The Synod of Dordt (8) Baptism

This blog submission is written by Prof. Douglas Kuiper. It is a republication of the article that appeared in Standard Bearer, March 15, 2019 (95.12.284).

During its sessions the Synod treated four distinct matters relating to the administration of the sacrament of baptism.

Baptism in the Dutch East Indies
Synod met during the Dutch Golden Age. The Dutch had established a merchant colony in the East Indies. Dutch families who moved there had adopted or enslaved some of the native children. At session 18 (December 1, 1618), the delegates from North Holland (the province from which ships were ready to sail) asked whether these children could be baptized if the ones bringing them for baptism promised to raise them according to the Christian faith.

On December 3 (session 19), Synod answered that baptism should be administered only to those children who have been instructed in the faith and have made profession of faith. Often the Dutch had not instructed these children: many of these children did not understand the Dutch language, and some Dutchmen may have been concerned more with their own earthly interests than with teaching the gospel to such children.

Baptism Form
An overture to Synod requested that it require consistency in the churches regarding how baptism is administered. The Dutch already had the Form for Infant Baptism that we use. Synod required the churches to use this Form (session 162, May 16, 1619). At the same session it also decided to draw up the Form to be used for adult baptism. This Form was adopted on May 25 (session 175). Synod expressed this same requirement that all Reformed churches use the same Form when it adopted its Church Order (Art. 58).

Baptism by non-Reformed ministers
What if one had been baptized by a Romish priest or an Anabaptist, and then came to the Reformed faith? Should such be baptized again?

At session 162 (May 16, 1619), Synod said that such baptisms must not be repeated if the baptism had the form and essence of Christian baptism. (Although the Acts does not spell this out, the point is that one was baptized with water, in the name of the Triune God.)

Baptism outside the public worship service
Synod also faced the question whether sick people may be baptized outside the public worship service, if they cannot come to the worship service. At session 163 (May 17), Synod answered in three points: 1) only in instances of “great need” could such baptisms be administered; 2) such administrations must be with the knowledge of and in presence of the consistory; and 3) only with advice of classis could such baptism be administered to a condemned criminal.

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Eighteen: Sessions 107-117

Session 107: Monday, March 11 AM
On January 18 (session 63) Johannes Biesterveld, a member of the Nassau-Wetteravian delegation, died. His replacement, Georg Fabricius, arrived at the present session, presented his credentials, took the synodical oath, and was seated.

The previous Friday Synod had begun reading the judgment of the Dutch professors regarding the first article of the Remonstrants. Synod continued that now. The professors agreed that the Remonstrant position was wrong, but disagreed whether God’s decree of election was supralapsarian or infralapsarian (see session 105 for a fuller explanation).

Session 108: Monday, March 11 PM
At numerous sessions (36, 56, 62, 81, 83, 85, 98) Synod had discussed the matter of the four Remonstrant ministers from Kampen whom it had summoned. Two had never appeared, and had been suspended from the ministry. Synod required the other two to submit a written defense of the charges against them, but they had not met the deadline Synod gave them. Synod decided that if these did not provide their answer within two weeks, it would declare them also to be suspended from the ministry.

Synod continued to read the judgments of the various deputies regarding the first article of the Remonstrants (election and reprobation). At this session, Synod read the judgments of the deputies from Gelderland, South Holland, North Holland, and Zeeland. All stated that they disagreed with Gomarus’ supralapsarian position, but the delegates of South Holland also stated that they did not see the need to resolve the matter.

Session 109: Tuesday, March 12 AM
Synod read the judgments of the deputies from Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel, and Groningen.

Session 110: Tuesday, March 12 PM
Synod read the last of the judgments regarding the first article of the Remonstrants–those of the deputies from Drenthe and from the Walloon churches.

Synod then turned to the judgments of the various delegations regarding the second article of the Remonstrants, which pertained to the extent and effectiveness of Christ’s work. Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Great Britain, the Palatinate, Hesse, and Switzerland. The last three delegations stated that when Scripture says Christ died for all, it means He died for the elect, not for every individual. For the elect, they added, His death effectively saved.

