Remonstrants; Remonstrance

1610. The Remonstrants were a revisionist group in Dutch Calvinism, associated with the controversies leading to the Synod of Dort* (1618-19), and there condemned. They were followers of Arminius (Hermandszoon), whose teachings at the theological faculty at Leyden aroused extensive controversy. After Arminius's death in 1609, Uytenbogaert took the lead in drawing up the Remonstrance of 1610, directed to the Estates of the province of Holland (where Leyden was located), and presenting the positions of the Arminian* party. The Remonstrance sets forth five points, all dealing with Arminius's attempt to soften the orthodox Calvinist idea of predestination and save something of man's free will. It holds that the decree of predestination is not absolute, but conditioned on man's response; that the offer of salvation is directed to all men, and all men in principle can be saved; that man can exercise his free will properly only after receiving grace; but, that this grace can be accepted or denied; thus, believers can fall from grace.

Acceptance of these points would have meant revising the Belgic Confession* and the Heidelberg Catechism,* generally accepted as doctrinal standards by the Dutch Calvinist churches. The Remonstrance provoked the Contra-Remonstrance of 1611, setting forth the orthodox position; to the Contra-Remonstrants it seemed as though a Semi-Pelagian* position was clearly proposed, and thus the assurance of salvation taken away. The controversy became mixed with political issues; the Remonstrants were supported by the powerful Oldenbarneveldt, but opposed by the stadhouder Maurice of Orange. The Estates-General issued edicts forbidding further controversy; these were ignored. By 1618 the political struggle was ended with the imprisonment of Oldenbarneveldt, and the Estates called the Synod of Dort to settle the religious issue. Deprived of their chief political supporter, the Remonstrants were helpless, and the synod speedily declared their teachings erroneous. Remonstrant minsters, some 200, were ousted from their pulpits, and many exiled for disturbing the peace. Uytenbogaert and Episcopius* established the Remonstrant Brotherhood, starting with the ousted ministers, and at the death of Maurice in 1625 the Remonstrants were again tolerated. A seminary was founded at Amsterdam (1630), with Episcopius as its leading figure, becoming steadily more “liberal” as time went on, under the able theologians Courcelles (d.1659), Limborch (d.1712), Leclerc* (d.1736), and Wettstein* (d.1754). During the 1700s the Remonstrants declined in numbers, losing members to Socinianism and Deism. During the later 1800s, however, as many found the Dutch Reformed Church too orthodox for their taste, they enjoyed a modest growth. The seminary was moved to Leyden in 1873. Present membership is over 25,000.

See A.W. Harrison, Arminianism (1937), and C.O. Bangs, Arminius (1971).