Saturday, October 01, 2011

Surprized by Kuyper

Somehow I found myself at the blog of John Stackhouse one morning six weeks ago.  He is Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College.  I had enjoyed his thoughtful comments from time to time but had been out of the habit of visiting there lately.  He is a Canadian evangelical and he wrote a short note recommending Richard J. Mouw's new book regarding the progenitor of Neo-Calvinism -  Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction.  Richard is president and professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

It is so easy given the wonderful resources of the internet to spend all of one's spare time only engaging sites and books that support one's interests and viewpoints.  But I was moved by the recommendation and decided to download the book to my Kindle.  It was good that I did.  Abraham Kuyper (1838-1920) was a Dutch Reformed theologian who, very briefly, became active in politics, founded a university and eventually became Prime Minister of the Netherlands. 

Had heard of the guy before, having encountered a snippet of his thought here and there.  I was prepared to encounter a stern 19th century Biblical literalist with a slightly different set of rules to follow and some possibly good insights here and there but another version of why my form of the Christian religion is better than yours. 

Was surprized and happy to be jolted out of such dogmatic slumber on the part of myself.  Below in italics are direct quotes from Richard Mouw's book which is a short well presented summation of Kuyper's thought.

The fact is, Kuyper insisted, that the true church "can reveal  itself in many forms, in different countries; nay, even in  the same country, in a multiplicity of institutions." He saw it  as a major contribution of the sixteenth-century Reformation  that it had "ruptured the unity of the Church," breaking "that  one Church into fragments," in order to encourage "a rich variety  of all manner of church formations."   Kuyper wanted us  to see the "differences of climate and of nation, of historical  past, and of disposition of mind" in a positive light - thus acknowledging   a reality that "annihilates the absolute character  of every visible church, and places them all side by side, as differing   in degrees of purity, but always remaining in some way  or other a manifestation of one holy and catholic Church of  Christ in Heaven.

I come from a tradition that values unity.  But the above helps me to see that there is a difference between unity and uniformity.  So often uniformity has been the goal.  It has been confused with or substituted for unity.
Kuyper's fondness for pluriformity ran deep. He was convinced   that God himself loves many-ness. Indeed, on his reading   of the biblical account, the Creator had deliberately woven   many-ness into the very fabric of creation. Kuyper even
wrote an essay on the subject to which he gave the telling title  "Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life."  Many-ness, Kuyper argued, was necessary for created life  to flourish in a "fresh and vigorous" manner.'   Referring to the  Genesis creation story, Kuyper noted that the Lord willed  "[t]hat all life should multiply `after its kind."' That the concept   of "kind" in that context applied specifically to animal  life did not deter Kuyper from making a more general application.   "[E]very domain of nature," he says, displays an "infinite  diversity, an inexhaustible profusion of variations." And this  many-ness also rules the world of humanity, which "undulates   and teems" with the same sort of diversity, bestowed  upon our collective existence by a "generous God who from  the riches of his glory distributed gifts, powers, aptitude, and  talents to each according to his divine will."'

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