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  • Socinianism and Arminianism: Antitrinitarians, Calvinists, and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Europe
  • R. Emmet McLaughlin
Martin Mulsow and Jan Rohls , eds. Socinianism and Arminianism: Antitrinitarians, Calvinists, and Cultural Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Europe. Brill's Studies in Intellectual History 134. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005. x + 310 pp. index. ISBN: 90–04–14715–2.

This volume contains the fruit of a 2003 Munich symposium devoted to "Socinianism and Cultural Exchange." Divided into five sections with a total of eleven papers, this collection ranges over a geographically wide area during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in order to demonstrate the international character of Socinianism and the variety of forms it took and of influence it exerted in selected local settings. Although the papers vary widely in quality, the volume makes clear the pervasiveness of Socinianism speculation among dissenters and progressive thinkers from Poland to the British Isles. It may also be seen as part of an effort to bring forward the Reformation that is usually associated with the Confessionalization thesis. Certainly it contributes to our understanding of the often surmised, but rarely demonstrated, links between Reformation Radicalism and the Enlightenment.

The introductory section contains two articles by the editors of the volume. Jan Rohls traces the history of Socinianism and its interactions with Calvinism and Arminianism in the Netherlands up to the Synod of Dort. After its expulsion from Poland in 1660, Socinianism found a new and vital center among the Dutch, whose intellectual and mercantile reach provided a network for spreading Socinian books and ideas. In his contribution, Martin Mulsow brands the New Socinianism of the seventeenth century a transnational Transferprodukt and denies the suitability of studying Socinianism in its national contexts in the manner employed by his fellow editor.

Didier Kahn's study of the alchemist and printer of radical texts, Nicolas Barnaud (ca. 1539–1604?), composes the second, French, section and demonstrates the ability of Socinianism to be transmitted by alchemical and theosophical circles at the turn from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century.

Section 3, on Arminianism and religious plurality, contains three articles dealing with Hugo Grotius (1583–1645). Florian Mühlegger explores the early theology of Grotius and detects a Socinian influence in Grotius's attempt to reduce nonnegotiable dogmatic truths to a minimum and to focus Christianity on ethics [End Page 915] in an effort to allow pluralization without internecine conflict. Hans Blom's examination of Grotius's criticism of Socinus's rejection of the Orthodox teaching on Christ's atonement argues that Grotius did not share Socinus's Unitarian Christology, although Grotius found it impossible to devise a theory of punishment that could cover both human and divine justice. Grotius's relatively evenhanded treatment of Islam is the subject of an article by Dietrich Klein. While conceding much dogmatic ground to Islam, Grotius argued for Christianity's superior ethics and the greater credibility of the Bible compared to the Qur'an.

The fourth section concerns Polish Socinians and their impact in the Netherlands. Roberto Bordoli's paper examined the Socinian Hans Ludwig Wolzogen's (1599–1648) critique of Cartesian philosophy. A materialist, Wolzogen took issue with Descartes's (1596–1650) notion of the spiritual substance and blamed Cartesian rationalism for theological controversies. Luisa Simonutti investigated the relationship of Socinianism and Arminianism, primarily in the works of the Socinian Samuel Pryzpkowski (1592–1670) and the leading Arminian Philippus van Limborch (1633–1712), and concludes that despite substantial theological differences, Socinian arguments for toleration proved to be most welcome to Dutch Remonstrants.

The final section turns to England. Sarah Hutton highlights Anne Conway's (1631–79) Antitrinitarian departure from her mentor, Henry More (1614–87), to display the ambiguous relationship of Platonism to the doctrine of the Trinity. While the majority of Christian authors, including St. Augustine, had credited Platonism with an adumbration of Christian Trinitarianism, Conway exemplifies their possible conflict. In his contribution, Douglas Hedley exposes the Platonic roots of Latitudinarianism and discusses Bishop Berkeley's (1685–1753) criticism of John Locke's (1632–1704) theory of substance as incompatible with Orthodox Christology and Trinitarianism. Headley concludes that the debates surrounding Socinianism were central to the intellectual life of early enlightenment England...


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