The delegates from Great Britain did not touch on this point. These delegates had realized earlier (session 74) that they were not agreed among themselves on the interpretation of their own creed, the Thirty-Nine Articles. This realization led them to ask advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He responded that the British delegates should not speak more specifically than did the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Session 111: Wednesday, March 13 AM
Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Wetteravia, Geneva, Emden, and Bremen regarding the second article. The first three of these delegations agreed that Christ died only for the elect. The delegates from Bremen disagreed among themselves. Heinrich Isselburg was of the mind that Christ died for the elect throughout the world, and effectually saved them. Matthew Martinius held the opposite view, that Christ died for all and every human. The third took a middle ground, but in the end opposed Martinius.

Session 112: Wednesday, March 13 PM
Professor Isselburg addressed Synod regarding Christ’s atoning work. He opposed the error of Socinianism, which Synod understood Conrad Vorstius to be defending (see sessions 100, 152). Isselburg emphasized the necessity of satisfaction, and that Christ fully satisfied for the sins of God’s elect. Brandt relates a quotable: according to Isselburg, “in Christ were one person, two natures, three offices, and four capital benefits, he [Christ] being to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and perfect redemption,” and all this can be considered “the four wheels, upon which the chariot of salvation moved” (Brandt, 3:256).

Session 113: Thursday, March 14 AM
Synod read the judgment of the five Dutch professors. These all agreed that Christ died only for all the elect, and that for them His death was both sufficient and effective. Synod then read the judgments of the delegates from the Provincial Synods of Gelderland, South Holland, and North Holland.

Session 114: Thursday, March 14 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegates from Zeeland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijsel, and Gronigen, regarding the second article. On the matter of the extent of Christ’s atonement, these all agreed with the majority consensus that would be later expressed in the Canons, Head II, Article 8.

Session 115: Friday, March 15 AM
Synod concluded reading the judgments of the delegations regarding the second article; the last two judgments that it read were those of the delegates of Drenthe and the Walloon churches.

In their third article, the Remonstrants taught that fallen man could do nothing good in himself, and needed to be regenerated. In their fourth article, they taught that humans can resist God’s grace. Synod, recognizing that the real error of the Remonstrants regarding fallen man manifested itself in the fourth article, decided to treat the two articles together. At this session, Synod heard the judgments of the delegations from Great Britain and the Palatinate regarding these two articles.

Session 116: Friday, March 15 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegates from Hesse, Switzerland, Wetteravia Geneva, and Bremen, and began reading the judgment of the delegates from Emden.

Session 117: Saturday, March 16 AM
Synod concluded reading the judgment of the Emden theologians, which was rather lengthy. It also read the judgments of the Dutch professors and the deputies from Gelderland.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Seventeen: Sessions 98-106

Session 98: Monday, March 4 AM
Synod continued its discussion of the doctrine of the preservation of the saints that it had begun the previous week.

The magistrates of Kampen informed Synod by letter that, acquiescing to Synod, they suspended the two ministers whom Synod had summoned but who had not appeared (sessions 83, 85). The ministers had given several reasons for not coming to Synod, one being that the church in Kampen needed them. The magistrates informed Synod that ministers from the church in Zwolle would help the church in Kampen for the time being.

Synod also received a letter from Dr. David Pareus, theologian from Heidelberg, who had been invited to the Synod but who could not come because of old age (he was seventy years old). In this letter he expressed his judgment against the teachings of the Remonstrants in their five articles. Synod read the cover letter at this session.

Session 99: Tuesday, March 5 AM
Synod read the judgment of Dr. Pareus regarding the first two articles of the Remonstrants.

Session 100: Tuesday, March 5 PM
Martinius (professor from Bremen) addressed Synod regarding the person and natures of Jesus Christ, particularly emphasizing that Christ was both the eternal Son of God and truly human. The Remonstrants were in error not only regarding the five points of doctrine, but regarding other doctrines as well. Martinius’ speech was a defense of orthodox Christology over against the Remonstrants. Particularly he opposed Conrad Vorstius, who succeeded Arminius as professor of theology in Leiden in 1610, and whom the Synod would later condemn for teaching false doctrine. Although sound in his theology on this point, Martinius excused the Remonstrants for some of their statements.

Session 101: Wednesday, March 6 AM
Synod read the judgment of Dr. Pareus regarding the last three articles of the Remonstrants, and decided to thank him for sending his judgment to the Synod.

Session 102: Wednesday, March 6 PM
All the delegations had handed in their judgments regarding the five articles. Synod discussed whether to read these on the floor of synod in open or closed session. The English delegation favored open session. Although the English generally opposed the Remonstrants, the English also opposed some expressions by the orthodox regarding reprobation, and they desired this to be publicly heard. However, Synod decided to read all the judgments in closed session.

Synod read the judgments of the English and Heidelberg delegations regarding the Remonstrant teaching of election and reprobation. Both of these delegations agreed that the Remonstrant position was wrong. However, the Heidelberg delegation also expressed its judgment that ministers should treat the doctrine of reprobation “cautiously, seldom, and sparingly in their pulpits.”

Session 103: Thursday, March 7 AM
Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Hesse, Switzerland, and Wetteravia regarding the first point.

Session 104: Thursday, March 7 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Geneva, Bremen, and Emden regarding the first article. Most delegations either did not touch on the matter of the salvation of infants dying in infancy, or said that parents of such infants have no reason to doubt their salvation (as Synod later expressed it in Canons I.17). The delegates from Bremen put the matter more strongly: every baptized child who died in infancy was, without question, saved.

Session 105: Friday, March 8 AM
Synod finished reading the judgment of the delegation from Emden, then read the judgment of the Dutch professors. The great point of dispute in the judgment of the professors was whether God, when He predestined some to eternal life, viewed the human race as fallen (infralapsarianism) or not yet fallen, using the fall as a means to carry out His decree of election and reprobation (supralapsarianism). Professors Polyander, Thysius, Waleus, and Lubbertus took the infralapsarian viewpoint, while Gomarus took the supralapsarian position.

Session 106: Friday, March 8 PM
Deodatus, professor in Geneva, had twice been scheduled to address the Synod regarding the preservation of the saints, but could not because of illness. He now explained that many who appeared for a time to be believers were in fact reprobate, and manifested this by unbelief and ungodliness later in life. At the same time, though the elect do fall into grievous sins, God grants them repentance and brings them to heaven.

A Google search for average temperatures in Dordrecht in March revealed that the average low temperature is just above freezing, while the high is almost 10̊C, or 50̊F. The winter of 1618-1619 was colder than this, for there was “frost,” and the severest cold was felt in late February and early March 1619. How were the Remonstrants to complete writing their defense when it was so cold? Brandt writes that the Remonstrants informed the States-General delegation “that by reason of the long and sharp frost, they could not get their papers ready against the appointed time; they therefore prayed their Lordships to admit of their excuses, and promised to complete the whole before the end of the next week.”

Another excuse? It would be easy to conclude that it was. However, we who have central heating in our homes cannot appreciate how cold hampers one’s work.

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

The Synod of Dordt (7) Training Students for the Ministry

This blog submission is written by Prof. Douglas Kuiper. It is a republication of the article that appeared in Standard Bearer, February 15, 2019 (95.10.233).

The Synod of Dordt’s 180 sessions can be divided into four phases. During the first phase, from November 13 to December 5, 1618, Synod treated four matters: 1) Bible translation (sessions 6-13); 2) Heidelberg Catechism preaching (sessions 14-17, 20); 3) baptism of slaves and adopted children in the Dutch East Indies (sessions 18-19); and 4) training students for the ministry (sessions 18-20). The May 1, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer (a special issue commemorating the Synod) will include articles that examine the first two of these matters in more depth.

The Dutch Reformed churches have historically understood the need for a trained ministry. They permit gifted men to enter the ministry without formal training (see Article 8 of the Church Order of Dordt). However, this is the exception; the rule is that men be trained, and that the churches do the training (Articles 8, 19).

