God's Renaissance Man
The Life and Work of Abraham Kuyper
James Edward McGoldrick
Evangelical Press: Darlington, 2000
Kuyper was an incredible man - he seemed to polarise peoples' opinions of him, a bit like marmite you either loved him or hated him. This is the first biography of Kuyper published in English this century. McGoldrick, a church historian, seeks to build upon the previous two English biographies by Vanden Beg and Praamsma. He rightly says that Vanden Berg is far too uncritical, but then seems address this by over stressing the criticisms of Kuyper.
McGoldrick starts by addressing two criticism of Kuyper and ends with two slightly negative chapters. This is rather strange, almost as if he is bracketing Kuyper between these negatives. The penultimate chapter laments the loss of legacy in the Anti-Revolutionary Party and at the Free University. The final chapter 'Conclusion and critique' look at Kuyper's 'superlapsarianism', his views on 'presumed regeneration' and the way his views have been misappropriated and misapplied to support apartheid. These are almost petty in-house Reformed arguments. The criticisms McGoldrick presents could almost be construed as points on which McGoldrick disagrees with Kuyper. This is particularly evident when he accuses Kuyper of mysticism. The mysticism here is because Kuyper maintained that God still speaks (although Kuyper took great care to stress not in a way that adds to scripture) and that God still does miracles.
McGoldrick writes as an admirer of Kuyper but not as one without 'uncritical approbation'. It feels as if McGoldrick is tempering his enthusiasm for Kuyper by focusing on some of the negatives.
Rather more than a biography this book also covers a lot of Kuyper's theological views. Chapters 2 and 3 provide a helpful church and national background, though I think more could have been made of the role and influence of Groen Van Prinsterer.
Biographical chapters are interspersed with those that deal with Kuyper's theology. Well over a third of the chapters are theological.
I enjoyed reading the book. It is written for a popular audience, however, he has drawn upon a wide range of (English) secondary sources - cited in 9 pages of endnotes. As ever little is mention of the role and influence of his family and how he treated them and how he was able to do so much with a large family.
There is a very useful 48-page annotated bibliography which provided me with one or two avenues for further research.
A useful addition to the increasing amount of kuyperania - but the definitive English biography of Kuyper is still to be written.