Prophecy and Reason: The Dutch Collegiants in the Early Enlightenment

Prophecy and Reason: The Dutch Collegiants in the Early Enlightenment

ANDREW COOPER FIX
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv7g6
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    Prophecy and Reason: The Dutch Collegiants in the Early Enlightenment
    Book Description:

    During the second half of the seventeenth century the entire intellectual framework of educated Europe underwent a radical transformation. A secularized view of humanity and nature was replacing faith in the direct operation of God's will in the temporal world, while a growing confidence in human reason and the Scientific Revolution turned back the epistemological skepticism spawned by the Reformation. By focusing on the Dutch Collegiants, a radical Protestant group that flourished in Holland from 1620 to 1690, Andrew Fix explicates the mechanisms at work in this crucial intellectual transition from traditional to modern European worldview. Starting from Rijnsburg, near Leiden, the Collegiants spread over the course of the century to every major Dutch city. At the same time, their thinking evolved from a millenarian spiritualism influenced heavily by the sixteenth-century Radical Reformation to a philosophical rationalism similar to the ideas of Spinoza. Fix has taken on an important topic in the history of ideas: the circumstances under which natural reason came to be accepted as an autonomous source of truth for the individual conscience. He also has fresh and concrete things to say about the relationship between religion and science in early modern European history.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6192-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Part One: The Secularizing Trend in Collegiant Thought
    • Chapter One THE COLLEGIANTS IN THE EARLY ENLIGHTENMENT
      (pp. 3-22)

      The second half of the seventeenth century was a period of turbulent transition in European intellectual life. In the years between 1650 and 1700 an intellectual transformation of fundamental and far-reaching importance changed the very nature of the assumptions and attitudes upon which European thought had been based for centuries, and in so doing changed the intellectual framework with which educated Europeans understood themselves and their world. During these years the traditional providential religious worldview began to be displaced by a new, secular worldview based largely on the foundation of human reason. The result was a broad-ranging transformation not only...

    • Chapter Two THE COLLEGIANT MOVEMENT
      (pp. 23-56)

      The collegiants were a group of religious dissenters in Holland who began their meetings in 1620 after breaking with the Dutch Reformed church. In their early years the Collegiants were heavily influenced by Arminian ideas as well as by many of the beliefs and practices of the Anabaptists and spiritualists who made up an important part of the radical wing of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. The early Collegiants based their worldview on a firm belief in divine providence, revelation, and inspiration as well as on an ardent expectation of the imminent coming of the millennium of Christ. By the end...

    • Chapter Three A PROPHETIC LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS SHINING: COLLEGIANT CHILIASM
      (pp. 57-83)

      From their earliest beginnings the Dutch Collegiants found themselves attracted to the doctrines of millenarianism or chiliasm. Collegiant millenarian writings advanced the idea of the imminent return of Christ to earth and the establishment of a thousand-year temporal paradise in which God’s elect would rule the world while enjoying all of the rewards of their faith. In this belief the Collegiants were no different from countless other individuals and sects throughout Christian history who have been attracted by the vision of the millennium. The special emphasis that the Collegiants gave to certain aspects of chiliastic doctrine and the role played...

    • Chapter Four GALENUS ABRAHAMSZ.: A CHURCH UNHOLY
      (pp. 84-112)

      Chiliastic pessimism concerning the state of the natural world contributed to the formation of a unique and radical Rijnsburger critique of the Christian churches of the seventeenth century. This Collegiant view of the church combined millenarian ideas with other ideas inherited from the Anabaptist and radical spiritualist traditions of the sixteenth century to produce a sweeping condemnation of all of the established Christian churches of the day, thus putting the Collegiants squarely in the vanguard of the Second Reformation of the seventeenth century. This view of the church, which was championed by the Amsterdam Collegiant leader Galenus Abrahamsz., also took...

