Friday, September 23, 2011

Kuyper's Stone Lectures

I'm working through a book written by Abraham Kuyper called Lectures on Calvinism. Kuyper was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands at the turn of the 19th century and delivered these "lectures" at Princeton Seminary: originally they were entitled the "Stone Lectures." In his materials, he speaks about Calvinism not merely being a theological way of looking at the Bible but rather as a total "world and life system." Because the term Calvinism has come under fire in recent years, as perhaps conjuring images of divisive, arrogant and doctrinaire people, it has become more common to speak of a "Reformed world and life view." Yet at other times, I will simply speak from the pulpit of a "Biblical world and life view: indeed, many Christians speak of such terms as well. However, it is important to know that Kuyper was a big contributor over a hundred years ago to teach us about seeing the "world" through a "worldview lens." Let me begin by quoting from an excerpt:

Calvinism has wrought an entire change in the world of thoughts and conceptions. In this also, placing itself before the face of God, it has not only honored man for the sake of his likeness to the Divine image, but also the world as a Divine creation, and has at once placed to the front the great principle that there is a particular grace which works Salvation, and also a common grace by which God, maintaining the life of the world, relaxes the curse which rests upon it, arrests its process of corruption, and thus allows the untrammeled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator. Thus the Church receded in order to be neither more nor less than the congregation of believers, and in every department the life of the world was not emancipated from God, but from the dominion of the Church. Thus domestic life regained its independence, trade and commerce realized their strength in liberty, art and science were set free from every ecclesiastical bond and restored to their own inspirations, and man began to understand subjection of all nature with its hidden forces and treasures to himself as a holy duty, imposed upon him by the original ordinances of Paradise: “Have dominion over them.” Henceforth the curse should no longer rest upon the world itself, but upon that which is sinful in it, and instead of monastic flight from the world the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world in every position in life. To praise God in the Church and serve Him in the world became the inspiring impulse, and, in the Church, strength was to be gathered by which to resist temptation and sin in the world.  Lectures on Calvinism, p. 30

In the quotation, Kuyper outlines what he became most famous for articulating, an understanding of "sphere sovereignty," that while the Lord is King over all of creation, the Church itself doesn't have dominion/jurisdiction over every aspect of life/the creational order. Kuyper speaks of the "common grace" at work in the world where God's "curse" has been somewhat relaxed, that good gifts and blessing have come nonetheless [think of Jesus talking about God sending rain to fall and sun to shine on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:45), James talking about how every good and perfect gift comes down from above (James 1:17)]. Kuyper speaks of those spheres of life, work and world where the "curse of sin" is not so much over, rather redemption and renewal are taking place, that ultimately it is our job as Christians to work for and pray for the renewal of every sphere of life, work and world and to work for such renewal in whatever sphere we might find ourselves in. This is why engagement rather than retreat is our obligation, calling and duty (or as Jesus said in His High Priestly Prayer that we should not be removed from the world but protected from the Evil One while we are in it).

No comments: