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