Friday 19 September 2008

Abraham Kuyper

Inventor of the increasingly used term 'world view', but Abraham Kuyper is not a household name in this country. He is better known in America because of its large Dutch immigration, and their Calvinistic Reformed tradition. But I dare to say that there has never been a figure like Kuyper in the English speaking world - ever. Evangelical Press published a book by historian James McGoldrick called 'God's Renaissance Man', which I read on holiday to learn more about Kuyper himself, after reading his famous 'Stone lectures' on Calvinism. He certainly was immense in his influence in Holland, combining undoubted intellect with vision and energetic organisational skills. He was a theologian, a pastor, but then started his own newspaper to propound his views to the man in the street. He waded into the political mire and managed to maintain Reformed views in being a founding member of the Anti-Revolutionary Party, eventually becoming the Prime Minister of a government sharing power with Roman Catholics. A pragmatist too! He believed that all of life belongs to God. To quote: "No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!' " I fully agree. It is confessedly so by believers, and true of the natural man also, though in rebellion against it. McGoldrick attempts an accessible biography, and helpfully sets out the historical context in Holland and in international politics. He also assesses Kuyper's theology - his so-called 'sphere sovereignty' and doctrine of common grace. Perhaps this is a rather 'bitty' part in the book, and he very much judges Kuyper against the Standards of the Reformed churches, more so than the Bible itself in my opinion. The reader must judge! I feel Kuyper's danger was in creating a philosophy of Calvinism. It satisfies the mind in creating a logical framework, but comes to grief when going beyond the specifics of biblical revelation. But he was a fighter for liberty in his era - for instance, the recognition by the state of the right of parents to have the opportunity to educate their children in a christian context. And he achieved that. The establishment of the Free University of Amsterdam was his greatest triumph. Sadly, it gradually changed its course a good while after his death, but that cannot be laid to his charge. Admiration with reservations is my approach to Kuyper, but he deserves study - it will challenge you to think about life, the universe and everything so to speak!

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