On November 13, 1618 over a hundred men assembled in Dordtrecht of the Netherlands. Their main purpose was to examine and rebut the heresy of Arminianism. It was called Arminianism because it was linked to one of the men who espoused its doctrines most abundantly, not because it originated with him. Rather Arminianism was merely a restated version of Pelagianism, which had long before been condemned by the church as a heresy. Arminianism was presented as different from the teachings of Pelagius, though in reality it based its teachings from those of Pelagius with very little to distinguish itself as being set apart, merely a re-purposed ideal. After about six months of deliberations and examinations, on May 9th in 1619, the Canons of Dort were born.
Not only are the canons the greatest defense given against Arminianism, they also provide a context and background for the length of time that this controversy was examined. It was not something that was examined lightly and then pushed aside. It was not an issue that these men gathered so that they could figure out how to manipulate the truth. Rather, it was a sacrifice of love for the truth that led these men to examine this issue for such an extended period of time. Men (mostly pastors) were called from most corners of Europe to convene together about this issue. This was not something that these men were able to go home every night, sleep in their own beds, and be with their families. These men sacrificed for half of a year in order to best present the doctrinal position of Scripture in regards to this issue.
Personally, this means a lot. To step away from everything that would be normal, to pray, discuss, even argue the varying issues at stake, would have taken a deep reliance upon God for strength and mercy. Knowing this background is what leads me to so deeply appreciate the work that my 10th great-grandfather (Herman op den Graeff) took part in. He was one of the several delegates to join the synod from Germany. Through his actions and those of his descendants, God worked to preserve the truth of Scripture. Not only through their lives and actions, but through the working of the Spirit in leading several of his descendants to join him in pastoring God's flock.
I do not take pride in my 10th great-grandfather the man, for he would have been the first to proclaim that he on his own was unworthy of any praise. Rather, I take a deep pride in knowing that God has been at work since at least the early 1600's in my family to shine His truth and light to others. I pray that if one day I need to make a sacrifice like Herman did to stand for the truth, that God would give me the strength to do so. The way that America is currently headed, I could see that coming sooner than later.
It is when thinking about my ancestral heritage that I begin to think about one of the biggest issues of our day, the murder of millions of unborn children. I think about Herman and the stance that he made to make sure that the Church understood that all people are born with a sin nature, completely depraved. I think about the fact that so many children have been torn to pieces before they could ever hear the Gospel preached to them. (I do not believe that every child murdered in the womb faces hell and eternal destruction, for God may work in the hearts and minds of anyone of any age.) To think that God still works in these situations amazes me. He takes the hateful, sinful actions of men and uses them for His glory. Thankfully, God is sovereign over all. Not just some, but all.
Even though He uses abortions for His glory, He does not leave those committing the sin of murder unaccountable. For them, there are two options. The first is that they will be held accountable for the life they have taken and will be destroyed for all eternity in hell for what they have done. The second option, is one wherein they receive mercy. Jesus has already paid for their sin and forgiven them, for they are His. These are the only two options that exist. Knowing that Herman helped to preserve this truth brings me joy. Knowing that God is the One to uphold His Word, brings me strength and courage, the same that I believe He gave to Herman. If we are unwilling to stand against sin, then we have failed in the very calling given to us. We cannot make disciples if we are not leading and standing for righteousness. If we back down from the popular opinion, we will abdicate everything that we claim to believe in.
If we look to our past, we can gain great insight into the actions that we should and should not take. I am thankful to God that many of those in my ancestry fall within the 'actions that should be followed' category. Some of the very first and greatest abolitionists in our country are among my family tree, many pastors, city officials, and even royalty. But my family tree is not what gives me faith, or the ultimate example to follow (there are many in my tree that were horrible people). My hope is in Christ alone. This is what Herman and the other men met at Dort to determine and produce. A knowledge that no matter how horrible a person you are, there is hope found at the cross. At the cross one may lay down all of their worthless baggage and kiss the feet of He who was hung for their transgressions. Mankind is evil, by every definition. But we do have hope. However, it is only through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that we find this hope. It can be found by no other means.
Five simple letters. Yet, months were spent to make sure they were formatted correctly to reject and repute the teachings of Pelagius/Arminius. My hope and prayer is that we may find the time and courage through leaning on the Holy Spirit to reject and refute any considerations for the murder of unborn children. I truly believe that it is only when a high view of God is held that we may begin to see real change in our cultures and world. It is when God is seen as Almighty that His Word is seen as valuable. If we do not stand upon His Word, then nothing we do will hold any weight.
Let us have hope in the One who lives. Let us live for the One who suffered. Let us suffer for the One who brings life. And let us bring life to those who are helpless.