In The Remonstrance and in some later writings, the Arminians published an alternative to the Calvinist doctrine of the Belgic Confession on several points of difference. They taught election on the basis of foreseen faith, a universal atonement, resistible grace, and the possibility of lapse from grace. Simon Episcopius (1583–1643) was spokesman of the 13 representatives of the Remonstrants who were summoned before the Synod in 1618.
"Episcopius was their chief speaker; and with great art and address did he manage their cause. He insisted on being permitted to begin with a refutation of the Calvinistic doctrines, especially that of reprobation, hoping that, by placing his objections to this doctrine in front of all the rest, he might excite such prejudice against the other articles of the system, as to secure the popular voice in his favor. The Synod, however, very properly, reminded him, that they had not convened for the purpose of trying the Confession of Faith of the Belgic Churches, which had been long established and well known; but that, as the Remonstrants were accused of departing from the Reformed faith, they were bound first to justify themselves, by giving Scriptural proof in support of their opinions. The Arminians would not submit to this plan of procedure because it destroyed their whole scheme of argument. However, the Synod firmly refused to make any concessions on this point of order. Day after day they were reasoned with and urged to come and scripturally defend their published doctrines. . . The Arminians would not submit to this course and were thus compelled to withdraw. Upon their departure, the Synod proceeded without them.
The Synod concluded with a rejection of these views, and set forth the Reformed doctrine on each point, namely: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. These are sometimes referred to as the Five points of Calvinism and remembered by many using the mnemonic "TULIP".
The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands, popularly known as the Canons of Dort, is the explanation of the judicial decision of the Synod. In the original preface, the Decision is called a
judgment, in which both, the true view agreeing with God's word concerning the aforesaid five points of doctrine is explained and, the false view disagreeing with God's Word is rejected.
The Canons are not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of Reformed doctrine, but only an exposition on the five points of doctrine in dispute.
The acts of the Synod were tied to political intrigues that arose during the twelve year truce in the Dutch war with Spain. The Synod condemned the religious doctrine of Arminianism as heresy, which anticipated the political condemnation of the very highly respected and influential statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt who had been the protector of the Arminian Remonstrants. For the crime of general perturbation in the state of the nation, both in Church and State (treason), he was beheaded on 13 May 1619, only four days after the final meeting of the Synod. He is considered, also by the Calvinists, to be one of the greatest men in the history of the Netherlands. Also lost to the nation as a consequence of the Arminian defeat, was the brilliant jurist Hugo Grotius, who was a supporter of the Remonstrants' rights leading up to the Synod. Grotius was given a life sentence in prison, but escaped with the help of his wife. Both Van Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius had been imprisoned since 29 August 1618. Arminian theology later received official toleration by the State and has since continued in various forms within Protestantism.