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Dutch Reformed pastor Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698) has long been recognized as a key figure in the end of the witchcraft persecutions in early modern Europe. With the publication of his monumental four-volume work The World Bewitched Bekker argued against the temporal activity of the devil and evil spirits as well as against the reality of witchcraft, sorcery, and spirit possession. Yet Bekker's ideas drew opposition from Dutch Reformed clergymen who charged that his use of Cartesian philosophy to reject the temporal activity of spirits threatened much of traditional religious faith. This book argues that it wa Bekker's exegesis of biblical passages in which spirits and spirit activity were mentioned that was a far greater threat than his Cartesian metaphysics to the literal interpretation of the Bible which was the intellectual cornerstone of Dutch reformed confessionalism, dominant in the church since the Synod of Dordrecht (1618-1619). With an examination of the ideas of Bekker, his opponents and supporters, this book places the controversy around The World Bewitched within the context of the Cartesian debates of the seventeenth century and the growth of confessionalism within the Dutch Reformed church.
Content Level »Research
Keywords »Altes Testament - Artes - Balthasar Bekker - Cartesianism - Dutch Reformed church - Synod of Dordrecht - The World Bewitched - confessionalism - seventeenth century - symbolism - witch-hunt
Acknowledgements. Part One: Bekker and his Ideas. 1. Balthasar Bekker and the Spirit Debate. 2. Bekker, the Sabbath, and Dutch Reformed Confessionalism. 3. Cartesianism and the Spirit Controversy. 4. The Friesian Hercules. Part Two: Reaction to Bekker's Ideas. 5. Bekker's Opponents: Confessionalism Under Siege and Cartesianism in Crisis. 6. Cats Not to be Touched Without Gloves: Eric Walten and other Supporters of Bekker. Conclusion: The Deep Structure of the Spirit Debate. 7. Most Attacked and Least Defeated: Confessionalism, Anti Confessionalism, and Religious Controversy in the Dutch Republic. Epilogue. The Death of an Atheist.