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A Second Reformation?

Liberal protestantism in Dutch religious, social and political life, 1870-1940
PhD ceremony:Mr T.E.M. (Tom-Eric) Krijger
When:March 16, 2017
Supervisors:prof. dr. M.P.A. (Mirjam) de Baar, prof. dr. H.-.M. Kirn
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Theology and Religious Studies
A Second Reformation?

In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, a movement of ‘modernists’ or ‘liberals’ began to manifest itself within Dutch Protestantism. Modernists firmly believed to be the heralds of a ‘second Reformation’, harmonising Christianity with contemporary intellectual and cultural life, and as such preventing Christianity from losing its significance and plausibility in the age to come. However, instead of becoming the new mainstream in church and society, their movement failed to exert the attraction and influence that had seemed to be within reach in its formative phase. This fostered among modernists a feeling of disappointment that even developed into a feeling of marginalisation and desperation in the decades preceding the Second World War. Why was this so?

This study advances both a new approach to and a new interpretation of the development of the Dutch modernist movement between 1870 and 1940. Making extensive use of sources that have so far been largely neglected, it looks at the modernist movement as a discourse community grouped round the opinion magazine De Hervorming. It deals with a wide range of themes, including modernists’ self-perception vis-à-vis Christian orthodoxy, self-understanding as a community of faith, attitude towards other alternatives to orthodoxy, class-consciousness, literary criticism, political commitment, and involvement with foreign mission. Supported by a comparison between the development of the modernist movement in the Netherlands and that of similar groups elsewhere, this study argues that the causes of modernists’ lack of appeal and lack of influence were much more fundamental than is acknowledged in historiography.