The Remonstrants are a Protestant denomination in the Netherlands, founded in 1619. Soon after Calvinism had become predominant in the Netherlands, divergent views on a number of doctrines became apparent among the theologians within the Reformed Church. Particularly the doctrine of predestination as taught by Calvin became a point of controversy. Shortly after 1600 this dogmatic quarrel became very violent. Franciscus Gomarus, a professor at the University of Leiden, defended the doctrine of predestination to its utmost consequences, whereas Jacobus Arminius, of the same university, championed a rather moderate view. In 1610 the followers of Arminius, who had died in 1609, addressed a petition to the Dutch government, which formulated "five articles of remonstrance." Hence the moderate Calvinists were called Remonstrants. At first they were also called Arminians (after Jacobus Arminius), but this name soon disappeared in the Netherlands. Outside the Netherlands Remonstrantism is generally known as Arminianism.
The national Dutch Reformed synod held at Dordrecht in 1618-1619 had to discuss and come to a decision in this matter. But the synod, composed of opponents of Arminius' views and presided over by the strict Calvinist Johannes Bogerman, hardly permitted the Remonstrants to defend their opinions, dismissed the Remonstrants, and condemned their teachings. Two hundred Reformed preachers who embraced the Arminian views were deposed. Only a few of them were willing to submit to the resolutions of the synod. Most of the others went into exile, particularly to Antwerp, and as early as 1619 they organized the "Remonstrant Reformed Brotherhood," which has remained the official name. Soon some of the exiled pastors clandestinely returned to Holland and organized Remonstrant congregations. Notwithstanding the opposition and obstruction of the Reformed Church, they indeed succeeded in building up a number of congregations, particularly in the province of South Holland. Outstanding leaders in this first period were Simon Episcopius (Bisschop) (1583-1643), theological professor at the Leiden University in 1612-1619, later professor in the Remonstrant seminary, who was the great leader, and Johannes Uytenboogaert (1557-1644).
In the course of time the Remonstrants were tolerated; in 1630 they were allowed to build a (hidden) church in Amsterdam, in 1632 in Rotterdam. In 1634 they founded a seminary at Amsterdam for the training of preachers (this seminary was moved to Leiden in 1872).
The Remonstrant Church has remained limited to the Netherlands; there is only one foreign congregation, i.e., Friedrichstadt in Holstein, Germany. About 1750 they had 34 congregations in the Netherlands with a total membership of about 3,000. In 1956 these figures were 34 congregations and nine circles (Kringen), with 21,000 members.
The Remonstrants, whose teachings have been influential far beyond the Dutch borders (see Arminianism), always have been moderate in their views as to basic Christian theology. In the 19th century the whole Remonstrant brotherhood adopted theological liberalism (modernism). Among its leaders in this period there were outstanding liberal theologians, such as H. C. Rogge, C. P. Tide, and J. A. Beyerman. Their appeal for liberal Christianity caused a considerable increase in their membership about 1860, since many members of the Reformed Church, dissatisfied with the conservative orthodoxy in their church, joined the Remonstrants.
There have been rather close ties between the Mennonites and the Remonstrants. During the first years of their existence Remonstrant congregations often used the confession of faith of the Waterlander elder Hans de Ries. At the rise of Remonstrantism the Mennonites generally sympathized with these fellow Christians who were likewise oppressed by the Reformed state church and the government. Both the Mennonites and the Remonstrants objected to Calvinist dogmatism. S. F. Rues, who visited the Netherlands in 1741, was of the opinion that there was not much difference between the Remonstrants and the Lamist (more liberal) Mennonites; hence he called the Lamists "Remonstrantsche Doopsgezinden" (Remonstrant Mennonites). Mennonites and Remonstrants met each other regularly in the meetings of the Collegiants. Some of both groups believed that their churches were rather similar in views and doctrines; for this reason attempts were made to merge; in 1658 and in 1669-1670 a merger of the Waterlander Mennonite congregation at Rotterdam and the Remonstrant church was planned, but for some reason the union was not achieved. Only in a much later period at Dokkum in Friesland did the Remonstrant and Mennonite congregations merge, in 1796; the names Remonstrant and Mennonite were dropped and the new congregation henceforth was called the "United Christian Church."
Church letters were given when Mennonites wished to join the Remonstrant congregation, and many Mennonites who lived in places where there was no Mennonite church became (often temporarily) members of the Remonstrant church. The reverse happened less frequently, obviously because the Mennonite congregations were more "closed" than those of the Remonstrants, although many Remonstrants worshiped with the Mennonites and (in Lamist congregations) participated in their communion services.
During 1706-1735 a number of Mennonites were educated for the ministry in the Remonstrant theological seminary, but then the differences immediately became clear. The Remonstrants maintained infant baptism, rejected by the Mennonites. Besides this, the Mennonites objected to Remonstrant theology and usually opposed any kind of theological system.
During 1731-1806 the Remonstrants and the Mennonites together published the Naamlijst, a booklet, containing a list of congregations with their pastors, appearing at first irregularly, later annually.
During World War II there was a movement among some of the Remonstrant and Mennonite pastors toward a general union of the two churches, but especially the Mennonites questioned the desirability of such a step, and the discussion was not continued.
In the mid-20th century there was among some Remonstrant leaders an orientation toward the Dutch Reformed Church, and a few wished to guide their flock back to the old church from which they were expelled some three and a half centuries earlier.
Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 364-66.
De Remonstranten, een Gedenkboek. Leiden, 1919. (Memorial Book).
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1875): 87; (1880): 64 f.; (1901): 33; (1918): 70-74.
Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1850): 90-92, 109, 111.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 467.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. 2 v. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884. II, Nos. 2884-91.
Rues, S. F. Tegenwoordige Staet der Doopsgezinden. Amsterdam, 1745: 82.
Sepp, Christian. Johannes Stinstra en zijn tijd. Amsterdam, 1865: I, 200.
van Aken, Lucie J. N. K. De Remonstrantsche Broederschap in verleden en heden. Arnhem, 1947.
Vos, Karel. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinde gemeente ie Rotterdam. (reprint) Rotterdam, 1907: 23 f.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 296-297. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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