Back to OWR Homepage Back to Christianity Flowchart

Back to
Continental European Protestantism

The Reformed Church in the Netherlands

Doctrines The doctrines of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands are encapsualted in the following articles of faith: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Dutch Confession of Faith (Confessio Belgica), and the Canons of Dordt. The Heidelberg Catechism consists of a confession of 129 questions on all the essential aspects of Christian doctrine. The Dutch Confession of Faith consists of 37 articles which deal with the fundamental aspects of the Christian faith such as the nature of God, the Bible, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, original sin, election, the incarnation, and the sacraments. The Canons of Dordt are a statement of faith produced by the Synod of Dordt held in 1618-19 in the Netherlands. These affirm the following points:
  1. the complete depravity of humanity;
  2. unconditional election;
  3. limited atonement;
  4. irresistible grace;
  5. perseverance of the saints.
This is essentially a restatement of the Calvinist position: that God has predestined who will and who will not be saved and, therefore, people cannot contribute to their own salvation.

History When the reformation arrived in Holland in the 1520s the region was under the control of the Spanish Catholic emperor Charles V. Consequently the reformers had to struggle against a monarch prepared to use the most brutal form of repression in order to impede the spread of Protestantism. This repression came to an end following the independence of the Netherlands from Spain in 1581.
In the 17th century a major dispute arose over the doctrine of predestination. Jacobus Arminius, a professor of theology at Leiden University, rejected the strict Calvinist doctrine of predestination that God has decreed who is elect and who is reprobate. Arminius argued that human free will is compatible with God's full sovereignty and that God's grace is available through Christ to all people. Arminius' theology (or Arminianism as it came to be known) was challenged by another Dutch theologian called Franciscus Gomarus (1563-1641). In order resolve the dispute, the Synod of Dordt was convened. This synod condemned the theology of the followers of Arminius and put forward an interpretation of the doctrine of predestination which affirmed the complete dependence of people on God's irresistible grace for salvation. The documents which derive from this synod are known as the Canons of Dordt.
In 1798 the Dutch Reformed Church was disestablished, and in 1816 it was renamed the Reformed Church in the Netherlands. The 19th century saw a number of schisms in the Reformed Church in the Netherlands over issues relating to theology. In 1839 the Christian Reformed Church was formed and in 1889 the Reformed Church came into existence. In spite of these schisms the Reformed Church in the Netherlands continued to be the dominant Protestant tradition within the country.


Adherents The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands have 763,000 members (Europa Publications Ltd. II 1997, 2384).

Main Centre
 Burg de Beaufortweg 18, POB 202, 3830 AE Leusden, the Netherlands.