The Synod of Dort met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-1619, as a general assembly of representatives from the Reformed churches in eight foreign countries, including the Church of England, together with representatives of the Dutch churches in the host country of the Netherlands. The purpose of the meeting was to settle a controversy that had arisen in the Dutch churches following the spread of Arminianism. After the death of Jacob Arminius his followers presented objections to the teachings of John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and their followers, led by professor Franciscus Gomarus of the University of Leiden. These objections were published in a document called the Remonstrance of 1610.
In The Remonstrance and in some later writings, the Arminians published an alternative to the Calvinist doctrine on five points of difference. The Arminians taught election on the basis of foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of lapse from grace. The Synod of Dordt concluded with a rejection of these views, and set forth the Reformed doctrine on each point, namely: unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.
The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands, popularly known as the Canons of Dort, is the explanation of the judicial decision of the Synod. In the original preface, the Decision is called a
- "judgment, in which both, the true view agreeing with God's word concerning the aforesaid five points of doctrine is explained and, the false view disagreeing with God's Word is rejected".
The acts of the Synod were tied to political intrigues that arose during the twelve year truce in the Dutch war with Spain. The decision of the Synod was the doom of the very highly respected and influential statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who had been the protector of the Arminian Remonstrants. For the crime of general perturbation in the state of the nation, both in Church and State (treason), he was beheaded in May of 1619. He is considered, also by the Calvinists, to be one of the greatest men in the history of the Netherlands. Also lost to the nation as a consequence of the Arminian defeat, was the phenomenal jurist Hugo Grotius (Huig De Groot), who argued for the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dordt. Grotius was given a life sentence in prison, but escaped with the help of his wife.
The Synod also decided to have the Bible translated into Dutch, straight from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. Translators were appointed, and the States-General were asked to fund the project. After the translation was first published in 1637, it became known as the Translation of the States or Statenvertaling.
See also: History of the Netherlands