Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Reader

Lyle D. Bierma

Second Reader

John Bolt

Third Reader

Matthew L. Tuininga

Fourth Reader

Erik DeBoer


This study investigates why the Dutch reformer Guido De Bres believed that the law should restrict religious liberty. In other words, why did De Bres believe that political rulers should not tolerate religious liberty? The answer developed in this dissertation is that De Bres’s restrictive view of religious liberty was largely the result of his vision of an alliance between law and religion. De Bres’s vision of an alliance between law and religion was his theological response to the acute challenge of his concrete historical (political, social) context. De Bres’s vision offered a solution to the desperate plight of the Reformed in their political context in the Netherlands: an alliance between the Dutch Reformed churches and the Dutch nobles would protect the Reformed believers against the intense persecution by royal Catholicism. However, the theological and practical dimensions of De Bres’s vision of an alliance coordinated the political protection of true religion with the political restriction of false religion. Thus, some of De Bres’s political theological perspectives tended to tighten the connection between protection of true religion and the political restriction of false religion. Also, practically, in De Bres’s quest for an alliance, circumstances like the inertia of the Dutch nobles and the competitive political dynamics of the confessional struggle encouraged De Bres to stress the need for political restriction of forms of religion like Anabaptism and especially Catholicism. Likewise, De Bres attempted to provide what the nobles expected the allied church leaders to deliver: enhancement of social order and the legitimization of political rule. The strategies by which he did so, however, reinforced the traditional view that rulers should use the power of the law to restrict false religion and idolatry.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.