There’s a passage from Kant’s 1784 essay Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment? that has interested me for its historical reference. After examining how someone in a public role (e.g. officer, tax collector, clergyman) may use his reason while not violating the purpose of his office, Kant moves on to some thoughts about theology and personal autonomy:
But should not be a society of pastors, perhaps a Church assembly or a venerable classis (as they call themselves among the Dutch), authorized to commit itself by oath to a certain unalterable symbol in order to secure a constant guardianship over each of its members and by means they lead over the people and to perpetuate this at all? I say this is altogether impossible. Such a contract (Kontrakt), whose intention is to shut off forever all further Enlightenment of the human race would be closed, is absolutely null and void and even if it should be confirmed by the supreme power, by parliaments, and the most solemn peace treaties. One age (Zeitalter) cannot bind itself and to conspire (verschwören), to put the following in a condition that it must be impossible for it to extent it (mainly so earnestly (angelegentliche)) knowledge of errors and clean all continuous writing (weiterzuschreiten) in the Enlightenment. That would be a crime against human nature, whose original determination (Bestimmung) lies precisely in such progress, and the offspring would be fully justified in rejecting those agreements as unauthorized and take malicious manner to discard. Whether the people could themselves have imposed such a law: the touchstone of all that can be adopted as law by a people lies in the question?
Is this a reference to the theology of the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper? No. Kuyper was born in 1837, which was 33 years after Kant’s death. However, Kuyper was part of the Dutch Reformed Church, which had its birth in the 16th century, and experienced a “Further Reformation” in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now I have two questions –
1) Were the ideas (specifically those of ecclesiology) in Dutch Reformed circles available to German thinkers? (I can only think of two options: German translations, or German theologians who were fluent in Dutch.)
2) Assuming there were German thinkers who knew about Dutch Reformed theology, was Kant in communication with any of them?