Calvinism and Mennonitism (Netherlands)

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Calvinism and Mennonitism, although agreed in rejecting the Roman Catholic doctrines of the church, the hierarchy, and the sacraments, and in accepting the Bible as the only source of doctrine, differ significantly both in doctrines and in polity. In the past there have been many conflicts between Calvinists and Mennonites. Calvinists, formerly very staunch in their opinion that Calvinism is the only true form of Christianity, often despised and even persecuted non-Calvinists, although with the exception of Michael Servetus they did not put their antagonists to death.

In the Palatinate and in the duchy of Jülich, Germany, Mennonites sometimes were forced by Calvinistic rulers to leave the country, but it was especially in the Netherlands that Calvinism and Mennonitism collided and struggled for centuries.

The main controversial issues from the side of Calvinism (see also Calvin) were: rejection of infant baptism, non-swearing of oaths, refusal to bear arms, refusal to serve in governmental offices, and the practice of avoidance. Occasionally the Mennonites were also charged with false doctrines such as unorthodoxy in regard to the Trinity, and denial of the deity of Christ and the atonement.

Calvinism attacked Mennonitism particularly in four ways:

  1. Recommending that Reformed ministers enter the Mennonite meetinghouses to refute the preachers and "to convince them of their false teachings." This advice was already given by one of the first Reformed synods, held in 1574 at Dordrecht. It was followed, among others, by Ruardus Acronius, who in 1594 broke into a Mennonite meeting near Leeuwarden, interrupted the preacher, and violently attacked the Mennonite principles. But this method of fighting the Mennonites proved to be very unsuccessful and was soon abandoned.
  2. Organizing public disputations. The most important of these debates were those of Frankenthal in 1571 and Emden in 1578, and that at Leeuwarden in 1596 between the aforementioned Reformed minister Ruardus Acronius and the Mennonite preacher Pieter van Ceulen.
  3. Combating the Mennonites in writing. Numerous polemic books were published by Calvinistic theologians against Anabaptists and Mennonites. We mention only a few: Guy de Eres, La racine, source et fondement des Anabaptistes (1565), with Dutch translation: Den Wortel, oorspronck ende het fundament der Wederdoperen (1570, reprint 1589, 1608); Jean Taffin (translated from the French), Onderwijsinghe teghen de dwalinghen der Wederdoopers, 1590; Marnix van St-Aldegonde, Ondersoeckinge ende grondelyc\e weder-legginghe der geestdrijversche Leere (1595), in which the author insists on capital punishment of the Mennonites; H. Faukelius, Babel, dat is de Ver-werringhe der "Wederdooperen onder malkanderen (1621 and reprint, no date of publication indicated); A. Doreslaer and P. Austro-Sylvius, Grondige ende klare vertooninghe van het onderscheydt in de voornaemste hooft-stucken der christelijcken religie tusschen de Gereformeerden ende de Wederdooperen (1637, reprinted 1649); P. Bontemps, Bewijs van de menighvuldighe doolingen van de Wederdoopers often Mennisten (1641, reprinted 1653, 1661); F. Spanhemius Sr., Variae Disputationes Anti-Anabaptisticae (1643); idem, Controversiarum de Religione Elenchus (1694); Joh. Ploornbeek, Summa Controversiarum Religionis (1653); Chr. Schotanus, Van de gronden der Mennisterij (1671); F. Spanhemius Jr., Controversiarum de Religione (1757). Mennonites defended themselves against these attacks. The most notable Mennonite replies are: Claes Claesz, Bekentenisse van de voornaemste Stucken des Christelijcken Gheloofs (1624, reprinted 1650); Anthoni Jacobsz Roscius, Babel, d.i. Verwerringe der Kinderdooperen onder malcanderen (1626); E. A. van Dooregeest, Brief aan den Heer F. Spanhemius (1693, reprinted 1693, 1700); Galenus Abrahamsz, Verdediging der Christenen die Doopsgezinde genaamd worden (1699).
  4. Pressing both state and city authorities to take measures against the Mennonites. As late as 1795 in the Netherlands the Reformed Church was a state church, and Mennonites and other nonconformists were accordingly only tolerated. Often—but usually without success—Calvinist ministers and church councils tried to persuade the government to close or even to tear down Mennonite meetinghouses, forbid their services, deny them the legacies from estates. They also insisted on the issuance of orders—which often occurred—that Mennonites must have their marriages performed in Reformed churches, and that they should be compelled to swear oaths and to render military service, etc. In these oral or written petitions the Calvinists mostly tried to persuade the authorities by pointing out the danger of the Mennonites to the state and public order, insinuating their reputed descent from the revolutionary Münsterites.

In the 18th century disputations were no longer held, and Calvinistic polemical books and complaints to the government rapidly decreased. Occasionally an action was still brought against the Mennonites, as for instance in the cases of Jan Thomas in 1719 and Johannes Stinstra in 1742. The agitation of the Calvinists then was usually based upon a charge of unorthodoxy, that is, Socinianism.

After 1770 Calvinism no longer troubled Mennonitism in the Netherlands.


van der Zijpp, Nanne. "Gereformeerden contra Doopsgezinden in vroegere eeuwen." Algemeen Doopsgezind Weekblad (25 February-2 December 1950).

van der Zijpp, Nanne. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland. Arnhem: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1952: 135-142, 159-162.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Calvinism and Mennonitism (Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 14 Nov 2018.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1953). Calvinism and Mennonitism (Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 14 November 2018, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 498. All rights reserved.

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