Current Religious Thought: Abraham Kuyper: A Man for This Season
The surprisingly relevant advice of a Dutch statesman for engaging postmodern culture.
October 26, 1998
The Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper founded two newspapers, a university, a political party, and a denomination. Nor was he content to start something and then move on to quite a different project. During his career, which lasted from his ordination in the 1860s until his death in 1920, he regularly wrote articles for his newspapers; he taught theology at the Free University; he led his party both as a member of the Dutch Parliament and, for a few years, as prime minister; and he played an active role in the life (and controversies) of the Dutch Reformed churches.
Kuyper visited the United States in 1898, to deliver the Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary. To observe the centennial of that visit, Princeton invited Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff to be this year's Stone Lecturer. Wolterstorff focused his lectures on political thought, describing his views as "in the line of Kuyper." The Princeton event, held this past February, drew an audience of over 300; it also featured two days' worth of seminars (cosponsored with Princeton Seminary by the Free University, Calvin College, and the Center for Public Justice) on Kuyper's thought, with presenters from the United States, Canada, England, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
The influence of Kuyper's thought has long been felt in the Reformed—especially Dutch Calvinist—branch of American evangelicalism, but the Princeton conference displayed a renewed interest in his thought, especially as it applies to contemporary challenges in public discipleship. His views were compared to the Puritan political traditions, the liberal "social gospel" theology, and recent themes in Catholic social thought.
Princeton ethicist Max L. Stackhouse, a principal organizer of the ...