An Overture from the Synod of Zeeland
The provincial Synod of Zeeland overtured the Synod of Dordt to adopt a uniform policy for the Dutch churches regarding how these students should be trained. At the eighteenth session (Friday, December 1, 1618), the delegates from Zeeland informed the Synod of their proposal. (Footnote 1)

First, they desired that wealthy parents finance the education of their sons who studied for the ministry, but that the national government finance the education of other promising men.

Second, the men who would be trained must be children of godly believers. The men must give evidence of godliness, modesty, and ability. They would be educated in a Dutch university for five or six years (which education included their theological training), then study for a time at a foreign university.

Regarding the duration of the training for the ministry, the delegates from Zeeland were consciously trying to avoid two extremes: on the one hand, having zealous men enter pastoral ministry with relatively little training; and on the other, having the churches support students so long that the churches benefit from their service for a relatively short time, or having the students become lifelong students.

To study awhile at a foreign university and visit foreign churches “would not be unprofitable,” said the overture. The profit would be that of broadening the student’s horizon; he ought remain there until he has learned what he can and observed how the foreign churches operate.

Third, the students must gain experience and become known to the churches by reading Scripture during the worship service and by exhorting. The students were to be judged both as to the content of their sermons and as to their delivery. They would also accompany pastors in visiting the sick and comforting the oppressed, thus learning how to do the pastoral work of the ministry. In addition, the students would attend classis, consistory, and diaconal meetings in order to understand the work of church government and care for the poor.

When examining prospective ministers, the practice to that point had been to ask only regarding their doctrinal convictions. The fourth point of the overture from Zeeland was that Synod mandate that the examinations include questions regarding practical matters, such as their own godliness and their ability to teach. For that matter, their university training must include instruction in practical theology.

Synod’s Treatment of this Overture
The various delegations spent Saturday afternoon preparing their individual judgments regarding this proposal. When these judgments were read Monday morning (session 19), many referred positively to the advice of the delegates from Zeeland. The delegates from Great Britain particularly emphasized the need for students to accompany pastors to observe them doing their labors. (Footnote 2)

Not every delegate favored every aspect of these decisions. Gomarus opposed the idea of students delivering a sermon. Others opposed the idea of students observing consistory, diaconal, and classical meetings. However, as a whole Synod saw the need to promote the concept of preparing students for the ministry by giving them hands-on experience.

On Tuesday, December 4, at its twentieth session, Synod decided not to make a rule for all the churches, but to encourage the various classes (plural of classis) to consider how best to prepare students for the ministry. One matter the Synod did not leave to the discretion of the classes: it insisted, contrary to the proposal from Zeeland, that students may not baptize; only ordained ministers were to administer the sacraments.

We appreciate and implement the essential aspects of this overture from Zeeland. We too insist on a trained ministry. Let us continue to pray for our seminary as it gives that instruction, and pray that God will continually provide students who are knowledgeable and faithful in doctrine as well as in life.

We do distinguish between those already in the office of minister and those training for the office. The seminary faculty licenses our students to speak a word of edification in the churches, and the consistories do evaluate them for the benefit of the faculty. However, these students are not yet ministers. Realizing that they are still learning, we can bear patiently with them if we recognize weaknesses.

And, how valuable we have found our internship program for seminary students to be. During it, the students gain valuable insights and experience. Let us continue to pray that by this program our students will be well prepared for the work to which God will call them.

Footnote 1: I glean this information from four sources: 1) J. H. Donner and S. A. Van Den Hoorn, eds, Acta of Handelingen der Nationale Synod te Dordrecht (Kampen: J. H. Bos), 44-46 [This is the Dutch translation of the Acts of the Synod]; 2) Theodore G. Van Raalte, “Summary,” in Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser and Herman J. Selderhuis, eds., Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618-1619), vol. II/2: Early Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018), 168-169; 3) Gerard Brandt, The History of the Reformation and Other Ecclesiastical Transactions In and About the Low-Countries (London: T. Wood, 1722), 3:34-37; and 4) John Hales, Golden Remains of the Ever Memorable, Mr. John Hales (London: Theo. Newcomb, 1673), 17-18, 21-22.

