The Synod of Dordt (1618–1619) and a theology of religions
In die Skriflig
Reflections on inter-religious relations are important today within a multi-religious society. Mass migrations, globalisation and post-colonialism brought communities in contact with different religious backgrounds. The year 2019 sees the celebration of the end of the Synod of Dordt. Is there anything emanating from the deliberations at Dordt (1618-1619) that can contribute to interreligious relations today? The Synod of Dordt was held from 13 November 1618 until 09 May 1619 1 in Dordrecht, a
... 1 in Dordrecht, a town in The Netherlands. The purpose of the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church with invitations extended to eight foreign Reformed churches, was to discuss and decide on the theological doctrine of the Arminians. Among the representatives counted Reformed groups from within Europe as well as from the United Kingdom. 2 Representatives from the Anglican as well as the Church of Scotland were present. The outcome of the Synod is presented in what is known as The decisions of the Synod of Dort on the five main points of doctrine in dispute in The Netherlands. 3 The five points referred to comprise of (1) divine election and reprobation; (2) Christ's death and redemption; (3) corrupt human nature; (4) conversion to God; and (5) the perseverance of the saints. These five points are considered to be the cornerstone of Calvinism. This article wants to address, in particular, the way in which the Synod of Dordt contributed to the formation of a theology of religions and especially the role the Dutch theologian, Gijsbertius Voetius, 4 played in creating a theological position on non-Christian religions. Theology of religions is concerned with the theological reflection on the meaning and value of other religions (Kärkkäinen 2003:20). The question addressed here is how the Synod of Dordt influenced a theology of religions (theologia religionum) or, phrased differently, what theology of religions can be discerned from the Synod of Dordt. Is there any indication or implication as to how the Synod of Dordt suggests the relation between Christianity and non-Christian religions ought to be viewed? What implication does this theology of religions have for mission work among non-Christians? The contribution by Voetius, as one of the representatives at the Synod of Dordt, gives direction in understanding mission work among non-Christians. 1.Although some representatives departed on 09 May 1619, the Synod in fact ended on 29 May after completing all administrative matters. 2.These included 25 representatives from England, the Pallatine, Hessen, Genève, Switzerland, Bremen, Emden, Wetterau and Nasau. 3.Also known as the 'Canons of Dordt'. 4.According to scholarly tradition, Voetius changed his original Dutch name of Gijsbert Voet to the Latin form of Gijsbertius Voetius. The Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) addressed particular theological concerns raised in a particular context. The broader context of the Synod needs to be accounted for. During the 16th and 18th century, Roman Catholic and Protestant relations in Europe were strained. During the same period, Christianity and Islam were in conflict. Europe was engaging with foreign cultures and religions exposed through a process of geographical discoveries. Within this context the question arises as to how Christianity relates to non-Christian religions. The contribution by the theologian, Gijsbertius Voetius (1589-1676), in creating a theological position on non-Christian religions is paramount in discerning a theology of religions (theologia religionum). The Synod of Dordt and the contribution of Voetius in creating such a theology of religions will here be the focus of the research. Voetius suggests an openness towards non-Christian religions, as all humans are corrupt in nature and in need of redemption. God elects and saves humans from all humankind.