The Calvinists Who Became Arminians at Dort

, posted by Kevin Jackson

One of the fascinating facts of history is the “conversion” to Arminianism of several of the Calvinists who participated in the proceedings at the Synod of Dort. Below are accounts of three Calvinists, two whom changed their views during the actual proceedings, and one who had already changed his opinion prior.

John Hales (1584-1656): Hales was an English theologian. He was a quiet and gentle man. He was well read, had an excellent memory, and is reported to have had an “exact knowledge of the Greek tongue”.1 For some time he was a professor at the college of Eton, where he taught Greek. He was affectionately referred to as “The Ever Memorable Hales”. During the proceedings at Dort, Hales was a chaplain for Sir Dudley Carlton, the English ambassador to the Netherlands. He attended Dort at the request of Sir Carlton. During Dort, Hales is reported to have “bade John Calvin good night”.2 He became convinced of the merits of Arminianism after hearing Simon Episcopius’ defense of Unlimited Atonement and exposition of John 3:16.

Thomas Goad (1576-1638): Goad was an English clergyman. He was fond of poetry and known for his skill in verse. He was a chaplain for George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury. He was a rector in several locations, and was also precentor (music leader) at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Goad was sent to Dort by King James at the request of Abbot. Goad went to the Dort as a Calvinist, but like Hales, he became convinced of Arminianism during the course of the synod. He switched sides and began to defend the Arminians. As a result, he lost much prestige among his colleagues, and his name was omitted (perhaps accidentally) from the acts of the synod. After the synod, Goad returned to his chaplaincy.3

Daniel Tilenus (1563-1633): Tilenus was a Huguenot (French Calvinist). He was a professor at the Presbyterian college of Sedan. He was a staunch Calvinist in his earlier days, but had already embraced the Remonstrants by the time of Dort. Risking his position at Sedan, Tilenus strongly criticized the behavior of the Calvinists at Dort, stating that they treated their Arminian brethren according to “the methods of the Turks”4. As a result of supporting and identifying with Arminians, Tilenus was deposed from his professorship at Sedan. He moved to England at the request of King James, and became a capable defender of Arminian theology.5

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(1) The 1917 Harvard Theological Review, Volume 10 Short biography about the life of John Hales.
(2) The Life of John Goodwin by Thomas Jackson, 1872, page 441
(3) Dictionary of National Biography (British) 1885-1900, entry on Thomas Goad
(4) Religious currents and cross-currents: essays on early modern Protestantism, 1999, page 9
(5) Memoirs of Simon Episcopius, By Frederick Calder, 1838, page 456