As an institution, Redeemer has its origins profoundly set in the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Renowned Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper is an extension of the Reformation’s massive scope. He’s had a subsequent influence on Redeemer. “Kuyper’s tradition of deep reflection on Christian engagement with learning and society was the inspiration for Redeemer’s founding. It continues to fuel our mission today,” says Dr. Kevin Flatt, director of research at Redeemer. “This tradition is full of insights for Christians who want to stand with integrity at the crossroads of faith, life and learning. There’s no better way to nourish that desire than to go back to our roots.”
This is not to mention that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. As part of Redeemer’s commemoration of the occasion, the school will be hosting Abraham Kuyper Today: A Celebration of the Reformation, a conference with the goal of reflecting on the relevance of the Kuyperian tradition for today’s world. Dr. Craig Bartholomew’s latest book, Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction, has inspired and shaped the conference’s structure. A variety of speakers — many of them Redeemer faculty — will each address a theme of one of the book’s chapters throughout the afternoon. In addition, a panel will explore how we can retrieve and renew the Kuyperian tradition for today.
“Kuyper believed that our commitment to follow Jesus Christ should transform every aspect of our lives.”
“I’m particularly excited to hear not only from current and former faculty of Redeemer, but also from distinguished guests from other institutions, like Bruce Ashford of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, on how Kuyper’s thinking can equip us for the challenges of the 21st century,” Flatt continues. “Kuyper believed that our commitment to follow Jesus Christ should transform every aspect of our lives. I hope that those who attend this event catch something of that transforming vision.” The conference is a unique event that offers an excellent opportunity for the wider community, including students, alumni, and Redeemer supporters to engage positively and critically with Kuyper.
“The church and our world urgently needs the sort of biblical and public theology that Kuyper and his colleagues developed.”
The convergence of the anniversary of the Reformation and the publishing of Bartholomew’s book created the ideal circumstances for a conference. Coupled with this, notes Bartholomew, is that more of Kuyper’s material — originally written in Dutch — is available in English than ever before. “In my view, Kuyper’s time has come,” says Bartholomew, Redeemer’s former H. Evan Runner chair of philosophy and professor of religion and theology. Bartholomew is slated to become the new director of Tyndale House’s Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics in Cambridge, England. “The church and our world urgently need,” Bartholomew continues, “the sort of biblical and public theology that Kuyper and his colleagues developed.”
Writing the book was a chance for Bartholomew to dig deeply into Kuyper himself as well as his predecessors, contemporaries and successors. Names such as Herman Bavinck, J. H. Bavinck, Gerrit C. Berkouwer and Herman Dooyeweerd are spread throughout the pages. The analysis of major Kuyperian themes and ideas that define the tradition — worldview, sphere sovereignty, creation and redemption, the public square and mission — is completed systematically and in dialogue with other perspectives.
As Bartholomew and other Reformed scholars will attest, Kuyper has never been more relevant. At the Abraham Kuyper Today conference, a book will be fleshed out and analyzed in real time, presenting Christian scholarship and its impact on our common good in an engaging and accessible way.