When the leading theologians at the Synod of Dordt are spoken of, Pierre Du Moulin’s name is not mentioned. While Du Moulin was not allowed to attend the Synod, God did use him to promote the Canons and to preserve the truth that has been passed to us.
In the early 1600s, the Calvinist-Arminian controversy spread throughout Europe. The controversy was over predestination and related topics, such as free will and the extent of Christ’s atonement. The debate began in the Netherlands as a result of the teachings of Jacob Arminius. After Arminius died, his supporters summarized his views in the Five Articles of the 1610 Remonstrance. These articles were debated throughout Europe in the following decade.
Questions about Arminianism soon came to Pierre Du Moulin (1568-1658), pastor of the Reformed Church of Paris. Du Moulin was a recognized leader of the French Reformed churches, and he stood against Arminianism. In several letters written from 1615-1618, he argued that the Arminians made election dependent on the will of man, destroyed God’s grace, exalted man, and took away the certainty of salvation While his letters condemned Arminianism, he did show weaknesses theologically. Du Moulin taught that the cause of God’s decree of reprobation is sin, when in reality the cause of His decree of reprobation is His sovereign good pleasure. Also, Du Moulin disliked the language of irresistible grace that many Reformers used. He believed that the elect could resist grace for a time, but eventually they would relent.1 Last, Du Moulin was weak on the doctrine of limited atonement, arguing that those who taught a universal atonement spoke some truth and could be reconciled with those who taught that Christ died for the elect alone.
In 1618, the States General of the Netherlands sent letters to the government leaders of several European countries, including France, inviting them to send Reformed theologians to help the upcoming synod at Dordt deal with the Arminian crisis. A Synod of Reformed churches in France chose Du Moulin as a delegate. However, King Louis XIII, a Catholic, would not allow it and threatened execution for disobedience.
Since Du Moulin could not attend the synod, he sent a 16-page statement explaining his views of Arminianism. 2 It is not certain how much influence this had on the Canons. The statement was publicly read on the floor of the synod on April 27, 1619. Afterwards, the synod expressed thanks for Du Moulin’s careful work and for his agreement with them in doctrine.3 However, this was after the Canons had been written the previous month and approved on April 23. Since Du Moulin originally forwarded his statement to Jean Diodati, a delegate from Geneva who was on the drafting committee of the Canons, it is possible that Du Moulin’s statement was consulted while they were writing.4
At the first national synod of the Reformed churches in France after the Synod of Dordt, Du Moulin led the French Reformed churches to adopt the Canons as a confessional standard. The pastors and elders in the churches were to remain faithful to the Canons, and would be disciplined if they departed. The French Reformed churches were the only churches outside the Netherlands to adopt the Canons.5
It is clear that God wisely controlled Du Moulin’s life and the church of his day, causing all things to work for the good of His people. The Lord kept Du Moulin from attending the Synod of Dordt and kept his doctrinal weaknesses out of the Canons. While Du Moulin had weaknesses, we are thankful for his work in promoting and defending the Canons, and leading the churches in France to adopt the Canons. God used him for the good of His children in France, some of whom are our ancestors.
1 Donald Sinnema, “The French Reformed Churches, Arminianism, and the Synod of Dort (1618-1619),” in The Theology of the French Reformed Churches: From Henri IV to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, ed. Martin I. Klauber (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), 135-136.
2 Sinnema, 113-114.
3 Sinnema, 113.
4 Sinnema, 114.
5 Sinnema, 134.