6.22.2010

JOHN HALES & the Synod of Dort (1618-19)--What Can We Learn From the Synod of Dort in Light of the FV Controversy?

A few years back I found an extremely rare copy of John Hales’ Letters From the Synod of Dort (1688).  John Hales (1584-1656), often called the Ever-Memorable for his Greek lectures at Oxford, became a well-known clergyman and scholar in the mid seventeenth century. He served as a Chaplain for Sir Dudley Carleton and was given the responsibility to observe and record the proceedings at the Synod of Dort. These letters are somewhat scarce, and, to my knowledge, have never been reprinted since the seventeenth century.  Recently, a friend rebound my volume, and for the past few nights I have read well into the night learning things about the Synod of Dort that I never knew. 

What particularly interests me is how difficult it was for the Synod to get to the bottom of the Remonstrant errors.  Charges of schism, disunity, incompetence, conscience wounding, heresy-hunting, over scrupulous dissection of words, misunderstanding et al, were made by the Remonstrants against the Synod of Dort.  Further, it was nearly impossible to get the Remonstrants to cooperate and be honest in declaring what they believed on the certain points in question. Since the Remonstrants would  not cooperate at the Synod, the matter was finally resolved by going to their many teachings, books, and sermons delivered in public forum to discern what they were actually saying. Some of their brief  “statements” set before the Synod were not clear and required further exploration of their views, especially when they refused to be open and honest.  All this to say, there is much more agony we are unaware of that went on behind the scenes to finally produce what we enjoy and know today as the Canons of Dort.

We can learn much from our history. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting many of Hales' letters with some brief annotation to show how heretics and others departing from our confessional Reformed heritage often behave and operate when advancing heterodox views.  I hope to show that the current Federal Vision controversy is a microcosm of the same controversy the Synod of Dort had to face. The Federal Vision is nothing but Arminianism done under the tent of covenant theology.  As many Reformed ecclesiastical bodies are making judgments concerning the FV, they would do well to learn what their Reformed brothers faced at the Synod Dort in dealing with the Remonstrant errors. The tactics, arguments, double-talk, dishonesty, and rancorous rhetoric exposed in Hales' letters are the same problems that we face in our current controversy. 

Most beneficial will be to learn how our faithful brothers at Dort managed to overcome all the pressures and attacks in their defense of the truth, and produce a faithful confession for the churches about what constitutes a true Reformed understanding of the doctrines of grace. 

12 comments:

  1. Do you think there is any chance that some publisher somewhere would want to republish something like Hales' Dort letters?...Especially in light of all the recent ecclesiastical deliberations on the FV in NAPARC denominations and federations?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looking forward to this Chris! Have you seen Godfrey's essay on "John Hales' Good-Night to John Calvin"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great idea, Brad. I will retype set them and modify them a bit. Maybe I should send them off RHB?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Wes, I know of it, but I have not read it. Where is the essay found?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I wonder if that would be something Banner of Truth would be interested in. They republished Calvin's Tracts and Letters... but I don't really have any idea! lol.

    If you made photo copies or scanned parts of the book (if possible) and sent them to me I'd be willing to help you do some of the retype-setting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You know what, I just did a search and some strange outfit republished it this year and will print on demand for around 30.00. So go to www.abebooks.com and type in Golden Remains for the title, and the author as John Hales, and it will pop up.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Chris,

    Bob's essay is in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry

    ReplyDelete
  8. thanks, do I display my embarrassing moment and confess that i actually did read it?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Actually, the Godfrey essay is in Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think I may have found some copies at amazon.com
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1140875353/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&qid=1277309945&sr=1-1&condition=new

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just a clarification - in your intro sentence you state the year as 1688 but that is a typo and we can read that as 1618?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Ian, that is the date of the copy that I have of Hales letters. I believe they were published posthumously.

    ReplyDelete