MTS Thesis

I have finally completed writing my masters thesis, titled “We Have Never Been Secular: The Concept of the Secular and the Dutch Collegiants in the Radical Enlightenment”. For more on the Collegiants see here.


I will probably be defending in early August, and here is the abstract:

The following study examines the history of the seventeenth century Collegiant group in the Dutch Republic, focusing on their blending of Spiritualist and Rationalist influences. By reading Collegiant Rational Religion through the lenses of social history and the history of ideas, the following study makes explicit the ways in which the Collegiants were simultaneously a religious and secular movement. Being both religious and secular, the historical example of the Collegiant group challenges contemporary distinctions between religion and the secular.

Chapter 1 outlines the history of the Collegiants in the context of the seventeenth century Dutch Republic, from their first meetings in Rijnsburg in 1619 up to their period of Rational Religion. Through an examination of Collegiant ideas and practices, the first chapter describes the genesis of the movement after the Synod of Dordrecht, the early millenarian influence, and the Spiritualist period of the Collegiant group.

Chapter 2 then widens the scope of inquiry by situating the Collegiant group in the Early Enlightenment, focusing in particular on the Radical Enlightenment. The second chapter advances two concurrent arguments against a teleological reading of the Collegiant transition from Spiritualism to Rationalism, each concerned with preserving the dignity of the Collegiant blending of Rational Religion, rather than reducing it to a transitory phase on the way to Rationalism. The two concurrent arguments against the teleological reading of the Enlightenment include (1) the critique of the concept of Enlightenment as a normative ideal as provided by critical theory, and (2) the recovery of the role of religion during the Enlightenment period as provided by recent revisions to historical scholarship.

Chapter 3 narrows the scope of inquiry to the Collegiant transition to Rationalism, focusing on the ways in which the Collegiants blended together Spiritualism and Rationalism to form a Rational Religion that emphasized the compatibility of faith and reason.

Through an examination of Collegiants who belonged to the Spinoza Circle and Collegiants who were also Mennonites, Chapter 3 concludes by describing the schismatic effect of the Bredenburg dispute and the collapse of the blended approach in the late Collegiant Rationalist period.

Chapter 4 concludes the study by rethinking the contemporary divide between the categories of religion and the secular by drawing parallels between Collegiant Rational Religion and the contemporary Continental Philosophy of Religion, the latter of which is represented by theologian and philosopher Daniel Colucciello Barber.

Two Conference Updates: Mennonites Writing IV & Jean-Luc Marion

Hi All,

This is just an update on two upcoming speaking engagements in the new year. I’ll also follow up soon with some more book reviews as I get them.

1. The Centre for Advanced Research in European Philosophy is holding a conference on the work of Jean-Luc Marion from March 27th-29th 2015, at which I will present a paper called “Hermeneutics and the Phenomenology of Givenness”. The schedule can be found here.


2. Fresno Pacific University is holding the seventh Mennonite/s Writing conference in March from the 12th-15th, at which I will be presenting a paper called “Anabaptist Mennonite Literary Hermeneutics”. The schedule can be found here (PDF).


Thanks for keeping an eye out here!


Graduate Student Colloquium Series

Colloquium_Fall 2014Readers of this excuse for a blog, you are to the first Theological Studies Graduate Student Colloquium at Conrad Grebel University College. During the Fall and Winter terms we will be hosting monthly presentations of scholarly material, by graduate students and other scholars, followed by questions and discussion. Our first presentation will take place on Thursday, October 9th at 12:00 noon in the Paetkau Seminar room (2201). Zac Klassen will introduce the series, and Max Kennel will present on “Anabaptist Revisions: A Call for a Contemporary Reimagining of the Anabaptist Vision”. Coffee and snacks will be provided. Our second meeting will take place on Friday, October 31st at 12:30 pm in the Paetkau Seminar room (2201). MTS student Isaiah Ritzmann will present on “Tradition as Community Tool: A Review of Alexander Blair’s Christian Ambivalence Towards its Old Testament followed by discussion and refreshments. Please contact Zac Klassen ( or Max Kennel ( for further details, or if you are interested in presenting a paper during Fall or Winter term.