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