Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic: Studies Presented to Piet Visser on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday

By Romein, C. Annemieke | The Seventeenth Century, October 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic: Studies Presented to Piet Visser on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday


Romein, C. Annemieke, The Seventeenth Century


Religious minorities and cultural diversity in the Dutch Republic: studies presented to Piet Visser on the occasion of his 65th birthday, edited by August den Hollander, Alex Noord, Mirjam van Veen and Anna Voolstra, Leiden & Boston, Brill, 2014, ix + 286 pp., euro99.00/$128.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-9-004-27326-9

The volume Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic consists of 16 articles to celebrate Professor Piet Visser's 65th birthday. Each of these articles - written by colleagues, friends, and students of Visser - addresses the theme of Anabaptists and/or Mennonites as a religious minority in the Dutch Republic. What the "mentalities, processes, developments and their outcome" (1) of these religious minorities were, has been the focus of Visser's own research and, in its wake, these short studies represent issues of faith, intellectual climate, and politics. The Anabaptists should not be seen as one homogeneous group. Religious strictness varied widely between conservative Mennonites and more liberal "Doopsgezinden" (baptism-minded) believers. The book has been assembled chronologically, though three themes recur throughout the volume: society and intellectual climate in the Dutch Republic, government and politics, and piety literature and Bibles. This review is organised according to these themes.

Society and intellectual climate in the Dutch Republic

The formation of the Mennonite congregation is the focus of both Mary Sprunger's and Anna Voolstra's contributions. Prosopographical research shows that many believers married within the close vicinity of their homes, thus within the networks of their friends and families. These "outsiders" would eventually convert to the Mennonite faith. Voolstra focuses on the voluntary believer's baptism, which was regarded as both an outward sign of rebirth as well as the entry ticket into the congregation. Some congregations inquired into why someone wanted to be baptised and had to approve before the rite was carried out. Douglas Shantz's focus is on the Enlightenment: religion shaped and was reshaped by the Enlightenment. Criticising Jonathan Israel's "Enlightenment Trilogy," he argues that the innovative nature of religion and the research of the past 30 years has been overlooked, as Israel focuses solely on intellectual achievements of the Enlightenment. Religious minorities, such as the Mennonites, maintained their identity as a minority, reaching 7% of the Dutch population at its peak according to Fred van Lieburg. The preachers became better trained and it was not exceptional that Reformed ministers preached to mixed congregations - with Mennonites present - and vice versa. George Harinck's contribution deals with tolerance and the intellectual climate in the works of Henry Elias Dosker (early twentieth century). Dosker's inspiration was led by the "Holland mania," a period known for its increase in studies into Dutch society in general.

Government and politics

Gary Waite addresses the cultural contributions of the nonviolent Mennonites, who faced - nonetheless - persecution and suppression by the civil government that feared another Münster madness. The Anabaptists emphasised high moral standards for their believers, a principle that was later adopted by the Calvinists. The push for religious tolerance came from Anabaptists too, who - despite their persecution - maintained the high moral ground by preaching love for their neighbours. Hans de Waardt focuses on the religious ideas of the Mennonites in cases of prosecution. For if they petitioned and were telling lies, they risked a more severe punishment, but more importantly, they were lying to God. …

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