Judgment and the Canons of Dort
The matter of God’s judgment in the Canons of Dort is perhaps my own biggest struggle with their teaching. It is hard not to escape a feeling of victimhood when considering those who are lost. While the Canons attempt to emphasize the responsibility of the individual, it remains difficult to not see those who are lost as victims of God’s whims, to put it crassly. I do not believe there is an easy way for us to reconcile the dual reality that God is the author of salvation, but not of sin. In some regard, they will remain in an uncomfortable tension. The importance of God’s judgment means the things which happen to us matter. As a victim of emotional and verbal abuse from a family member, I certainly hope the pain I’ve experienced matters to God and He will not simply let that go with a free pass. The judgment of God is essential. Without it, I would certainly doubt God’s love for me in the midst of those trials if He merely batted His eyes at it. At the same time, as Christians called to love a merciful God and those He created in His image, I should desire His mercy to be greater than His judgment, both in how He treats me and how He treats my fellow image-bearers. It is here I find Richard Mouw particularly helpful and his notion of a generous Calvinism. “If you believe that not everyone will be saved, you could still hold that more than ‘a select few’ will be saved by sovereign grace alone….I’ve found it increasingly difficult to draw sharp lines in my own mind about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. And this, too, I get from the Bible. God alone will judge the human heart in the end. He works in mysterious ways. It seems to me that anyone who believes strongly in God’s sovereignty is going to live with a lot of mystery on this subject….There is a genuine tension in the Scriptures between an emphasis on the difficulty of ‘getting in’ and some strong indications that God’s saving purposes are not confined to the categories we are inclined to construct” (Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport 84-86). While we are forced to grapple in the struggle between God’s judgment and His mercy, I believe we can only minister effectively if we come from a place that strongly desires His mercy is shown in far more cases than His judgment.