Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Kuyper’

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


I highly recommend this entire lecture to Episcopal pastors in the Reformed tradition. It is wildly enlightening in seeing how the popular sentiment behind the Anglo-Catholic revival (I say popular sentiment because most of the prime movers of the A.C. revival were orthodox, godly men) of England led us into the current syncretistic mess and allergy to confession that the Episcopal Church currently faces in the U.S. I personally found it of great historical interest (J.C. Ryle seems to be fighting a similar battle) in this regard and many others. I also recommend this lecture to those who are interested in deepening their understanding of the aesthetic, particularly in worship. Read the whole thing, because it is easy to be deceived by the excerpted paragraphs below. Kuyper is not rejecting the aesthetic, as he makes clear throughout the essay. Nor is he rejecting “high church” liturgies, in fact he helped republish an old high church reformed liturgy (Forma Ac Ratio, which was influential in the Episcopal prayer book) and goes out of his way to convey the “liturgical” aspects of historic Calvinism. I think what he is aiming at, to repeat myself, is the popular sentiment behind the need for symbolism. So read it carefully, and read it all.

Every one who, moving in the finite, becomes aware of the existence of something Infinite, has to form a conception of the relation that exists between both. Here two possibilities present themselves. Either the Infinite reveals itself to man, and by this revelation unveils the really existing relation; or the Infinite remains mute and silent, and man himself has to guess, to conjecture, and to represent to himself this relation by means of his imagination; that is, in an artificial way. Now the first line is the Christian one. The Infinite at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past by the prophets, and in these late days has spoken to us by his Son�this Son being not a silent mystery, but the eternal, creating and speaking Word. Paganism, on the contrary, being destitute of revelation, wants the symbol, and creates it in its idols, “having mouths but they speak not, having ears but they hear not.” Symbol means a fictitious link between the invisible Infinite and the visible finite. It is derived from sumballein; i.e., bringing two different spheres together. Symbolism is the grasping of something outward and material, upon which the imagination may put the stamp of the unseen and unspeakable. The symbol is the middle link, being related from one side to what you can see and grasp, and from the other side to what you feel, fancy and imagine. As soon, therefore, as the consciousness of the Infinite revives in the public mind, in antagonism to a God-given Revelation, the demand for the symbol necessarily and immediately declares itself. So it was in the Grecian world, so it is now. Of course there exists also an unconscious, ever-changing relation between the Infinite and the finite in the actual phenomena of life; but this relation, being always partial, successive and momentarily gauged, cannot satisfy the soul. What she is longing after is a comprehensive impression of the Infinite in its totality, in its all-pervading and all-permeating action; and this sensation no finite phenomenon is able to stir in us, just because it is finite. What the soul want to realize is a grasping of the Infinite as such; and such an infinite sensation Symbolism only can produce, just because it puts an invisible stamp upon a visible or palpable phenomenon. In the Freemasonry you see quite the same thing. Freemasonry aims at the Infinite, but rejects all revelation, and therefore it created from the very first, and still advocates, the most explicit and elaborated symbolism. Spiritism, on the contrary, is almost choked with thirst for revelation from the other side of the tomb, and consequently knows of no symbolical fancy whatsoever. (more…)

all of creation reflects his glory

all of creation reflects his glory

Everything that has been created was, in its creation, furnished by God with an unchangeable law of its existence. And because God has fully ordained such laws and ordinances for all life, therefore the Calvinist demands that all life be consecrated to His service, in strict obedience. A religion confined to the closet, the cell, or the church, therefore, Calvin abhors. With the Psalmist, he calls upon heaven and earth, he calls upon all peoples and nations to give glory to God. God is present in all life, with the influence of His omnipresent and almighty power, and no sphere of human life is conceivable in which religion does not maintain its demands that God shall be praised, that God’s ordinances shall be observed, and that every labora shall be permeated with its ora in fervent and ceaseless prayer. Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce. and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God. Consequently, it is impossible for a Calvinist to confine religion to a single group, or to some circles among men. Religion concerns the whole of our human race. This race is the product of God’s creation. It is His wonderful workmanship, His absolute possession. Therefore the whole of mankind must be imbued with the fear of God,–old as well as young,–low as well as high,–not only those who have become initiated into His mysteries, but also those who still stand afar off. For not only did God create all men, not only is He all for all men, but His grace also extends itself, not only as a special grace, to the elect, but also as a common grace (gratia communis) to all mankind. To be sure, there is a concentration of religious light and life in the Church, but then in the walls of this church there are wide open windows, and through these spacious windows the light of the Eternal has to radiate over the whole world. Here is a city, set upon a hill, which every man can see afar off. Here is a holy salt that penetrates in every direction, checking all corruption. And even he who does not yet imbibe the higher light, or maybe shuts his eyes to it, is nevertheless admonished, with equal emphasis, and in all things, to give glory to the name of the Lord. All partial religion drives

Abraham Kuyper, “The Stone Lectures” pg 53

A first century stone what Jesus slept in

A first century stone what Jesus slept in

For my own amateur musings on the effect of the incarnation on human sin you may want to check out this article “Jesus, Puberty, and the Mid-Life Crisis” that I wrote some time ago available here

 First, in the conception of Christ not a new being was called into life as in all other cases, but One who had existed from eternity, and who then entered into vital relation with the human nature. The Scripture clearly reveals this. Christ existed from before the foundation of the world. His goings forth were of old, from the days of eternity. He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Even tho the biologist should discover the mystery of the human birth, it could not reveal anything regarding the conception of the Mediator.

Second, it is not the conception of a human person, but of a human nature. Where a new being is conceived, a human person comes into existence. But when the Person of the Son, who was with the Father from eternity, partakes of our flesh and blood, He adopts our human nature in the unity of His Person, thus becoming a true man; but it is not the creation of a new person. The Scripture clearly shows this. In Christ appears but one ego, being in the same Person at once the Son of God and the Son of man.

Third, from this it follows not that a new flesh was created in Mary as the Mennonites used to teach, but that the fruit in Mary’s womb, from which Jesus was born, was taken from and nourished with her own blood—the very blood which through her parents she had received from fallen Adam.

Last, the Mediator born of Mary not only partook of our flesh and blood, such as it existed in Adam and as we have inherited it from Adam, but He was born a true man, thinking, willing, and feeling like other men, susceptible to all the human emotions and sensations that cause the countless thrills and throbs of human life…. (more…)