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  • Writer's pictureChuka Nwanazia

What Makes the Netherlands So Different? Is it the Calvinism?

Is it the Calvinism?

a church

Let’s see.

What is Calvinism?

So according to Wikipedia, Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological teachings of John Calvin. Its basic principle is that the Bible is to be interpreted by itself, meaning the parts that are harder to understand are examined in the light of other passages where the Bible is more explicit on the matter. Simply put - if you don’t understand a passage in the Bible, please read on. There are other passages that explain that part of the Bible you don’t understand. Calvinists believe that this is the only way instead of totally misinterpreting the Bible and misleading others as a result.

While John Calvin may never have set foot in the Netherlands, I have to agree that his teachings in the period of the Protestant Reformation found no more fertile soil than here (in the Netherlands). Almost every political party (in the late 1800s) adopted his teachings and despite not being Dutch, there is a pride the Dutch feel when his name is mentioned.

While the Dutch may no longer be a very religious people, they can be quite Calvinist in nature. They are a very hardworking, frugal and straightforward people. Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper played a big role in reviving Calvinism in the late 1800s. A believer in the separation of church and state, he and other lawmakers of his time took it upon themselves to follow in the footsteps of Calvin in breaking the yoke of Catholicism in the country. Their reforms (which were rather Calvinist in nature), laid the foundation of what the Netherlands is today.

The Netherlands is one of the world's most liberal nations, and her inhabitants are generally described as sober, reserved, conscientious, rule-driven and quite disciplined: all typical Calvinist characteristics. You could say that Calvinism in the Netherlands is no longer tied to religious beliefs as it once was but has rather developed into a way of life for the Dutch. Millions of Dutch citizens are atheists but the funny thing is that they all lead lives that can be described as Calvinist in nature.

The Netherlands is a very wonderful country filled with wonderful people. It is a country where hard work is valued, justice is frequently served, talents are nurtured and appreciated and being open-minded and straightforward is a way of life. When a Dutch person lends you money, they expect you to pay back at the exact time you promised, not because they couldn’t do without the money but because of the principle. It is a country where your word is your bond and if you don’t live up to your word, people will confront you and demand explanations.

The Netherlands is a perfect example of how you can be liberal and still adopt the moral teachings of John Calvin. There are a lot of ‘morally’ good things to take from Christianity or any other religion without being a conservative.

The Dutch may not be the most morally upright people in the world but they are a people who, more often than most, take the high road and do the right thing whenever a chance presents itself. And yes, that makes them different.

Note: Article was originally Chuka's answer to a question on Quora.

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