03 September 2012

Book Review: Lectures on Calvinism

Eric Johnson, who is a friend of mine and the founder of the Society for Christian Psychology, has been deeply influenced by Abraham Kuyper and has recommended him to me with some regularity. I have also discovered the influence of Kuyper on several of the people who have affected my thinking including Francis Schaeffer and Chuck Colson. The Stone Lectures on Calvinism were recommended to me as a good place to start with Kuyper. 

Abraham Kuyper was a Dutch theologian, but he was also a journalist and primer minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905.  He was deeply influential in a number of areas, likely reflecting his broad biblical worldview.  He delivered the six Stone Lectures on Calvinism at Princeton in 1898.  The lectures were entitled: 1) Calvinism: A life system, 2) Calvinism and religion, 3) Calvinism and politics, 4) Calvinism and science, 5) Calvinism and art, and 6) Calvinism and the future. 

Kuyper attempts to demonstrate that John Calvin never intended his writings to be merely for church or religious life, but rather, to be a whole life system. In other words, Christians were to have a faith that affects all of life.  His prescience of the future was remarkable. The things he observed happening or believed would happen are in full swing in America today.  He wrote, "If this battle is to be fought with honor and with hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in modernism, the vast energy of an all-embracing life-system assails us, then it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life-system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power." He saw the implications of modernism and the importance of having a robust response.

Near the end, he makes an observation of the "Christian" church and his indictment is right on.  He writes, "A theology which virtually destroys the authority of the Holy Scriptures as a sacred book; which sees in sin nothing but a lack of development; recognizes Christ for no more than a religious genius of central significance; views redemption as a mere reversal of our subjective mode of thinking; and indulges in a mysticism dualistically opposed to the world of the intellect,—such a theology is like a dam giving way before the first assault of the inrushing tide. It is a theology without hold upon the masses, a quasi-religion utterly powerless to restore our sadly tottering moral life to even a temporary footing." He calls the church back to its roots, to realize that it is to affect all of life, a call that is sorely missing in many churches today.  Even if you are not a "Calvinist" per se, I would commend this book to you. 

No comments: