Synod of Dordt

The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), held in order to settle controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism, met in the city of Dordrecht as a national assembly of the Dutch Reformed Church, to which were also invited voting representatives from the Reformed churches in eight foreign countries.

The convocation and proceedings of the Synod of Dordt (1618- 1619) may be considered "among the most interesting events of the seventeenth century. The Westminster Assembly was indeed more immediately interesting to British and American Presbyterians, yet the Synod of Dordt had a species of importance peculiar to itself and altogether pre-eminent. It was not merely a meeting of select divines of a single nation, but a convention of the Calvinistic world, to bear testimony against a rising and obtrusive error; to settle a question in which all the Reformed churches of Europe had an immediate and deep interest. The question was whether the opinions of Arminius, which were then agitating so many minds, could be reconciled with the confession of the Belgic churches." (Thomas Scott, The Articles of the Synod of Dort, Sprinkle Publications, 1993 reprint, p. 5.)

This synod convened on November 13, 1618 consisting of 39 pastors and 18 ruling Elders from the Belgic churches, 5 professors from the universities of Holland, 19 delegates from the Reformed churches in Germany and Switzerland, and 5 professors and bishops from Great Britain. France was also invited but did not attend. The Synod was thus constituted of 86 voting members in all. There were 154 formal sessions and many side conferences held during the six months that the Synod met to consider these matters. The last session of the Synod was held on May 9, 1619.



“The Synod gave a very close examination to the ‘five points’ which had been advanced by the Remonstrants, and compared the teaching in them with the testimony of Scripture. Failing to reconcile that teaching with the Word of God, . . . they unanimously rejected them. They felt however, that a mere rejection was not sufficient. It remained for them to set forth the true Calvinistic teaching in relationship to those matters which had been called into question. This they proceeded to do, embodying the Calvinistic position in five chapters which have ever since been known as the five points of Calvinism." (Steel and Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, P&R Publishing, 1963, p. 14, quoting Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p. 61.)

Additional Background

"The controversy was purely theological in its nature, but owing to the intimate connection of Church and State it became inevitably entangled in political issues, and shook the whole country. The Reformed Churches in France, Switzerland, Germany, England, and Scotland took a deep interest in it, and sided, upon the whole, with the Calvinistic party; while the Lutheran Church sympathized to some extent with the Arminian." (Schaff, Creeds, Vol. I, 510)

"Orthodox Calvinism achieved a complete triumph. The Five Articles of Remonstrance were unanimously rejected, and five Calvinistic canons adopted, together with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. A thorough and most excellent revision of the Dutch Bible from the Hebrew and Greek was also ordered, besides other decisions which lie beyond our purpose.

"The victory of orthodoxy was obscured by the succeeding deposition of about two hundred Arminian clergymen, and by the preceding though independent arrest of the political leaders of the Remonstrants, at the instigation of Maurice. Grotius was condemned by the States-General to perpetual imprisonment, but escaped through the ingenuity of his wife (1621). Van Olden Barneveldt was unjustly condemned to death for alleged high-treason, and beheaded at the Hague (May 14, 1619). His sons took revenge in a fruitless attempt against the life of Prince Maurice." (Schaff, Creeds, Vol. I, 514)

"The banishment of the Arminians was of short duration. After the death of Prince Maurice of Nassau (1625), and under the reign of his milder brother and successor, Frederick Henry, they were allowed to return and to establish churches and schools in every town of Holland, which became more and more a land of religious toleration and liberty.

"The distinctive Arminian doctrines of sin and grace, free-will and predestination, have been extensively adopted in the Episcopal Church since the reign of Charles I., and in the last century by the Methodists of Great Britain and America, and thereby have attained a larger territory and influence than they ever had in the land of their birth. Methodism holds to the essential doctrines of the Reformation, but also to the five points of Arminianism, with some important evangelical modifications." (Schaff, Creeds, Vol. I, 516)

Canons of Dordt

See main article: Canons of Dordt

See also