In the public debates over religion, politics, and morality, isn’t there some rational standard that we all can agree on? Surely there must be a set of common foundations and core first principles from which we can reason together. This is by no means a new question, of course. For viciousness of rhetoric and physical treatment of other human beings, few ages rival the early modern period. In the midst of that age’s battles, Hugo Grotius, the Dutch humanist whose writings have greatly contributed to international law, sought to determine and argue for the core principles of Christianity on which all parties could agree.
The topic was not an abstract one for Grotius. He wrote from the castle in which he was imprisoned by Dutch Calvinists, who opposed his allegiance to a party that sought toleration for dissenters from strict Calvinism.