Other Research and Publications

Before holding the current McClendon Chair, Henk Bakker was involved in a chair with the task of 'Mapping Baptist Identity' (2013-2017). Here a research summary of this assignment can be downloaded (in Dutch) 

Some of the research projects during this time are listed below:

Jesus Research

After more than 170 years of modern research on discovering the historical Jesus, fresh insights on the subject are still welcome, especially since the gospel narrative in a post-Christendom culture is in need of extra articulation. How can the church explain the gospel to post-modern ears, not only to the un-churched, but also to the churched-yet-secularized, a Christian segment comprising most of the Atlantic church, even more so in The Netherlands?

Research project: Book on Jesus Christ

Henk Bakker is in the process of finishing a book (in Dutch, yet to be translated) on the first literary witnesses of Jesus, the early reception of these sources, and how they were used and interpreted in modern critical research (from the 19th century on). Of course, the evaluations are not exhaustive, but the highlights and most exemplary names, sources, and thinkers, will be given attention to. The following (brief) impression of the table of contents gives a pre-taste:
  • The Temple in Dispute: Ha-maqôm hazèh (‘this place’), ‘That Fox’ (about Herod), Resistance
  • A Variety of Jewish Expectations: A New David, A New Moses, A New Elijah, A Priestly Servant, A Priestly Son of Man, A Son of God
  • Political Differences: Parties, Paul’s Vocation to a Jewish Party, Comforting Israel, Divergences, Destruction of the Temple, The Bar-Kochba Revolt
  • Christ in the Church: A Distinctive Faith, A Martyr’s Faith, The Rule of Faith (regula fidei)
  • Christ in the World: Expanding, Border-Crossing, Challenging
  • Christ on the Foreground: The Constantinian Change, The Nicean Change
  • Modern Research: ‘Leben-Jesu Forschung’, The New Quest, The Third Quest
  • Contemporary Issues
  • Lived Faith & Jesus: In the Beginning Was the Experience, Christocentric Embodiment
  • Jesus Then & Now
The book is challenging, stimulating, and refreshing, not only for Baptists, but for every believer and sceptic (and sceptic believer).

Belonging and Inclusion in the Network Society

This site is currently under construction


Project: Mapping Transitions in Evangelical belonging
This logo vurRU3esearch program is a joint initiative of two researchers from the Radboud University and two from the VU University. Radboud scholars dr. Paul Vermeer (Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen), and prof. dr. Peer Scheepers (Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen, Afdeling Sociologie) conducted a quantitative survey in 2014-2015 among six Dutch flourishing Evangelical churches. Prof. Dr. Henk Bakker, who previously occupied the special chair of Baptistic Identity (associated with the Dutch Baptist Union) now holds the McClendon Chair of Baptistic and Evangelical theology. Under the chair, junior researcher Hans Riphagen received the assignment to develop a practical theological research program on patterns of baptistic and evangelical belonging.
Our joint aim in this research is to combine the rigorous methodological knowledge of quantitative approaches and sociology of religion (Vermeer \& Scheepers), with the insights from and knowledge of the Evangelical movement (Bakker \& Riphagen). In two conversations in 2018 and 2019, we found that our research interests easily add up and match, although perspectives, goals and professional disciplines may differ. In this research program, our hope is to add these strengths, and to come up with a broad survey of the Dutch evangelical movement, tracing especially changes in patterns of belonging (religious socialisation), as well as in the meaning-making associated with this.

Free Church Ecclesiology and Catholicity

The study of Baptist history, theology and ecclesiology has been one of the hallmarks of the Baptist Seminary in the Netherlands, and is an important focal point of the McClendon Chair. Before the McClendon chair, Henk Bakker held the extraordinary chair on History, Identity & Theology of the Baptist Faith, in short: the chair on Mapping Baptist Identity. In this assignment he concluded (after five years of research and supervising approximately 25 PhD. Ma, and Ba-theses) that Baptist Identity is on the move, and basically circles around topics as: (1) fresh expressions of moral judgment in local churches; (2) shaping up core practices and identity of local churches; (3) receiving necessary supplies for Baptist pastors; (4) shifting from intro to extra by transformation of Baptist crown-jewelry; (5) offering prophetic theological instruction by education; (6) underlining missional identity; (7) and overcoming generational barriers. (See the ‘Forschungsbericht’) Of special concern for the Baptist movement in the Netherlands, both in its deep structure, as well as in actual practice, is its confessional accountability and catholicity. 

Research Program Free Church Ecclesiology and Catholicity

Currently, this research program consists of a number of completed and ongoing PhD dissertations, around the topic of Free Church Ecclesiology and Catholicity.

