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.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Pro Rege by Abraham Kuyper

Pro Rege
Living Under Christ the King: Volume 1
Abraham Kuyper
Translated by Albert J. Gootjes
Edited by John Kok and Nelson D. Koosterman
Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press/ Acton Institute, 2016.
ISBN 978-1577996545
xxxi+ 507pp; hbk

As with the majority of Kuyper’s works, this book began life as series of newspaper articles. The articles that make up this volume began in January 1907. They were then published as Pro Rege of het Koningschap van Christus in 1911. This English translation, the first of three volumes, is split into three parts of increasing size. The first ‘The darkening of Christ’s kingship’ (§§I.1-11), the second the ‘undermining of Christ’s Kingship’ §§II.1-16) and the third ‘the Kingship of Christ according to scripture (§§III.1-28). In it Kuyper covers some major topics; these include secularisation, the nature of miracles and the role of angels and demons.

As the introduction states: 'Judging Kuyper’s views on class, gender, and race requires a decent understanding of his historical world. Kuyper holds views that we find completely unacceptable today’. Aspects of this book (and Kuyper himself) were products of the Victorian age - yet other aspects transcend that age.

Kuyper begins by relating his experiences he alos recounted in Om de oude wereldzee (Around the Old World Sea) regarding Islam. He has a high regard for their energy zeal, which he notes would put Christians to shame.
'The indifference toward Jesus encountered in Christian countries, or cowardly silence when the Divine Founder of our religion is defamed, is virtually unheard of in Islamic nations when it comes to Muhammad' (7). 
He notes that:
The kingship of Jesus comes to you with a demand. It demands faithfulness, allegiance, and submission. It demands of you—especially in this Christian nation—that you confess him, that you stand up for him, and that you plead for the honor of his Name (10)
But Kuyper laments: ‘in public life there is no regard whatsoever for Jesus’ kingship’ (18). He then traces some the reasons why this is the case. Here Kuyper is exploring the reasons for secularisation - and this was before it became a popular area of research. Some of these reasons he identifies are: the rise of science; the pressures of work and life; shifting patterns of living and lifestyles; changing patterns of work; busyness; and religion seen as outmoded:
‘Religion is an extinguished phenomenon, a remnant of the past to which modern man looks back with a melancholic curiosity’ (54).
The result is ‘Religion no longer occupies the place it used to in social and public life’ (55).

As Kuyper points out: we need a king. If we deny Jesus’ kingship then humanity itself seeks to be king. Even with secularisation there is still search for transcendence - that is looked for in among other things art:
‘This is why art arose from the spheres of religion and first entered the world from that sacred sphere. First came temples, then monuments and palaces. First came psalms and hymns, then national anthems and epics. It is for that reason not strange, but entirely natural and necessary, that where society leaves and abandons religion, art comes to take its place’ (94).
Kuyper then develops his view of miracles. He links miracles to the dominion over nature, this dominion is over all the earth is part of being the image of God. We can only understand the significance of miracles by looking back to God’s ordinance to humanity to subdue the earth. It is in the miraculous that humanity’s kingship over the earth is restored. Unlike some Reformed theologians Kuyper maintained that miracles still happen today.

Another area of extended discussion in this volume is angels and demons. He sees this as an important area as: ‘Nothing has done more damage to the church’s confession of Jesus’ kingship than the marked increase in the indifference toward the spirit world, whether toward angels or of demons’ (423). As C.S. Lewis noted several decades later in his The Screwtape Letters (1941) there are two errors regarding demons - disbelieve in them or have ‘an excessive and unhealthy interest in them’. Kuyper avoids both extremes. He stays close to Scripture:
‘In Scripture, Satan and his henchmen are perpetually seen as beings created by God himself, who exist through [God’s] power alone and will in the end be subjected to his power once more. Nevertheless, it remains within the essence of the spirit’s nature to exercise power and influence also over visible things, on visible nature, on what lies before one’s eyes’ (428).
There are a number of things that Kuyper writes that might raise a few eyebrows. These are not only his stereotyping of races and cultures but also his seeming acceptance of clairvoyance and hypnosis. For example: ‘Only in clairvoyance, and recently also with x-rays, do we have the ability to look through walls and from afar’.

This first volume is a very welcome addition to the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology and I look forward to the remaining volumes to be published.

No comments: