The Arminian Remonstrants summed up their doubts [i.e. concerning the purported teachings of John Calvin by Theodore Beza, et al] in five points. The Dutch church hosted the Synod of Dort, a gathering of the leaders of Europe’s Reformed churches, which answered each point…These became known as the “five points of Calvinism.”1
Wills then writes, “Arminianism did not prosper in the Netherlands but attracted many followers in England and America.”
So far so good.
While what Wills writes about the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) is generally true, the impression he surely leaves upon the reader by what he doesn’t write or qualify seems grossly unfair and perhaps even a bit irresponsible.
Yes, it’s true Arminianism did not prosper in the Netherlands (at least immediately after Dort). But Wills fails to hint as to perhaps the main reason why that may have been the case. As a result of what famed historian, Phillip Schaff, indicated was a rigged outcome against the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dort (“the fate of the Arminians was decided beforehand”), approximately two hundred ministers were defrocked from the ministry with at least eighty being either thrown in prison or banished from Holland. Government officials, Van Olden Barneveldt and Hugo Grotius were arrested for collaborating with heretics, the former beheaded at The Hague soon after the Dort synod was dismissed, while the latter presumably escaped a similar fate by first escaping jail.2
Given these ignored facts, one can surely understand better why Arminianism did not prosper in the Netherlands after the Synod of Dort. Arminianism was condemned as heresy, and consequently a capital offense for embracing it.
1Wills, G.A. Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900. Oxford University Press, USA. 2003:102-103
2Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878), 514.