Arminius Jacob Arminius During the seventeenth century, the Calvinist or Reformed tradition within Protestantism defined and determined what it would henceforth consider orthodox theology. A well-respected Dutch pastor named Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) was the lightning rod of controversy that helped to generate this movement. Arminius was a Calvinist of impeccable credentials. He had traveled to Geneva to study with Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza. When he returned to Holland, he enjoyed a wide and favorable reputation. He was asked to refute the teaching of Dirck Koonhert, a Dutch
Calvinist who had questioned Calvin’s view of election. After careful study of scripture and the writings of Koonhert, Arminius surprised everyone by declaring he thought Koonhert was right. Because Arminius was a professor at the University of Leiden, his opions were open to public debate. He did not reject predestination; instead he questioned its basis. Although he remained solidly Calvinist in nearly every other way, Arminius had come to the conclusion that predestination takes place on the basis of God’s foreknowledge of who will later have faith in Christ and who will not.
This position seems to presume human beings have free will. Francis Gomarus, another professor at Leiden, led his opponents, claiming to be true Calvinists. Gomarus insisted God simply predestines all as an expression of his sovereign will. The controversy quickly assumed political overtones, as Arminius also believed that the state ought to have greater control over ecclesiastical matters than Calvin had allowed. Arminius died in 1609, and in 1610 his followers issued a document known as a Remonstrance outlining their position. For this reason they are often called “Remonstrants. “