- Dort, Synod of
- The affirmations approved by Reformed church delegates from the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and France at the Synod of Dort (Holland) in 1619 are considered among the clearest, most abiding summations of Calvinist belief. The synod had been called to deal with the challenge of Arminianism; it succeeded in pushing the Remonstrants to the margins of Reformed Protestantism.Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), professor of theology at the University of Leyden, began in 1603 to reject what he saw as an extreme form of predestination as articulated by his Leyden colleague Francis Gomar (1563-1641). He tried to develop a view that would not, as he put it, make God the author of sin or turn humans into mere automatons.Arminius died in 1609, but his views were championed by Johan Wtenbogaert (1577-1644), who summarized Arminianism in a 1610 document called the Remonstrance. He argued that (1) From eternity, God determined to save those he foresaw would believe and persevere to the end in their faith; (2) Jesus' act of atonement was for all humankind but is applicable only to those with faith; (3) Humans are in a state of sin and have no saving grace of themselves, thus they need to be renewed in Christ by the Holy Spirit; (4) Apart from grace, humankind can do nothing, but this grace can be resisted by the unbeliever; (5) Believers can win over sin through God's grace, and all who are willing will be kept from falling back into a sinful state (falling from grace).The debate climaxed at a church synod held at Dort, the center of counter-Remonstrant sentiment, over the winter of 1618-19. In the end, the ultra-Calvinist position was put aside, and what was considered a more centrist approach adopted. The synod adopted a five-point document known as the Canons of Dort. The canons affirmed that (1) The election to salvation is determined solely by the will of God; (2) Christ died only for the elect; (3) Humankind is so corrupted by the fall, humans have nothing to contribute to their salvation; (4) God's grace is irresistible, hence all of the elect will be saved; and (5) God's elect are assured of their state and will persevere to the end. This position, sometimes referred to as the five points of Calvinism, is often stated in English using a mnemonic device referring to the Dutch national flower: T - Total depravity; U - Unconditional election; L - Limited atonement; I - Irresistible grace; and P - Perseverance of the saints.Following the synod, the Arminians were forced underground for several years, many leaving the country. Not a few settled in England. They were able to return after Frederick Henry of orange (r. 1625-47) ended the strict enforcement of the decisions of Dort. They subsequently opened a seminary at Amsterdam, and supporters were allowed to attend churches with Remonstrant ministers. Arminianism had its greatest success by influencing John Wesley and Methodism.Further reading:■ Carl Bangs, Arminius (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1971)■ Horatius Bonar, The Five Points of Calvinism (Evansville, Ind.: Sovereign Book Club, 1957)■ Peter Y. DeJong, ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches■ Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort, 1618-1619 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformed Fellowship, 1968)■ Pieter Geyl, The Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1961)■ Thomas Scott, trans., The Articles of the Synod of Dort (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1841).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.