Calvinists Vs. Catholics Again?
Spain and the Netherlands face off in the World Cup finals on Sunday but while this is the first time for each team to play for number one in soccer against each other they have a long history of engagement, competition and conflict. This is an old rivalry on a different, more peaceful playing field. From an historical perspective (even an amateur one) in this contest there’s more than meets the eye!
The predominantly Catholic Spanish ruled the predominantly Protestant (and Calvinist) Netherlands until William I of Orange organized a revolt against the Spanish rule of Phillip II, which after the Eighty Years’ War begun in 1568 led to an independent Dutch state. The bright orange soccer home jerseys the Dutch wore in their victory over Uruguay is a patriotic salute to the victory by the House of Orange over the Spanish centuries ago.
The military and political struggles were also religious – as displayed in the allegory of the Gospel defeat of the papacy above. The Reformed oriented Netherlands was a safe refuge for Protestant dissenters from England such as Baptists John Smyth & Thomas Helwys, Puritan William Ames and an intellectual and economic culture that nurtured Descartes, Erasmus, & Spinoza and artists like Rembrandt , Vermeer & Van Gogh and more recently theologians Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. Unfortunately, these days Holland is known more for its “tolerance” towards drugs and the sex industry than its Reformed roots (unless you’re from Grand Rapids).
Spain has been no less influential in producing art, literature and theology from its Catholic roots but I’ll be cheering for the Orange Lions to be victorious again !
P.S. The defeat of the once predominantly Calvinist Netherlands by the predominantly Catholic Spanish should in no way be misconstrued as divine endorsement of the guys in Rome who wear funny hats…it was a good game except for the outcome!