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.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

#Kuyperania October 2018.

Two books, both originally PhDs have now been published.

Park, Jae-eun 2018. Driven by God: Active Justification and Definitive Sanctification in the Soteriology of Bavinck, Comrie, Witsius, and Kuyper. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Gmbh & Co.

Brant Himes 2018. For a Better Worldiness: Abraham Kuyper, Dietrich Bonhoffer and Discipleship for the Common Good. Eugene, OR: Pickwick

Vincent Bacote is interviewed by Gregory R. Perry here: He discusses positive and negative views on Kuyper:
Now, Vince, I know that you have studied deeply and written about a famous Christian politician, Abraham Kuyper, a Reformed Christian theologian that served as the prime minister of the Netherlands at the beginning of the twentieth century. Does Kuyper offer us some guidance about how to engage politically with integrity as a Christian? I’m sure there are some positive and maybe some negative examples from his life.
Bacote: Yes. So, among the positive examples, actually, are the surprise to many that, though he was prime minister, Kuyper was not after some idea of a totalitarian Christian society. I think there are people who think that because he was prime minister it must have meant, “Oh, I get it. Christians taking over.” Or sometimes that word that winds up being really a slur to get people to think that you’re trying to take over the world: “Oh, a theocracy.” You can’t read him and ever think that that’s the case. So, what Kuyper was after was certainly the view that Christians uphold the ordinances of creation, that these things when put into practice led to a society that was the best for everyone, but there was nothing about coercing people who were different from him, excluding or coercing them into having the same beliefs. So, really, what he wanted to say was that Christians ought to be participating, participating distinctively in politics, but also being willing to work with other people. So, he never would have become, for example, prime minister if he’s not … He was a part of a Christian political party in the Netherlands at the time called the Anti-Revolutionary Party, which was anti-French Revolution. Well, he’s not going to become prime minister if he doesn’t make a coalition with the Catholic political party. And you’ve got to understand this was way before Vatican II, so it’s not like Catholics and Protestants were always going out to dinner or something. So, I think we have to keep in mind that he recognized that you have to make these coalitions to make things happen. It doesn’t mean that you agree about everything, but you perhaps agree about enough where you have enough common goals. And I think there has to be that kind of willingness to work with others when we’re thinking about accomplishing political ends or political goods.
Listening to their views.
Bacote: Yes.
Now, I know, as an African-American man — I’ve read Kuyper, I know that he has some views of race that are not in accord with Scripture — and yet you chose to study his life. You chose to stay engaged with his views, to listen to his views. Could you just share a little bit about that on a personal level?
Bacote: Yes, even his picture is framed and in my office, actually, which may really sound amazing. But he’s how I became a critical thinker because I had to deal with language of his that was clearly showing that he had nothing positive really to say about people of African descent. I had to ask myself, were the things that were attractive to me about his thought intimately tied to, intimately connected to the judgments that he’s making, the value judgments he’s making about people of African descent? My conclusion was then, and is now, that that’s not the case. In fact, I think those are reflective of the fact that he could not overcome what I like to call “the gravitational pull of his cultural assumptions.” He couldn’t live up to where his theological commitment should have taken him. Right? Because even in his theology, there’s this way he’s talking about how Calvinistic Reformation theology emphasizes all of us as a priesthood of believers and all people are made in the image of God, how this elevates people and how this, you know, means you can’t have slavery and a caste system and so forth.
So he’s inconsistent.
Bacote: Exactly. But he doesn’t live up to that when you see some of the value judgments that he makes. So, to me he’s just a great example of a person with clay feet, but a person who had a lot to say that I think is helpful about Christians engaging public life. For me, I think it was the gateway to saying, look, whatever figure you deal with who’s not Jesus, it’s only a matter of time before the day of reckoning happens and you have to deal with the failures of that person. And sometimes those failures will be things that you find really lamentable.
So it goes back to what Calvin said about human beings that were glorious ruins, right?
Bacote: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
If we know about ourselves and our own sinfulness, we can expect to find these things about our heroes.
Bacote: Exactly. Exactly. And so I think with any figure you’ve got to basically always be in an act of discernment and decide, alright, I can find these things helpful and these other things not so helpful, and I’m just willing to be truthful about those things. It’s hard for people to do that when they want to make people into heroes. We have to be careful about what it means to make people into heroes, and then we can admire them without making them heroic.

Acton Institute is hosting a unique, two-day international conference at Acton Institute’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, MI. Details here. This conference will draw upon the work of Dutch politician, educator, and theologian Abraham Kuyper to present possible solutions for rediscovering civic virtue and building a society in which all may flourish.
On the evening of November 5, the Acton Institute will confer the 2018 Novak Award and its $15,000 prize to the Brazilian academic Prof. Lucas G. Freire of the Center for Economic Freedom at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo. Prof. Freire will present the Calihan Lecture based on his doctoral research in this area.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

The State of the Evangelical Mind - a review

The State of the Evangelical Mind
Reflections on the Past, Prospects for the Future
Edited by Todd C. Ream, Jerry A. Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers
Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic
ISBN: 978-0-8308-5216-1
Hbk; £21.99; 220pp.
Publisher's website:

This is a fascinating book. It is almost 25 years since the publication of Noll's seminal book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind where Noll echoed Harry Blamires opening salvo of his book The Christian Mind: ”There is no longer a Christian mind."

