Church and State in Hugo Grotius

H. van Dam

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Chapter in Part II - Concepts.
The present article examines Grotius’ views on the relationship between church and state. He composed most of the works dealing exclusively with this theme in the years before 1618, but his later work is discussed as well. The historical and intellectual background to Grotius’ views is examined, such as the Dutch religious troubles, toleration, Jewish history and Erastianism. This is followed by Grotius’ general views on church and state as expressed in his works and his views on specific aspects, such as lawgiving, the right of resistance by the church, synods, ecclesiastical hierarchy, divine and natural law. It is concluded that Grotius held that there is only one, indivisible sovereign government, and that this is civil government: all external acts in the public space are subject to the sovereign. Abuse of this absolute power is restricted by the fact that the sovereign has to render account to God. Grotius’ lifelong ideal was that of a state based on these principles, with a Christian public church, where toleration of religious differences was practised.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge Companion to Hugo Grotius
EditorsJanne Nijman, Randall Lesaffer
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781108182751
ISBN (Print)9781107198838
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions to Law


  • Hugo Grotius
  • history of law
  • church history


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