Andy Crouch Abraham Kuyper goes pop Christianity Today
Reviews the DVD series Life of the World. He begins:
The statesman and theologian theologian Abraham Kuyper is all but forgotten in his native Netherlands, but his reputation continues to flourish in the United States among Christians looking for better ways to imagine their role in Western society. They often come to Kuyper for his account of the “cultural mandate”—the biblical theme of responsibility for the world so often neglected in narrower versions of conservative Christianity. But they stay for Kuyper’s most distinctive contribution, his carefully developed account of culture’s “spheres,” each with its own features, functions, and significance. The family, government, science, art, education, and more are each essential. None can be reduced to the other, and each requires particular virtues and bequeaths us particular forms of flourishing.
Vincent Bacote in an interview with Bart Noort discusses his kuyperian influences:
How has your work on Abraham Kuyper influenced your view on ethics?
Many people are very surprised when they find out I’m studying him. I’m not from the traditional reformed background, and Kuyper was not a friendly man to non-European people like me. But my discovery of Kuyper, when I was in seminary, gave me a framework for engaging culture. His doctrine on common grace and the work of the Spirit sets a way for us to live our life inside and outside the church. The topic of my next book, eschatology and ethics, seems to be not neo-calvinistic, but in fact it is. You still have to think about God’s actions and purposes in the world from the beginning of time to the end of the age. How is God’s plan playing a role in how we see our lives? My approach is oriented towards giving people a framework for addressing important questions in areas such as business, the question of race or even our experience of public events. For example, someone can get pretty enthusiastic about a political rally, or about some entertainment event. It can give us a taste of the Kingdom, so to speak. But when we come home, it has given us no long-term vision. I want to consider how eschatology can inform these people in how to live their live in the face of God’s promises with the world. This fulfillment of God’s purposes still has a neo-calvinistic flavour to it.
What did studying Kuyper do for your own spirituality?
I was shocked when I read racist comments by Kuyper. It didn't matter in what context he said some very racist things: he did say it. I couldn't erase it. I had to figure out what to do with this, because I was pretty excited about the rest of his work, especially regarding participating in society and culture. As a person, it raises the question of how you deal with the imperfection of people you have come to admire or you just started to admire. You can feel betrayed! Over the years I came to realize humans are very good at dissappointing each other. For me it raised the question: how do I have a proper mode where criticism needs to be, but also a merciful mode where I can still see someone as a human through the eyes of Jesus? Today, if I see something on Facebook which makes me distressed or angry, how do I keep generosity? With Kuyper I concluded that I needed a double view: I wanted to say something positive about common grace and public action, but I couldn't pretend and say those other things were not there. I have to tell the truth about both parts.
Can we say Kuyper made you a more merciful man?
(big laugh) He was the beginning of my path toward more mercy! He made me a more critical thinker. Think of it this way: Some people adore Schilder, and tell you not to read Kuyper, other people tell you to read Kuyper and certainly not Schilder. But a critical thinker wants to learn from everyone. One should admit for example that someone like Bultmann had excellent exegetical skills but that his interpretations are most of the time not helpful or orthodox. Let me tell you an example from a book that I am reading: the author is stating that euro-centric ethics is not good for latinos. In my opinion, he's indirectly saying we should take attention to African people as well. While I'm not following his methodology, I'm inspired by his attempt to give attention to the ethical questions of minority groups. Part of the critical thinking is also learning to deal with the downsides of someone; critical thinking is about telling the truth about someone. It is not helpful to hide the truth about the positives and negatives of someone, whether we like them or not. I think you can say a critical thinker is generous and merciful to others as a way of obeying the second one of the two Big Commandments. Obviously, mercy will not always look the same way, there's also the need for a prophetic voice. This voice is identifying things which need to be corrected in a merciful way. Don't lie about people. Don't disrespect people. They may even hate or disrespect you or your views, but loving them instead of hating them is part of the calling of a christian.
Imagine you were a critical thinker on your work on Abraham Kuyper.
What would your comments be? Maybe I should elaborated more the Spirit's work on re-creation and not just creation. Also, I would have had more explicitly original Dutch sources in there, as critics were rightly saying. Those are things that would made my work better, though there were no negative reviews of my book, which amazed me. I might have written more about the specific possibilities for people to participate in the public, a broader range of examples of how that may look like. It wouldn't hurt to have done more of that. That will be more in my book on eschatology though, so I learned from that. But I think I made a positive contribution by the notion on the Spirit's presence and ongoing work in creation, something people don't really often think about from what I have seen. A focus on the Spirit helps us to have a more truly trinitarian theology, not just a trinitarian confession. In my current project, something that's positive is the question of how to expand the topics in ethics, not by replacing things but by adding things to whats already there. I think thats a more generous way of dealing with ethics. I am not writing to fight others but to make a contribution to our life together.