TvdLTeun v.d. Leer


A Believers Church contribution to the ecumenical ecclesiological debate: Looking into the other direction (Ongoing)

Dit promotie onderzoek wil een bijdrage leveren aan het debat over kerk en kerkelijke eenheid vanuit de zgn. ‘Believers Church Tradition’ (BCT). De BCT behoort tot het zgn. derde kerktype, naast het katholieke en het protestantse, en benadrukt het kerk-zijn ‘van onderop’, wat wil zeggen dat de kerk zich eerst en vooral manifesteert via gelovigen die samenkomen. Tussen 1967 en 2017 zijn er 18 ‘Believers Church Conferences’ geweest, die in dit onderzoek in kaart worden gebracht. De resultaten daarvan worden in gesprek gebracht met het oecumenische project ‘The Church – Towards a Common Vision’. De ondertitel ‘Looking into the other direction’ is een citaat van Karl Barth uit 1948(!), waarin hij zegt dat ‘It is obvious that the last remnants of sovereign authority in the idea of a corpus christianum are disappearing; this suggests that we should now look in this other (Congregationalist) direction’. Aan dat ‘de andere kant uitkijken’ wil dit onderzoek een bijdrage leveren. 

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Publications related to this research:

Leer, van der, Teun, 'Which Future Church(form)? A Plea for a 'Believers Church' Ecclesiology' in Journal of European Baptist Studies 9.3 (2009), 40-51



Daniel Drost


Diaspora as Mission. John Howard Yoder, Jeremiah 29 and the Shape and Mission of the Church

What does it mean to be church in the twenty first century? To answer this question I engage the work of American Mennonite scholar John Howard Yoder. He developed a thesis, working from Jeremiah 29, that the people of God, both Israel and the church, are called to an existence in diaspora. According to Yoder, this diaspora lifestyle is the social shape that God uses to reach the nations with His mission. He calls this perspective ‘diaspora as mission.’ Yoder’s proposal led to the main question of this study:
to what extent is John Howard Yoder’s ‘diaspora as mission’ ecclesiology coherent and helpful for engaging contemporary (post-Christendom Western) ecclesiological questions?
This question is answered by placing Yoder’s proposal within the twenty first century context, and is subsequently given a theoretical (theological and historical) and a practical critique. The latter is done by engaging three communities that are inspired by Yoder’s ‘diaspora as mission’ ecclesiology. These are Urban Expression Nederland, Shane Claiborne’s Simple Way Community and Mark Kinzer’s Messianic Jewish Congregation Zera Avraham.
Recently Yoder has been under severe criticism because of his longtime abuse of women and his theological justification of it as an eschatological ‘experiment.’ Knowing this, can we still use his work? This research develops a critical hermeneutic to his behavior and work, and the idealistic tendencies it suffers from. This critical hermeneutic is subsequently used to engage ecclesiological questions of the twenty first century.

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Publications related to this research :

Drost, Daniel, ‘Samen een weg vinden als Urban Expression in de wijk, met Yoder op de boekenplank’ in: Ingeborg Janssen-te Loo (red). Samen ontdekken. De uitdaging van de vergader(en)de gemeente: samen de wil van Christus onderscheiden. Baptistica Reeks. Amsterdam: Baptisten Seminarium, 2016

Drost, Daniel, ‘Leiderschap in de eerste joods-christelijke gemeenschappen.’ In: Jan Martijn Abrahamse en Wout Huizing (red). Van onderen! Op zoek naar een ambtstheologie voor een priesterschap van gelovigen. Baptistica Reeks. Amsterdam: Baptisten Seminarium, 2014

Drost, Daniel, ‘De volheid van Christus: John Howard Yoders spreken over ambt in de free church tradition.’  In: Jan Martijn Abrahamse en Wout Huizing (red). Van onderen! Op zoek naar een ambtstheologie voor een priesterschap van gelovigen. Baptistica Reeks. Amsterdam: Baptisten Seminarium, 2014 

Drost, Daniel, ‘De joodse wortels van christelijke gemeenschap. Vragen over identiteit.’ In: Henk Bakker en Daniël Drost (red). Andersom. Een introductie in de theologie van James Wm. McClendon. Baptistica Reeks. Barneveld: Baptisten Seminarium, 2014

Drost, Daniel, ‘Het noachidische verbond revisited?’ In: Soteria. 30ste jaargang, nummer 3, 2013

