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Irenicism in Christian theology refers to attempts to unify Christian apologetical systems by using reason as an essential attribute. The word is derived from the Greek word ειρήνη (eirene) meaning peace. It is a concept related to natural theology and opposed to polemicism (war-like argumentation) being rooted in the ideals of pacifism. Those who affiliate themselves with irenicism identify the importance of unity in the Christian church, and declare the common bond between all Christians under Christ.

Desiderius Erasmus was a Christian humanist and reformer, in the sense of checking clerical abuses, honoring inner piety, considering reason as meaningful in theology as in other ways. He also promoted the notion that Christianity must remain under one church, both theologically and literally; under the body of the Catholic Church. Since his time, irenicism has postulated removing conflicts between different Christian creeds by way of mediation and gradual amalgamation of theological differences. Erasmus wrote extensively on topics related generally to peace, and an irenic approach is part of the texture of his thought, both on theology and in relation to politics:

Despite the frequency and severity of polemics directed against him, Erasmus continued ... to practice a kind of discourse that is critical and ironic, yet modest and irenic.

Certain important irenic contributions from Erasmus helped to further the humanist consideration of themes of peace and religious conciliation; these included the Inquisitio de fide (1524), arguing against the papal opinion that Martin Luther was a heretic, and De sarcienda ecclesiae concordia (1533). Erasmus had close associates sharing his views (Julius von Pflug, Christoph von Stadion, and Jakob Ziegler), and was followed on the Catholic side by George Cassander and Georg Witzel.

  • David Pareus, Irenicum sive de unione et synodo Evangelicorum (1614)
  • John Forbes, Irenicum Amatoribus Veritatis et Pacis in Ecclesia Scotiana (Aberdeen, 1629)
  • Jeremiah Burroughs, Irenicum (1653)
  • John Dury, Irenicum: in quo casus conscientiæ inter ecclesias evangelicas pacis, breviter proponuntur & decidunter (1654)
  • Daniel Zwicker, Irenicum irenicorum (1658)
  • Edward Stillingfleet, Irenicum: A Weapon Salve for the Church's Wounds (1659 and 1661)
  • Matthew Newcomen. Irenicum; or, An essay towards a brotherly peace & union, between those of the congregational and presbyterian way (1659)
  • Moses Amyraut, Irenicum sive de ratione pacis in religionis negotio inter Evangelicos (1662)
  • Samuel Mather, Irenicum: or an Essay for Union (1680)
  • Howard Louthan (1997), The Quest for Compromise: Peacemakers in Counter-Reformation Vienna
  • Joris van Eijnatten (1998), Mutua Christianorum Tolerantia: Irenicism and Toleration in the Netherlands: The Stinstra Affair, 1740–1745
  • Samuel J. T. Miller, Molanus, Lutheran Irenicist (1633–1722) Church History, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Sep., 1953), pp. 197–218
  • Bodo Nischan, John Bergius: Irenicism and the Beginnings of Official Religious Toleration in Brandenburg-Prussia, Church History, vol. 51 (1982), pp. 389–404
  • Michael B. Lukens, Witzel and Erasmian Irenicism in the 1530s, The Journal of Theological Studies 1988 39(1):134-136
  • Graeme Murdock,The Boundaries of Reformed Irenicism: Hungary and Transylvania in Howard Louthan, Randall Zachman (eds), From Conciliarism to Confessional Church, 1400–1618 (South Bend: Notre Dame Press, 2004).
  • Daphne M. Wedgbury, Protestant Irenicism and the Millennium: Mede and the Hartlib Circle, in Jeffrey K. Jue (editor), Heaven Upon Earth: Joseph Mede (1586–1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism (2006)


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