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Converting souls across cultural borders: Dutch Calvinism and early modern missionary enterprises*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2013

Charles H. Parker*
Department of History, 3800 Lindell Blvd, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO 63108, USA E-mail:


This study focuses on disputes among Dutch Calvinists (Reformed Protestants) in Asia and in Europe over how to administer the sacraments of baptism and communion to people with little or no exposure to Protestant Christianity. Historians have tended to view these conflicts as evidence of Calvinist rigidity and the incompatibility between Protestantism and non-European societies. When examined within global patterns of Christianization, however, it becomes clear that Calvinists had much in common with Roman Catholic missionaries in trying to convert people across cultural borders. All missionaries had to negotiate the inherent tensions between accommodation and orthodoxy in early modern missionary programmes. Many Calvinists on the missionary frontier, like their Catholic counterparts, opted for syncretistic strategies over objections from authorities in their religious heartland.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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The author would like to thank Gerrit Schutte, James Tracy, and the editors of this journal for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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