Kuyper – Lectures on Calvinism

I am reading through Abraham Kuyper’s “Lectures on Calvinism.” I keep encountering a lot of great passages that are worth sharing with others, so I will be posting some of these passages as I come across them. Hopefully they will generate some discussion, so please comment on them.

brief bio:
Abraham Kuyper (October 29, 1837, Maassluis – November 8, 1920 The Hague; name officially “Kuijper”) was a Dutch politician, journalist, statesman and theologian. He founded the Anti-Revolutionary Party and was prime minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

The book’s purpose is to explain how Christianity consists of an entire worldview, a way of seeing reality. Jon mentioned something that I hadn’t realized: the idea of a worldview is relatively recent. Kuyper was way ahead of his time. He notes in the beginning that there was no good translation of the German word weltanschauung, which we now translate as worldview, and instead he used “life system.”

It is called lectures on Calvinism and not lectures on Christianity because Kuyper believed that Calvinism most truthfully and most completely articulates the Biblical Christian faith. It is necessary to distinguish this complete view from the other views of Christianity that do not as fully or as biblically articulate the faith.

to the book:

“There is no doubt then that Christianity is imperiled by great and serious dangers. Two life systems 1 are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while, on the other hand, all those who reverently bend the knee to Christ and worship Him as the Son of the living God, and God himself, are bent upon saving the “Christian Heritage.” This is the struggle in Europe, this is the struggle in America, and this also. is the struggle for principles in which my own country is engaged, and in which I myself have been spending all my energy for nearly forty years

In this struggle Apologetics have advanced us not one single step. Apologists have invariably begun by abandoning the assailed breastwork, in order to entrench themselves cowardly in a ravelin behind it.

From the first, therefore, I have always said to myself,–If the battle is to be fought with honor and with a 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 also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life-system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power. And this powerful life-system is not to be invented nor formulated by ourselves, but is to be taken and applied as it presents itself in history. When thus taken, I found and confessed, and I still hold, that this manifestation of the Christian principle is given us in Calvinism. In Calvinism my heart has found rest. From Calvinism have I drawn the inspiration firmly and resolutely to take my stand in the thick of this great conflict of principles. And therefore, when I was invited most honorably by your Faculty to give the Stone-Lectures here this year, I could not hesitate a moment as to my choice of subject. Calvinism, as the only decisive, lawful, and consistent defence for Protestant nations against encroaching. and overwhelming Modernism,–this of itself was bound to be my theme.”


“In the Roman Catholic Church everybody knows what he lives for, because with clear consciousness he enjoys the fruits of Rome’s unity of life-system. Even in Islam you find the same power of a conviction of life dominated by one principle. Protestantism alone wanders about in the wilderness without aim or direction, moving hither and thither, without making any progress. This accounts for the fact that among Protestant nations Pantheism, born from the new German Philosophy and owing its concrete evolution-form to Darwin, claims for itself more and more the supremacy in every sphere of human life, even in that of theology, and under all sorts of names tries to overthrow our Christian traditions, and is bent even upon exchanging the heritage of our fathers for a hopeless modern Buddhism. The leading thoughts that had their rise in the French Revolution at the close of the last, and in German philosophy in the course of the present century, form together a life-system which is diametrically opposed to that of our fathers. Their struggles were for the sake of the glory of God and a purified Christianity; the present movement wages war for the sake of the glory of man, being inspired not by the humble mind of Golgotha but by the pride of Hero-worship. And why did we, Christians, stand so weak, in the face of this Modernism? Why did we constantly lose ground? Simply because we were devoid of an equal unity of life-conception, such as alone could enable us with irresistible energy to repel the enemy at the frontier. This unity of life-conception, however, is never to be found in a vague conception of Protestantism winding itself as it does in all kind of tortuosities, but you do find it in that mighty historic process, which as Calvinism dug a channel of its own for the powerful stream of its life. By this unity of conception alone as given in Calvinism, you in America and we in Europe might he enabled once more to take our stand, by the side of Romanism, in opposition to modern Pantheism. Without this unity of starting point and life-system we must lose the power to maintain our independent position, and our strength for resistance must ebb away. ”


“Thus I maintain that it is the interpretation of our relation to God which dominates every general life system, and that for us this conception is given in Calvinism, thanks to its fundamental interpretation of an immediate fellowship of God with man and of man with God. To this I add that Calvinism has neither invented nor conceived this fundamental interpretation, but that God Himself implanted it in the hearts of its heroes and its heralds. We face here no product of a clever intellectualism, but the fruit of a work of God in the heart, or, if you like, an inspiration of history. This point should be emphasized! Calvinism has never burned its incense upon the altar of genius, it has erected no monument for its heroes, it scarcely calls them by name. One stone only in a wall at Geneva remains to remind one of Calvin. His very grave has been forgotten. Was this ingratitude? By no means. But if Calvin was appreciated, even in the 16th and 17th centuries the impression was vivid that it was One greater than Calvin. even God Himself, who had wrought here His work. Hence, no general movement in life is so devoid of deliberate compact, none so unconventional in which it spread as this. Simultaneously. Calvinism had its rise in all the countries of Western Europe, and it did not appear, among those nations. because the University was in its van, or because scholars led the people, or because a magistrate placed himself at their head: but it sprang from the hearts of the people themselves, with weavers and farmers, with tradesmen and servants, with women and young maidens; and in every instance it exhibited the same characteristic: viz., strong Assurance of eternal Salvation, not only without the intervention of the Church, but even in opposition to the Church. The human heart had attained unto eternal peace with its God: strengthened by this Divine fellowship, it discovered its high and holy calling to consecrate every department of life and every energy at its disposal to the glory of God: and therefore, when those men or women, who had become partakers of this Divine life, were forced to abandon their faith, it proved impossible, that they could deny their Lord; and thousands and tens of thousands burned at the stake, not complaining but exulting, with thanksgiving in their hearts and psalms upon their lips. Calvin was not the author of this, but God who through His Holy Spirit had wrought in Calvin that which He had wrought in them. Calvin stood not above them, but as a brother by their side, a sharer with them of God’s blessing. In this way, Calvinism came to its fundamental interpretation of an immediate fellowship with God, not because Calvin invented it, but because in this immediate fellowship God Himself had granted to our fathers a privilege of which Calvin was only the first to become clearly conscious. This is the great work of the Holy Spirit in history, by which Calvinism has been consecrated, and which interprets to us its wondrous energy.”

that’s enough for now, let me know what you think

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