Synod of Dordrecht
But each of the 19 delegations at the synod also had the opportunity to give their input three times in the drafting process. Publication of these drafting documents will enable scholars to see the thinking and concerns that went into the drafting process and provide a more historically sensitive interpretation of the Canons.
The first volume of the series, titled Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae, has already been published. It contains four versions of the acts of the synod, including the original Acta Authentica. The second volume, which covers preliminaries to the synod and the early sessions, will be published this year. It is hoped that several more volumes will be completed by the time of the commemoration of the synod.
The series is being printed by the German publisher Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht. With the publication of this whole series, the materials of the Synod of Dordt will be readily accessible, and it is expected that this will stimulate renewed interest in the synod and its major significance for the Reformed tradition. Though not a part of this project, it is also expected that this will inspire English translations of some of the most important documents of Dordt.
Remembering the Synod of Dordt The year is the th anniversary of the Reformation. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Dominated by the Contra-Remonstrants, the synod expelled the Remonstrants, reaffirmed the doctrines of the church along Gomarian lines, and ordered the preparation of a new translation of the Bible the famous States Bible, which consolidated the Dutch language much as the contemporary King James….
Protestant theological systems of all variety were worked out in many volumes, appealing always to reason and to biblical authority and seldom to feeling or conscience. This period is known as the…. Although the synod was provoked by a local controversy, it was attended by representatives of Reformed churches elsewhere and assumed…. To settle the controversy, the Synod of Dort —19 was convened. It produced the canons of Dort, which condemned the theology of the Arminians also called the Remonstrants and set forth a strict interpretation of predestination. These canons, along with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, came to constitute….
The synod included delegates from Reformed churches in England, Germany, and Switzerland, as well as delegates from the Dutch church, all of whom were supporters of Gomarus. Arminianism was discredited and condemned by the…. First Published in the Beacon Lights. When the Calvinistic Reformation came to the Netherlands, there were many priests and monks who left the Romish Church and were given ministerial status in the Reformed Church.
Some of these were good men who broke with Rome under deep convictions of the truth. Many were evil men who, with wet fingers held high in the ecclesiastical winds that blew, saw that the power of Rome was broken in the Netherlands. They were determined to abandon a sinking ship. For personal reasons they came to the side of the Reformation. But they carried with them the errors of Rome-the doctrine of works righteousness and the heresy of semi-pelagianism. They proved fertile soil for the seeds of Arminianism.
Besides, there were leaders in the Church Coornhert, for example who opposed the doctrine of predestination and who wanted only a very general creed such as the Apostolic Confession to serve as the confessional basis of the Church. It was Arminius though, who united all the erring elements in the Church into one party which became a power to reckon with in the defense of the faith. Arminius was born in the town of Oudewater in Very early in life he was left fatherless but two Reformed ministers sponsored his education in the Academy of Leiden.
Finishing his education here at the age of 21, he was sent to study in the University of Geneva, sponsored by a merchant's guild from Amsterdam. The University of Geneva was famous throughout the continent of Europe as the center of Reformed studies. It was founded by John Calvin himself and was, after the death of Calvin, under the administration of Theodore Beza, a staunch defender of Calvin's views.
It was at Geneva that Arminius met Uitenbogaert who became his close friend and, who was destined to play such a large role in the Arminian struggle back in the Netherlands. We shall meet him again. After a brief trip to Italy, Arminius returned to Geneva for a short time then came back to his homeland where he passed his classical examination and was admitted to the ministry of the gospel by unanimous vote.
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Under the wise and inscrutable providence of God three events took place which soon brought the views of Arminius into the open. The first of these events really served to strengthen Arminius in heretical views that he had begun to develop already while in Geneva. Coornhert had engaged for some time in agitation against the doctrine of election and Arminius was asked to refute these views for the benefit of the churches. In his studies which he made prior to his refutation he came to the conclusion that he was unable to refute the views of Coornhert because he was himself becoming more and more convinced that they were true.
This startling fact he did not make public. The second of these events was the fruit of the preaching of Arminius in his congregation in Amsterdam. He was busy with a series of sermons on the book of Romans. From the beginning of the book, his heretical views occasionally cropped up, but it was emphatically in his sermons on Romans 9 that his congregation noticed his denial of the Reformed and Scriptural view of sovereign predestination.
