Gisbertus Voetius

1588-1676. Dutch Calvinist theologian. Born at Heusden near Utrecht, he studied at Leyden as the disputes between Gomarus* and Arminius* began the “Remonstrant controversy.” As a minister and young theologian, he supported the Contra-Remonstrant party, which defended an orthodox and systematized Calvinism. He was a delegate to the Synod of Dort* (1618-19), which condemned the Remonstrants. As a mature scholar, skilled in oriental languages as well as theology, Voetius moved to Utrecht as a professor in 1634, and for three decades and more was known internationally as a defender of scholastic Calvinism. He defended vigorously the independence and importance of the church, attacking the idea (associated with the Remonstrants) that the state should oversee it and allow a wide range of doctrinal positions in it. He rejected state patronage, held that toleration of erroneous doctrines weakened both church and state, and viewed usury and related economic questions as matters for the church to judge. Holding that truth in religion and philosophy began with Scripture, he viewed with alarm the methodology of Descartes* and engaged in heated controversy with his Utrecht colleague Regius (De Roy) and with Descartes himself (1640s).

Voetius's personal religious life was devout, influenced by Puritan devotional writings, and Pietist. At first supporting the mystical pietism of Jean Labadie, he later denounced him for his disregard of the organized church. The most influential of his controversies was perhaps that with Cocceius* (De Cock), an able Dutch Calvinist theologian, who developed a system stressing a succession of divine-human covenants. This implied, as Voetius soon discerned, that OT regulations (e.g., on the Sabbath) would not apply under the “new covenant.” The resultant polemics split the Calvinist church and theological faculties into contending factions for a generation after Voetius's death in 1676.

Politica Ecclesiastica (4 vols., 1676; ed. selections F.L. Rutgers and P.C. Hoedemaker, 1885); Selectae Disputationes (5 vols., 1655; ed. A. Kuyper, 1887); A.C. Dyker, Gijsbert Voet (3 vols., 1897-1915).