Reformed Authors against Mennonitism in the Netherlands

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When the war of independence (Eighty Years' War) of the Dutch against Spain broke out in 1568, the power of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands collapsed with the overthrow of Spanish domination. This meant at the same time a rapid rise of Calvinism in this country. The Calvinists did not persecute and execute the Mennonites as the Catholics had done, but the Calvinists were also far from tolerant. They persistently tried to influence the government to restrain the Mennonites, for example, by prohibiting their meetings. Moreover they published many books of warning against Mennonite teachings and of opposition to their views.

Preceded by such authors as John a Lasco  and Martin Micron, who attacked Menno Simons, it was Guy de Brez  who made a first major attack on the Mennonites with his book La Racine, source et fondement des Anabaptistes (1565), of which a Dutch translation appeared in 1570 (reprinted 1589, 1608) with the title De Wortel, den oorspronck ende het fundament der Wederdooperen. As his sources de Brez mentions Calvin, a Lasco, and Heinrich Bullinger. His arguments against the Mennonites are as follows: they originated in the heresy of Jan van Leyden and Münster; they have false ideas on baptism, the oath, and the magistracy. In the introduction de Brez argues that the Mennonites (de Brez always calls them Wederdoopers or Anabaptists, i.e., "re-baptizers") are recognizable by three distinguishing marks: (a) they have a remarkable knowledge of the Scriptures ("it seems that they have eaten the Bible"), by which they deceive and seduce the simple people; (b) they teach that their faith is proved by their good conduct, but "can a good life outweigh a bad faith?"; (c) they impress the people by their patient endurance of suffering, torture, and death; but this does not prove that their faith is from God, because it is "not the pain and death that make the martyr, but the cause for which he suffers"; only those who suffer and die for the truth are real martyrs, for "they suffer for the sake of Christ, which the Anabaptists do not do, because they are suffering for the doctrine of Antichrist." The magistrates should not tolerate the Anabaptists, even though to all appearance they are peaceful at the present time. Their history at Münster and Amsterdam and their ungodly doctrines reveal their real face. Menno Simons is a hypocrite; if he and his followers had a chance, they would conduct themselves as outrageously as their predecessors had done.

De Brez's arguments and his bitterly hostile tone became dominant for a large number of polemic writings by Reformed authors, of which only the most outstanding or influential publications are listed here: Caspar Heidanus, Cort en claer Bewys van de h. doop (1581); Jean Taffin, Onderwysinghe teghen de dwalinghen der Wederdoopers (1590); Marnix van Sint Aldegonde, Ondersoeckinge. . . der Geestdrijverische Leere . . . der Wederdooperen (1595); Herman Moded, Grondich bericht van de eerste beghinselen der Wederdoopsche Seckten (1603); Hermann Faukelius, Babel, dat is verwerringhe der wederdooperen onder malkanderen (1621); Johannes Cloppenburch, Gangraena Theologiae Anabaptisticae, dat is: Cancker vam de leere der Wederdooperen (1625; Latin editions 1645, 1656); Dooreslaer  and Austro-Sylvius, Grondige en klare Vertooninghe van het onderscheydt in de voornaemste hooftstucken der Christelijcke Religie, tusschen De Gerejormeerde ende de Wederdooperen (1637, reprinted 1649; this work was composed on the instigation of the Reformed Synod of North Holland); Petrus Bontemps, Kort Bewijs van de menighvuldighe doolingen der Wederdoopers ofte Mennisten (1641, reprinted 1653, 1661); Fredericus Spanhemius (F. Spannheim, Sr.), Variae disputationes anti-anabaptisticae (1643-48); Johannes Hoornbeek, Summa controversiarum religionis (1653, reprinted 1697); Christiaan Schotanus, Van de Gronden der Mennisterij (1671; against van Braght's Martyrs' Mirror); Fredericus Spanhemius (F. Spannheim, Jr.), Controversiarum de Religione Elenchus historicotheologicus (1687, reprinted 1694 and 1757).

These books were countered by Mennonite authors. Menno Simons wrote against a Lasco and Micron. Outstanding polemics by Mennonite authors were as follows: Jacob Pietersz van der Meulen, Declaratio (1600); Claes Claesz, Bekentenisse van de voornaemste Stucken des Christelijcken Gheloofs (against Faukelius; 1624, reprinted 1650); Anthoni Jacobsz  Roscius, Babel d.i. Verwerringe der Kinderdooperen onder malcanderen (against Faukelius; 1626); Joost Hendricksz, Wederlegginge van de Argumenten, voorgestelt door P. Bontemps (1643); E. A. van Dooregeest, Brief aan den Heer F. Spanhemius (1693, reprinted 1693, 1700); Galenus Abrahamsz, Verdediging der Christenen, die Doopsgezinde genaamd warden (against Spannheim, Jr. 1699); Herman Schijn, Korte Historie der protestante Christenen, die men Mennoniten of Doopsgezinden noemt (1711), and other works by Schijn.

In the 18th century a few of these Reformed polemic books were reprinted, but no new polemics by Reformed authors against Mennonitism were published. The Reformed Church had grown more tolerant, though there was still a hidden aversion among the Calvinists against the Mennonites, as is shown by the novels by Wolff and Deken, and occasionally by some Reformed writings. Even in the 19th century, as late as 1883, Abraham Kuyper, a Calvinist divine, who in 1886 had separated from the main Dutch Reformed Church to found a separate Reformed church, warned his followers in an introduction to a new edition of Adriaan van Haemstede's martyr book against using the wrong martyr book, i.e., that of van Braght.

Occasionally the antiquated and historically wrong perception of the descent of the Mennonites from the Münsterities is still found in modern Reformed books, but better information by such Reformed historians as L. Knappert and J. Lindeboom has cleared away false interpretations. Besides this the growing ecumenical movement has opened the way for better mutual understanding. (See also Historiography IV: Netherlands.)

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Reformed Authors against Mennonitism in the Netherlands." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 3 Aug 2021.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Reformed Authors against Mennonitism in the Netherlands. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 August 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 266-267. All rights reserved.

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