In 1618-19, delegates from the Netherlands and eight other countries met over a period of several months in the great Synod of Dort and produced the Canons of Dort. These statements of doctrine adopted by the synod addressed the Arminian controversy in the Dutch churches.
The year 2018 will mark the 400th anniversary of that significant time in Reformed church history and the completion of a significant project, led in part by Dr. Donald Sinnema, professor of theology at Trinity.
“The Canons of Dort is one of the foundational documents of our religious perspective,” said Sinnema, an internationally recognized scholar on the canons.
He serves as one of three general editors overseeing scholars from around the world on the six-year international project to publish a critical edition of all the existing documents of the synod into one multi-volume series.
The project is funded by the Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek, in Emden, Germany, along with other research institutions, and is directed by Herman Selderhuis, historian and curator at the library. The third editor is Christian Moser, a Swiss scholar. The idea for the effort was born at a 2009 conference in Dordrecht where Sinnema began discussions with fellow scholars on a potential way to observe the 400th anniversary.
Sinnema has spent decades studying the synod, including original documents hidden away in archives throughout Europe, often for hundreds of years. Reminiscent of some kind of Reformed archaeologist, the professor discovered 20 lost-to-the-world manuscript volumes last summer in a library in Zurich, where the first organizational meeting for the project was being held. A summer research grant from Trinity enabled the professor to draw up an inventory of the available documents, most in Latin.
“I felt exuberant about the discovery, especially about the original documents,” said Sinnema. “They included a rare working copy of the drafts of the canons.”
He attended a second meeting in Emden during Trinity’s January 2012 Interim. Sinnema estimates the total number of manuscript pages, including copies, to be 14,000. The pages will be transcribed and edited into eight volumes of approximately 500-1000 pages each. A number of scholars, including Trinity Professor of Theology Yudha Thianto, have been recruited to edit individual documents.
Responsible for the first volume, Sinnema anticipates publication in 2013, with publication of the entire series in 2018. The volumes, published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, will be available to various academic libraries and scholars.
Sinnema has taught theology at Trinity since 1987, and his understanding of and support for Reformed Christian higher education permeate his scholarship. He will retire in May from Trinity and will be honored with emeritus status at the 2012 Commencement ceremony for traditional graduates. The Don Sinnema Honorary Research Scholarship has been established for senior theology or church ministry leadership majors. Contributions to the scholarship can be made by contacting Trinity’s Development office at 708.239.4806.
Sinnema earned a master’s in philosophical theology at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, Canada, and a Ph.D. in historical theology from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. He has published scores of academic papers on the Synod of Dort, John Calvin, and other subjects relating to Reformed theology. In coordination with the 50th anniversary of Trinity, he wrote If We Begin with Christ, the Founding of Trinity Christian College, 1952-1960.