Friday, January 25, 2013

Abraham Kuyper, Part IV

This is the conclusion to my four-part introduction to the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper. Read Part I, Part II, and Part III)
During all of his life, Kuyper never set down the pen, writing many different devotional and theological books. Following his term as Prime Minister, Kuyper was invited to Princeton to deliver the Stone Lectures. His lectures focused on the idea that Christianity is a life-system, or worldview, and that its distinctive stamp on reality makes it fundamentally different from its competitors, including Islam and Modernity. These ideas would come to shape the theological and philosophical minds in the United States, especially those in the Reformed and Presbyterian communities.

Kuyper understood that Christianity was an all-encompassing system of beliefs. He knew that he could not relegate his faith to one little box. Rather, Christian truth saturates everything. He articulated this in a series of talks published as Lectures on Calvinism. The extent to which Abraham Kuyper acted on what he believed is plainly seen in his involvement in so many different spheres of life and culture: in journalism and writing, in the Church as pastor and theologian, in government as a party leader and Prime Minister, and in education as a university founder.

The study of Kuyper and his writings is difficult since so few of his works have been translated into English. Further, since he is a relatively unknown figure, there are few secondary sources available. When I wrote a paper on him in college, this was a wall I constantly ran up against. Nevertheless, there are some books and essays that will give you a start:

Lectures on Calvinism
Since it was delivered in English this is the most popular and easily acquired book by Kuyper. He introduces the idea of life-systems, or worldviews, and shows how it affects art, science and many other "spheres" of life.

Principles of Sacred Theology
This is the only other work by Kuyper himself that I have been able to get my hands on. While I only had time to read parts, what I did read looked good and I’d love to finish it someday.

Worldview: A History of the Concept, by David Naugel
This is a book mentioned at the beginning of the series that introduces Kuyper by way the discussing the history of the "worldview."

“Abraham Kuyper and the rise of Neo-Calvinism in the Netherlands” by Justus M. Van der Kroef
This is a good biographical overview of Kuyper’s life and work. It comes from a periodical called Church History, Vol. 17, No. 4 December 1948.

"Dutch Reformed Philosophy in North America" by Thomas K. Johnson
This essay does a good job of showing the connections between Kuyper's thought and later thinkers. Most of the figures discussed are probably not familiar to most readers (or at least, I had never heard of them), but again, it shows the impact that Kuyper's ideas had on those who came after him.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Abraham Kuyper, Part III

In Part I, I introduced Kuyper as a forgotten figure who has played a key role in developing the intellectual tools that many Christians today take for granted when defending the faith. In Part II, I gave a short biographical overview of Kuyper. Today, we continue the biography and look at how he waged his war on modernism.
Abraham Kuyper once said, “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!'” Since God is the creator of all things, all things belong to him. Thus, all areas of human existence owe homage to God. What he is expressing is the same idea found in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” If all parts of reality belong to God, then his truth is supreme and affects all areas of life: philosophy, economics, education, government--everything.

Driven by this belief, Kuyper took the field against modernity in every sphere of life he could. He became involved in politics and helped found the Anti-Revolutionary Party, whose main aims were to resist the secular spirit of the bloody French Revolution. He also founded and edited two newspapers, De Heraut, and De Standaard. These papers allowed him to communicate and appeal to the people of the Netherlands. When the state-controlled church went too far, Kuyper helped found a new church. Not content to stop there, he was also instrumental in the founding of the Free University of Amsterdam. The university helped train and educate pastors in Christian doctrine, free from the liberal taint of the state-run universities, such as the one that Kuyper himself had gone to. Kuyper’s involvement in politics increased when he won a seat in Parliament, and culminated when the coalition he formed won control and made him Prime Minister.

In Part IV, I will conclude this introduction to Kuyper and focus on some of his ideas as well as list some resources for those interested in learning more.

Abraham Kuyper: Part I, Part II, Part IV

Friday, January 11, 2013

Abraham Kuyper, Part II

In Part I, I introduced Abraham Kuyper as an important example in the context of Christian apologetics, worldviews and cultural contribution. Today, I will be giving a brief overview of Kuyper’s life and the ways in which he sought to influence his culture.

Abraham Kuyper was born in 1837 into the family of a Dutch Reformed minster. He studied at the University of Leyden, focusing on theology as his father had. While at Leyden, he was indoctrinated by the latest liberal theology of his day, rooted in German theories of higher criticism. It was not until he went to his first church in the rural dutch countryside that he became a Christian, largely due to the faithful example of the simple farmers in his congregation. Despite being indoctrinated into the liberal spirit of the age at the university, it is Providential irony Kuyper was converted by pious low- and middle-class Dutchmen. Kuyper then devoted the rest of his life to fighting modernity and its liberalizing influence on the dutch church as well as the culture in general. He saw the conflict as a war, describing it thus:
Two life-systems are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while on the other hand, all those who reverently bend the knee to Christ and worship Him as the son of the living God, and God himself, are bent upon saving the “Christian Heritage.” This is the struggle in Europe, this is the struggle in America, and this also, is the struggle for principles in which my country is engaged, and in which I myself have been spending all my energy for nearly forty years.
In Part III, we will learn more about how Kuyper waged his campaign against modernity.

Abraham Kuyper: Part I, Part III, Part IV.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Abraham Kuyper, Part I

No education in the concept of a worldview is complete without a mention of Abraham Kuyper. The grandfather of contemporary presuppositional apologetics and the propagator of the concept of worldview, Kuyper is an all but forgotten giant. Yet, in a survey of academic works on worldview and presuppositional apologetics, Kuyper continues to pop up in the footnotes and historical overviews, and rightly so. Kuyper, more than any other figure of his time, is responsible for spreading the idea of worldview to Christians, not only in his own Netherlands, but also in American through the Stone Lectures he gave at Princeton. His words and ideas influenced the next generation of theologians, including Cornelius Van Til, who developed the presuppositional method of apologetics, whose ideas, in turn, influenced not only his students-turn-apologists, such as Francis Schaeffer and Greg Bahnsen, but also noted contemporary Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga.

I first heard about Abraham Kuyper through studying worldviews and apologetics. I cannot remember where I first heard his name, but as noted before, his name has a habit of popping up in footnotes and introductory chapters. A few years ago, I finally got a hold of Lectures on Calvinism, and experienced Kuyper in his own words. While looking up Christian philosophers while in college, I came across an essay chronicling the three different branches of Christian philosophical thought that all have their roots in none other than Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a visionary who saw and understood the rising conflict between Christianity and modernism. While liberalism did not begin affecting American life and culture in full force until the 20th Century, Kuyper lead the fight in Holland against liberalism at the end of the 19th Century. More than just understanding the scope of the war, Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism are evidence that he could effectively communicate that understanding as well. More than just sitting in an armchair as an academic, Kuyper’s life bears witness that he truly believed all spheres of life belong to Christ, as he personally interacted with more than a few of these spheres (at the same time, no less).

For this reason alone, Kuyper is worth studying and learning from. I hope that as a result of this little introduction to Kuyper, you will be interested in reading more about this giant of the Faith and inspired to follow his example by involving yourself in ever sphere of life.

Abraham Kuyper: Part II, Part III, Part IV.