Question: "What are the Five Articles of Remonstrance?"
Answer: The Five Articles of Remonstrance are five points of Arminian theology written in 1610 by followers of Jacobus Arminius (1560—1609) outlining their disagreement with five key doctrines of Calvinism. The Five Articles of Remonstrance became a source of much controversy in the early Dutch Reformed Church of the Netherlands.
Remonstrants is the formal name given to adherents of Arminius (Jakob Hermandszoon in Dutch) who protested to the State of Holland in opposition to their Calvinist rivals. The term remonstrate means “to make a forceful, reproachful protest.”
After Arminius died in 1609, believers who shared his convictions came together in January 1610 to put down in writing their views concerning all the disputed doctrines. A document in the form of a remonstrance was drawn up by Jan Uytenbogaert, a leader of the Remonstrants and close friend of Arminius. It was signed by more than forty of Arminius’s followers.
The five articles were taken from the work of Arminius in his Declaratio Sententiae (1608). They briefly defined the Remonstrants’ doctrine and set the agenda for the resulting controversies. With only a few changes, the Five Articles of Remonstrance (also referred to as the Five Articles of Arminianism) were signed again and presented in July 1610 to the State of Holland as a plea for greater theological tolerance.
The Five Articles of Remonstrance heartily rejected Calvinistic positions, declaring that they were not contained in God’s Word or the Heidelberg Catechism. The Synod of Dort in 1619 deemed the five articles to be unedifying, dangerous, and not fit for preaching to Christian people. The points of protest are as follows:
Conditional predestination: Arminius taught that God elects individuals to salvation based on His foreknowledge of those who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ and persevere in faith. This doctrine is sometimes called “conditional election.” In short, a person’s salvation is conditioned upon him or her choosing God. This first article refuted the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election, the view that God elects individuals to salvation based solely on His will and not on anything inherently worthy in the individual or any choice that he or she makes.
Universal, unlimited atonement: Arminian theology teaches that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for the sins of every person in the world. His saving grace is extended to all, but His atoning death becomes effective only in those who believe in Him and receive Him by faith. Calvinists believe in limited atonement—that Christ’s death only covered the sins of the elect.
Total depravity, or deprivation: The classic Arminian position is that “man has not saving grace of himself.” Salvation is by grace alone. Humans are incapable of exercising saving faith apart from God’s grace. This view did not diverge significantly from the Calvinist position of total depravity.
Grace is necessary but resistible: Arminianism rejects the Calvinist belief in irresistible grace, teaching instead that people have the free will to resist the grace of God and reject His call to salvation. The Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace contends that, when God calls a person to salvation, he or she will inevitably be saved.
The possibility of falling from grace: In this fifth article, the Remonstrants did not utterly reject the idea of eternal security but admitted the need for further study, although it was later adopted as an established doctrine. Calvinists hold firmly to belief in the perseverance of the saints, meaning a person who is elected by God will continue in faith and will not permanently deny Christ or turn away from Him. The Remonstrants affirmed that believers are empowered to live a victorious life but also conceded the possibility that a person might exercise his or her own free will to turn away from Christ and lose salvation.
The conflict caused by the Five Articles of Remonstrance escalated with a counter-remonstrance in which the Remonstrants’ views were sharply attacked. Eventually, under Prince Maurice of Orange at the National Synod of Dordt in 1618—1619, the Five Articles of Remonstrance were officially condemned by the Canons of Dordt, and the Remonstrants were denounced as heretics.
For the next decade or so, the Remonstrants were prohibited from holding church services in the Netherlands. Those who did not comply were persecuted, imprisoned, or banished. With the arrival of Prince Frederick Henry after the death of Prince Maurice in 1625, the Remonstrants’ outlook began to improve. They could now build churches in the Netherlands and receive their banished preachers home again. But they were only tolerated and not officially recognized as an independent church community until after the revolution of 1795 when the church and state were separated in the Netherlands.