This semester I am teaching a course on Contemporary Worldviews, and also reading some of Abraham Kuyper’s works. He is one of the men attributed with the formalization of the “Christian/Theistic Worldview.” In view of some current controversy concerning Kuyper, and his ability/inability to “transform,” the Dutch culture in a more permanent way, I thought I might include some considerations. When thinking about Kuyper’s ability to transform the Netherlands, it might be beneficial grasp his perspective.
The worldview dilemma has not always been so disjointed and confusing. Until the 17th Century the “Theistic” Worldview dominated. At that time the basic orientation of most individuals allowed them to agree upon certain fundamental presuppositions. Some of those ideas were the reality of God as Triune, Personal, Eternal; additionally, humankind were His special creation. Because of Adam’s fall and imputed sin/guilt to all his ancestry, God began to unfold His redemptive plan through Christ. Around the time the Christian worldview was attacked, Kupyer, James Orr, Herman Bavinck and others promoted a schematic character to the Theistic worldview. These men developed their fundamental presuppositions from the writings primarily from one person; John Calvin.
Who were these men who developed the formal Theistic Worldview?
James Orr was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor/theologian who wrote, The Christian view of God and the World. Kuyper gave an address at Princeton University in 1898, which became Lectures on Calvinism. (I am currently reading this book.) In this detailed address to Princeton University Kuyper gives 5 distinct categories describing the rationale of Calvinism as a “Life-system.” In the lectures that Kuyper gave at Princeton he addressed, Calvinism as Life-system, Calvinism and Religion, Calvinism and Politics, Calvinism and Science, and Calvinism and Art. In each of these detailed chapters, Kuyper portrays Calvinism not simply as a soteriological system, but a full schema for living. By taking the presuppositions of Calvin and applying them to the main areas of life, Kuyper provides an individual with a reformed framework for existence. Herman Bavinck was also a Dutch Calvinist who provided great influence upon the Netherlands.
We can take Kuyper’s address and access the condition of his own country. This may or may not be an accurate assessment. Decades after the death of Kuyper the Netherlands was far from holding a Christian Theistic Worldview but were actually a bastion of depravity and wickedness. Today, this country is known for harboring some of the world’s most wicked practices. The question is, is it fair for us to look at the current condition and analyze the effectiveness of ineffectiveness of Kuyper’s viewpoints? Does this make him any less correct on his assumptions about Calvinism? What if there is an assessment of our country 100 years from know? What would that look like?
However, is there any validity to the hypothesis Kuyper asserts in his lectures?
James Sire is one of the leading Philosophy/Worldview experts today. In The Universe Next Door, he defines as worldview as, “A Worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may or may not be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously, or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.” This is quite a lengthy definition, but a thorough one. Sire is more or less saying that a worldview is a deep rooted commitment of the soul, emotion, desire, will and intellect that is expressed in a group of presuppositions, often in a story, (metanarrative), that are true, conscious, and consistent, and all this therefore provides the foundation on which we live. Could a more complete understanding of Calvinism provide a substantial worldview according to Sire?
In his book, Sire gives 7 questions to filter any prospective worldview. Those 7 questions are;
What is the prime reality?
What is the nature of external reality and the world around us?
What is a human being?
What happens to a person as death?
Why is it possible to know anything at all?
How do we know right from wrong?
What is the measure of human history?
How do Kuyper’s ideas stack up?
The interesting thing is, when I take the Kuyperian ideals from Lectures on Calvinism, and filter them through Sire’s 7 questions, it really comes out nicely. I am not supposing that the system is the only or full answer, but the system uses biblical truths to sift the entire life of a person. Not even Kuyper’s ideas could last, as the Dutch Calvinistic conclusions would fall. As he pointed out in his lectures, America was and is on a slippery slope of dismissal of Christian Calvinistic ideals.
What if we viewed Calvinism not solely as a soteriological system, but a more complete picture of an ideal identity of the Christian Theistic Worldview? If we do that, is there any hope of salvaging America? Or, will we become the next France, Netherlands, and England?????