Call for Papers: Defining heterodoxy in Protestantism: between Churches and States (16th-18th centuries)

Defining heterodoxy in Protestantism: between Churches and States (16th-18th centuries).

Conference, Lyon, 30th of June-1st of July 2017.

Organisation: Yves Krumenacker (Lyon 3, LARHRA), Noémie Recous (Lyon 3, LARHRA)

The Reformation was born from a protest against the practice of indulgences, which was seen as evidence that the Church had drifted away from the Scriptures. It was then necessary to get back to Christ’s teaching. However reformers soon got divided about the Supper, predestination, inspiration in the Scriptures, etc. New orthodoxies emerged from the development of confessions of faith and their transmission to the populations, and from the ministers’ teaching delivered in schools and colleges. The concurrent roles of both Churches and States in that process have been emphasized by historians since the 1980s, through the concept of confessionalization. 

This concept has since been questionned and criticized. It does not appear to be working for the States in which several religions were being tolerated.  France under the Edict of Nantes was one of them, along with the Dutch Republic and England after the Toleration Act of 1689. While the State could punish what had been defined as heterodox by the Church in a mono-confessional system –even if conflicts might still arise- it could not do so when several confessions were allowed, at least theoretically. Each Church then had to punish its own dissenters without assistance from / resorting to temporal power. The link between Churches and States in imposing religious normalization must be analysed on a case-by-case basis, according to each state and chronology.

The rise of new authorities of knowledge, pretending to produce new discourses of truth on the world and presenting themselves as rivals or opponents to theology universities, makes the problem even more complex. The new medical knowledge intended to stand as judge of miracles and possessions. Cartesian and mechanical philosophies tended to reduce the place of God in the world and the new astronomical theories transformed the Christian representation of the Universe. These new ideas were condemned as heterodox by most theologians. However, did States follow them in condemning these ideas? For instance, was a Lutheran State allowed not to punish what had been claimed heterodox by Lutheran universities of theology? If States could identify atheism and religious enthusiasm as threats, did they condemn them on the grounds of heterodoxy or for being threats to the public order?

The problem of defining heterodoxy could also rise within the Churches. Since the Catholic Church was centralised and had bodies in charge of the dogma definition, it could provide a clear definition of what orthodoxy was, and consequently what had to be considered heterodox. However, the Protestant Churches did not have the same organisation and could even be divided within a same confession. The conflicts between Philippists and Gnesio-Lutherans in the Holy Roman Empire are one example of that case. Who then had the legitimate authority to define orthodoxy? In some cases, the bodies intrusted with that mission would no longer meet. In France, national synods stopped meeting after 1659. Based on this situation, who could legitimately claim that some thoughts or acts were heterodox? Some theologians didn’t mind considering themselves as able to decide – Jurieu’s anathema and the consequences on some ministers and philosophers are but one example of this attitude at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th.

In other words, this conference’s purpose is to question both religious authority and the link between Church and State in several European countries. We will also deal with the definitions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, the criteria used in that matter, as well as the application of Churches’ recommendations by States.

The conference will be held in both French and English.

The proposals can be sent until 31 December 2016, to and

Scientific Committee: Hubert Bost (EPHE), Willem Frijhoff (Rotterdam), Charles Giry-Deloison (Arras), Mark Greengrass (Sheffield), Yves Krumenacker (Lyon 3), Susanne Lachenicht (Bayreuth), Raymond Mentzer (Iowa University), Cristina Pitassi (Genève), Noémie Recous (Lyon 3), Joke Spaans (Utrecht)