Jacob Arminius (d. 1609) thought of himself as Reformed. He wanted to be regarded as Reformed. He graduated from the seminary in Geneva. He studied with that stalwart of Reformed orthodoxy, Theodore Beza (d. 1605). He was a Reformed minister in good standing. His work was widely appreciated and received with thanks in many parts of the Netherlands and in the British isles. He faced allegedly “narrow-minded” critics in his own day who were unable to see that Arminius represented the next great breakthrough in Reformed theology. Semper Reformanda right?
Toward the end of his career his gifts and contributions were recognized with an appointment to teach Reformed theology in the university. Surely from some perspective Arminius’ theology (and the resulting Remonstrant movement) could have been found a salutary corrective to some “problem” in Reformed theology.
The Synod of Dort, however, didn’t see things thus. They found no perspective from which to appreciate Arminius’ contribution to Reformed theology. Mike Brown explains. Consider the concluding remarks by the Synod:
This is the clear, simple, and sincere declaration of the orthodox doctrine concerning the five articles which have been disputed in the Belgic Churches, and a rejection of the errors by which they have for some time been troubled. The Synod judges this doctrine to be drawn from the Word of God, and to be agreeable to the confession of the Reformed Churches. Whence it clearly appears that some, whom it by no means became, have violated all truth, equity, and charity, in wishing to persuade the public of the following perversion:
Namely, “That the doctrine of the Reformed Churches concerning predestination, with its associated points, by its own genius and necessary tendency, leads the minds of men away from all piety and religion; that it is an opiate administered by the flesh and the devil; the stronghold of Satan, where he lies in wait for all, and from which he wounds multitudes, and mortally pierces many with darts both of despair and security; that this same doctrine makes God the author of sin, unjust, tyrannical, hypocritical; that it is nothing more than interpolated Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, Turcism; that it renders men carnally secure, since they are persuaded by it that nothing can hinder the salvation of the elect, let them live as they please; and, therefore, that they may safely perpetrate every species of the most atrocious crimes. And conversely that, in this Reformed doctrine of predestination, if the reprobate should even perform truly all the works of the saints, their obedience would not in the least contribute to their salvation; that this same doctrine teaches that God, by a mere arbitrary act of his will, without the least respect or view to any sin, has predestined the greatest part of the world to eternal damnation, and has created them for this very purpose; that in the same manner in which the election is the fountain and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and impiety; that many children of the faithful are torn, guiltless, from their mothers’ breasts, and tyrannically plunged into hell: so that neither baptism nor the prayers of the Church at their baptism can at all profit them.” And they go on to suggest many other things of the same kind which the Reformed Churches not only do not acknowledge but detest with their whole soul.
Wherefore, this Synod of Dort, in the name of the Lord, entreats as many as reverently call upon the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to judge the faith of the Reformed Churches, not from the slander which on every side is heaped upon it, nor from the private expressions of a few among ancient and modern teachers, often dishonestly quoted, or corrupted and taken to a meaning quite foreign to their intention; but from the public confessions of the Churches themselves, and from this declaration of the orthodox doctrine, confirmed by the unanimous consent of all and each of the members of the whole Synod. Moreover, the Synod warns slanderers themselves to consider the terrible judgment of God which awaits them for bearing false witness against the confessions of so many Churches, for distressing the consciences of the weak, and for laboring to render suspect the society of the truly faithful.
Finally, this Synod exhorts all their brethren in the gospel of Christ to conduct themselves piously and religiously in handling this doctrine, both in the universities and churches; to direct it, as well in discourse as in writing, to the glory of the Divine name, to holiness of life, and to the consolation of afflicted souls; to regulate, by the Scripture, according to the analogy of faith, not only their sentiments, but also their language, and to abstain from all those phrases which exceed the limits necessary to be observed in ascertaining the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures, and may furnish insolent sophists with a just pretext for violently assailing, or even vilifying, the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. May Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who, seated at the Father’s right hand, gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth; bring to the truth those who err; shut the mouths of the slanderers of sound doctrine, and endow the faithful ministers of his Word with the spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all their discourses may tend to the glory of God, and the edification of those who hear them. Amen.