On November 9, 1891, the Dutch pastor and statesman Abraham Kuyper spoke to the first Christian Social Congress in the Netherlands on a profound and continually relevant subjectpoverty. The address was peculiarly relevant to that time, even past-due, as Kuyper himself announced in his opening remarks. The squalor in which much of the population of modern nations lived had become a glaring problem . It could not be ignored and responses were numerous and varied. Among these responses were a large number that claimed to be specifically Christian in origin and idea . As a leading Christian statesmanand one, as we shall see, who was already known for advocating the universal application of a religious view of lifeKuyper felt that the Dutch Christians were addressing the issue none too soon; moreover, it was becoming a vital matter for the reputation and purity of Christianity itself, as Socialism, a movement designed chiefly to deal with this social problem of poverty, began to claim that it was the Christian response.
Kuyper agreed that there was substance in this claim, that although Socialism's method of dealing with poverty was not the Christian one, it could not be denied that Christ has demonstrated in his own life, and in his commission through revelation in the New Testament, a fundamental responsibility toward the suffering of the poor . In fact, Kuyper said, we should feel ashamed that the voice of conscience has not spoken more loudly within us before now, or at least that it did not stir us to earlier action.
[...] It has been argued that Kuyper was a romantic—that is to say, he possessed an epic view of himself (which does not discount the Christian humility that one sees in his life), a theatrical flair in public life, an embattled and stark outlook on the various forces and movements he interacted with, and a deep commitment to individuality, personality, and the “sovereignty of genius”[x]. He was an ambitious and farsighted man, who laid claim by vigor and audacity to much of the success he achieved. [...]
[...] To understand him, one must understand Calvinism (as he knew it). But the Calvinism one must understand in Kuyper is considerably different than the Calvinism one may find in Geneva in the fifteen hundreds in the mind, heart and life of founder John Calvin himself. Although both Kuyper and John Calvin held to many identical central ideas, both were prolific writers and both were earthquakes to their respective political situations, still they exhibit important differences as men, in their theology, and in their social activity. [...]
[...] Kuyper assisted Calvinism to grow up from a superior system of theology to a complete intellectual framework, a life-principle, a lens to view the world and not merely an object to be viewed. When we grow up we acquire a job, develop political views, begin to fully express our independent individuality, marry, raise a family; when Calvinism grew up, it became applicable to the work of any man, expressed in political parties and social principles, fully integrated with the ideas and norms that mirror it or follow from it. [...]
[...] Second, one detects in Calvin an emphasis upon distinction, and in Kuyper an emphasis upon unification. Calvin, simply by the nature of his historical position, was primarily concerned in defining the boundaries between the reformed faith and lifestyle and the Roman Catholic faith and lifestyle. Kuyper, living in a modern age of pluralism, though he possessed to a degree the common reformed emphasis upon distinction, nonetheless made great efforts towards unification for social goals and for political influence. He even made a coalition with the Roman Catholics for certain political goals. [...]
[...] James W. Skillen. Grand Rapids: Baker House Books 9-11 24 [iii] Ibid Ibid Ibid. 28-31 Ibid. 31-34 [vii] Ibid. 35-37 [viii] Ibid. 37-42 Ibid. 43-57 Bruijn, Jan. "Calvinism and Romanticism: Abraham Kuyper as a Calvinist Politician." Religion, Pluralism [...]
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