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Minimal Faith and Irenic Ideals in Seventeenth-Century Scholarly Circles

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Hugo Grotius as a Guardian of Isaac Casaubon’s Legacy

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This article shows how the Dutch humanist Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), inspired by his friend Isaac Casaubon, sought to introduce a procedure for mitigating strife in the Christian church. He proclaimed a division between a set of self-evident, universally accepted key tenets, to be endorsed by all believers, and a larger number of secondary, not completely certain articles of faith, which were to be left open for friendly debate. The doctrine of the Trinity belonged to the second category; it should be treated in a careful, detached way, in words that did not go beyond the terminology of the Bible. However, defenders of this irenic stance laid themselves open to severe criticism: the example of the conservative Lutheran theologian Abraham Calovius illustrates how they were censured for giving up divinely inspired truth for a chimerical unionist ideal which cajoled them into reintroducing the early Christian heresy of Arianism, now called Socinianism.

Affiliations: 1: Huygens Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands


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