An accidental blog

"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.

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Spirit in Public Theology by Vincent Bacote

The Spirit in Public Theology
Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper

Vincent E. Bacote

Baker Academic, 2005

Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2010
pbk, 172pp

Kuyper's book on the Holy Spirit was a ground-breaking book. It started life as series of articles in De Heraut , these were complied into the book in 1888 (English translation 1900). At the time very few books had been writtten on the Spirit. In this book Bacote looks at the links between Kuyper's theology of the Holy Spirit, common grace and his political perspectives.

Bacote's aim in this book is to 'reveal the interrelated character of the strands of a thread comprised of pneumatology linked to creation and history, public theology and the work of Abraham Kuyper' and 'to articulate a cntemporary formulation of Kuyperian public theology rooted in the Holy Spirit's role in creation and history' (p. 53)

Having got over my problem with the title: Public Theology (Kuyper was a theologian, but it wan't theology - public or not - that he was doing when he was doing politics. He didn't reduce politics to theology) - I was pleased to see that the book had endorsement from top Kuyper scholars including John Bolt, Harry van Dyke, George Harinck and Richard Mouw. So it was with high expectations I staretd this book.

Bacote, in chapter 1, starts by looking at some recent treatments of the Holy Spirit, these include diverse thinkers such as Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz, Sinclair Ferguson, Colin Gunton, Moltmann, Clark Pinnock and Mark Wallace. He then takes a brief look at the public theology of Max Stonehouse and Ronald Thiemann before turning to Kuyper.

Chapter 2 takes a look at the period 1890-1905. During this time Kuyper shaped the Anti-Revolutionary Party, formed the Free University and became primeminister; he also began work on the series on common grace in De Heraut, his Stone lectures on Calvinism were published, the lecture that became The Problem of Poverty was delivered, as was his work on The Holy Spirit.

Chapter 3 focuses on the main thesis of the book, examining in more detail the theological rationale of Kuyper's 'public theology', namely common grace. He also looks at some concerns expressed by sympathetic Kuyperians, Mouw, Klapwijk, van der Kooi and S. U. Zuidema. Bacote maintains, and makes a good case for, the Holy Spirit as the previusly unseen missing link in Kuyper's approach. He identifies three aspects that Kuyer discerns regarding the Holy Spirit's activity in creation:

1. the role fo the Spirit in the creative act;

2. as the animating principle of all life; and

3. in the restraint of sin.

Thus, in Kuyper's theology, the cosmic activities of the Spirit are implicitly linked to common grace.

Having made his case Bacote goes on in chapter 4 to compare Kuyper with A. A. Van Ruler. He also engages with Stanley Grenz, Amos Yong and Clark Pinnock. The final chapter summarises the book.

Bacote has shown that the concept of common grace is bought about by the Spirit and thast common grace is not someething that is a mere intellectual historical curiosity, but has its role today to play in the public square.




1 Weaving the thread

2. Abraham Kuyper's public theology at its zenith (180-1905)

3. The spirit of Kuyper's public theology

4. The Spirit and creation stewardship

5. Compelled to "go public"



Other Kuyer articles by Bacote include:

Called Back to Stewardship: Recovering and Developing Kuyper's Cosmic Pneumatology
Journal for Christian Theological Research 2:3 (1997). 
Common Grace And "Spiritual" Stewardship: Guidance for Development?
Princeton Seminary Bulletin 24.1 (2003): 84-93 
Abraham Kuyper's Rhetorical Public Theology with Implications for Faith and Learning
Christian Scholar's Review 37:4 (2008): 407-425.

No comments: