Original Research - Special Collection: Graham Duncan Dedication

Costly tolerance

Leo Koffeman
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 1 | a3282 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.3282 | © 2016 Leo Koffeman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 December 2015 | Published: 08 July 2016

About the author(s)

Leo Koffeman, Church Polity and Ecumenism at the Protestant Theological University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (emeritus); Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Tolerance is an aspect of the balance between power and freedom. This contribution starts from a decision taken by the general synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, in 1914, on the issue of church members who did not recognise infant baptism. The synod decided that – on certain conditions – ‘tolerance can be practiced’ towards such members. This contribution analyses and evaluates this decision, with particular attention for the distinction made between fundamental and non-fundamental faith issues. It shows how this decision is related to the broader context of early twentieth century political life in the Netherlands (the ‘Pacification of 1917’), and it concludes with some thoughts on the costliness of true tolerance.


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