Earlier this year, synod encouraged denominational ministries to honor the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, which met between 1618-19 in the city of Dordrecht in the Netherlands. The outcome of this Synod of Dort boiled down to five points Jim Osterhouse describes in Faith Unfolded (available for free in the Digital Library) by using the acronym FAITH: Fallen humanity, Adopted by God, Intentional atonement, Transformed by the Holy Spirit, and Held by God.
The idea of fallen humanity was explained in the Canons of Dort this way:
There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in all people after the fall, by virtue of which they retain some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrate a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light of nature is far from enabling humans to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him—so far, in fact, that they do not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways they completely distort this light, whatever its precise character, and suppress it in unrighteousness.
While penned 400 years ago, these statements remain true today. Take a look at a couple of the stories in this Our Shared Ministry section to see some examples. Forced marriage, human trafficking, and abuse of power in churches are all despicable distortions of the light. Sins like these enslave individuals, suppressing their dignity as imagebearers of God.
When we think about all of the sin in our world and focus on these atrocities, we can become discouraged. While we have all been inclined to evil since our first parents sinned, there have been times in the history of societies where it seemed that light was winning over darkness. To many, it feels as if now darkness is overcoming the light.
If you are feeling this way, I would like to offer a caution and a word of encouragement.
While threats are real and the devil is always at work, maybe we feel the burden more than ever before because we have reached our saturation point. Nearly every day, we are bombarded with awful news on our televisions and destructive comments via social media. In days past, there was so much of which we were unaware. This is no longer the case. Sin is painfully real wherever we look.
In other words, perhaps the darkness is not overtaking the light in a greater way than it has in the past, we are just noticing it more.
In providing its cue to honor the 400th anniversary of the Canons of Dort, Synod 2018 also said we should pay particular attention to the doctrines of grace. This grace is evident as we see God using ministries such as Resonate and World Renew working to prevent human trafficking and forced child marriage. It is evident in the Holy Spirit leading congregations to utilize the tools of Safe Church ministry to better prevent and respond to abuse.
Be encouraged; live thankfully. God hasn’t abandoned us in our misery. Rather, God’s grace is amazing: As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. . . . For grace is bestowed through admonitions, and the more readily we perform our duty, the more lustrous the benefit of God working in us usually is, and the better that work advances. To God alone, both for the means and for their saving fruit and effectiveness, all glory is owed forever. Amen.