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This essay traces the evolution of Dutch Calvinists’ attitudes towards Islam in the East Indies. Initially, Calvinists went into the mission field with a dismissive attitude towards Islam, expecting large-scale conversions upon proclaiming the Word of God. After failing to attract a significant number of Muslims, theologians at the universities of Utrecht and Leiden in the mid-1600s undertook comprehensive investigations into Islamic theology in order to better equip pastors overseas. This academic impetus aimed at undermining the authority of the Qur’an through comparative analyses with the Old and New Testaments, which inaugurated a new phase in East Indies missions. To discredit the Qur’an, Calvinist and indigenous linguists worked assiduously to translate biblical texts, culminating in a Malay Bible in 1730. About this time, however, the Calvinist missionary enterprise seemed to run out of steam because of the failure to convert Muslims and because of the VOC’s economic contraction. A number of Calvinist theologians in the Netherlands and pastors in East Asia began to take a rather sympathetic attitude toward Islam, as they regarded religious boundaries as a marker of cultural difference.
The mottled confessional map of Europe at any of the major junctures of the Reformation, say in 1555 or in 1648, hints at the complex tangle of political alliances, military campaigns, and dynastic aspirations that led to Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed territorial holdings. Throughout the course of the Reformation, contingent political and military circumstances established the parameters of religious reform. In the early 1520s, for example, Charles V’s need for support among German princes against enemies foreign and domestic enabled Lutherans to gain traction in Saxony and Hesse. Decades later in the fall of 1588, storms in the North Atlantic blew ships in Spain’s Armada into the coastlines of Scotland and Ireland, helping preserve the Elizabethan settlement in England. And in 1620, the Count of Tilly’s imperial forces overran Bohemian troops at White Mountain, a victory that cleared the way for the recatholicization of Czech lands. Strokes of (mis)fortune at courts, on seaways, and on battlefields such as these carried unforeseen and far-reaching implications for the religious map of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It makes sense, therefore, when considering John Calvin and Calvinism in their fullest contexts to reflect on the conditional political and military incidents that befell the Republic of Geneva in the Reformation period. Calvin’s leadership in propagating his brand of Reformed Protestantism with such vigor and success derived in no small part from the independence Geneva achieved among regional powers.
Judging Faith, Punishing Sin breaks new ground by offering the first comparative treatment of Catholic inquisitions and Calvinist consistories, offering scholars a new framework for analysing religious reform and social discipline in the great Christian age of reformation. Global in scope, both institutions played critical roles in prosecuting deviance, implementing religious uniformity, and promoting moral discipline in the social upheaval of the Reformation. Rooted in local archives and addressing specific themes, the essays survey the state of scholarship and chart directions for future inquiry and, taken as a whole, demonstrate the unique convergence of penitential practice, legal innovation, church authority, and state power, and how these forces transformed Christianity. Bringing together leading scholars across four continents, this volume is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of religion in the early modern world. University students and scholars alike will appreciate its clear introduction to scholarly debates and cutting edge scholarship.