This book takes stock of that claim and examines how relevant is such an accusation today. The diverse authors take a look at churches, organisations, universities and seminaries, and conclude with prospects for the future. The editors posed the question: what is the future of the evangelical mind?

It is fitting that Noll should be one of the contributors. Noll looks at some key events that have occurred since the publication of Scandal.

C. Donald Smedley, in his chapter on parachurch organisations, take issue with Noll's thesis that Common Sense Realism has been at least in part responsible for the lack of a Christian mind. He prefers Morelands more individualistic and more apologetic approach to the Christian mind. He seems to maintain that those who work in a non-Christian college are more amenable to the role of apologetics and so draw upon the rationalism and common sense approach of Reid and co. However, utility does not determine the truth. I find his evaluation of Noll and Reid flawed. Unfortunately, Noll wasn't given an opportunity to respond. John Vander Stelt's analysis in Philosophy & Scripture shows how much deeper the philosophical implications are than Smedley seems to appreciate.

Timothy Larsen provides an apologetic for Christian Liberal Arts Colleges utilising the arguments propounded by the Catholic convert John Henry Newman. Larsen outlines five key points from Newman - all but perhaps one could be made by Reformed scholars. The five points are:
1. The inherent worth of obtaining substantial knowledge
2. Higher education is for the formation of a person not for a wage earner
3. The importance of the entire circle of knowledge
4. Students must not be sheltered from substantial knowledge even if it is unsettling or tainted by orthodoxy and sin
5. A college must include theology as a core discipline.
I'd take issue with point 5. I'd prefer to see a Christian worldview rather than theology as the core discipline.

Lauren Winner examines the role of seminaries. Here she a develops a point implicit in Newman on the role of the seminary. She makes an excellent point about the shortcomings of church ministerial training. She writes:
‘but when ten-in-the-morning Christians are considering naptime or blood pressure or the relative merits of acrylics and oils, are they considering those things christianly? has their pastor taught them how to do that?’
The problem is that the pastors aren't taught how to teach them that!

She goes on:
‘This is what seminaries and the pastors they train ought to be doing: interpreting everything “crossish” (ship’s mast, farmer’s plow, human posture, human noses), as participatory in the cross of Jesus, and thus filtering all suffering through Jesus’ suffering. Of course, the point extends beyond cruciform suffering. if we are teaching our seminary students to think christianly, then we are also teaching them to see every minor rebirth as a resurrection—that is, to see that every small rebirth participates in the resurrection of Jesus. and every turn heavenward, every prayer or gaze we send heavenward, participates in the ascension.’
That is exactly right - pastors need seminaries to teach them how to equip the saints for work of service; and works of service include more than institutional church activities, they include farming, business, education, science, sweeping the streets, housework and so on.

Smith is optimistic about the state of the evangelical mind in academia.  He is less so about the state of the mind in the proverbial pew. He sees a disconnect between the two. Due, in part, to the assimilation to the dominant forces of culture for many evangelicals. He is right that this gap must be closed. He calls for a democratisation of knowledge, a scholarship for the masses. Populariser must not be viewed with derision if this is to happen. He has a sobering thought:
'Before you get too enthusiastic about the future if the evangelical mind, remember that Tim Tebow's Shaken was chosen as the ECPA’s book of the year for 2016.'
Mark Galli, concludes with an analysis of three realities at play. Evangelical hyper-activism; social media, not only gobbling time but its ability to shrink the mind; and the fascination with pop-culture among evangelicals.

This book is more than a temperature-taking exercise, it offers some suggestions on how we might develop a Christian mind. It is well worth reading.

Foreword by Richard J. Mouw
Introduction: The State of the Evangelical Mind—Tales of Prosperity and Peril (Todd C. Ream, Jerry Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers)
1. Reflections on the Past: Evangelical Intellectual Life (Mark A. Noll)
2. Churches: The State of the Evangelical Church (Jo Anne Lyon)
3. Parachurch Organizations: University Ministry and the Evangelical Mind (David C. Mahan and C. Donald Smedley)
4. Colleges and Universities: John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University and Christian Colleges in the Twenty-First Century (Timothy Larsen)
5. Seminaries: Contemplative Posture and Christ-Adapted Eyes—Teaching and Thinking in Christian Seminaries (Lauren Winner)
6. Prospects for the Future: The Future Is Catholic—The Next Scandal for the Evangelical Mind (James K. A. Smith)
Conclusion: The Ongoing Challenge of the Evangelical Mind (Mark Galli)