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Religion and the Crisis of Historicism: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives

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This paper raises the question to what extent the crisis of historicism is to be seen as a religious problem. There is, of course, no need to argue that religion in a broad sense of the word ‐ ultimate concerns and fundamental values ‐ played major roles in the debates over historicism. However, virtually no studies have been conducted on how the crisis of historicism can be “mapped” on the religious landscape in a more specific sense. Which theological schools and which church denominations, for example, were most affected by or concerned over the crisis of historicism? I address this question by presenting three case-studies of Protestant and Roman-Catholic thinkers in the Netherlands. These examples show that especially those Christian intellectuals whose theological or philosophical traditions were indebted to historicist premises participated in debates over historicism. In practical terms, this implies that Protestants of various persuasions were more heavily involved than Roman-Catholics. In a final section, the paper suggests some implications of this finding for how the crisis of historicism is best understood.

Affiliations: 1: Leiden University, Email:


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