The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Eleven: Sessions 64-67

Session 64: Monday, January 21 AM
The States General delegation had reported to the national government in The Hague regarding Bogerman’s dismissal of the Remonstrants on January 14. On January 18, the national government issued a resolution, which Synod now read. The national government had received clear evidence that the Remonstrants despised its authority and did not intend to obey it. The national government approved Synod’s decision to examine the Remonstrants by subjecting their writings to the light of God’s Word. It also repeated that the Remonstrants were not to leave the city of Dordrecht.

The previous week, two of the five Dutch professors of theology had given their judgments regarding the Remonstrant view of predestination and had explained certain texts. At this and following sessions, the other three Dutch professors would do so.

Antonius Thysius, professor from Harderwijk, gave his judgment regarding whether God’s determination to save believers is the entire decree of predestination, and whether faith is a condition to election or the fruit of election. The official record tells us only who spoke and what topic he addressed; it gives no further details about what he said. However, Brandt says, “These explanations were almost always diametrically opposed to the opinions of the Remonstrants” (3:206). The synod, and particularly the Dutch delegates, were orthodox men.

Synod attended Johannes Biesterveld’s funeral (see comments from the previous Friday, Session 63.)

Session 65: Tuesday, January 22 AM
The delegates all agreed that Christ is the foundation of election (Ephesians 1:4). But how is He this? On this point the delegates had differing views.

Gerard Brandt explains the two positions (3:208-209). Some, including Gomarus, said that God first decreed to choose some to everlasting life, then chose Christ as the way to accomplish this salvation: “God the Father alone was the Cause of Election, and Christ only the Executor of it” (3:204). Others, including Martinius of Bremen, considered that Christ was not only the Executor, but “in some sense the Author and Procuror of it” (3:208).

Synod took time to discuss this question. The record indicates that the discussion was heated.

Wednesday, January 23 (The synod did not meet in session this day. Brandt indicates that the foreign delegates met with Martinius regarding statements he had made the previous day).

Session 66: Thursday, January 24 PM
Professor Polyander (from Leiden) explained Philippians 4:3, Revelation 21:27, Luke 10:20, Romans 8:29, and 2 Timothy 2:19. After he was finished, Professor Walaeus (from Middelburg) explained Acts 13:48, Romans 9:11, and Romans 11:5.

Session 67: Friday, January 25 PM
Having heard from its five Dutch professors, Synod began to hear from the foreign delegates, beginning with the British delegates. John Davenant set forth his understanding of predestination, which accorded with the orthodox view. Then he explained and refuted some of the distinctions which the Remonstrants make regarding predestination, such as these: is it one decree, or more? Limited, or unlimited? Revocable and changeable, or irrevocable and unchangeable?

Next, Samuel Ward, another British delegate, spoke. He responded to the view of the Arminians that God’s only decree of election was to save believers, which view denied that God eternally appointed specific individuals to salvation. After he spoke, Professor Goclenius from Marburg (delegate from Hesse) addressed the synod. Concluding the session, Martinius again brought up his view of Christ as the foundation of election, desiring the Synod to answer the matter definitively. Gomarus, we are told, kept silent.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary