What is the relationship between the church and the state?
As a theologian and pastor, Abraham Kuyper was greatly concerned about the state of the Dutch church in his time. As a politician and activist, he was equally concerned about the church’s role and influence in the modern world.
On the Church contains seven of Kuyper’s most important essays and speeches on the nature of the church. These newly translated works show Kuyper’s conviction that Christians must take an active role in the world, a world upheld by God’s common grace but standing in need of God’s particular grace in Christ. Christians must neither hide within the doors of their church buildings nor give in to the temptation to be active in earthly institutions alone.
An introductory essay by Ad de Bruijne answers how Kuyper’s doctrine of the church may be applied in the 21st century.
Many of Abraham Kuyper’s insights have had a hand in guiding my ecclesiological reflection for decades. This new collection of Kuyper’s essays on the church, introduced by two helpful essays that show his contemporary significance, will demonstrate his ongoing importance for today’s ecclesiological discussion. Kuyper writes in a time when the church is being marginalised to the private sphere under the tidal wave of the hostile religious vision of Enlightenment modernity. He struggles to find a role for the comprehensive missional vocation of the church in the public square that embraces both the insights of Anabaptism (the church is a colony of the kingdom) and Christendom (the church has shared public responsibility for cultural development) in ways similar to Lesslie Newbigin. That is precisely what we need today.
—Michael W. Goheen, Director of Theological Education, MTC, Scholar-in-Residence, Surge Network
Years ago as a young church planter struggling around in the dark to understand the church's proper relationship to the culture around it, I discovered Kuyper's brilliant insight that the church is simultaneously a living organism and an institution. This profound insight was like a flash of lightning illuminating the path forward. I instantly recognized it as a way of thinking about the church that would renew it and empower her members to impact and shape the culture around it. It was both inward, focused on the biblical health of the institution, and outward, giving Christians the vision to missionally engage the culture outside the walls of the church. His insight became a valuable guide shaping everything we did at the church. Years later, I am so thankful for this new volume, On The Church, where Kuyper's valuable insights are now available for a new generation of pastors and theologians and church members who desperately need a vibrant public theology to guide them in these parlous times. I can't recommend this volume highly enough.
—Jim Belcher, President, Providence Christian College
Who was Abraham Kuyper and what did he believe? For those who want to go deeper than just a snapshot and a summary, the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series provides depth and development in a very accessible format. Kuyper was not static as a person and the writings presented illumine a Kuyper who continually addressed the culture, context and church of his day. On the Church challenges us to engage the insights presented and the categories that are defined and refined by Kuyper. You may not always agree with Kuyper’s articulations or his conclusions, but his ecclesiastical insights can still serve as a vital resource for the church today!
—Jul Medenblik, President, Calvin Theological Seminary
Lexham Press is pleased to announce the publication of a major series of new translations of Kuyper’s writings in public theology. Created in partnership with the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society and the Acton Institute, the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology will mark a historic moment in Kuyper studies, and we hope it will deepen and enrich the church’s interest and engagement in public theology.
“‘Rooted and grounded,’ says the apostle, and thereby declares with equal brevity and succinctness that twofold requirement, that double character trait of the Christian life. Rooted—that is the description of organic life; but also grounded—that is the requirement of the institution.” (Page 49)
“A free church’—there you see what can solve the riddle for us. We must be free in order to escape Rome’s paralysis, but we must no less be church in order to escape the draining away of our lifeblood as a result of spiritualism.” (Page 49)
“Calvin himself had written more soberly about this complex matter, and limits himself in his Institutes to the statement that the task of the government extends to both tables of the law of the Ten Commandments.” (Page 392)
“Hence the slogan of false unity today has become: through uniformity to unification, by centralization toward Caesarism” (Page xvi)
“Ecclesiology concerns the social nature of humanity’s relation to God” (Page xii)
Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) was one of the most extraordinary individuals of his time. A prolific intellectual and theologian, he founded the Free University in Amsterdam and was instrumental in the development of Neo-Calvinism. He was also an active politician, serving as a member of Parliament in the Netherlands beginning in 1874 and serving as Prime Minister from 1901 to 1905.
At this intersection of church and state, he devoted much of his writing towards developing a public theology. His passion was to faithfully understand and engage culture through a Christian worldview. The most famous example is his articulation of the doctrine of common grace. His work has influenced countless others, including Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius Van Til, and Alvin Plantinga.
Jordan J. Ballor (ThD, University of Zurich; PhD, Calvin Theological Seminary) is a research fellow at the Acton Institute and serves as executive editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Melvin Flikkema (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is Senior Advisor at the Acton Institute. He coordinated the translation of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. He was previously the Provost of Kuyper College.