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This chapter investigates Grotius’s broader intellectual involvement with the doctrine of predestination. Grotius deliberately renounced the religious importance of predestination as he called for religious concord in a time of fierce inter-confessional strife in the United Provinces - an endeavour that almost cost him his life. Considering his abhorrence for religious dogmas about divine predestination and human free will, two of his writings, Meletius and Ordinum pietas, display a remarkable restraint on Grotius’s part on the matter. Social and political order was not to be found in unrelenting dogmatic questions of certainty about what Grotius’s viewed as theologically non-essential religious principles. Rather it required a commitment to religious toleration. This chapter argues that Grotius’s involvement in the Dutch predestination debates reveals important philosophical connections between his religious and political ideas and allows for further explication of two central aspects of Grotius’s political theory: natural sociability and the impious hypothesis. From a careful contextualisation of predestination in Grotius’s religious oeuvre, emerges an account of socialisation independent of the predestination question, and establishes the infamous ‘etiamsi daremus’ statement as an obligation device that served his pursuit for religious and political accord.
The first principles behind the developmental idea are linear time, interiority and staged structure. ‘Development’ is one particular historical way of conceptualizing the primary principle of change; in it, human time is an attempt at successful ‘recapitulation’ (a term that would reappear with modern developmental psychology’s founder, G. Stanley Hall) of Adam’s initial failure. In monotheism, time constructs interiority as permanence, ‘the mind’, in contrast with the temporary visitations of pagan or shamanic religion. Medieval psychology saw a proliferation of its ‘faculties’ (memory, imagination, judgement) and ‘operations’ (abstraction, attention, consciousness, logical reasoning, information-processing), which penetrated both the monastic and the humanist idea of the individual. Augustine’s ‘six ages’ of man gave the lifespan a fixed structure. Following the Reformation, change in the elect minority was seen either as instantaneous or as a stadial sequence: Jansenists and Calvinists on the one hand, Jesuits and Arminians on the other, disputed the function of human agency in relation to divine determinism.
This contribution examines an important triangulation in the thought of Hugo Grotius, or Hugo de Groot (1583–1645): his biblically based effort to redefine private property; a Remonstrant (or Arminian) theological framework for his definition of the free-willing and rational individual who could choose good or evil, as well as punish evil in others; and his work for the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which in many ways framed all that he wrote. Through these three items, Grotius developed an initial framework for international law, especially the ideology of “freedom of the seas,” or what is now called “freedom of navigation.” The question that arises through this analysis is whether the universal category of “freedom of the seas” as well as his idea of human nature are vitiated by the specific context in which they arose and the interests they served, or whether one can indeed develop universals, recognized by others, from specific contexts.
Whereas John Locke (1632–1704) is best known for his "way of ideas" and political theory, he was also a skilled theologian. His theological concerns, interests, and ideas permeate his philosophical, political, and moral thought. Locke’s oeuvre in its different areas is indeed the production of a Christian philosopher. But Locke’s religious views are significant for yet another reason, in that his theological reflections resulted in a unique version of Christianity. Although Locke expounded his religious views in an unsystematic manner, given also his dislike of systems of doctrine and his hostility to claims of religious orthodoxy, an original and internally coherent form of Protestant Christianity emerges from his public as well as private writings. Locke's version of Christianity denotes various similarities with heterodox theological currents such as Socinianism and Arminianism, which Locke knew well. Nonetheless, Locke adhered to the Protestant doctrine of "sola Scriptura," according to which the Scriptures contain all that is needed for salvation. Thus, he always made sure that his conclusions were consistent with, and indeed grounded in, Scripture.
In "The Reasonableness of Christianity," Locke aimed to promote the practice of morality and the development of moral character through a Scripture-based theological ethics. He claimed that his account of Christianity was based on Scripture alone, which he regarded as an authoritative source of historical and eschatological truth entailing moral principles. However, his writings on religion denote many similarities with Socinianism and Arminianism. He adopted Socinus’s proof of scriptural authority, highlighting the excellence of Christ’s moral precepts, insisting on the fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophecies in the New Testament, and describing Christ’s miracles as confirming his Messianic mission. This proof enabled Locke to develop a historical method of biblical interpretation, which, stressing the internal consistency of the Bible, considered the biblical texts in relation to both their respective historical contexts and the biblical discourse as a whole. In reading Scripture, he followed the Protestant tradition of the way of fundamentals, but he formulated an original doctrine of the fundamentals of Christianity – that is, repentance, obedience, and faith.
Writing on the religious culture of the early modern Dutch Republic, the eminent historian Johan Huizinga once observed, “The foreigner who wishes to understand our history begins with the assumption that the Republic was indisputably a Calvinist state and a Calvinist land.” To this Huizinga, a Groninger with Mennonite antecedents, wryly rejoined, “We Dutch know better.”1 Indeed, although in the popular imagination Calvinism and the Netherlands are virtually synonymous, the actual history of this relationship is, of course, far more complicated. In the Netherlandish context John Calvin, or rather the religious movement his ideas helped to inspire, had to compete with a wide variety of other equally zealous and committed groups intent on religious reform. Although Calvinism would “win” the Reformation in the Netherlands by becoming the only publicly sanctioned religion of the independent Dutch state, it would also have to coexist with a wide variety of religious movements and sects throughout its history. The Dutch Republic was not Calvinist, but Calvinist and pluralist.
Calvin’s legacy from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries is not monolithic. His is a multifarious legacy, perhaps fitting for a towering figure whose life and writings exhibit such a breadth of interest and talent. The complexity also reflects the fact that, beginning with his contemporaries and continuing through the subsequent centuries, supporters and opponents alike have had their way with Calvin, and they have done so in a variety of times and places. This brief essay can only scratch the surface and address some of the highlights of Calvin’s reception during these three centuries, with a few opinions cited along the way.