Nearly a hundred years after his death, the writings of Abraham Kuyper are experiencing a resurgence.
Kuyper could rightly be called a polymath. He founded a political party, a university and a denomination. He was a theologian, a journalist and the Dutch prime minister from 1901 to 1905. He wrote prolifically on a wide variety of subjects, including business, education, politics and theology. That thought has influenced the Neo-Calvinist movement and Reformed thinkers for decades.
His work, however, is not as well known outside of Reformed circles or among English readers. A new series of translations aims to share this rich Reformed scholarship across denominations and with North American evangelicals at large.
Lexham Press is publishing eight of Kuyper’s essential works across 12 volumes. Called Collected Works in Public Theology, the project is supported by the Redeemer Centre for Christian Scholarship. Emeritus professor of history Dr. Harry Van Dyke is the editor and translator of Kuyper’s Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto, which was the first work published in the series.
In Our Program, Kuyper wrestles with the role of faith in the politics of his day. For Christians today, Kuyper’s political program remains a timely example of faith at work in the public square.
Kuyper sought to engage his culture with a distinctly Christian worldview and can speak to a new generation of Christians seeking to do the same. The challenge is to come up with a similar powerful witness in our time. “Ever since the Chicago Declaration signed by American evangelicals in the 70s,” says Van Dyke,“there has been a thirst for a full-orbed engagement with public life and the political arena, an engagement that would get beyond single-issue concerns and instead pursue biblically-inspired and biblically-directed involvement in every issue that today’s government and society faces which cry out for healing and redemption. Kuyper knew how to bean effective witness of the practical side of the gospel in a modern democracy.
The volumes are dense and not for the faint of heart, making translation a science and an art. “Translations are never ‘perfect’, but you have to make them so that the original author can look over your shoulder and nod with approval,” Van Dyke says.
Dr. Robert Joustra, associate professor of politics and international studies, uses parts of these Kuyper translations in his classes. He also presented on Kuyper’s politics at a colloquium this September. “One of the reasons Kuyper is interesting is the way he speaks about culture,” says Joustra, who is also the director of the Centre for Christian Scholarship. “He loved cultural diversity and would have hated the push for ‘sameness.’ Kuyper talked about how to live with our neighbours in a way that is rare and precious today.”
Kuyper had a lot to say and there is much to gain today from reflecting on his work. Dr. Van Dyke encourages reading Kuyper’s texts to see how to “live the Christian life, personally and collectively, in the church, in the home, in the academy, and, not to forget, in the public square.”