Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction

Having been introduced to the writings of Abraham Kuyper as a young Christian, I have been blessed over the years as I struggled through the English translations of some of those writings. One of the best devotional books, which I use often, Near Unto God, by Abraham Kuyper, is updated and edited by James Schaap, continues to bless and challenge me. Schaap did an outstanding job of bringing Kuyper’s original work, which I have in my library, into the later part of the 20th century. What he did for that book is what Richard Mouw has done with the life and works of Abraham Kuyper in general in this little volume.

My desire is that every PCA pastor, even every Christian, could have a copy of this book to read, study, and meditate on. Sadly, for some Kuyper is unknown. For others, there is only a piecemeal understanding of him and his works. Then, there are a lesser number who try to leave him in the context in which he wrote without knowing how to follow Schaap’s lead and bring him into the 21st century.

If I had the money I would give a copy of this book to every preacher, teacher, and leader in the church. That is how highly I regard it. If the church ever needed to understand and apply the Kuyperian perspective on all of life, it is today. Kuyper is the man, if you remember, who coined the phrase, “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!” As Mouw states so clearly, Kuyper was a man who insisted, “when God saves us, he incorporates us into a community, the people of God. And this community, in turn, is called to serve God’s goals in the larger world. In the life of the church we worship a sovereign God, but that God then commands us to be active witnesses in our daily lives to God’s rule over all things.”

Mouw hits the target when he says that for Kuyper, “every Christian is called to be an agent of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, wherever they are called by God to serve.” You recognize already in these brief but powerful words, that Kuyper holds to the one kingdom idea and that the church is a part but not the whole of that kingdom. For Kuyper, God cares deeply for the church but also for the culture and its development. He continually emphasized this and the realization that God gave us instructions in his Word, how to live first in the garden of Eden and then, after the fall into sin transpired, in the world.

As you read Kuyper you quickly realize he underscores that within the kingdom, God has given two basic commissions: one is called the “cultural mandates”–to claim all things for God and His glory, found in the opening of Genesis and later restated after the flood of Noah’s day, and the “great commission” mandate to make disciples. The fall does not take man out of the world, but requires that as new creatures in Christ that he go into the world.

In this little volume, you find not only a brief biographical sketch of Kuyper’s life, but Kuyper’s biblically reformed philosophy and theology, as they permeate the whole of life. First a pastor, then a statesman, a journalist, and an educator, having founded the University of Amsterdam: that was Abraham Kuyper.

As a young Christian, having majored in philosophy in college, when I found some of the writings of Kuyper, I found something that put together all those things that were like “hanging chads” in my thinking and theology. Along with the writings of Cornelius VanTil and Francis Schaeffer, I began to develop a biblically reformed world and life view. Kuyper’s influence was strategic in my pilgrimage.

Mouw, in a masterful way, summarizes the gift of Kuyperian thinking. You find things such as “sphere sovereignty,” the role of church and state, the role of government and politics, a Christian view of life in its totality, and the impact of the theology and philosophy of John Calvin, not only on him, but on western civilization as well.Mouw is to be commended for connecting Kuyper with another great Dutch Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck. Like a dynamic duo, they made their impact with a view of Calvinism that was all inclusive.

When Kuyper came to lecture at Princeton in the 1920’s and gave his famous Lectures on Calvinism, showing the one kingdom view and the totality of a Christian world and life view, many came to see Christianity in its wider kingdom perspective and not as something simply belonging inside the church. Not only did Kuyper emphasize bringing people into the redemptive community of the church, but training them and sending them out into the broader Kingdom of God.

Another thing that I appreciate about this little book is that while Mouw is definitely a disciple of Kuyper, he is not oblivious to those areas where Kuyper needs to be, to use a new word I learned from this reading, “aggiornamento” brought and Mouw does not hesitate at that point. Space does not permit dealing with those areas. Hopefully you will read the book. In spite of what some have thought or written, Kuyper was a man filled with the desire to be near unto God and a man under the cross. That is how God has used him so mightily in our western Christian world. And, for people with either a two kingdom view or those without any kingdom perspective, Mouw concludes (and I agree), in speaking about “churches under the cross, that is a good image for our own service today: Christians must care deeply about culture, and they must recognize that true cultural obedience to their Lord has to take place under the cross,”(page 136). The truth is that Christ is the Lord who rules over all things and all peoples.

I cannot recommend this book too strongly. It will strengthen, broaden, and help to equip you with a world and life view and with a kingdom of God perspective. By the way, it is a good book to use in a small group setting. Much fruit will grow from that tree.

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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