Drost, Daniel, ‘Is JHWH een gewelddadige Strijder? Een vergelijking tussen Arie Versluis’ dissertatie Geen verbond, geen genade en John Howard Yoders geweldloze benadering.’ Wapenveld. Jaargang 62, nr 6, december 2012



Jan Martijn Abrahamse


The Stripping of the Ministry: A Reconsideration and Retrieval of Robert Browne's Theology of Ordained Ministry(Completed, 10-1-2018)

There is a general concern for the role of the ordained ministry in contemporary theology. With the downfall of Christendom, institutional religion and its authorities have become suspect. Simultaneously, a renewed consciousness of the church’s participation in God’s mission to the world has shed new light upon the priestly ministry of the whole community, questioning the theological existence of a special ministry set apart by ordination. Among Baptists this is by many even regarded as a contradiction with congregational ecclesiology that grounds the existence of a local church in the faithful gathering under Christ’s Lordship, instead of a present priest or the Sacraments. ‘Other Baptists’ have in response to what they regard as an unduly functionalistic view of ministry – which reduced the role of the minister to a mere employee and an executor of some ecclesial tasks – reconnected with sacramental theology to formulate a theology of ordained ministry. In this study an attempt is made to rethink the present crisis of ordained ministry by a reconsideration and retrieval of the covenantal concept of ordained ministry in the literature of 16th century Separatist Robert Browne (c. 1550-1633). Against a dominant and oppressive state church, Browne envisaged a covenantal church separated from the world and grounded in God’s promise of provision and the obedience of the faithful. A communal church that recognized Godsend prophets to sustain them as a priestly community to live accordingly. Ordination is hence defined as a representation of God’s sending and the church’s reception. This Brownist theology of ordained ministry provides a fruitful theological framework for a missional church in a post-Christendom context. A special ministry called for the ministry of the church, whose existence flows from the local church instead of the other way around. In recent years theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Kevin Vanhoozer have urged to review ordained ministry in terms of prophethood and theological adequacy which bears a similar character: ordained ministers, as prophets among priests, called to sustain the church in its dramatical existence of living a different story in a violent world. Browne’s concept of covenant provides an adequate biblical framework to incorporate the church and its ordained ministry into God’s mission to the world.

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Eddy van der Borght, Prof. dr. Henk Bakker, Prof. dr. Curtis Freeman (external)

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit Jan Martijn's profile on Academia

Publications related to this research:

Abrahamse, Jan Martijn, The Stripping of the Ministry: A Reconsideration and Retrieval of Robert Browne's Theology of Ordained Ministry, PhD Dissertation, 2018, retrieved from: http://dare.ubvu.vu.nl/handle/1871/55723

Abrahamse, Jan Martijn, “Dumb Dogs That Cannot Bark: The Puritan Origins of Preaching Revival,” in Baptists and Revivals: Papers From the Seventh International Conference on Baptist Studies, ed. William Pitts (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2018), 288-303.

Abrahamse, Jan Martijn, “‘Is Smyth also Among the Brownists?’ Confronting John Smyth with his predecessor Robert Browne,” The Baptist Quarterly 46, no. 3 (2015): 1-10

Abrahamse, Jan Martijn & Wout Huizing, ed., Van onderen! Op zoek naar een ambtstheologie voor een priesterschap van gelovigen (Baptistica Reeks, no. 8; Amsterdam: Unie van Baptistengemeenten, 2014).

Abrahamse, Jan Martijn, “Robert Browne as an Unwanted Child: Explaining Separatism from the Nursery of Presbyterian Puritanism,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 40, no. 4 (2013): 349–365.


Kirsten Timmer


An examination of Baptist origins in the context of Baptist and Mennonite relationships in the early seventeenth-century Dutch Republic (ongoing)

An Examination of Baptist Origins in the Context of Baptist and Mennonite Relationships in the Early Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic (ongoing)
Research of baptist origins in the context of relations between English Baptists and Waterlander Mennonites in the early seventeenth-century Dutch Republic (1607-1630).
My research seeks to answer the question: which were the (dynamic) aspects of baptist origins in the context of the relations between English baptists and Waterlander Mennonites in the early seventeenth-century Dutch Republic (1607-1630)? Although in the past baptist historians have written about baptist origins and partly about the relationship between the English baptists and Waterlander mennonites during that time, there is a need to research the history of baptist origins, especially focusing on the relations between the English baptists and Waterlander mennonites. I have questioned research done by previous historians regarding the completeness and accuracy of their conclusion. The outcome of this was that their research and conclusions have not always been complete and accurate. This is caused by the fact that: 1) historians did not always have access to all of the available primary documents; and 2) even if they had, then most of them did not know the Dutch and/or Latin language which hampered them in reaching accurate conclusions. Therefore, a re-examination of baptist origins will help to complete the picture, not only of baptist origins, but also of baptists in the larger religious context of the early seventeenth century. Unless I discover primary sources with completely new information, I do not expect to completely alter the history of baptist origins and baptist and mennonite relationships during that time. I do hope to strengthen and nuance research done previously. In a way, I will try to fill in the missing puzzle pieces of baptist origins in Amsterdam and thus contribute to our scholarly knowledge about baptist history.

