There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

Are The Remonstrants Heretics?

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  • Are The Remonstrants Heretics?

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    In part one we considered the definition of heresy. We saw that there is a distinction to be made between heresy defined narrowly and broadly. The question remains, what should we think of the Remonstrants? In 1610 they made their Remonstrance against the confession of the Reformed churches. They proposed that the Reformed churches should confess
    1. that election is conditioned upon foreseen faith (and perseverance). They proposed;
    2. that Christ died and has obtained forgiveness for all;
    3. that grace is resistible;
    4. that it is possible that believers can turn away from Christ


    In 1611, the contra-Remonstrance replied to the Remonstrants in a series of 5 articles that would form the core of the Canons considered by the various committees and finally adopted by the Synod. The international Synod of Dort (1618–19) convened to respond to this challenge. Did they regard these proposed revisions as heresy and if so, in what sense? The Canons did not use the word heresy or heretic very often but they did use it in the preface to the Canons:
    The truth of this kind promise is evident in the Church of all ages. She has been attacked from the beginning, not only by the public force of enemies and the ungodly violence of heretics, but also by the masked subtleties of seducers.
    The promise to which Synod referred was “I will be with you always” in Matthew 28:20.

    Synod was explicit in its support for the judgment of the Council of Ephesus that Pelagianism is heresy:
    But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains); but it must be wholly ascribed to God…. (3/4.10)
    Finally, they invoked the category of heresy in the 5th head of doctrine, article 15:
    The carnal mind is unable to comprehend this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and the certainty thereof, which God has most abundantly revealed in His Word, for the glory of His Name and the consolation of pious souls, and which He impresses upon the hearts of the believers. Satan abhors it, the world ridicules it, the ignorant and hypocritical abuse it, and the heretics oppose [spiritusque erronei oppugnant] it. But the bride of Christ has always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it as an inestimable treasure; and God, against whom neither counsel nor strength can prevail, will dispose her so to continue to the end. Now to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
    So far it seems likely that Synod was confessing that the Remonstrants were teaching heresy but it is not certain. Even though the phrase “spiritusque erronei oppugnant” (“the spirits of the wanderers”) is widely translated as “heretics,” since the word heretic is not explicitly used in 5.15 some ambiguity remains. If, however, we consider the rhetorical function of their invocation of Pelagius, the picture becomes clearer.

    Synod declared that the Remonstrant doctrine of conditional election “savors of the teaching of Pelagius” (Rejection of Errors, 1.10. Hereafter, RE). In the RE 2.3 Synod denounced the teaching that, “by his satisfaction” Christ neither merited salvation itself for anyone nor faith but he only merited the right to create a sort legal new deal, a new set of conditions to be met by the Christian the exercise of free will. Here the Remonstrants were guilty of judging “too contemptuously the death of Christ, in no way acknowledge that most important fruit or benefit thereby gained” and guilty of “bring[ing] again out of hell the Pelagian error.”

    In RE 2.6 Synod complained bitterly that the Remonstrants, by using the distinction between “meriting” and “appropriating” such that our salvation depends upon our exercise of our free cooperation with grace, sought to “instill into the people the destructive poison of Pelagianism.”

    In 3/4 head of doctrine, article 2, Synod contrasted the Augustinian teaching of the Reformed churches on the corruption and conversion of man with that of the Pelagians who held that sin was not inherited but communicated “by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted…”.

    The Remonstrant doctrine that “the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle persuasion” or an “advising,” is “altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture…” ( RE 3/4.7). The Remonstrant proposal to return to the old medieval system of grace and cooperation with grace was, according to Synod, a proposed return to “this doctrine of the Pelagians” that had “long ago ago condemned…” (RE 3/4.9). In the 3/4 head of doctrine, article 10, on the corruption and conversion of man, Synod rejected the Remonstrant doctrine that the ability to obey the gospel call lies in the human free will, by which “one distinguishes himself above others equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains)…”. In RE 4.7, Synod condemned as “altogether Pelagian” the Remonstrant doctrine that saving grace is but “gentle persuasion” or “advice” and the Remonstrant doctrine that grace and free will are both partial causes of our salvation as the “doctrine of the Pelagians” condemned “long ago” (RE 4.9). The Remonstrant idea that our perseverance depends partly on our free will is nothing but “outspoken Pelagianism” (RE 5.2).

    Finally, in her sentence pronounced upon the Remonstrants, Synod explicitly characterized the Remonstrant errors as “heresies.”

