Held from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619 in Dordrecht, Holland, the Synod of Dort was called in order to respond to the established Christian Church's latest problem--the so-called Arminian heresy.
A student of John Calvin's successors, Jacob van Hermanns (aka James Arminius) was perpetuating the heresy in Holland's Reformed Churches, banging an ever-increasing dent into Reformed Protestant business. He split from the Reformed folks and set up his own theology, a compromise of sorts that had the potential to damage the popularity of the Church and really confuse the hell out of absolutely everybody.
It stated, among other things, that man was only partially sinful, instead of totally depraved, and that he could by his own free will resist Divine Grace. But then, it also stated that salvation was based upon man's foreseen faith, and that God could give it to you, then tap you on the shoulder and snatch it back while you were looking in the other direction. The movement, if it didn't put Man back in the driver's seat, certainly let him steer while God worked the gas and brakes. The teachings came to be known as "The Five Points of the Remonstrance," and the Reformed Church was none too pleased by them--if it was up to an individual whether or not he would be saved, then why on Earth did he need a Priest?
Not to be undone, the Reformed Church soon whipped itself up the "Counter-Remonstrants," and met the splitters for a sit-down and discussion, during which neither group would give an inch. The result was the calling of the International Synod, which at the end of the day boiled down Calvinsim to five points--a popular number.
They are as follows:
- Total Depravity--Original Sin, baby. You bit it, you bought it.
- Unconditional Election--Some are destined for Salvation, others are just screwed. Either way, there are no strings attached, and it's all predetermined.
- Limited Atonement--Christ died only for the sins of the Elect, not the damned, so that bumpersticker you keep seeing may not necessarily apply to you.
- Irresistible Grace--God makes you an offer you can't refuse. Salvation is yours to keep, whether you want it or not.
- Persistence of the Saints--No repossession of Grace. Even if you don't keep up your payments.
Puritan, Calvinist, whatever you were, you could always remember the points by stringing together the first letters of each point--TULIP. Fitting, since the whole thing took place in Holland. With these points, the Synod of Dort effectively created a stringent, Internationally founded, Church-mandated definition of Calvinism. What this did for its long-term popularity can perhaps be best judged by how many Calvinists you've met in your lifetime.