In August’s ET Nigel Westhead outlined the complicated history of the Reformed movement in the Netherlands. This article provides further details.
The Reformation in the Netherlands was preceded by a growing emphasis on mystical lay piety outside the official church. This occurred during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and led to the formation of the Brethren of the Common Life, a movement associated with names like Gerhard Groote and Rudolf Agricola.
The Reformation proper began with Lutheranism. Two of Luther’s followers in the Netherlands, Vos and Van Essen, were martyred; Luther dedicated a hymn of twelve stanzas to Van Essen.
But Lutheranism was superseded by Calvinism. The Netherlands Reformed Church (NRC) adhered to The Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dordt (1618-1619; the Canons were the response of the Synod of Dordt to the teaching of Jacobus Arminius).
During the nineteenth century, theological liberalism from Germany and the Enlightenment from France weakened and divided the NRC. But a vigorous, new Evangelical group, the Christian Reformed Church in the Netherlands (CRCN), was begun by Hendrik de Cock in 1834.
Many of its members were persecuted. Among other things, they were required to quarter soldiers in their homes. Many emigrated to places like Michigan, in North America.
RCN and RCN (Liberated)
A further split in 1886 led to the formation of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN), of which Abraham Kuyper was leader.
He graduated from Leyden University as a theological liberal, but was converted through conversations with an ordinary Christian, a woman in the first church he was assigned to.
He founded the Free University in Amsterdam and later became Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
The RCN (Liberated) was formed in 1945 as a result of the RCN Synod suspending Prof. Klaas Schilder, an Evangelical. Behind this division lay the Synod’s declaration that baptised infants were to be considered ‘born again’.
The RCN (Liberated) today numbers about 125,000, including children