What roles does the State have in raising children? Should the State mandate if a baby should be fed on demand or every few hours? Should the State interfere with the running of household finances? Then what about education? Or business? Or the church?
Statism maintains that the State makes laws and regulations and is in control of, or sovereign over, many other areas of life:
On the other hand sphere sovereignty, a concept largely developed by Abraham Kuyper, starts from the sovereignty of God rather than the State or any other created thing. In his 1880 inaugural address to the VU he outlined his idea of sphere sovereignty (Bratt, 1998)
An illustration may help:
Sphere sovereignty maintains that the only sovereign is God. He has established laws or norms for other areas of society such as the family, the church and so on. Within their own sphere these areas are thus sovereign under God laws and norms for that aspect of life. No one institution should dominate or dictate to another, there is no hierarchy of institutions.
Gregory Baus. 2006. Dooyeweerd's societal sphere sovereignty: a theory of differentiated responsibility. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam Griffin's view 7 (2): 209-217
Gregory Baus 2008. Dooyeweerd's conception of societal sphere sovereignty Paper delivered at Civil Society and Sphere Sovereignty Conference, Princeton, NJ.
Jonathan Chaplin 1993. “Subsidiarity and Sphere Sovereignty: Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Role of the State.” In Things Old and New: Catholic Social Teaching Revisited, edited by McHugh, Natale, Rothschild, and Schachlinger. University Press of America, 1993.
Michael J. DeMoor 2008. 'Kuyper, Sphere Sovereignty and the Possibility of Political Friendship' Paper delivered at Civil Society and Sphere Sovereignty Conference, Princeton, NJ.
George Harink A Historian's Comment on the Use of Abraham Kuyper's Idea of Sphere Sovereignty Journal of Markets and Morality
Abraham Kuyper 1998. 'Sphere Sovereignty' In Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Timothy McConnel 2002. Common grace or the antithesis?: Toward a consistent understanding of Kuyper's "sphere sovereignty" Pro Rege
David H. McIlroy 2003. Subsidiarity and sphere sovereignty: Christian reflections on the size, shape and scope of government. Journal of Church and State
Richard J. Mouw 2000. 'Some reflections on sphere sovereignty'. In Luis E. Lugo (ed) Religion, pluralism, and public life: Abraham Kuyper's Legacy for the Twenty-first Century Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Ray Pennings 2005. Sphere sovereignty 101
Bong Ho Son. 1999. Relevance of sphere sovereignty to Korean society. In Kuyper Reconsidered: aspects of his life and work Amsterdam: VU.
Corwin Schmidt 2007. 'Principled pluralist perspective'. In Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views ed. P. C. Kemeny. Downers Grove: VP Academic
Elaine Storkey 2000. 'Sphere sovereignty and the Anglo-American tradition'. In Luis E. Lugo (ed) Religion, pluralism, and public life: Abraham Kuyper's Legacy for the Twenty-first Century Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Gordon Spykman 1976. 'Sphere-sovereignity in Calvin and the Calvinist tradition' in D E Holwerda (ed) Exploring the Heritage of John Calvin Grand Rapids: Baker, 163-208, 1976.
D. H. Th. Vollenhoven 'Sphere sovereignty for Kuyper and for us'. Forthcoming in Vollenhoven Reader ed John Kok