    • Chapter Five THE IDEAL OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH: A RELIGION OF REASON AND TOLERATION
      (pp. 113-132)

      The influential ideas of Galenus Abrahamsz. concerning the corrupt state of the Christian churches of the seventeenth century dominated Collegiant thought after 1660. Galenus’s critique of the visible churches as cut off from divine inspiration stressed the human and secular nature of religion and provided the essential intellectual background for Rijnsburger religious thought during the second half of the seventeenth century. Against this background the Collegiants created a vision of universal religious reform. Beginning with a rejection of the spiritual authority of all institutional churches, the Rijnsburger ideal of religious reform was built upon the principle of individual conscience that...

  7. Part Two: Secularization of the Individual Conscience:: The Development of Collegiant Rationalism
    • Chapter Six THE ARTICULATION OF RATIONAL RELIGION: COLLEGIANT SOCINIANISM
      (pp. 135-161)

      The development of a fully articulated and systematic Collegiant rational religion was in large part the work of Socinian-influenced Rijnsburgers such as Frans Kuyper and Daniel Zwicker. Building upon foundations already present in Collegiant thought on religious reform, these Collegiant Socinians joined the rationalistic inclination present in Rijnsburger plans for universal Christian renewal with the evangelical rationalism of Socinian thought to produce a fully developed rational religion. For this reason, the exiled Polish Socinians who came to the United Provinces during the mid-seventeenth century brought with them ideas that had an important influence on the Collegiants and their developing rationalistic...

    • Chapter Seven PROPHECY AND REASON: COLLEGIANT FREE PROPHECY AND THE SECULARIZATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL CONSCIENCE
      (pp. 162-184)

      The Collegiant practice of free prophecy provides an important key for understanding the gradual process of secularization that transformed the Rijnsburger conception of the individual conscience from a belief in individual spiritual enlightenment to a belief in the operation of natural human reason. The transformation of the Rijnsburger idea of inner knowledge can be traced clearly in changing Collegiant attitudes toward free prophecy, a practice that the Collegiants believed to be the outward manifestation of the believer’s inner religious knowledge. Between the years 1620 and 1680 the Collegiants gradually moved away from their original belief that the practice of free...

    • Chapter Eight THE RATIONAL INNER LIGHT: THE TRANSFORMATION OF SPIRITUALISM INTO RATIONALISM
      (pp. 185-214)

      From biblical times the Christian tradition used the metaphor of light to stand for Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in humanity, an inspiration revealing divine truth and leading to individual salvation. In the intellectual tradition of the Middle Ages light was a standard metaphor for truth and continued to be associated with the inworking of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Renaissance and the Reformation the metaphor of light retained its central position in European religious and philosophical thought, and thinkers of the seventeenth century were no less interested in the idea of light. As Rosalie Colie has...

    • Chapter Nine JAN BREDENBURG: THE LIMITS OF REASON
      (pp. 215-246)

      The development of Collegiant rationalism reached its peak in the writings of the Rotterdam merchant Jan Bredenburg. Like his fellow Rijnsburgers Pieter Balling and Jarig Jelles, Bredenberg believed reason to be an independent source of true ideas that, alongside the truths of divine revelation, provided religious knowledge. But unlike Balling and Jelles, who resembled the Cambridge Platonists and other English latitudinarians in their belief that reason and revealed truth were essentially in agreement, Bredenburg came to the conclusion that the truths of reason and those of revelation could often be contradictory. Despite these contradictions, Bredenburg maintained both reason and revelation...

    • Chapter Ten RADICAL RELIGION AND THE AGE OF REASON
      (pp. 247-256)

      The intellectual origins of the secular and rationalistic worldview of the European Enlightenment lay in a world that was still deeply penetrated with religious assumptions. Collegiant thought formed an intellectual bridge linking the providential religious worldview of the Reformation era with the new worldview of science and reason that was emerging during the second half of the seventeenth century. For this reason the Dutch Collegiants provide an excellent illustration of the way in which religious ideas and attitudes provided the background against which the worldview of modern Europe evolved. By pointing out some ways in which religious ideas influenced the...

  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 257-268)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 269-277)