A few examples that help complete our understanding of baptist origins:

  • The idea of consensus played a very important role among Waterlander mennonites and a crucial one in the so-called English affair (the English baptists’ request for acceptance as a true church and incorporation into the Amsterdam Waterlander mennonite congregation).
  • John Smyth (English baptist) and Hans de Ries (Waterlander mennonite leader) played important roles in the relationship between the two groups.
  • The English baptists were not accepted into the Waterlander congregation until 1615 (some have assumed in 1610 when the baptists sent their request to the Amsterdam Waterlander congregation)

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Henk Bakker (VU), Dr. Anthony Cross (IBTSC), contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.m

Christian Witness and Religious Martyrdom

Both early Christian martyrology (from Gr. martys, ‘witness’) and early Christian mystagogy help to understand how minorities in the face of suppression construct their own identities. In early Christian martyrology exemplary stories and ‘pictures’ of heroic saints are handed down for communal identification. In early Christian mystagogy the notion of spiritual formation goes hand in hand with catechesis and the awareness of being grafted into the community and the taking upon oneself of shared identity, either in the of so-called beginners or in the group of advanced followers of Jesus.

Research Program: Research Group Religious Martyrdom in Dialoguelogo vu

Source-based research as to how the concept of ‘martyrdom’ (and the mystagogy of martyrdom) develops into identity constructing narrative, and how it is being used in present debate, has high societal relevance. The VU interreligious research group Religious Martyrdom in Dialogue (RMiD), presided by Henk Bakker and Bert-Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, carefully listens to each other’s religious understanding of martyrdom and looks for heuristic hypotheses not only based monotheistic-Abrahamic premises, but on comparative cultural observations as well. The indicator ‘martyrdom’ develops from Abrahamic to non-Abrahamic religions, and for that matter the perspective of the projected books (and conferences) on religious martyrdom runs from Abrahamic to non-Abrahamic sources, as each one of them, somehow, presents itself in conjunction to the working definition.
RMiD research specifically aims at a three-folded outcome: (1) critical study of religious texts on martyrdom; (2) analysis as to how these texts function in contemporary debate on martyrdom; (3) furthering dialogue and understanding between different religious strands on matters of suffering for ones faith.

As regards (1), the authoritative texts are taken from five major religious traditions: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist. As regards (2),
the research reflects on recent debates as to how, and why by some of these texts recent martyrdom, violent and/or non-violent martyrdom, is being supported, explained or corroborated. As regards (3), the products of (1) and (2) will be published in Dutch, and in an English in academic series of high ranking, and the outcome will also be discussed on conferences, lectures, and a variety of academic and social platforms. Based on our findings we focus on societal relevancies and urgencies, and point into new directions for a national debate.
We opt for publishing a Dutch volume, a compilation of chapters by different authors, with Amsterdam University Press. At the launching of the Dutch volume on this topic VU organizes a conference ‘Religious Martyrdom in Multiple Perspective’ with keynote speakers. We will also invite specialists from other faculties, journalists and politicians for this occasion.
The members of the Study Group are:
  • Dr. Marzouk Aulad Abdellah, Associate Professor Islamic Jurisprudence/Fiqh and Sources of Law/Usul al-Fiqh at the Centre for Islamic Theology, Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Prof. Dr. Henk Bakker, Chairholder of the James Wm. McClendon Chair for Baptistic and Evangelical Theologies, Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Dr. Victor van Bijlert, Associate Professor Indian Religions and Sanskrit, Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Dr. Henk Blezer, Associate Professor Buddhism, Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Associate Professor Asia-Studies and Buddhism, International Studies at Leiden University
  • Dr. Pieter Coppens, Researcher at Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, member of NISIS (Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies)
  • Rabbi Chaim Eisen, Dean of Yeshivath Sharashim, Jerusalem
  • Dr. Yaser Ellethy, Associate Professor and Director of Centre for Islamic Theology, Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Prof. Dr. Jan Willem van Henten, Professor of Religion and Program Director Religious Studies, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Prof. Dr. Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, Professor of New Testament and Director of Research, Faculty of Religion & Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


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