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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Practice of Political Spirituality by McKendree Langley

The Practice of Political Spirituality
Episodes from the Public Career of Abraham Kuyper, 1879-1918
McKendree R Langley
Jordan Station, Ontario: Paideia Press
204 pp, pbk, $8.99
ISBN 0-88815-070-9

Available from here in hard copy or here as a pdf

McKendree Langley (1945-2005), was a professor of history at WTS. His dissertation was on the history of the Anti-Revolutionary party in The Netherlands, a party that Abraham Kuyper helped to shape. In this excellent book we have some insights into the political spirituality of Kuyper.

Langley explains that:

Kuyper's simple yet profound Christian vision was based upon a deep faith in Christ as the King over the entire cosmos. The exercise of this Christian vision in public affairs can be called "political spirituality"— the ability to discern the directions sin and grace take in public affairs. Political spirituality is an integrated Christian attitude which enriches both thought and action. This book will present and briefly evaluate aspects of Kuyper's public career as examples of political spirituality. This attitude of political spirituality must not be confused with Kuyper's political tactics. Tactics change as times and situations differ, "political spirituality" remains part of a Christian's obligation to do all things to the glory of God. The attitude of Christians towards secularized society determines what they think and do. (p 25)
The book is split into three main sections each dealing with a different periods in Kuyper's political career: party leader, primeminister and elder statesman.

For many Christians politics and Christianity don't mix - or if they do we get a right-wing American fundamentalist version. Kuyper is evidence that Christian faith does shape politics and it can in a distinctively Christian way. Kuyper steered a middle way between Conservatism and Liberalism, between individualism and collectivism. He was involved in politics because 'obedience to the Lordship of Christ and the future of the nation were at stake'. Kuyper shows that it is possible to serve Christ in politics.

Langley is an excellent tour guide, he explains and exegetes Kuyper's approach; showing Kuyper's desire to transform politics - but not just politics but education, insurance, labour conditions and suffrage - arose out of his deeply held Christian principles and convictions. Kuyper campaigned for principles not for votes. In all that he did he didn't fall into the trap of a social gospel, he knew that the Christian faith couldn't be reduced to politics but that politics had to be shaped by Christian principles.

As Langley shows Kuyper 'touched so many disciplines' hence this book will interest all those concerned to integrate Christin faith and society (and that should include all Christians!) - in whatever sphere. Kuyper provides no blueprint, but he does provide an excellent role model.


by H. Evan Runner

Introduction: Abraham Kuyper and the Contemporary Discussion on Faith and Politics

Kuyper as Party Leader, 1879-1901
  1. Anti-Revolutionary Centennial
  2. The Events of 1879
  3. Anti-Revolutionary Principles
  4. Defense and Encouragement
  5. Between the Cross and the Second Coming
  6. The Perils of Democratic Progress
  7. Prelude to Power

Kuyper in Power, 1901-1905
  8. Prime Minister in 1901

  9. Cabinet Policy in 1902
 10. The Great Railroad Strike of 1903
 11. The Higher Education Debate in 1904
 12. The Struggle Against Intemperance

Kuyper as Elder Statesman, 1905-1918
 13. The Transition
 14. A Practical Statesman with a Theological Background
 15. Final Statements

Kuyper's Legacy
 16. The Legacy of Kuyper's Political Spirituality

Bibliographical Note

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