Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Friday, July 23, 2010 7:57 am
The Messenger, July 22, 2010
By DEON BARNES
Special to The Messenger
Abraham Kuyper (pronounced kie-per) was born in 1837 in the Netherlands, at Maassluis near Rotterdam. Throughout his life as a Dutch Protestant, Kuyper was a “strict orthodox Calvinist” and displayed his religious fervor in many resourceful ways. Kuyper was a pastor, a political leader, a professor and a prominent speaker on theology in Europe, the U.S. and other regions across the globe.
On his first trip to American soil in 1898, Kuyper spoke at Princeton Theological Seminary. The school at this time was still true to Christianity, held to orthodoxy in its teaching and left Kuyper with no doubt as to which topic he should address in his messages.
Kuyper presented six lectures, focusing on one theme: Calvinism. Kuyper concentrated his messages on how Christianity should shape a person’s views on life, religion, politics, science, art and the future. Today, we will only peer into the first of these six lectures. (For further study, visit http://www.kuyper.org/main/publish/books_essays/article_17.shtml.)
Kuyper emphasized to his listeners early in his first lecture that all Christian Protestant denominations were initially Calvinistic in their theology. Although lengthy, I will conclude with Kuyper’s thoughts on this topic to give the reader the full extent of the encompassing effects of Calvinism.
“…in France, the Protestants were called ‘Huguenots,’ in the Netherlands ‘Beggars,’ in Great Britain ‘Puritans’ and ‘Presbyterians’ and in North America ‘Pilgrim Fathers,’ yet all these products of the Reformation, which on your Continent and ours bore the special Reformed type, were of Calvinistic origin.
“The extent of the Calvinistic domain should not be limited to these purer revelations. Nobody applies such an exclusive rule to Christianity. Within its boundaries we embrace not only Western Europe, but also Russia, the Balkan States, the Armenians and even Menelik’s empire in Abyssinia.
“Therefore it is but just that in the same way we should include in the Calvinistic fold those Churches also which have diverged more or less from its purer forms. In her XXXIX Articles, the Church of England is strictly Calvinistic, even though in her Hierarchy and Liturgy she has abandoned the straight paths, and has met with the serious results of this departure in Puseyism and Ritualism.
“The Confession of the Independents was equally Calvinistic, even though in their conception of the Church the organic structure was broken by individualism. And if under the leadership of Wesley most Methodists became opposed to the theological interpretation of Calvinism, it is nevertheless the Calvinistic spirit itself that created this spiritual reaction against the petrifying church-life of the times.
“In a given sense, therefore, it may be said that the entire field which in the end was covered by the Reformation was dominated in principle by Calvinism. Even the Baptists applied for shelter at the tents of the Calvinists.
“It is the free character of Calvinism that accounts for the rise of these several shades and differences, and of the reactions against their excesses. By its hierarchy, Romanism is and remains uniform. Lutheranism owes its similar unity and uniformity to the ascendancy of the prince, whose relation to the Church is that of ‘summus episcopus’ (pre-eminent bishop) and its ‘ecclesia docens’ (guide of the church).
“Calvinism, on the other hand, which sanctions no ecclesiastical hierarchy and no magisterial interference, could not develop itself except in many and varied forms and deviations, thereby of course incurring the danger of degeneration, provoking in its turn all kinds of one-sided reactions. With the free development of life, such as was intended by Calvinism, the distinction could not fail to appear between a centre, with its fullness and purity of vitality and strength, and the broad circumference with its threatening declensions. But in that very conflict between a purer centre and a less pure circumference the steady working of its spirit was guaranteed to Calvinism.”
Deon Barnes attends Grace Community Church in Union City (www.graceunioncity.com) and is a future candidate for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America.