|The Synod of Dort|
Until the Arminian controversy in the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century, Calvinism did not have five points. Calvinism summarized itself in its great confessions and catechisms and never thought to reduce itself to five points. The Arminians, however, had five attacks on Reformed teaching, which they summarized in 1610. On the fifth point they wrote, in part: “But whether they [those incorporated into Jesus Christ] can through negligence fall away from the first principle of their life in Christ, again embrace the present world, depart from the pure doctrine once given to them, lose the good conscience, and neglect grace, must first be more carefully determined from the Holy Scriptures.” The Arminians in 1610 were uncertain about the doctrine of perseverance. But in the years that followed they increasingly taught that the truly regenerate could fall from grace and be lost.
Clearly the Arminians feared that the doctrine of perseverance would make Christians negligent, lazy, and self-indulgent. They saw the teaching as mechanical and automatic. They seemed to imagine that the Reformed taught that the Christian life was like a train running downhill. Just get it started, and it will easily run on its own momentum without any further effort. (Their fears may seem to be substantiated by the unreformed teaching of some today that Christians are in a state of “once saved, always saved” — no matter what they do.)
The great Synod of Dort (1618–1619) answered the Arminian doubts and fears clearly and helpfully. It reminded all Christians that God does indeed so preserve His own that they will not fall from grace. But He preserves them through the means that He has appointed, and, by His Spirit, He ensures that they make good use of those means. Read more