The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (8) Week Seven: Sessions 39-43

Having recessed for the Christmas holiday, Synod resumed it sessions on Thursday.

Session 39: Thursday, December 27 AM
The Remonstrants provided in writing their reservations to some teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism. The delegates from the Palatinate (the region in which the Heidelberg Catechism was written) asked if they could be the first to see these objections of the Remonstrants, and present their response to Synod. This they were permitted to do.

President Bogerman then reminded the Remonstrants that they were only asked to defend their view, not to propose their opinions. Also, Synod was waiting for them to provide their positive views on the doctrine of election (see Session 34). The Remonstrants continued to insist that their doctrine of election was orthodox and that the primary issue the Synod had to treat was the statements of other men regarding reprobation. Synod was of a different mind: it intended to treat the matter of election before that of reprobation, convinced that the Remonstrants were not orthodox on that doctrine. So Synod was waiting for them to present their view of the Five Articles of the Remonstrants, and particularly of the First Article.

The Remonstrants hinted that they might leave the Synod and the city of Dordrecht if they could not express themselves as freely as they desired. The States General delegation admonished the Remonstrants and threatened them with civil penalties if they did not submit to the Synod, and several times in the ensuing days forbad them to leave the city without permission.

Session 40: Friday, December 28 AM
The Remonstrants sent a letter explaining why they could not comply with Synod’s order to treat the doctrine of election first. The States General delegation ordered the Remonstrants to appear and, when they did, again admonished them to obey. Bogerman also admonished them again for continuing to view themselves as part of a conference of equals rather than as those summoned to a synod that would judge them. When each Remonstrant was asked if a certain writing expressed his own sentiments, each refused to answer.

Session 41: Friday, December 28 PM
In a session closed to observers, Synod read the letter from the Remonstrants and discussed how to proceed. The Synod was of a mind that it had treated them no differently than it had told them it would. Yet it decided to bear with them longer and even to give them a little more freedom than it had. Each delegation was to prepare advice regarding how to proceed in dealing with the Remonstrants.

Session 42: Saturday, December 29 AM
Synod informed the Remonstrants of its response to their recent letter: it maintained its judgment that they must present in positive statements their views on election, before presenting their views on reprobation. The Remonstrants asked for time to consider the matter, and were given until that evening. Synod underscored that the Remonstrants had not been cooperating with it, and it read the judgments of the various foreign delegates regarding how to proceed with the Remonstrants.

Session 43: Saturday, December 29 PM
The Remonstrants presented their written response to the Synod’s decision. Their response was evasive; they did not answer Synod’s questions forthrightly. The Remonstrants said they were ready to give their opinions regarding election, and that in stating their opinions they would refute the position of the orthodox (the Contra-Remonstrants).

Synod responded that the Remonstrants had not answered their questions, and were continuing to be unsubmissive. At this session a consensus began to form that the Remonstrants would have to be dismissed so that Synod could judge the matter entirely from their writings.

The States General delegation prepared to send a committee to The Hague that weekend, so that on Monday it could update the government regarding what the Synod had accomplished so far and regarding the conduct of the Remonstrants. Informing the Remonstrants of this, the States General delegation forbad the Remonstrants to leave Dordrecht.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches