Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

13 November 1618 A.D. International Reformed Council & Synod of Dordt Convenes to Deal with Arminianism

13 November 1618 A.D. International Reformed Council & Synod of Dordt Convenes to Deal with Arminianism

The Canons Of Dordt

DortEvery one knows the acronym TULIP, but not everyone knows where this acronym comes from. The Canons of Dordt are among the most famous but unread deliverances of any Reformed Synod. The canons are more than five letters. The canons teach a pastoral doctrine of grace and provide a model for the stewardship of the Gospel.

The Canons (rules) of the Synod of Dordt were written after years of controversy within the Reformed churches in Europe and Britain. In the late sixteenth century the Reformed doctrines of sin, grace, faith, justification, atonement, perseverance, and assurance faced a growing resistance. At the same time, James Hermanson (c. 1559–1609), known to us as Jacob Arminius, was a student in the Genevan Academy where he showed promise and no obvious evidence of heterodoxy.

Questions about Arminius’ doctrine arose as early as 1590, but Jacob had married well and his patrons protected him. About 1594 he developed a new reading of Romans chapter 7 in which he argued that Paul could not be describing a regenerate person. By 1596, after studying Romans chapter 9, he concluded that inclusion in the covenant of grace is not determined solely by God’s sovereign decree. Instead, God has willed to accept those who seek acceptance with Him by faith. This was a clever move. He appeared to be defending justification by faith all the while redefining the doctrine of election and the definition of faith. As time passed, his views became more well known. Confessional pastors and theologians in the Netherlands and elsewhere began to sound the alarm. Dialogues were conducted and Arminius said the right things, leaving the orthodox uneasy but without hard evidence of error. Despite swirling doubts, the regents of the University of Leiden appointed Arminius to professor of theology. Almost immediately, Arminius was controversial. He was reported to teach that God elects those whom he foreknows would believe. He also raised questions about the Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works. In public, however, Arminius went out of his way to agree with his orthodox colleagues.

By 1605, however, confessional Reformed pastors were calling for discipline against Arminius and his growing band of followers (the Arminians). The orthodox called for a national synod to discipline the Arminians, but the politicians refused. Instead, leading Arminians in the government called for a synod to revise the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism to make them more amenable to Arminius’ views.

Arminius died in October 1609, and the controversy entered a new phase. The Arminians published a remonstrance against the Reformed churches in which they outlined five objections to Reformed doctrine. Some preliminary responses were drafted as early as 1611, but it was the Remonstrants who first gave us five points to which the Reformed churches would respond at the great Synod of Dordt.

The Synod of Dordt almost did not occur. Political forces within the government worked mightily to prevent a national synod to address the problem. The theological crisis threatened to break out into warfare. Prince Maurice of Nassau (1567–1625), who sympathized with the orthodox, called for a national synod. The Remonstrants responded by organizing riots in 1617. Maurice’s chief rival threatened war, but when Maurice arrived in Utrecht (an Arminian stronghold) in 1618 with battle-tested veterans, the opposition melted.

The greatest international Reformed synod convened in Dordrecht, on 13 November 1618. In attendance were delegations from across Europe and Britain. Forbidden by Louis XIII from attending, the French delegation was
notably absent.

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