His congregation was alarmed. And especially his fellow minister, Plancius, opposed his views and combatted the evil doctrines he was developing. The third of these events is very strange. In the midst of all the troubles in Amsterdam, Arminius was appointed professor of theology in the University of Leiden. How it was ever possible for Reformed men to agree to the appointment of this man who was under suspicion in Amsterdam remains partly a mystery. However, there were two factors that had bearing on the matter.
On the one hand, the university was not under the control of the Church, but rather under the control of the State. The relation between the Church and the State was and is today different in the Netherlands than it is in the USA, for instance. The Reformed Churches existed under the favor and blessing of the State; the State supported the Church financially and the State had much to say about such questions of Church polity as the calling of ministers, the appointment of professors, the convening of broader ecclesiastical assemblies, etc. At the time when and up to the time of the meeting of the Synod of Dordt the State was in the hands of men who favored Arminianism, or at least did not think the entire matter of Arminius' heresy was sufficiently important to create trouble about it in the Church.
Synod of Dort
The result was that Arminius was appointed with the blessing of the State. On the other hand, Arminius himself was a very crafty man. While he was teaching his views whenever the opportunity presented itself, he was also covering up his views and staunchly insisting that he was indeed Reformed. He succeeded for the most part in quieting the fears of those who did not trust him.
And so the heretic from Amsterdam gained the important chair of theology in the University of Leiden. The year was It is not difficult to imagine what a splendid opportunity this furnished Arminius for the spreading of his views throughout the Church. There is no more strategic place to influence others than a theological school. Here were instructed the ministers of the gospel, the teachers of the schools, the leaders of the Church.
Here in the classroom of theology came those who were to carry on the defense of the faith in the years ahead. Here Arminius made good use of his opportunities and his position to spread the leaven of heresy throughout the Church. He had one strong and tireless opponent. Gomarus was his name.
What was the Synod of Dort?
He also taught in the University. And this staunch and outspoken man never ceased to combat the evil which Arminius developed and taught. But Arminius had the protection and blessing of the State that favored him.
He had a way that left others with the impression that he was earnestly seeking the truth. He again and again persuaded the authorities when he was called on the carpet for his views that there was no- cause for alarm. And his disciples went forth thoroughly imbibed with his views to preach and teach them over the whole land. If he could not with safety teach his views in the University, he retired to the seclusion of his home. Here he gathered select groups of his students to discuss with them what he believed. Here he used his charming ways to make them into his ardent defenders.
In Arminius became sick and died. But his cause continued. Especially his good friend Uitenbogaert carried on the heresies which Arminius developed. And a party was organized within the Reformed Churches called the Remonstrants, and dedicated to the cause of establishing the heresy of Arminianism as the official doctrine of the church.
It is difficult to write an obituary of Arminius - except that there have always been many like him in the history of the Church. He was was a brilliant scholar, a thoroughly educated man, a student who pursued his studies even in the parsonage. He was a man of pleasing personality, not difficult to get along with, easily making friends, refined in manners, elegant in appearance, a popular teacher who could make a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of his students. He was a gifted preacher, a good pastor, easily ensuring the favor of those to whom he ministered.
Especially this was true if we compare him with Gomarus, his opponent in the University. Gomarus was everything that Arminius was not. He was a stern man, not given to smiling, often crude and gruff, holding people at arm's length, not easy to know, difficult to "come close to," not always able to hold his temper. When he opposed Arminius his voice thundered with wrath, his language was the language of a man who was solely interested in the truth without any concern for what people thought of him or what the reactions would be in the minds of his audience.
Yet he was fearless and unbending, wholly dedicated to the cause of the Church of Christ. Besides, Arminius was crafty. He could play with words, speak out of both sides of his mouth, promote his views with subtlety and in an all but unnoticed way. He always tried to leave the impression that he stood for the Reformed faith and on the basis of the Reformed Confessions, while all the time he carried his views in his pocket.
He tried to smuggle his heresy into the Church under the guise of developing the Reformed faith. He tried to lull the people into spiritual slumber the better to feed them the poison of his errors. He worked "under the table," behind people's backs, dealing in treachery and deceit to accomplish his ends. And thus it is with many a heretic. They are not satisfied with merely defending their views and if they are found not to be in harmony with the views of the Church to which they belong, they leave for other places.
They are always insistent on dragging with them as many people as they can, making every effort to destroy the Church before finally they are cast out. This had happened before in the history of the early Church when Pelagius fought with Augustine. This has happened since the time of Dordt. This will happen again. And the reason is that behind heresy is the devil who uses heresy to try, if possible, to destroy the Church of Christ. But this did not mean that his heresy had died with him. His influence had been too extensive. His doctrines had been sown in the hearts of too many men.
