Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Calvinists Who Became Arminians at Dort

One of the fascinating facts of history is the "conversion" to Arminianism of several of the Calvinists who participated in the proceedings at the Synod of Dort. Below are accounts of three Calvinists, two whom changed their views during the actual proceedings, and one who had already changed his opinion prior.

John Hales (1584-1656): Hales was an English theologian. He was a quiet and gentle man. He was well read, had an excellent memory, and is reported to have had an "exact knowledge of the Greek tongue".1 For some time he was a professor at the college of Eton, where he taught Greek. He was affectionately referred to as "The Ever Memorable Hales". During the proceedings at Dort, Hales was a chaplain for Sir Dudley Carlton, the English ambassador to the Netherlands. He attended Dort at the request of Sir Carlton. During Dort, Hales is reported to have "bade John Calvin good night".2 He became convinced of the merits of Arminianism after hearing Simon Episcopius' defense of Unlimited Atonement and exposition of John 3:16.

Thomas Goad (1576-1638): Goad was an English clergyman. He was fond of poetry and known for his skill in verse. He was a chaplain for George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury. He was a rector in several locations, and was also precentor (music leader) at Saint Paul's Cathedral. Goad was sent to Dort by King James at the request of Abbot. Goad went to the Dort as a Calvinist, but like Hales, he became convinced of Arminianism during the course of the synod. He switched sides and began to defend the Arminians. As a result, he lost much prestige among his colleagues, and his name was omitted (perhaps accidentally) from the acts of the synod. After the synod, Goad returned to his chaplaincy.3

Daniel Tilenus (1563-1633): Tilenus was a Huguenot (French Calvinist). He was a professor at the Presbyterian college of Sedan. He was a staunch Calvinist in his earlier days, but had already embraced the Remonstrants by the time of Dort. Risking his position at Sedan, Tilenus strongly criticized the behavior of the Calvinists at Dort, stating that they treated their Arminian brethren according to "the methods of the Turks"4. As a result of supporting and identifying with Arminians, Tilenus was deposed from his professorship at Sedan. He moved to England at the request of King James, and became a capable defender of Arminian theology.5


(1) The 1917 Harvard Theological Review, Volume 10 Short biography about the life of John Hales.
(2) The Life of John Goodwin by Thomas Jackson, 1872, page 441
(3) Dictionary of National Biography (British) 1885-1900, entry on Thomas Goad
(4) Religious currents and cross-currents: essays on early modern Protestantism, 1999, page 9
(5) Memoirs of Simon Episcopius, By Frederick Calder, 1838, page 456

6 comments:

Jc_Freak: said...

Two things I notice. First, all three of them were foreigners. None of them were actually from the Netherlands. This is quite telling, since those who were part of the Netherlands were there only to defeat Arminianism, not to ascertain the truth. It is also telling that the foreigners who were there primarily to legitimatize the Synod did not quite have that motivation.

The second thing that I noticed was that all three of them ended up in England after the Synod. Perhaps that had some influence on the birth of Methodism.

Kevin Jackson said...

Good points.

William Watson Birch said...

Whoa! I didn't know this! What an awesome find.

The Seeking Disciple said...

Good post. I was briefly aware that some Calvinists did in fact embrace Arminianism (and high price to pay no doubt that I wonder if we would be willing to pay if so confronted by the truth today). Calvinists like to portray the Synod of Dort as the moment when truth reigned, when orthodox Christianity was affirmed, and when Arminius was truly buried. We Arminians see the Synod of Dort as the early roots of the Democrat party where no one is allowed to voice their disapproval of a leader.

Kevin Jackson said...

Billy, I got the idea after seeing the Appendix of The Life of John Goodwin by Thomas Jackson. He has a list of scholars who in his words "enlarged their views of divine philanthropy".

Roy, Dort = Democrats. That is funny. There is a little truth there. :)

B. P. Burnett said...

It's really sad when I hear about how badly the Remonstrant leaders were persecuted, even pysically, some being executed. Christians killing other Christians! I don't think ay Arminain has ever killed a Calvinist becasue f his theology, yet history for Calvinism just seems really dark... And today, we suffer not so much physical persecution as we do professional persecution in the mountain-loads of misrepreentation out there about our theology. It's frustrating!