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

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Ten: Sessions 57-63

Session 57: Monday, January 14 AM
The States General delegation had met with the Remonstrants the previous Saturday to urge them to cooperate. The Remonstrants responded that they were willing to work with the Synod, provided it understand that they would refute the Contra-Remonstrant position, as they had previously told Synod (December 29, January 11).

Hearing this, the foreign delegations informed Synod that in their judgment the Remonstrants were continuing “in the same stubbornness, willfulness and disobedience” (Acts of the Synod, my translation). Yet, demonstrating patient forbearance, Synod summoned the Remonstrants once again to ask whether they were ready to answer Synod’s questions forthrightly. Their response was written out and lengthy, indicating that it was premeditated. In sum, the answer was, “No.”

When Bogerman heard this, he delivered the fiery speech for which he will always be remembered. In it he reiterated that the Remonstrants had tested the Synod’s patience by their lies and evasive answers. He assured them that the churches would be informed of their obstinacy and that spiritual weapons would be used against them. And he ended: “Exite!” (Be gone!)

Synod was in session two full months before reaching this turning point. It would meet for another four and a half months.

Session 58: Monday, January 14 PM
This session was closed, as were several following sessions. Synod decided to copy the Remonstrants’ explanation of the article on predestination that they had submitted to Synod that morning. Synod also discussed what order to follow in investigating the Remonstrant teachings.

Session 59: Tuesday, January 15 AM
The decisions of some of the past sessions were read and approved. The table, benches, and chairs in the middle of the room, which had been used by the Remonstrants, were removed.

Session 60: Tuesday, January 15 PM
Synod continued to discuss what order to follow in investigating the Remonstrant teachings. The advice of the various delegations was heard, and Synod decided that a consensus would be drawn up and read to the Synod for its approval.

Session 61: Wednesday, January 16 AM
President Bogerman proposed an explanation of the second point of the Remonstrants.

Synod heard the consensus regarding how to proceed. It would treat the Remonstrant views article by article. (The “Five Articles of the Remonstrants, 1610,” treated predestination, the extent of Christ’s atonement, the extent of man’s depravity, the nature and work of God’s grace, and the matter of preservation in salvation. The “Opinions of the Remonstrants,” which they submitted to Synod, followed the same order; see Hoeksema, The Voice of our Fathers, 103-109. In this order the doctrines would be treated in the Canons of Dordt). Each delegation was to write out its opinions regarding each point of the Five Articles.

Session 62: Thursday, January 17 AM
Joseph Hall, a delegate from Great Britain, returned home because of illness. Thomas Goad appeared in his place, and took the synodical oath.

The five Dutch professors of theology began, each taking a turn, to address the synod regarding predestination. Sibrandus Lubbertus (professor at Franeker) explained John 3:36, John 6:40, Hebrews 11:6, and 1 Corinthians 1:12, in the service of defending the orthodox view of predestination over against the Remonstrant view.

On January 12 (session 56), Synod had denied the request of the church at Kampen that Synod rescind its summons of two of its Remonstrant ministers. The church sent a letter pleading its cause: it could not do without four ministers at the same time. President Bogerman and some other members of synod agreed to discuss the matter with the Kampen delegates later.

Session 63: Friday, January 18 PM
Franciscus Gomarus (professor at Gronigen) explained Ephesians 1:4-6 as teaching that those who are elected will persevere in faith, rather than that those who persevere in faith will be elected. Discussion followed.

That evening Johannes Biesterveld died. He had been a professor of theology from the University in Siegen, and was a member of the Nassau-Wetteravian delegation. This means he was from the area of Westphalia, Germany; Siegen is about thirty miles east of Cologne. He would be buried after the session of Synod the following Monday. His replacement, Georg Fabricius, would not arrive until March 11.

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

The Synod of Dordt (5) The Meetings of the Synod

This blog submission is written by Prof. Douglas Kuiper. It is a republication of the article that appeared in The Standard Bearer December 15, 2018 (95.6.132).

Between November 13, 1618 and May 29, 1619, the Synod of Dordt met in 180 sessions. The interested reader can find a weekly summary of the Synod’s work at In this article I will give only a broad overview of the sessions. (My main sources for this material are Herman J. Selderhuis, “Introduction to the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619)” in Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser and Herman J. Selderhuis, eds., Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618-1619), vol. I: Acta of the Synod of Dordt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015), XXV-XXX, and Hendrik Kaajan, De Pro-Acta Der Dordtsche Synode in 1618 (Rotterdam: T. DeVries, 1914), 42-56.

180 sessions
The Synod’s sessions included four phases: before the Arminians appeared (sessions 1-21, Nov. 13 to Dec. 5); the examination of the Arminians (sessions 22-57, Dec. 6 to Jan. 14); the deliberations regarding the Arminians and the drafting of the Canons of Dordt (sessions 58-154, Jan. 14-May 9); and after the foreign delegates left (sessions 155-180, May 13-29).