Footnote 2: Anthony Milton, ed., The British Delegation and the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2005),144-145.

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Sixteen: Sessions 91-97

Session 91: Monday, February 25 AM
Synod continued to discuss the third and fourth articles of the Remonstrants. It faced the questions whether unregenerate man can understand the scriptures by himself, and whether unregenerate man has the power to do good and avoid evil.

President Bogerman gave Synod a catalogue of Remonstrant writings regarding the fifth point of doctrine.

On this day the Remonstrants presented the States-General delegates with an eighty-page defense of their second article. The States-General delegation again rebuked them for supplying a partial response, not completing it. Episcopius said that the length and incompleteness of their documents to Synod was “not of choice, but of necessity” (Brandt 3:234), and that they needed three or four more weeks to finish the task.

The States-General delegation was informed that two Remonstrant ministers from Utrecht, who were present at synod, had been deposed from the ministry, and that the family of one of them had been ordered to move out of the house by Easter (mid-April). This minister asked permission to leave the Synod in order to attend to his family’s needs. The States-General delegation told the men that it would consider the matter.

Session 92: Tuesday, February 26 AM
Synod read the Remonstrant explanation of the extent of Christ’s death. The Remonstrants were explicit that Christ died for all men in particular, not only for the elect.

Session 93: Wednesday, February 27 AM
Synod continued reading the document of the Remonstrants.

Session 94: Wednesday, February 27 PM
Theodore Tronchinus, professor at the Genevan Academy, explained and defended the doctrine of the perseverance of true believers. Since January 17, the Dutch and foreign professors had taken turns orally explaining and defending the orthodox view over against the five points. With Tronchinus’s speech, this aspect of Synod’s work was now finished, with one exception (session 106).

Session 95: Thursday, February 28 AM
Synod read more of the Remonstrants’ defense of the second article.

Session 96: Thursday, February 28 PM
Synod discussed the doctrine of perseverance.

Session 97: Friday, March 1 AM
Synod continued the discussion of the previous session.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Fifteen: Sessions 82-90

Session 82: Monday, February 18 AM
The Remonstrants had submitted their written explanation regarding the five points of doctrine (sessions 76, 81). Synod read aloud the part from this document that regarded the first two points of doctrine.

Session 83: Monday, February 18 PM
The two ministers from Kampen whom Synod had summoned had sent letters explaining why they had not appeared (session 81). The States-General delegates declared them to be worthy of suspension from office. Most delegates agreed. The delegates from Bremen disagreed, preferring that Synod treat these ministers more gently.

Session 84: Tuesday, February 19 AM
Synod read the portion of the Remonstrant document that regarded the third and fourth points of doctrine.

Session 85: Tuesday, February 19 PM
Synod informed the church of Kampen of its decision that the two ministers should be suspended.

Synod continued its discussion of the third and fourth points of doctrine. The discussion and disagreement regarding the relation of man’s will to God’s grace (session 80) was renewed and was intense. The Bremen delegate Martinius had quoted from a renowned Heidelberg theologian in support of statements he had made, and other foreign delegates attempted to show that Martinius had misunderstood this theologian.

After this, the Dutch professors Gomarus and Thysius spoke regarding the third and fourth articles.

Session 86: Wednesday, February 20 AM
Synod read the part of the Remonstrant document that regarded the fifth point of doctrine.

Session 87: Wednesday, February 20 PM
Wolfgang Mayer, a Swiss theologian, spoke to the fifth point of doctrine. Every time he addressed the synod, he took off his cap and called it the “holy synod.”

Session 88: Thursday, February 21 AM
Synod read the Remonstrants’ defense of their position regarding the first article.

Session 89: Friday, February 22 AM
Synod read the statements from the Remonstrants regarding reprobation.

