Twelfth Annual REFORC Conference on Early Modern Christianity

KU Leuven will be hosting the Twelfth Annual REFORC Conference on Early Modern Christianity, which will take place May 11-13, 2023.

Image: “Handelsbeurs” or Bourse of Antwerp, since 1531. Credits: The Phoebus Foundation

Plenary Lectures

Early Modern Christianity, Economic Entrepreneurship, and Social Welfare

The REFORC conference in Leuven starts from the idea that early modern Catholic doctrines postulating human agency vis-à-vis God’s salvatory initiative, tended to valorize humans’ autonomy to take action, not least in the realms of commerce and banking. But equally widespread is the view that the Calvinist ethics of assiduous labor, thrift, and sobriety, and the ensuing prosperity, was considered a token of God’s election. Recent scholarship discusses, moreover, the relationship between Lutheran Protestantism and the emergence of the modern Nordic welfare state. In any case, the Early Modern Era saw intensive debates between theological currents emphasizing human agency, and others attributing justification and salvation solely to God. This also raises the question of how these debates related to the rise of free entrepreneurship and the birth of the welfare state in Western Europe. The right to charge interest on borrowed money is only one, albeit important, aspect of the discussion. Theologians, moralists, and legalists also took into account rich and successful people’s anxiety for their own salvation, and held them to duties towards the poor, orphans, and widows, i.e. the biblical-juridical category of the “miserabiles personae.”

The REFORC conference in Leuven takes the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of the Jesuit Leonard Lessius — one of the founders of modern contract law and free economic initiative — as an occasion to open up the discussion to include the Jewish tradition and the various Christian confessions. Questions that can be discussed at the conference include: How did early modern Jewish and Christian thinkers see the relationship between theology of salvation, economic entrepreneurship, and social welfare? How did they view interest on borrowed money? And how did they define the responsibility of successful Christian entrepreneurs for the poor and destitute? What were the internal discussions within the various confessional groups – also with their own institutional authorities – and with other confessions? And how does all this relate to Max Weber’s now hundred-year-old theory of the spirit of Protestantism and the emergence of capitalism in Western Europe?

Plenary Speakers

Wim Decock (UC Louvain), Nina Javette Koefoed (Aarhus University), Germano Maifreda (University of Milan), Brian P. Owensby (University of Virginia, History Department), Eleonora Rai (KU Leuven), Keith Stanglin (Heritage Christian University, Florence, AL).

Short Papers, Panels, and General Attendance

The (in-person) conference is open to individual short paper presentations (20 minute presentations) and to thematic sessions of two or three short papers. Papers can focus on all disciplines related to Early Modern Christianity, ca. 1400-1700, such as philosophy, law, history, theology, etc., independent of the theme of the plenary papers.

It is also possible to attend the conference without giving a paper. In that case, go to the registration form and register for the conference, indicating that you do not want to submit a short paper proposal.

Call for Papers and Registrations

The Call for Papers and Registrations is open.

Short Paper Submission

Short paper proposals can be submitted through the registration form.

You will be notified on the acceptance of your paper proposal withing two weeks after submission.

Short paper submission will close March 1, 2023.

Registration/Registration Fee

Registration becomes effective on receipt of payment of the registration fee. If your short paper proposal has been accepted, please see to it that the amount of the registration fee is on our account before March 1, 2023, so that we can include your paper in the program. Registration closes on May 9, 2023.

REFORC Members (Individual and Institutional) will receive a discount on the registration fee, as indicated in the registration form. Go here for the benefits for Individual REFORC Members and here for the benefits for Institutional REFORC Members.


Short paper submission: March 1, 2023.
Registration: May 9, 2023.


Preferred language for papers is English, but papers in  French and German are also welcome. Presenters who prefer to give their paper in French or German are invited to provide the audience with an English summary of about 150-200 words.

Conference Proceedings

The conference volume will be published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in the series Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) and will contain plenary papers and a selection of short papers. Another publication venue is the Journal of Early Modern Christianity (JEMC).

Manuscripts for the conference volume can be submitted to the editors (to be announced). All other manuscripts can be submitted to editor-in-chief of the JEMC, Wim François.

Editors will decide on publication.

Organizational Committee

Wim François, Wim Decock (UC Louvain), Eleonora Rai, and Shiri Roelofs.


KU Leuven
Register Now

Convent of Chièvres (The Faculty Club) | Groot Begijnhof 14, 3000 Leuven 

Please note that this charming building has no elevator. If you have any difficulties with stairs, please inform us 

REFORC Institutional/Individual Member: € 105,00.
Non-REFORC Member or REFORC Societal Member: € 180,00.
Student, REFORC Institutional/Individual Member: € 85,00.
Student, Non-REFORC Member or REFORC Societal Member: € 145,00.
Spouse/partner: € 90,00.

Short paper submission: March 1, 2023. Registration: May 9, 2023.

To be expected.

Go here to read more about Leuven and its university.

Lodging information can be found here.

Travel information can be found here.

Please note that the set-up of all events and sessions will be in line with the COVID-19 measures in force by the Belgian government at the time of the congress. The current regulations imposed can be read here.

For questions concerning the registration procedure, payment, or other practical matters, please contact us via For all other questions you may contact

Refunds will be made for written cancellations received before March 1, 2023, less a € 30.00 processing fee.


Wim Decock

The Unfinished Max Weber: Retrieving the Soul of Economic Entrepreneurship in the Low Countries

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Nina Javette Koefoed

The Lutheran Household – a Social and Institutional Legacy in Danish Society

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Germano Maifreda

Church/State, Canon/Civil Law, Sin/Crime: Three Comfortable Juxtapositions Economic Historians Should Discard?

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Brian Owensby

Toward a Moral History of the Rich

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Eleonora Rai

The Salvation of the Soul: Leonard Lessius’ Theology of Freedom and Moral Economy (1554-1623)

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Keith Stanglin

Arminianism and the Economy of Salvation

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