Lectures on Calvinism 7

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper observes “our best Calvinistic Confessions speak of two means whereby we know God, viz., the Scriptures and Nature.”  This means, “our attention may not be withdrawn from the life of nature and creation; the study of the body regained its place of honor beside the study of the soul; and the social organization of mankind on earth was again looked upon as being as well worthy an object of human science as the congregation of the perfect saints in heaven.”

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Lectures on Calvinism 6

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper comments on why Christians bifurcate the world into sacred and secular this way: “wherever two elements appear, as in this case the sinner and the saint, the temporal and the eternal, the terrestrial and the heavenly life, there is always danger of losing sight of their interconnection and of falsifying both by error or onesidedness.”  This “dualistic conception…has…neglected to give due attention to the world of God’s creation” and “has, on account of its exclusive love of things eternal, been backward in the fulfilment of its temporal duties.”

On the contrary, the Bible makes plain that “the object of the work of redemption [of Christ] is not limited to the salvation of individual sinners, but extends itself to the redemption of the world, and to the organic reunion of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ as their original head.”  The “final outcome of the future…is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all under the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.”   

On a related note, Kuyper believes the dualistic conception neglecting creation “has led…to a mystic worshipping of Christ alone, to the exclusion of God the Father Almighty, Maker of heavens and earth” because, in that conception, “Christ was conceived exclusively as the Savior, and His cosmological significance was lost out of sight.”  Furthermore, while “our salvation is of substantial weight,” “it cannot be compared with the much greater weight of the glory of our God, who has revealed His majesty in His wondrous creation.”  While “the mediatorship of Christ is and ever will be the burden of the grand hymn of the tongues of men and the voices of angels…even this mediatorship has for its final end the glory of the Father; and however grand the splendor of Christ’s kingdom may be, He will at last surrender it to the God and the Father.”  This is why, according to Kuyper:

Calvinism puts an end once and for all to contempt for the world, neglect of temporal and under-valuation of cosmical things.  Cosmical life has regained its worth not at the expense of things eternal, but by virtue of its capacity as God’s handiwork and as a revelation of God’s attributes.

Lectures on Calvinism 5

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says the ultimate purpose of the church is “the re-creation both of our human race and of the Cosmos as a whole.”  (It cannot simply be “human or egoistic, to prepare the believer for Heaven” because “the Church exists…for the sake of God.”)

How does this play out in the life of a Christian?  “When our respiration is disturbed, we try irresistibly and immediately to remove the disturbance, and to make it normal again, i.e. to restore it, by bringing it again into accordance with the ordinances which God has given for man’s respiration.”  In the same way, “in every disturbance of the normal life the believer has to strive as speedily as possible to restore his spiritual respiration, according to the moral commands of his God, because only after this restoration can the inward life again thrive freely in his soul, and renewed energetic action become possible.”  

Kuyper says this is in opposition to the “Anabaptists” who “announc[ed] themselves as ‘saints’ [and] severed from the world.”  This type of “avoidance of the world has never been the Calvinistic mark” for “it is not true that there are two worlds, a bad one and a good one, which are fitted into each other.”  Instead, the world is “one and the same world which once exhibited all the glory of Paradise, which was afterwards smitten with the curse, and which, since the Fall, is upheld by common grace.”  

As a result, a Calvinist “feels…his calling to push the development of this world to an even higher stage, and to do this in constant accordance with God’s ordinance, for the sake of God, upholding, in the midst of so much painful corruption, everything that is honorable, lovely, and of good report among men.”

Lectures on Calvinism 4

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says Roman Catholicism, too, was defective because its religion was “partial,” knowing “religion only as it existed in her own Church, and consider[ing] the influence of religion to be confined to that portion of life which she had consecrated.”

Kuyper then says the Roman Catholicism had its own version of sacred and secular distinction: “Rome drew a boundary line between the consecrated and the profane sides of life.”  And, consequently, it had its own version of the Christian hierarchy of occupations: “She also subdivided her own sacred precincts according to different degrees of religious intensity — the clergy and the cloister constituting the Holy of Holies, the pious laity forming the Holy Place, thus leaving the Outer Court to those who, although baptized, continued to prefer to church-devotion the often sinful pleasures of the world, a system of limitation and division, which for those in the Outer Court, ended in setting nine tenths of practical life outside of all religion.”

The result is a “partial” religion, “carrying it from ordinary days to days of festival, from days of property to times of danger and sickness, and from the fulness of life to the time of approaching death,” a “dualistic system.”

By contrast, Calvinism argues, “if everything that is exists for the sake of God, then it follows that the whole creation must give glory to God.”  “Although sin has deadened a large part of creation to the glory of God, the demand, the ideal, remains unchangeable, that every creature must be immersed in the stream of religion, and end by lying as a religious offering on the altar of Almighty.”  Therefore, “the Calvinist demands that all life be consecrated to His service, in strict obedience.”  “A religion confined to the closet, the cell, or the church, therefore, Calvin abhors.”  Kuyper continues:

Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.

Lectures on Calvinism 3

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper argues, if “the religious organ” is found “not in the whole of our being, but in part of it, being confined to our feelings and our will, consequently also the sphere of religious life must assume in consequence the same partial character.”

How?

“Religion is excluded from science, and its authority from the domain of public life.”  “The inner chamber, the cell for prayer, and the secrecy of the heart” becomes “its exclusive dwelling place.”  Religion, in the end, becomes “almost private retreat.”

Lectures on Calvinism 2

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says a religion that exists for the sake of man rather than God aims at “his safety, his liberty, his elevation and partly also at his triumph over death.”

The consequence?  “Such religion thrives in time of famine and pestilence, it flourishes among the poor and oppressed, and it expands among the humble and the feeble.”  But, such religion, then “pines away in the days of prosperity, it fails to attract the well-to-do, it is abandoned by those who are more highly cultured.”  “This is the fatal end of egoistic religion; it becomes superfluous and disappears as soon as the egoistic interests are satisfied.”  (By contrast, Calvinism exists for the sake of God — i.e., “it is not God who exists for the sake of His creation; the creation exists for the sake of God.”)

Lectures on Calvinism 1

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says, “under the hierarchy of Rome the Church and the World were placed over against each other, the one as being sanctified and the other as being still under the curse.”  

Calvinism brought about a challenge to this “dualistic social state” by honoring not only “man for the sake of his likeness to the Divine image, but also the world as a Divine creation.”  Calvinism emphasized that, while there is “particular grace which works Salvation,” there is also “a common grace by which God, maintaining the life of the world, relaxes the curse which rests upon it, arrests its process of corruption, and thus allows the untrammelled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator.”  

The result?  “The Church receded in order to be neither more nor less than the congregation of believers, and in every department the life of the world was not emancipated from God, but from the dominion of the Church.”  “Domestic life regained its independence, trade and commerce realized their strength in liberty, art and science were set free from every ecclesiastical bond and restored to their own inspirations, and man began to understand the subjection of all nature with its hidden forces and treasures to himself as a holy duty, imposed upon him by the original ordinances of Paradise: ‘Have dominion over them.’”

Ultimately, this meant “the curse should no longer rest upon the world itself, but upon that which is sinful in it, and instead of monastic flight from the world the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world, in every position in life.”  Since “in the whole world the curse is restrained by grace, the life of the world is to be honored in its independence, and we must, in every domain, discover the treasuries and develop the potencies hidden by God in nature and in human life.”

(This was especially an “antithesis to Anabaptism” which adopted “the opposite method” of “evad[ing] the world,” “confirming the monastic starting-point” and “generalizing and making it a rule for all believers.”)