About the Synod of Dordrecht 1618 – 1619

Director Patrizia Filia in conversation with professor of church history G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes and theologian Sietze Lefeber.

Themes of the Synod
2 Themes played a major role in the Synod:
- Predestination
- Relationship between church and state

How to translate into a theatre production
What is the problem? To create a theatre drama around a problem worded in mere theological terms in an abstract way. The spreading of knowledge needed to be correctly worded. This was done with all manner of theological ingenuity. How to create a theatre production from this theoretical point of view.

What was being discussed?
It was about the relationship between Gods absolute wisdom and the life of man. There were two schools of thought:
1. A and the Remonstrants said, that God in his absolute wisdom has a previous insight if someone believed during his lifetime or not. God has predestined man to salvation or doom, based on this insight (Gods providence).
2. G and the contra-Remonstrants objected greatly to this opinion. If God can decide how man will fare, based on his providence, He will then make himself dependant on the behaviour of man. God therefore loses his freedom. This is unacceptable. Always independent, God will decide his sovereignty.

The Remonstrants belong to a more liberally thinking part of the population and the contra-Remonstrants to the more conservative part.

A as well Gomarus as Arminius were educated in Geneva, Arminius with Calvin and Gomarius with Beza; they both had the same theological education and spoke the same language. (A had passed away a few years prior to the Synod.)

The Remonstrants stated: if love does not play a part in ones behaviour, then the hard lesson of the predestination does not make sense. The contra-Remonstrants always commenced with the impenetrable of God and the questions of belief which that provoked; they too thought love important, but secondary to the belief in God’s impenetrable wisdom. As matter of fact these questions regarding the relationship between God and man are beyond our realm of understanding and imagination.

The discussions at the Synod
Discussions took place during the Synod actually only among the contra-Remonstrants The Remonstrants had indeed departed after the utterance of Bogerman of “Ite, Ite”. Each participant read what he had prepared.

Translated back to everyday life
A few suggestions to translate the theological problem at the Synod back to daily life. Think that both the Remonstrants, as well as the contra-Remonstrants believed the predestination and the impenetrable wisdom of God. Also think that one lived full of fear of the afterlife.

To gain reassurance about one’s future salvation after death one would say for instance:
”Because I believe, God has chosen me, otherwise I would not believe” Or:“Because I give to the poor, the deduction is that I am chosen, otherwise I would not give”. One sought signals and signs to see if one was chosen by God.

Support was sought this way; still the case today with the extreme right of Calvinism.
Do these kinds of translation to everyday life offer a possibility for a theatre production?

Another idea
You can also imagine a scene in which a pastoral or an existential problem figure around the chosen. For instance a conflict between a theologist, participating at the Synod and someone with the existential question if he or she is chosen.

Other ideas
Read the Acta of the Synod and look for sessions at the Synod of dramatic interrogations. Find out the topic of discussions, find out the reason for these discussions and try to translate these to a theatre production.
The principal question was about the independence/freedom/sovereignty of God and His untraceable way with our existence, and about the question regarding the freedom of man. (The modern day question would be: is a free man free without God)

The second theme: the relationship between church and state
The Calvinists of the contra-Remonstrants started with God: He rules, he does so through preachers; the state has to listen to them. Besides, the church is its own master, the state has nothing to say. The Calvinists of the Remonstrants also said that God rules; He does not only do so via the church but also via the state. When someone in church claims that he cannot bear arms or be in a governing function (as the Baptists claimed), then the state has the right to interfere. How topical this problem is, is evident from the current discussion about whether the state should interfere in mosques or not.

Sietze Lefeber

Fred van Lieburg: De Dordtse Synode 1618-1619, Publisher De Stroombaan, Papendrecht
W. van ‘t Spijker - C.C.de Bruin - H.Moerkerken - H.Natzijl. De Synode van Dordrecht in 1618 en 1619. Publisher Den Hertog B.V.-Houten
Jonhatan I.Israel. De Republiek 1477-1806. Publisher Van Wijnen-Franeker.
Staten Generael Vereenichden Nederlandts Acta ofte Handelinghen des Nationalen Synodi

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