Contra-remonstrants

A name given to the defenders of Calvinist orthodoxy in the Dutch controversies of the early 1600s aroused by the teachings of Arminius and his followers. A theologian at Leyden, Arminius tried to soften the doctrine of predestination so as to preserve something of human free will. His colleague Francis Gomar* (Gomarus) attacked his views as dangerous innovations, and the controversy spread rapidly. After Arminius's death in 1609, his followers issued the Remonstrance* of 1610, stating the Arminian* position. In 1611 the Counter- Remonstrance appeared, reiterating the orthodox position as understood by scholastic Calvinism. In general it stressed that predestination did not depend in any way on man's actions and thus salvation was assured for the elect. More particularly, it held that predestination is not based on God's foreknowledge of man's choice; children, though unable to make a mature choice, may be among the elect; election is due to grace alone, and man does not cooperate; Christ died for the elect, whom He willed to save; the elect are assured of salvation; and these doctrines lead to a virtuous life, not carelessness.

During the next few years, the controversy aroused heated debate among the people as well as among theologians; for those who favored the Contra-Remonstrant position, the Remonstrants appeared to take away the assurance of salvation and make it dependent on man's will rather than divine grace. Political issues also became involved. The Remonstrants were strongest in the province of Holland and were supported by its leader, Jan van Oldenbarneveldt, who favored provincial autonomy rather than centralization, and peace with Spain; the Contra-Remonstrants thus turned to the stadhouder Maurice of Orange, who favored continuation of the war by a centralized government. The political struggle between Maurice and Oldenbarneveldt resulted in the latter's imprisonment (and later execution on charges of treason). Thus, at the Synod of Dort* which followed (1618), the Contra-Remonstrants were in control. The Remonstrant positions were condemned, Remonstrant ministers ousted from their pulpits, and Remonstrant leaders exiled as disturbers of the public peace. The Canons of Dort became one of the official standards of the Dutch Reformed Church.

See D. Nobbs, Theocracy and Toleration: A Study of the Disputes in Dutch Calvinism, 1600-1650 (1938).