Abraham Kuyper: The Entire Human Life Before God

Posted: January 13, 2010 by limabean03 in Christian Theology, Christianity, Contemporary Theology, Current Issues, Reformed Theology, The Christian Life
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Below is an excerpt from Kuyper’s famous Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton University in 1898.  It is therefore surprising to see him writing so insightfully on modernity, particularly modernity’s approach to gender and its abolishing of distinctions in general.  That the praxis of modernity “kills life” is keenly felt in the anxiety of postmodernity, which chooses to playfully mock the outcome of modernity (the loss of humanity) rather than meaningfully engage it.  Enter Kuyper’s Calvinism stage left, where he gives a beautiful summary of the Calvinistic worldview as well as its approach (in brief) to a range of issues. 

Finally Modernism, which denies and abolishes every difference, cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman, and, putting every distinction on a common level, kills life by placing it under the ban of uniformity. One type must answer for all, one uniform, one position and one and the same development of life; and whatever goes beyond and above it, is looked upon as an insult to the common consciousness. In the same way Calvinism has derived from its fundamental relation to God a peculiar interpretation of man’s relation to man, and it is this only true relation which since the 16th century has ennobled social life, If Calvinism places our entire human life immediately before God, then it follows that all men or women, rich or poor, weak or strong, dull or talented, as creatures of God, and as lost sinners, have no claim whatsoever to lord over one another, and that we stand as equals before God, and consequently equal as man to man. Hence we cannot recognize any distinction among men, save such as has been imposed by God Himself, in that He gave one authority over the other, or enriched one with more talents than the other, in order that the man of more talents should serve the man with less, and in him serve his God. Hence Calvinism condemns not merely all open slavery and systems of caste, but also all covert slavery of woman and of the poor; it is opposed to all hierarchy among men; it tolerates no aristocracy save such as is able, either in person or in family, by the grace of God, to exhibit superiority of character or talent, and to show that it does not claim this superiority for self-aggrandizement or ambitious pride, but for the sake of spending it in the service of God. So Calvinism was bound to find its utterance in the democratic interpretation of life; to proclaim the liberty of nations; and not to rest until both politically and socially every man, simply because he is man, should be recognized, respected and dealt with as a creature created after the Divine likeness.

Abraham Kuyper, Christianity: a total world and life system (Gilliland 1996) pg 20

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