Remonstrants

Remonstrants
Classification Protestant
Theology Arminianism
Origin early 17th century
Netherlands
Separated from Dutch Reformed Church

The Remonstrants (or the Remonstrant Brotherhood) is a Protestant movement that had split off of the Dutch Reformed Church in the early 17th century. The early Remonstrants supported Jacobus Arminius, and after his death, continued to maintain his original views called Arminianism. Condemned by the synod of Dort (1618-1619), the Remonstrants remained in a small minority in the Netherlands. In the middle of the 19th century, the Remonstrant Brotherhood was influenced by the liberal Dutch theological movement.

History

Allegory of the theological dispute between the Arminianists and their opponents by Abraham van der Eyk, 1721. Remonstrants can be seen on the left, while their Dutch Reformed opponents can be seen on the right. The scales shows the Calvinist cause as heavier than the Arminian one, but it has a sword on it. The sword symbolizes state support granted the Dutch Reformed Church by the Republic.

Foundation

In formulating Arminianism, Jacobus Arminius disagreed with Calvin, especially on predestination. He defended free examination as superior to the doctrines of established churches.

In 1610, Arminius followers presented to the States of Holland and Friesland a remonstrance in five articles formulating their points of disagreement with Calvinism as adopted by the Dutch Reformed Church.[1]

As historic supporters of his theological cause, Remonstrants declined to be called "Arminians" (after the Roman Catholic practice of labeling a heresy after its founder) and adopted a designation of their own choice.

Their adversaries, inspired by Franciscus Gomarus, became known as Gomarists or Counter-Remonstrants.[1] Although the States-General issued an edict tolerating both parties and forbidding further dispute, the conflict continued[1] and became linked to political conflicts in the Dutch Republic. The Remonstrants were assailed both by personal enemies and by the political weapons of Maurice of Orange.[1] Their foremost ally, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, was executed, and other leaders were imprisoned.

In 1618–19 the Synod of Dordrecht, after expelling the thirteen Arminian pastors headed by Simon Episcopius, established the victory of the Calvinist school.[1] It drew up ninety-three canonical rules, and confirmed the authority of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.[1] The judgement of the synod was enforced through the deposition and in some cases banishment of Remonstrant ministers.[1] In this context, owing to the lack of preachers, there originated in Warmond a movement in favor of the lay sermon, the adherents of which founded the Society of Collegiants.[2] An exile community of Remonstrants was founded in Antwerp in 1619. In 1621 they were allowed to settle in Schleswig, where they built the town of Friedrichstadt.[1]

Institutionalization

Remonstrant church of Friedrichstadt, Germany

The doctrine of the Remonstrants was embodied in 1621 in a Confession[3] written by Episcopius, their major theologian. This Confession serves as a base for the Remonstrant church since his return to the Netherlands in 1626. It confirms the opinion of the remonstrants already expressed in 1618.[4]

Jan Uytenbogaert gave to the Remonstrants a catechism and regulated their church order.[1] Their seminary in Amsterdam had distinguished pupils, including Curcellaeus, Limborch, Wetstein, and Le Clerc. Their school of theology, which grew more liberal and even rationalistic, forcefully debated the official Dutch Reformed state church and other Christian denominations.[1]

After the death of Maurice of Orange in 1625 some exiles returned. The government became convinced that they posed no danger to the state, and in 1630 they were formally allowed to reside again in all parts of the Republic.[1] They were not, however, officially allowed to build churches until the establishment of the Batavian Republic in 1795. Until then they held their services in so-called Schuilkerken (house churches).[5]

Liberalism

In the mid-19th century, the Remonstrant Brotherhood was influenced by liberalism,[6][7] which in Holland was embodied by Petrus Hofstede de Groot (1802-1886).[citation needed] His theology had a wide audience in Europe, which is characteristic of the romantic phase of Christian humanism; in the Netherlands, this line of thought has been represented by the "theologians of Groningen" since 1830.

De Groot sums up the purpose of this movement of which he is the leader by writing that "the most important thing in Christianity is the revelation and the education as given by God in Jesus Christ, so as to make us more and more like God". The "Groningers" reject the dogma of the Trinity, predestination and expiatory justice of God. They recognize the dual divine and human nature and the ability of man to fulfill God's will with His help.

Early Remonstrants theological legacy

Most of the early Remonstrants followed classical Arminianism.[8] However they are not the only Protestants who can be considered Arminian or be called "Arminians". The Arminian movement is a cross-denominational development which made inroads into the Church of England, Methodism, General Baptists, the Adventist Church, the Holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the Charismatic movement, and a number of other Protestant denominations.

Modern Remonstrant Brotherhood

A Remonstrant church in Groningen, Netherlands

The church

The Remonstrant Brotherhood continues as a church in the Netherlands. The Remonstrants first received official recognition in 1795. Their chief congregation has been in Rotterdam.[9]

In 2016, the Remonstrant Brotherhood has about 5,000 members and "friends", in more than 40 congregations in the Netherlands,[10] and one congregation in Friedrichstadt, in northern Germany (2008).[11]

The Remonstrant Brotherhood of Holland keeps fellowship with the European Liberal Protestant Network. Besides it is a full, charter member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Remonstrants are frequently Unitarians.

In line with the progressive views on religion, Remonstrants have been blessing same-sex partnerships on an equal footing as different sex weddings from 1986 onwards (church weddings have no legal status in the Netherlands, where the legally acknowledged civil same-sex marriages became possible in 2001).[12][13] In this the Remonstrants were the first Christian church in the world to bless same-sex relationships similar to other relations.[14]

Remonstrants place big emphasis on personal faith and are not in agreement with one another on questions of faith and social issues. They consider that the message of the Gospel can not be separated from true choices in the struggle to live together, on the road to a world with peace and justice.[15] What binds them is the Statement of Principle:

The Remonstrant Church is a community of faith which, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and true to its principle of freedom and tolerance, seeks to worship and serve God.

Confessions of faith

In addition to Statement of Principle, most contemporary Remonstrants write their own declaration or profession of faith when they become a member of the community. The brotherhood did express at three times in their history the faith they share in a confessional statement, in 1621, 1940 and 2006. Remonstrants however, being a non-creedal denomination, consider no confession to have indisputable authority.[12]

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