ABRAHAM KUYPER (1837-1920)
Kuyper was a brilliant, vigorous, and versatile man who for over fifty years was a leader of Dutch thought and action in the Church, in Education, and in the State. He was the son of a minister, and had the benefit of the nurture and admonition of a godly and orthodox Christian home, but in student days at Leyden he came under the influence of liberal teachers and was turned to thoroughly modernist views of religion. Appointed pastor of the village of Beesd he found his brilliant heterodoxy strongly withstood by the uncompromising godliness and orthodoxy of the majority of his church members. In his large-heartedness Kuyper faithfully visited those who refused to esteem his ministry, and he in turn was deeply impressed by the depth of their religion and the shallowness of his own. Through the prayers and influence of his people, and particularly through the character of a gracious spinster, Pietronella Baltus, Kuyper was induced to return to the doctrines of the Reformers, while the grace of the doctrines laid hold upon him both as man and as minister. Possessed of remarkable preaching gifts, he removed to the larger sphere of Utrecht, and shortly after, in his early thirties, to the most influential pulpit in the land in Amsterdam.
Like others before him, Kuyper held that Scripture reveals not only the Christian salvation in its entirety (saving grace), but also a Christian view of the world, of history, of culture, and of government and statesmanship (common grace). In due time he himself became a politician, joining a small and struggling party based firmly on Christian principles. Under his leadership this party increased in numbers and influence, and eventually came to power with Kuyper as Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Of conviction, and of necessity under the Dutch constitution, he laid aside his ministerial office, but never ceased his concern for and interest in biblical doctrine. In fact his The Work of the Holy Spirit, and Common Grace (3 vols), along with his Princeton lectures published under the title Calvinism, have become classics of Reformed literature.
A man of a voracious appetite for work, Kuyper founded a daily newspaper to which he himself contributed an editorial of a high standard almost to the time of his death at the age of eighty three. Such were the inroads of theological liberalism that by the 1870’s all
places of influence in the State Universities, were held by modernists and humanists, and it was impossible for truly Reformed teachers to occupy any place of authority. Kuyper responded to this situation by founding the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880, thus applying his conviction that every discipline of life whether in Church, Family, State, or Education, must begin with a sound theology. He led the University through its formative period, lectured regularly himself, and was its guiding spirit while he lived. From the State Universities liberalism had spread to the Dutch Reformed Church, and those who adhered to historic Christianity found themselves in an intolerable position. In 1886 Kuyper took the lead in a secession in which more than one hundred thousand orthodox believers joined with an earlier separatist group to form the Gereformeerde Kerk, the second largest Protestant group in the Netherlands. His writings extend to some 150 titles, in which he is seen both as a thorough systematic theologian, and a devout teacher of the religion of the heart. Examples of the latter are In the Shadow of Death from which the extract ‘The Lord our Healer’ is taken; and his character studies on Women of the Old and New Testaments.
Kuyper’s Life in English (written by Frank van den Berg) was last published in the U.S.A. in 1960. Its reading solemnly underlines the desperate need for godly Christian statesmen in every nation at the present time.
K. W. H. Howard