    Did Synod condemn the Remonstrants as heretics? If we consider the various points at which Synod flatly characterized the errors of the Remonstrants as heresy, the ways in which Synod repeatedly associated the Remonstrants themselves with the Pelagians, and characterized their errors as Pelagian it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that, for the Synod of Dort, the revisions proposed by the Remonstrants were errors of such a magnitude that they not mere errors and not merely heresy in the broad sense, but heresy in the narrow, technical sense described in the first part of this essay: an error transgressing the ecumenical teaching of the church as agreed at Ephesus in 431, in the condemnation of Coelestius (and through him, Pelagius).

    In the modern period, and particularly under the influence of neo-Evangelicalism, the rhetorical tendency has been to downplay the differences between the Reformed and the Remonstrants. To be sure, much water has passed under the bridge since 1619 but the Reformed churches still confess the Canons (rules) of the Synod of Dort. These are not mere historical curiosities. They are the living voice of the Reformed Churches, they are our understanding of the Word of God as touching the revisions of Reformed doctrine proposed by Arminius and his followers.

    Perhaps the most important use that can be made of a recovery of the judgment of Synod upon the original Arminian doctrine is to recognize how passionate the church was for the Reformation. This year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort will be observed in 2018–19 and it is well that we should remember that what Synod feared most was that the Remonstrants were leading us away from the biblical gospel of salvation by grace alone back to the medieval doctrine of salvation by grace and cooperation with grace. That threat is ever with us. It exists now in the form of the self-described Federal Vision theology. It exists in other proposals too. We ought to be as passionate for the Reformation and biblical doctrines of grace as the Synod was.

    We ought also to recognize again how great the difference is between the Reformed confession of the Word of God and the Arminian-inspired versions that have dominated evangelical theology and piety since the early 19th century. Synod did not invoke the category of heresy lightly or unintelligently. They knew what they were doing and they used that language advisedly. It was meant to be bracing to the churches and to her ministers and so it should once again have that same affect in us.

    Source: Are The Remonstrants Heretics (2)? | The Heidelblog

  • #2
    I do not think it is wise to throw the word heretic around too freely. People can be mistaken without being heretics. All anybody has got is their own opinion on a matter, unless they credit themselves with infallibility.

    But there are limits which cannot be transgressed if you want to call yourself a Christian, and the Nicene Creed was intended to draw those boundaries.
    Comment>

    • #3
      Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post
      I do not think it is wise to throw the word heretic around too freely. People can be mistaken without being heretics. All anybody has got is their own opinion on a matter, unless they credit themselves with infallibility.
      Just curious, did you even bother reading the original article? Do you think heretic was not defined enough in the article? Do you consider the Synod's response which having later developed into the Five Points of Calvinism, a response to the Five Points of Arminianism - a matter of opinion?

      Lemme share a clip of the article in case you missed it:

      Finally, in her sentence pronounced upon the Remonstrants, Synod explicitly characterized the Remonstrant errors as “heresies.”

      Did Synod condemn the Remonstrants as heretics? If we consider the various points at which Synod flatly characterized the errors of the Remonstrants as heresy, the ways in which Synod repeatedly associated the Remonstrants themselves with the Pelagians, and characterized their errors as Pelagian it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that, for the Synod of Dort, the revisions proposed by the Remonstrants were errors of such a magnitude that they not mere errors and not merely heresy in the broad sense, but heresy in the narrow, technical sense described in the first part of this essay: an error transgressing the ecumenical teaching of the church as agreed at Ephesus in 431, in the condemnation of Coelestius (and through him, Pelagius).
      Was it in the authority of the Synod of Dort to declare such doctrine as heresy? And do you think the Synod of Dort wrongly decided the Remonstrates doctrine heresy by comparing it to the errors of Pelagius?

      Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post
      But there are limits which cannot be transgressed if you want to call yourself a Christian, and the Nicene Creed was intended to draw those boundaries.
      Seems the only heresy in your book is calling out someone on heresy?

      The Nicene Creed isn't even in the subject matter, but the Synod of Dort which was a direct response to Arminianism.

      I'm curious, and if you don't mind answering my question... . I see that you have "Christian Reformed" as your denomination. Do you go to church and if so which one? Lastly, why do you consider yourself "Reformed"?

