The Debt We Owe to Abraham Kuyper

kuyper

 

 

When we talk about how “everything is spiritual,” or the importance of integrating all of our Faith, Life, and Work, we owe a debt to Abraham Kuyper. He famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” (Abraham Kuyper, Bratt, p.195)

 

Kuyper understood this better than just about anyone. He lived his life as if his personal mission was to demonstrate Christ’s Kingship over every area of creation. He was a modern day Renaissance man/powerhouse, somehow fitting several highly accomplished careers into one lifetime. He was a pastor, theologian, media mogul, university founder and educator, and a politician, eventually becoming the prime minister of the Netherlands. He started two newspapers, founded a political party, helped start a new denomination, founded a university, and all the while preached, taught, and wrote. His influence on his country, and on many Christians today, is simply incredible. As prominent historian Mark Noll said about Kuyper, his career “was as filled with noteworthy achievements as that of any single individual in modern Western history.”

What’s interesting about Kuyper is that he didn’t start this way. A mediocre student in his early years, he latched on to theology and received his doctorate from a school that was quite theologically liberal. It was one of those schools that studied theology, but simultaneously doubted if Jesus was really raised from the dead, if the Bible was true, and more. Probably like some religious studies classes at your school. Kuyper did well in this world, but it left him feeling empty and exhausted.

But he was steadily won over by the simple yet profound faith of the people in his first church. This led him to leave behind his theologically liberal past, and to commit himself to the real, Risen Christ, to the Bible as God’s Word, to spiritual fervor combined with intellectual breadth and depth, and to reform in the church, and the culture, of the Netherlands. When we look at Kuyper’s conceptual contributions to the Kingdom of God, we might wonder if anyone could possibly do all of it. Kuyper came close.

One of Kuyper’s key contributions is the concept of “spheres.” He taught that God has created the world with various cultural spheres, such as the church, the family, politics, business, art, education, and more. These spheres are unique and distinct in what they do, working “each one according to it’s kind” (Genesis 1:21, 24; 7:14). They should interfere with each other as little as possible, what he called “sphere sovereignty.” His thinking was that if Jesus is the King (or sovereign), then no other sphere should act as sovereign over another.

Kuyper observed that when spheres get confused, they don’t do their job and their God-given work is corrupted. But Kuyper also argued–and this is key–that Christians have an obligation to be an influence for Kingdom good in each of the cultural spheres. So Christians should faithfully engage the spheres of not only the church and family, but so-called “secular” spheres like politics/government, education, art, and anything else under the sun.

Doing this isn’t easy. We need help on how to connect Sunday to Monday, faith to work, the coming Kingdom to here and now. To help you do that, consider attending the Faith, Life, and Work Conference! November 6-7. We will do our darnedest to cover every square inch of how we can connect our faith with our work and everyday life. More info on keynotes and breakout sessions here.
Note: portions of this post have been excerpted from my book King of the Campus

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