Synod almost always met from Monday through Friday, and it met many Saturday mornings. Its morning sessions usually began at 9:00, with afternoon sessions beginning at 4:00 or 6:00. Synod did not meet during the days when the committee to draft the Canons was working, or other times when smaller groups of men were working to bring advice. It also recessed from December 22-26 for the Christmas holiday.

The official language (both spoken and written) of the synod was Latin. Though the delegates all had different native tongues, they all understood Latin; at the time, it was the language of the academics and scholars.

Formulating decisions
Our synods generally formulate decisions by assigning a committee of pre-advice to draw up recommendations, which are then presented to the entire synod for discussion and voting. The Synod of Dordt used a different method. Each of the nineteen delegations (all the delegates from a provincial synod, or from a foreign country) met individually to discuss the matters the Synod was facing, and to present written advice. The judgment of each delegation was read aloud on the floor of the Synod, discussion followed, and the Synod’s officers would then formulate the final version of the decision. The final version was adopted either by vote or by common consent; when it was adopted by vote, each delegation (not each delegate) received one vote.

Perhaps the Synod used this method because the States General (the national government) used it. Regardless, many of the delegates found this process cumbersome. At one point the Synod faced whether to change the method, but decided to keep it, after which the president exhorted members not to complain.

Although we might have had the same impatience regarding the speed with which the Synod worked, the Reformed churches reap the benefit centuries later. Careful deliberation, careful expression of the truth, careful rebutting of error, takes time. Had the Synod rushed, it is possible it would not have left us with as valuable a document as it did.

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Nine: Sessions 49-56

Session 49: Monday, January 7 AM
Two Remonstrant ministers from Hoorn, in the province of North Holland, had been suspended from office. They appeared at Synod to appeal their suspension. Synod informed them that it would treat their case later.

President Bogerman continued to dictate to the delegates the questions that he desired to ask the Remonstrants regarding their view of predestination.

Session 50: Monday, January 7 PM
The minutes of some of the previous sessions were read so that corrections could be made if necessary.

The delegates from the provincial synods of Gelderland, South Holland, North Holland, Utrecht, and Overijsel were asked to draw up a report of how their provincial synods had dealt with the Remonstrants.

The Remonstrants had already handed in their reservations regarding the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. Someone proposed having them also present in writing their reservations to the liturgical forms and the Church Order. This idea was not pursued further.

Session 51: Tuesday, January 8 AM
President Bogerman had collected various statements regarding predestination from Remonstrant writings. He presented these to Synod, asking the delegates to review them, to suggest additions or corrections, and to prepare to discuss them.

The Synod did not meet on January 9, at the request of the professors.

Session 52: Thursday, January 10 AM
The delegates concurred that Bogerman’s summary of the Remonstrant view of predestination faithfully expressed the Remonstrant’s opinions. Synod discussed whether to express the same points differently and more briefly. Synod reached no final decision.

Session 53: Thursday, January 10 PM
Synod decided that before it would respond to the teachings of the Remonstrants regarding predestination, it would write down summaries of their opinions regarding the other four points of doctrine.

The president wondered whether to call in the Remonstrants to hear their response to his formulation of their view. Not all were eager to proceed this way, because the Remonstrants had not cooperated earlier when asked to present their opinions. However, the body agreed to call them in the next day and to require them frankly to answer the Synod’s questions.

Session 54: Friday, January 11 AM
One of the Remonstrants, Isaac Fredericus, had not been at the Synod since the turn of the year. Especially for his sake, but also for that of all the Remonstrants, the States General delegation reminded them of the decision of the national government on January 1. They also reminded the Remonstrants how they were to conduct themselves while they were being examined. When President Bogerman began putting the Synod’s questions to them, they responded evasively and said that their intention was merely to refute error by Scripture and reason. When President Bogerman and the president of the States General delegation required them to come to the point, they retorted that the Synod was their enemy.

Session 55: Friday, January 11 PM
Synod discussed the (non)-answer that the Remonstrants had given it at the morning session. It decided no longer to ask the Remonstrants questions, but to judge their opinions from their writings, and it informed the Remonstrants of this. The Remonstrants were instructed to hand in their explanations regarding predestination by the following Monday.

Session 56: Saturday, January 12 AM
On December 19 (session 36) the Synod had ordered two Remonstrant ministers from Kampen to appear to answer allegations that they were preaching new doctrines. Two other Remonstrant ministers from Kampen were already at Synod, because they were among the thirteen men that Synod had summoned on November 15.

At session 56 the Synod read two letters from the magistrates in Kampen. In the first, the magistrates assured the Synod that they had been promoting the Contra-Remonstrant position. In the second they asked that Synod either permit the two ministers still in Kampen to remain in Kampen, or permit the two already at Synod to return. Synod did neither, but maintained its summons of the two ministers still in Kampen.

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