      God bless,
      William
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by William View Post

        Just curious, did you even bother reading the original article? Do you think heretic was not defined enough in the article? Do you consider the Synod's response which having later developed into the Five Points of Calvinism, a response to the Five Points of Arminianism - a matter of opinion?
        It certainly is a matter of opinion, even though it is an opinion I share. If Arminians are heretics, then 90-95% of Christians are heretics, and that is not something I am prepared to say.


        Lastly, why do you consider yourself "Reformed"?
        Because in my opinion that is the biblical view.
        Comment>

        • #5
          Mistake.
          Comment>

          • #6
            Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post

            It certainly is a matter of opinion, even though it is an opinion I share. If Arminians are heretics, then 90-95% of Christians are heretics, and that is not something I am prepared to say.




            Because in my opinion that is the biblical view.
            Because you're either incapable or unwilling? Do you believe others should not discern heresy from orthodoxy? And by what standard do you base your opinion on? If Scripture, do you consider your doctrinal judgments nothing more than opinion?

            Lastly, do you consider a doctrine that goes against biblical orthodoxy heresy?

            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by William View Post
              ...... If Scripture, do you consider your doctrinal judgments nothing more than opinion?
              Yes, because my interpretation is only my opinion. I am not blessed with Papal Infallibility.


              Lastly, do you consider a doctrine that goes against biblical orthodoxy heresy?
              In principle yes, but nobody is in a position to say that their understanding of scripture is the definitive one, unless they are also going to claim infallibity for themselves.
              Comment>

              • #8
                Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post

                Yes, because my interpretation is only my opinion. I am not blessed with Papal Infallibility.




                In principle yes, but nobody is in a position to say that their understanding of scripture is the definitive one, unless they are also going to claim infallibity for themselves.
                Your understanding "reeks" of relativism and a post modernistic perspective. Do you believe some interpretations are more plausible than others? And that some are closer to the truth than others? How can you know anything at all? Why would anyone consider your posts "truthful" if they are nothing more than opinion pieces?

                And by Papal Infallibility, you disagree as to whether the Synod of Dort had the authority and scriptural basis to declare the Remonstrant's doctrine heresy? Is that correct?

                God bless,
                William
                Comment>

                • #9
                  Originally posted by William View Post
                  Your understanding "reeks" of relativism and a post modernistic perspective.
                  If an admission of falibity makes me a relativist, I will live with that.


                  Do you believe some interpretations are more plausible than others? And that some are closer to the truth than others? How can you know anything at all? Why would anyone consider your posts "truthful" if they are nothing more than opinion pieces?
                  I believe that my opinion is correct, but I do not know it is correct. Only God could know that.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post
                    Because in my opinion that is the biblical view.
                    But you didn't answer the question. Do you attend church and if so is it Reformed? If not, the denomination in your profile is supposed to reflect reality. You should replace it with the church you actually attend.

                    And I'm not singling you out. Others here want to classify themselves as Reformed too because they are Calvinist, but we ask people to pick the actual church and denomination they attend. Please correct your profile information.

                    If you do not see an accurate description of your current status please lemme know. Forward any recommendations. I'd be happy to add them to the profile as selections.

                    God bless,
                    William
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by William View Post

                      But you didn't answer the question. Do you attend church and if so is it Reformed? If not, the denomination in your profile is supposed to reflect reality. You should replace it with the church you actually attend.

                      And I'm not singling you out. Others here want to classify themselves as Reformed too because they are Calvinist, but we ask people to pick the actual church and denomination they attend. Please correct your profile information.

                      If you do not see an accurate description of your current status please lemme know. Forward any recommendations. I'd be happy to add them to the profile as selections.

                      God bless,
                      William
                      If I attended any church, it would be the local (British) United Reformed Church, but since its minister doesn't even manage to believe in God, let alone profess the Westminster Confession, as his denomination is supposed to, I don't.

                      I sent an email to his denomination's HQ, without naming the minister in question, and got an embarrassed email back.

                      Other than that, the nearest Calvinist church is fifteen miles away, on foot.
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ThyWordisTruth View Post

                        If I attended any church, it would be the local (British) United Reformed Church, but since its minister doesn't even manage to believe in God, let alone profess the Westminster Confession, as his denomination is supposed to, I don't.

                        I sent an email to his denomination's HQ, without naming the minister in question, and got an embarrassed email back.

                        Other than that, the nearest Calvinist church is fifteen miles away, on foot.
                        Here in America it is generally pretty safe to assume that any church with "uni" in its name should be avoided. In other words, "United, Universal, or Unitarian" Just an observation....

                        God bless,
                        William
                        Comment>
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