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RELIGIONIS CAUSA: Moral Theology and the Concept of Holy War in the Dutch Republic

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The claim is widespread that the preservation, or reintroduction, of Western traditions of holy war in the post-Reformation period was due mostly to Protestantism, especially in its Calvinist variety. This paper makes a case for examining the thought of a much broader selection of minor intellectuals on just and holy war than is usually done, and to do so in other national contexts than exclusively the English Puritan one. To test the apparently widespread view that, historically, Calvinism has had a particular proclivity for holy war, the article treats theological justifications of war in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch moral theology. Showing that a full-blown concept of “holy war” was largely absent from Dutch theological thought, it falsifies the assumption that historical Calvinism (or Protestantism in general) is inherently belligerent. The paper demonstrates that justifications of violence religionis causa and ideological motives for war have always been contingent, not on religions, but on the historical contexts in which those religions operate.
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Keywords: Calvinism; Dutch Republic; Netherlands; holy war; just war; moral theology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: YU University Amsterdam

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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