This book was written to mark the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort (or Dordrecht). That Synod was convened to respond to The Remonstrance, a document published in 1610 by the followers of Jacobus Arminius. In the introduction, Hyde describes the origins of the Synod and details all the participants. He also makes it clear that this book is not an exercise in history but rather an attempt to demonstrate that the redeeming grace of God expressed in the Canons of Dort is vital for Christian life today and is worth fighting for. He then provides an outline of the Canons of Dort under four headings: First Point of Doctrine: Redemption Planned; Second Point of Doctrine: Redemption Accomplished; Third & Fourth Points of Doctrine: Redemption Applied; and Fifth Point of Doctrine: Redemption Preserved (pp. 41–43).
The main substance of the book is based around these four headings. The Synod followed a format which has often been used in Christian theological writing, namely, stating what they affirmed and then stating what they rejected. Our author has two chapters on each point of doctrine, one on the articles being affirmed and one on the articles being rejected. The format of the chapters is that the article being affirmed or rejected is stated, and then the author explains its significance.
In explaining each article, the author’s approach is varied. On some points, we have perhaps one or two pages, mostly repeating verbatim what is in the article, together with a few supportive and applicatory comments. On other articles, he breaks into a sermonic mode. For example, on page 236, in discussing human depravity, he uses an illustration from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in which good and bad eggs are separated, with the bad eggs going to the incinerator. He concludes with the words, “We are by nature bad eggs deserving of hellfire.” The evidence that major sections of the book originated as sermons is clear throughout, such as on page 243 where he writes, “Turn back to Romans with me for a moment.” There are even long sections where sermon outlines are included in the text! For example, on page 320–25, there is a three-point sermon: The Certainty of Salvation, The Certainty of the Saved, and The Certainty of the Savior. Similarly, Hyde includes an alliterative sermon on the theme of “Once Saved, Always Saved?”: The Real Potential in Ourselves, The Righteous Permission of God, and The Remedy Prescribed in Scripture (pp. 325–29).
Given that this journal has theological students as its primary intended audience, it should be emphasized that this is not an academic study of the Canons of Dort, nor does it pretend to be. It is unashamedly an attempt to state and affirm the grace of God as described in the Canons for a popular audience. Although in some places there are detailed references to theological discussions which have a bearing on the material in hand (including references to Augustine, Calvin, and many others) this is not done consistently. The lack of a careful academic approach is underlined by the absence of any attempt to explain, in a sympathetic and careful way, the reasons (especially biblical reasons) for the views of the writers of The Remonstrance. They are almost always summarily dismissed. There are two useful appendices at the end of the book: The Remonstrance of 1610 and also The Opinions of the Remonstrants of 1619, this latter document being their response to the Canons of Dort. These two appendices appear without comment, and there is no attempt to engage with them. For Christians with interest in the doctrines of grace as found in Scripture, they may well find this book to be useful, although it is a long read and could have used a good editor. For theological students and others, there are better places to go for a study of the Canons of Dort.