1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dort, Synod of
DORT, SYNOD OF. An assembly of the Reformed Dutch Church, with deputies from Switzerland, the Palatinate, Nassau, Hesse, East Friesland, Bremen, Scotland and England, called to decide the theological differences existing between the Arminians (or Remonstrants) and the Calvinists (or Counter-Remonstrants), was held at Dort or Dordrecht (q.v.) in the years 1618 and 1619. The government of Louis XIII. prohibited the attendance of French delegates. During the life of Arminius a bitter controversy had sprung up between his followers and the strict Calvinists, led by Francis Gomar, his fellow-professor at Leiden; and, in order to decide their disputes, a synodical conference was proposed, but Arminius died before it could be held. At the conference held at the Hague in 1610 the Arminians addressed a remonstrance to the states-general in the form of five articles, which henceforth came to be known as the five points of Arminianism. In these they reacted against both the supralapsarian and the infralapsarian developments of the doctrine of predestination and combated the irresistibility of grace; they held that Christ died for all men and not only for the elect, and were not sure that the elect might not fall from grace. This conference had no influence in reconciling the opposing parties, and another, held at Delft in the year 1613, was equally unsuccessful. In 1614, at the instance of the Arminian party, an edict was passed by the states-general, in which toleration of the opinions of both parties was declared and further controversy forbidden; but this act only served, by rousing the jealousy of the Calvinists, to fan the controversial flame into greater fury. Gradually the dispute pervaded all classes of society, and the religious questions became entangled with political issues; the partisans of the house of Orange espoused the cause of the stricter Calvinism, whereas the bourgeois oligarchy of republican tendencies, led by Oldenbarnevelt and Hugo Grotius, stood for Arminianism. In 1617 Prince Maurice of Orange committed himself definitely to the Calvinistic party, found an occasion for throwing Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius into prison, and in November of that year called a synod intended to crush the Arminians. This synod, which assembled at Dort in November 1618, was strictly national—called by the national authority to decide a national dispute, and not intended to have more than a national influence. The foreign deputies were invited to attend, only to assist by their advice in the settlement of a controversy which concerned the Netherland church alone, and which the Netherland church alone could decide. At the fourth sitting it was decided to cite Simon Episcopius and several other Remonstrants to appear within fourteen days before the synod, to state and justify their doctrines. It was also agreed to allow the Arminian deputies to take part in the deliberations, only on condition that they forbore to consult with, or in any way assist, their cited brethren, but this they refused. During the interval between the citation and the appearance of the accused, the professorial members of the synod were instructed to prepare themselves to be able to confute the Arminian errors, and the synod occupied itself with deliberations as to a new translation of the Bible, for which a commission was named, made arrangements for teaching the Heidelberg catechism, and granted permission to the missionaries of the East Indies to baptize such children of heathen parents as were admitted into their families. At the 25th sitting Episcopius and the others cited appeared, when Episcopius surprised the deputies by a bold and outspoken defence of his views, and even went so far as to say that the synod, by excluding the Arminian deputies, could now only be regarded as a schismatic assembly. The Remonstrants were asked to file copious explanations of the five points in dispute (Sententia Remonstrantium), but objecting to the manner in which they were catechized, they were, at the 57th sitting, dismissed from the synod as convicted “liars and deceivers.” The synod then proceeded in their absence to judge them from their published writings, and came to the conclusion that as ecclesiastical rebels and trespassers they should be deprived of all their offices. The synodical decision in regard to the five points is contained in the canons adopted at the 136th session held on the 23rd of April 1619; the points were: unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistibility of grace, final perseverance of the saints. The issue of supralapsarianism v. infralapsarianism was avoided. These doctrinal decisions and the sentence against the Remonstrants were, at the 144th sitting, read in Latin before a large audience in the great church. The Remonstrants were required to subscribe the condemnation, and many of them refused and were banished. The synod was concluded on the 9th of May 1619, by a magnificent banquet given by the chief magistrate of Dort. The Dutch deputies remained a fortnight longer to attend to ecclesiastical business. Though the canons of Dort were adopted by but two churches outside of Holland, the synod ranks as the most impressive assemblage of the Reformed Church.
Authorities.—Acta synodi nationalis ... Dordrechti habitae (Lugd. Bat. 1620, official edition); Acta der Nationale Synode te Dordrecht 1618 (Leiden, 1887), French translation (Leiden, 1622 and 1624, 2 vols.), for the Canons, and the Sententia Remonstrantium, E. F. Karl Müller, Die Bekenntnisschriften der reformierten Kirche (Leipzig, 1903), p. lix. ff., 843 ff.; for canons and abridged translation used by the Reformed Church in America, P. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (3rd ed., New York, 1877), 550 ff. See also H. Heppe, in Niedner’s Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie, Bd. 23 (Hamburg, 1853), 226-327 (letters of Hessian deputies); Acta et scripta synodalia Dordracena ministrorum Remonstrantium, Hardervici, 1620 (valuable side-lights); A. Schweizer, Die protestantischen Centraldogmen in ihrer Entwicklung innerhalb der reformierten Kirche, zweite Hälfte (Zürich, 1856), 25-224; H. C. Rogge in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie, Bd. 4 (Leipzig, 1898), 798-802; H. H. Kuyper, De Post-Acta of Nahandelingen van de Nationale Synode van Dordrecht, een historische Studie (Amsterdam, 1899, new material); J. Reitsma, Geschiednis van de Hervorming en de Hervormde Kerk der Nederlanden (2nd ed. Groningen, 1899); F. Loofs, Dogmengeschichte (4th ed., Halle, 1906), 935 ff.; T. Van Oppenraij, La Prédestination dans l’Eglise réformée des Pays-Bas depuis l’origine jusqu’au synode national de Dordrecht (Louvain, 1906). (W. W. R.*)