Session 90: Friday, February 22 PM
The Remonstrants disagreed with the doctrine of the preservation of the saints, and alleged that this doctrine implies that the child of God need not live a godly life. The five Dutch professors responded to this argument, showing that the preservation of saints does not diminish the need to pray or to guard against sin.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament

Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Fourteen: Sessions 78-81

Session 78: Monday, February 11 PM
Synod discussed what effect the light of nature and the preaching of the gospel have on the unregenerate, and how God works conversion in humans in such a way that God may justly require us to believe and obey.

Session 79: Tuesday, February 12 AM
Sebastian Beck, professor at Basel University (Switzerland) responded to the Remonstrant position that God’s grace is resistible.

Synod discussed what to do with the 204-page document that the Remonstrants had given the States General delegates. Synod agreed that a committee should carefully examine it and inform Synod if it contained anything new.

Tuesday, February 12 PM
The afternoon was set aside for a committee meeting. The committee, consisting of one person from every delegation, was mandated to discuss how to proceed with the matter of the Remonstrant ministers from Kampen. Synod had earlier required these to appear. When the church in Kampen had asked Synod to change its mind, Synod had maintained its summons (sessions 36, 56, 62). Those summoned had not appeared, but sent others in their place with letters of explanation.

Session 80: Wednesday, February 13 PM
Synod focused on the Remonstrant teaching regarding the freedom of the human will and the grace necessary for conversion. Do humans play a role in our initial conversion? Does our will work with God’s grace?

We know that Synod expressed its final judgment on these matters in the Canons. This might lead us to think that Synod arrived at its conclusion easily. However, such was not the case. Balcanquahall and Brandt relate that some members of Synod, although agreeing that the Arminian teaching was wrong, disagreed on how best to state the truth. Even today at broader assemblies it can take time to express well the consensus of the majority.

Session 81: Friday, February 15 PM
Before the official session, the Remonstrants sent the States-General delegation a sixty-page document containing their explanation of the third, fourth, and fifth articles. Their explanation, however, did not include their defense of these articles, as it ought to have. The States-General delegation ordered them to supply this lack with haste. On the next day, the Remonstrants asked for ten extra days to finish this matter.

Past blog posts have noted that two delegates died while the Synod met (sessions 14, 63). A third–Meinert Idzerda, elder from Friesland–died during the Christmas break. At this session, six weeks later, his replacement, Taecke Aysma, appeared with his credentials. After taking the synodical oath, he was seated.

Johann Alstedius, professor at Herborn, spoke in opposition to the third and fourth articles of the Remonstrants, and in defense of irresistible grace. He called the Remonstrants Pelagians for their view of humans and of grace, and defended his position from Matthew 11:12.

President Bogerman informed the Synod that the Remonstrants had handed in their opinions regarding the last three articles, and that their documents would be read the following Monday.

Synod read the letters from the ministers of Kampen who did not appear at Synod, in which letters they gave their reasons. Many agreed that these man had flaunted Synod’s authority and deserved to be suspended from their office. However, Synod would give them one more chance to appear within fourteen days.

Many people were coming to Dordrecht to observe the Synod. They were disappointed that so many of the recent sessions had been private. Synod agreed that from this point forward, when it held private sessions, visitors could come into the public galleries, observe the Synod’s delegates take their seats, and stay through devotions. After that the visitors would have to leave while the Synod did its work.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Thirteen: Sessions 73-77

Session 73: Monday, February 4 AM
The delegates discussed writing three documents, but the Acts of the Synod tell us nothing more about their nature. Other sources (Hale, Brandt, and Sinnema) tell us that one was to be a brief explanation of the orthodox position regarding the five disputed points, and another was to be a brief refutation of the Remonstrant errors. Both were intended to inform the lay people. Not every delegate agreed that these writings should be composed; some thought the Synod should finish treating the Remonstrant error and render its official judgment before writing such documents. But Synod decided to proceed with composing them. Despite this decision, these two writings were never composed [Donald Sinnema, “The Canons of Dordt: From Judgment on Arminianism to Confessional Standard,” in Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), ed. Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 319].

