This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the Calvinist–Libertine conflict, which revolved around two points: the character of the Dutch Reformed Church as a religious community and the relation between that church and the rest of Dutch society. To oversimplify a bit, one can say that the Calvinists prevailed on the first point, the Libertines on the second. The Dutch Reformed Church became a thoroughly Calvinist, thoroughly disciplined entity; Dutch society as a whole did not. The chapter then sets out the purpose of this book, which is to present a more comprehensive, integrated interpretation of the Calvinist–Libertine conflict in the Netherlands; and it does so by placing the conflict in an international context. Rather than viewing it as an isolated phenomenon unique to the Dutch, as has so often been done, it argues that it was in fact a local manifestation of a much broader struggle between the champions and opponents of confessionalism. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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