Theological debates in the Netherlands in the Seventeenth century: Minorities and Dissenters under Calvinist Rule
During the "Dutch golden age" of the seventeenth century, the United Provinces of the Netherlands impressed European observers with a religious diversity that contrasted sharply with the regimes of unification imposed elsewhere by contemporary rulers. The country, which had rallied around the Calvinist banner in the rebellion against Spain, progressively admitted other Protestant denominations, as well as refugee communities of Portuguese Jews and Polish Anti-Trinitarians, eventually also its former Catholic enemies. An internal conflict divided the Calvinist mainstream, and circles of unaffiliated Christians emerged, whose members practiced individualistic forms or piety and promoted the new scientific thought of Descartes and Spinoza. The turn from a multi-denominational situation to deconfessionalization, explored in a classic study by Leszek Kołakowski, is of major interest for the history of early modern society, religion, and philosophy. This lecture will characterize the Dutch religious pluralism and ask for its economic motivations, its political frameworks, and its discursive expressions in a flourishing literature of theological controversy.