as such is sufficient to condemn the whole human race or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment.

Refutation: This contradicts the words of the apostle when he declares: sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned ( Rom 5:12). And: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation ( Rom 5:16). Also: For the wages of sin is death ( Rom 6:23) .


Error: The spiritual gifts or the good qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, cannot have belonged to the will of man when he was first created, and therefore cannot have been separated from his will when he fell.


Error: In spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will as such has never been corrupted but only hampered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the passions. If these hindrances have been removed, the will can exert its full innate power. The will is of itself able to will and to choose, or else not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it.

Refutation: This is an innovation and an error, and tends to extol the powers of the free will, contrary to what the prophet Jeremiah states, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure ( Jer 17:9) . And the apostle Paul writes: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful natures and following its desires and thoughts ( Eph 2:3).


Error: The unregenerate man is not really or totally dead in sins, or deprived of all powers unto spiritual good. He can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken spirit which is pleasing to God.

Refutation: These things are in conflict with the clear testimonies of Scripture: you were dead in your transgressions and sins ( Eph 2:1, cf. 2:5). And every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time , ( Gen 6:5 and 8:21). Moreover, only the regenerate and those who are called blessed hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery and after life, and offer to God the sacrifice of a broken spirit. 1


Error: The corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (which for the Arminians is the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, that is, the evangelical or saving grace, and salvation itself. In this way God on His part shows Himself ready to reveal Christ to all men, since He administers to all sufficiently and efficaciously the means necessary for the knowledge of Christ, for faith and repentance.

Refutation: Not only the experience of all ages but also Scripture testifies that this is untrue. He has revealed his word to Jacob, His laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know His laws ( Ps 147:19, 20). In the past, He let all nations go their own way ( Acts 14:16). And Paul and his companions were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to ( Acts 16:6, 7).


Error: In the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers, or gifts can be infused by God into the will. Therefore faith, through which we are first converted and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God but only an act of man. It cannot be called a gift except with respect to the power to attain to this faith.

Refutation: This teaching contradicts the Holy Scriptures, which declare that God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of His love into our hearts: I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts ( Jer 31:33). And: I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground ( Is 44:3). And: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us ( Rom 5:5). This also conflicts with the constant practice of the church, which prays by the mouth of the prophet: Restore me, and I will return, because You are the LORD my God ( Jer 31:18).


Error: The grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising. This manner of working which consists in advising is the most noble manner in the conversion of man and is most in harmony with man’s nature. There is no reason why this advising grace alone should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual. Indeed, God does not bring about the consent of the will except through this moral persuasion. The power of the divine working surpasses the working of Satan, in that God promises eternal while Satan promises only temporal goods.

Refutation: This is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture, which teaches beyond this moral persuasion yet another, far more powerful and divine manner of the working of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of man: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh ( Ezek 36:26).


Error: In regenerating man God does not use the powers of His omnipotence so as to forcefully and unfailingly bend man’s will to faith and conversion. Even if all the works of grace have been accomplished which God employs to convert man and even if God intends his regeneration and wills to regenerate him, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, and indeed often does so resist, that he entirely prevents his regeneration. It therefore remains in man’s power to be regenerated or not.

Refutation: This is nothing less than the denial of all the efficacy of God’s grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of Almighty God to the will of man. It is contrary to the apostles, who teach His incomparably great power for us who believe ( Eph 1:19); who pray our God that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith ( 2 Thess 1:11), and who declare that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness ( 2 Pet 1:3).


Error: Grace and free will are partial causes which together work the beginning of conversion. In the order of these causes grace does not precede the working of the will. God does not effectually help the will of man to come to conversion until the will of man moves itself and determines to do this.

Refutation: The early church long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the words of the apostle : It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy ( Rom 9:16). Also: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? ( 1 Cor 4:7). And: it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose ( Phil 2:13).


Canons of Dordt

First Head of Doctrine

Second Head of Doctrine

Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine

Fifth Head of Doctrine