Synod also agreed to produce a summary of the Synod’s dealings with the Remonstrants, which document would be known as the “Acta Contracta.” Synod hoped this document could be finished quickly, but it was not completed until 1620.

And Synod appointed a committee to draft an answer to the objections of the Remonstrants to teachings of the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism.

Session 74: Tuesday, February 5 PM
The delegates discussed the Remonstrant view on the second point, regarding the nature, effectiveness, and extent of Christ’s atonement. The Remonstrant view was that Christ died to make salvation possible for every human. Three international delegates–John Davenant and Samuel Ward from Great Britian, and Matthias Martinius from Bremen–publicly expressed their judgment that the Remonstrants were correct regarding the extent of the atonement. The other British delegates disagreed with these three. As the British discussed the matter, they realized that they were interpreting differently the phrase in Article 31 of their confession, “The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England,” which says that Christ died “for all the sins of the whole world.” This led them to ask President Bogerman to ignore their internal disagreement, and to seek advice from their ecclesiastical superior, the Archbishop of Canterbury (see session 110).

Session 75: Wednesday, February 6 PM
Paul Steinius, delegate from Hesse, spoke regarding the irresistible character of God’s grace. This suggests that the Synod was beginning to consider the third and fourth points of the Remonstrants.

After Steinius was finished, the delegates continued to discuss the second point.

Session 76: Thursday, February 7 AM
Outside of the official session of Synod, the Remonstrants on this day delivered a book of over two hundred pages to the delegates from the national government. In it they defended their position regarding conditional election and reprobation, they explained Romans 9 in defense of their view, they opposed the orthodox teaching regarding election, and they presented their view regarding the second point of doctrine (the nature and extent of Christ’s atonement). In the preface, they 1) thanked the Synod for permitting them to defend their opinions according to their conscience; 2) noted that had Synod allowed them to do this earlier, Synod might have already finished its discussions; 3) asked for copies of any speeches given in opposition to their writing; 4) noted that they had obeyed the command to remain in Dordrecht, but now asked permission to leave; and 5) noted that they did not present their opinions regarding points three through five, but would do so within several more weeks.

The delegates from the States General reprimanded the Remonstrants for 1) passing censure on the Synod; 2) not bringing the entire document within the appointed time; 3) opposing the doctrines of the orthodox; and 4) being long-winded in their response.

In its official meeting, Synod continued and concluded its discussion on the second point, regarding the extent of Christ’s atonement. It also was informed that the Remonstrants had brought their opinions regarding the first two points of doctrine. Synod decided to treat this matter the following Monday.

Session 77: Friday, February 8 PM
Bogerman proposed a summary of the opinion of the Remonstants regarding the third and fourth points of doctrine.

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

The Synod of Dordt (6) The Expulsion of the Remonstrants

This blog submission is written by Prof. Douglas Kuiper. It is a republication of the article that appeared in The Standard Bearer, January 15, 2019 (95.8.182).

The Synod was growing frustrated with the Remonstrants. The Acts helps us understand why (see the category “400 Years Ago” in this blogsite): the Remonstrants would not directly answer questions put to them; they tried to divert the discussion to other matters; and they repeatedly referred to the Synod as a conference, viewing themselves as equals with the delegates. They would not submit to the Synod or cooperate with its investigation into their views.

At the momentous 57th session, on January 14, 1619, the matter came to a head: President Johannes Bogerman expelled the Remonstrants from the Synod.

Bogerman’s Speech
His expulsion speech is not recorded in the official Acts, but several eyewitness accounts exist. He told them (I quote from Gerard Brandt, The History of the Reformation and other Ecclesiastical Transactions in and about the Low-Countries [London: T. Wood, 1722], 3:151-152):

“The Synod has treated you with all gentleness, mildness, friendliness, patience, forbearance, and long-suffering, plainly, sincerely, honestly, and kindly; but all the returns made by you have been nothing but base artifices, cheats, and lies. . . . All your actions have ever been full of tricks, deceits, and equivocations. . . . [S]ince your obstinacy has been very great and complicated, and has discovered itself even in opposition to the Resolutions of the Synod, and of the supreme Powers, care will be taken to inform all Christendom of it, and you shall find that the Church wants [lacks] no spiritual weapons for punishing you. . . . I therefore dismiss you in the name of the Lords Commissioners, and of this Synod: Be gone.”