His departure did not alter appreciably the course of Arminianism in the Netherlands. Those who had followed him in these teachings soon organized into a party known as the "Remonstrants. This group came together in the city of Gouda in to draw up a formulation of their views. However, the claim of these Remonstrants was that they did not intend to introduce into the Church any new doctrines. Nor did they want to leave the impression that they were critical of the Confessions; they stoutly insisted that they were deep lovers of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Rather they wanted the Churches to believe that these formulations which they drew up were really only certain remarks and observations which they had to make concerning the Confessions. Nevertheless, the fact is that this document struck at the very heart of the Reformed faith.
If not refuted, it would mean the death-blow to Calvinism in the Low Countries. We quote this document on ensuing pages of this article. To refute this document, however, seemed to be impossible. It required the convocation of a Synod. And a Synod was very difficult to call in those days, because it could not be called without the permission of the government. There were those men, staunch defenders of the Reformed faith, who had long pleaded for a Synod to settle this matter of the Arminian controversy.
But their pleas were ignored. The government was controlled by a man named Oldenbarneveldt who was openly and without apology a friend of the Arminians.
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He refused to grant permission to convene a Synod for fear that his friends would be condemned. Rather he insisted that both varying views within the Churches be discussed in a series of conferences. But these conferences helped nothing except to give to the Remonstrants additional opportunity to make propaganda for their views while they found shelter beneath the benevolent wing of the State. It is a fundamental principle of all history that God is sovereign and Lord of all that takes place in the world.
History is the work of God by means of which He causes His eternal counsel to be revealed in time. But this truth has, among other things, one important implication. The main part of history is always the history of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is true, of course, that the world ignores this fact. They claim that they make history, that what they do is all that counts. But no matter how small the "" may be who belong to the Church especially in comparison with the millions in the world , the Church constitutes the important part of all history. Any history book that ignores this fact is not a history book at all.
The history of wicked men therefore must serve the purpose of the Church of Christ. Pharaoh brought Israel into slavery that deliverance might be a picture of the salvation of the Church through God's power. Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world should be taxed so that Christ could be born in Bethlehem. Pilate condemned Christ to death so that the cross might be atonement for the sins of the elect. Charles V was so busily engaged with the problems of his empire that Luther was left undisturbed by this tyrant who favored the Roman Catholic Church so that the Reformation was not squelched in its inception.
The same is true of the history of the Netherlands in these early years of the 17th century just prior to the great Synod of Dordrecht. To all appearances it seemed as if the Armenian movement was to gain a complete victory in the Reformed Churches. The hands of the faithful were tied. Things were rapidly deteriorating. The cause of the Reformation in the Low Countries seemed to be lost. The government held tight check on the faithful. But suddenly things changed.
In a lightning coup d'etat Prince Mauritz overthrew the existing government, clapped Oldenbarneveldt in irons, took over the reigns of government and instituted a state sympathetic to the Reformed Churches. Oldenbarneveldt was later tried and killed for treason. Whether his death was just or not remains a question.
But, strangely, I have heard men of Reformed persuasion defend him as a champion of the truth. Now things moved swiftly. Although no national Synod had been held for many years, quickly one was now called. Allowing only sufficient time for the provincial Synods to meet to elect delegates, the great Synod of Dordrecht was called together to consider the allimportant question of this Armenian heresy. Who were those who stood in the line of Calvin? Could the Armenians prove their claim that they were the ones? Was it true that they were intent only on developing the Reformed faith, as they claimed?
Or was it rather true, as the leaders of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands maintained, that their views were destructive of Calvinism? And, that they had attempted, be it in a devious and crafty way, to destroy the truth of God's Word? We will let the Arminians speak for themselves. You recall that in the Arminians who were at this time known as Remonstrants had met in the city of Gouda to formulate their views.
The product of this meeting was a document known as the five points of the Remonstrants. In these five articles, they commented on the truths of sovereign predestination, the total depravity of man, the atonement of Christ, the work of salvation in the hearts of the elect, and the perseverance of the saints. You will not dispute the fact that these five doctrines of the Reformed faith are all the cardinal doctrines.
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The Arminians were not speaking of rather minor points if one can properly speak of minor points of the Word of God of the truth.