The Extent of the Atonement and the Synod of Dort -- By: Stephen Strehle

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 51:1 (Spring 1989)
Article: The Extent of the Atonement and the Synod of Dort
Author: Stephen Strehle


The Extent of the Atonement and the Synod of Dort

Stephen Strehle

There are few doctrines which have received such a wide and variegated interpretation as the extent of the atonement. Often being constructed from divergent expressions of atonement,1 always being entangled with speculations over moments within the divine will,2 and typically jaded with hackneyed phrases,3 the doctrine be-

comes so burdened with abstruse terminology that it can be utterly unintelligible, even to those who ostensibly promulgate its virtues. Nowhere is this morass more in evidence than among the delegates of the Synod of Dort. The following article is an attempt to display the breadth of the interpretation in Scholastic Calvinism on the extent of the atonement, and decipher certain parameters for an orthodox expression of the doctrine at the synod.

In the year after the death of Arminius, under the direction of Janus Utyenbogaert, a court preacher from The Hague, forty-six Arminian ministers assembled together at Gouda to sign the Remonstrantia: remonstrating five offensive doctrinal points of the Calvinistic opposition and framing five positive doctrinal points of their own. The five offensive points were more than likely inspired by the five points which Hincmar, the leader of the Synod of Chiercy (853), framed in a letter to Amolo, wherein was condemned Gottschalk’s doctrine of double predestination, eternal security, total depravity, and his limited view of God’s saving will and Christ’s atoning work.4 The memorial

was submitted to John van Olden Barneveldt, Advocate-General of Holland and Friesland, in order to secure toleration for their opinions among the states of Holland.5

Notwithstanding, in March of 1611 during the conference at The Hague between Arminians and Calvinists, a group of Calvinistic ministers, led by Festus Hommius, followed suit by preparing their own memorial, the so-called Contra-Remonstrance, and submitted it to the States of Holland.6 While the Remonstrants7 pleaded for toleration, the Contra-Remonstrants8 instead wanted the issues in these articles to be settled by the Scriptures.9 Nevertheless, Barneveldt and the States of Holland...

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