Evaluating This Dismissal
From that day to the present, many have rued the dismissal of the Remonstrants and the way in which President Bogerman spoke. I speak in his defense.

First, while broader assemblies are to investigate matters carefully, they may conduct their investigation based entirely on one’s writings. That a synod hear the person verbally is not absolutely necessary. Our own classes and synods judge on the basis of written appeals, protests, and overtures. Even when an assembly permits the one bringing an issue to address it, that person may not bring any new material or arguments; the assemblies judge on the basis of the written documents. Dordt was not out of line to judge the Remonstrants on the basis of their writings.

Second, the expulsion of the Remonstrants is regrettable not because of the words Bogerman spoke, but because their own conduct made it necessary. They had been obstructing the progress of the Synod.

Third, President Bogerman was not acting according to his own whim. On December 29 the Synod had come to a consensus that the Remonstrants must be dismissed and judged from their writings, if they did not begin soon to cooperate. This consensus grew at the sessions on January 4 and 10, and a final decision to that effect was made on January 11.

Fourth, the States General and some of the foreign delegations had previously recommended that the Remonstrants be dismissed if they did not change their tactics. Bogerman was not speaking his own personal wish; he was indeed speaking “in the name of the Lords Commissioners, and of this Synod.”

With the Remonstrants gone, the Synod could make progress in judging the issue at hand.

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twelve: Sessions 68-72

Session 68: Monday, January 28 PM
Abraham Scultetus, professor of theology at Heidelberg University, emphasized the necessity and possibility of the child of God being assured of his election, and distinguished this true certainty from the Remonstrant idea of certainty.

Session 69: Tuesday, January 29 PM
Heinrich Altingius, another Heidelberg professor, turned the discussion from election to reprobation. He emphasized that God not the author of sin, that sin is rooted in and proceeds from the depravity of our nature, and that the hardening and blinding of sinners is an aspect of God’s work of judging sinners.

Session 70: Wednesday, January 30 PM
For the past two weeks Synod had been hearing the judgments of various delegates regarding the first point (election and reprobation). Considering Synod’s pace to be tedious, some delegates wondered aloud if Synod could do its work more quickly. Synod discussed the matter, and decided to proceed as it had originally intended–that is, it would not quicken its pace, but would examine each of the five points carefully before formulating its conclusions.

Session 71: Thursday, January 31 AM
President Bogerman presented the Synod with a proposed response to the second point of the Remonstrants, regarding the extent of Christ’s atoning work.

The Synod made an index of the writings of the Remonstrants regarding universal grace, so that the delegates could more easily find evidence of the Remonstrant position.

Session 72: Friday, February 1 PM
Walter Balcanqual, a member of the British delegation who represented the Scottish churches, explained that God’s intent in sending Christ to the death of the cross was not to save every human. He showed that the Remonstrant distinction “between the Acquisition of Redemption and the Appropriation or Application of it was groundless” (Brandt 3:215). The Remonstrants had argued that God sent Christ to make salvation possible for each and every, but that salvation was applied only to some. Balcanqual demonstrated that salvation was applied to the same group of people for whom Christ obtained it. After he was finished, George Cruciger, professor of theology at Marburg University spoke to the same point. No details of his speech are given; we presume he agreed with the orthodox view.

Several of the more recent sessions were evening sessions at which professors spoke about doctrinal points. These evening sessions began either at 4:00 or 6:00 P.M. At that time of day, at that time of year, in that place (Dordrecht, the Netherlands, latitude 51.8°N), it was dark. Hales said that the observers were not allowed to use candles (90), and Brandt related that Cruciger read his address by candlelight (3:215). Would we stay awake, sitting in church to hear a lecture or sermon, with such dim lighting?

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