Posted April 22, 2019
Sometimes an army has won a major battle during a war, but lost the war in the end. The Synod of Dordt marked a decisive victory for Reformed orthodoxy and a blow to Arminianism. But Dordt’s victory appears to have been short-lived. Did Reformed orthodoxy win the battle at Dordt, only to lose the war? In answering that question, this article surveys the history of the Remonstrants and of Arminianism after the Synod of Dordt.
Synod’s outcome: The battle won
Dordt’s victory was doctrinal: the Synod expressed its condemnation of Arminian theology in the Canons of Dordt. This victory was also church political: on April 24, 1619 (session 138) the Dutch delegates declared that the Remonstrants whom it had cited were deposed from their church offices.
After the national synod was over, provincial synods enforced Dordt’s decision by deposing almost two hundred Remonstrant ministers. The provincial synods of Utrecht and South Holland deposed thirty and sixty ministers, respectively; other provincial synods deposed smaller numbers.
Changes also took place at the university level. Remonstrant curators (trustees) and professors were removed and replaced with orthodox men. Notably, Simon Episcopius, the Remonstrant leader at Dordt, was succeeded by Festus Hommius, one of the clerks at the great Synod.
Synod could not enforce civil punishments for the Remonstrants; the States General (the national government) had authority to do that. In July, 1619 the States-General permitted those Remonstrants who submitted to their deposition to remain in the country and collect their salary for six months. Most Remonstrant ministers would not submit and were banished from the United Provinces. The government also forbad any defense or promotion of Remonstrant doctrine.
Other nations recognized and appreciated Dordt’s victory, particularly its doctrinal aspect. Outside the Netherlands, the French Reformed churches and the Reformed church in Geneva officially adopted the Canons. The Reformed church in Zurich, though not officially adopting the Canons, considered it to be in complete agreement with their Helvetic confession. In England, influential people suggested that the British adopt the Canons, but this never happened, due in part to some Arminian sympathy there.
The victory was monumental. But the enemy regrouped.