To me, the question is a bit academic unless the Canons of Dordt themselves are examined in this case. If one wants to narrowly call themselves a Calvinist, then it would be good to address the 5 points that Dordt outlined.
I say that, because we do not define what those 5 points are. They have already been defined. If we want to loosely associate with them, we may under our definition. It is in this way, many have claimed to the 5 points who do not properly understand and agree with everything contained in them. Such is the case with many today. They claim something they really have not studied.
It is one thing to say that we believe in justification by faith alone. The Scripture defines that. But when we say we believe in limited atonement, there is a particular definition of those two words that go beyond chapter and verse into a developed theology. As a covenant theologian, I always am ready to admit that.
It is one thing to say that it is biblical to believe in limited atonement. It is quite another to show from the Scriptures exactly what Dordt (and Calvin) was getting at. I think this allows people to have titles they have defined themselves. But the much more acurate picture is a label by which others have defined us. In this way, would Dordt claim that we are Remonstrants? Calvinists? Would they call us Biblicists?
I think too often we claim the title ourselves without really knowing all that goes along with it because the definitions have changed. The danger in this, is that the books we read from a few centuries ago do not know our change of definition. We therefore grasp ahold of something, either a buzzword or a title, without knowing full well what it is. We may see an author telling us we are one thing, but that one thing is how we have defined it, and not how the author used it.
Let's say for instance, John MacArthur writes a book and uses the term "used car salesman" as a euphemism for someone who is not completely honest with those to whom he speaks. In 400 years, the people of that time have redefined what a used car salesman is and it is not a derogatory term. Now we have theologians who look back to MacArthur and skim over his books so that they get the basic grasp, however, they do not look in the dictionary he's using. All of the sudden, we have men coming out of the woodwork who claim to be used car salesmen for Christ.
This is simplistic and perhaps I am reaching too far. But I get that distinct feeling when we start to label ourselves. We rarely call ourselves what we have not already defined, but as far as Calvinism goes, that definition means something different now. For one, it no longer encompasses the Sacraments. It has been boiled down to Dordt's 5 points. Believe me, we'll find a way to boil it down further than that. It is in our nature to do so.
I would be curious to see a commentary from each of us on the Canons. I would be most curious to see our modern scholars do this as well. Do you think John MacArthur would measure up? I really don't think he has the time to do this. But I really don't know that he would even if he did.
I have seen alot of what he has written. I have his study Bible. I know that he has said that he does not have the time to go back and fix everything he's written. But, if he cannot, there will be a whole bunch of people in the future that will be real confused as to where he stood on this issue and a few others.
Kevin C. Easterday
Ruling Elder Westminster PCA, Jacksonville, FL
M.Div. Greenville Seminary
Husband to Tina (August 13, 1988), Father to Kamden (22) and Kolton (21)