65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 1999
Anyone who doesn't read Kuyper is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder . . . and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair.
OK, I confess, I've just shamelessly lifted, word for word, Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda's review of Julio Cortazar (see the amazon entry for Cortazar's Cronopios and Famas), just because it's about my favorite comment on any book anywhere, and I think Kuyper's seminal book Lectures on Calvinism deserves such.
Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism is essential reading for any Christian who wishes to reflect on the relationship of Christian faith to the state, the church, the sciences, the arts, and other spheres and endeavors of life. First delivered as lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in the last decade of the 19th C., these thoughts of Kuyper, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, have enormous relevance to our day. Contrary to what the title may lead you to think, it is NOT a treatise on Calvinist doctrinal distinctives. It is a study of the beneficial historical effects that the Calvinistic Reformation has had on various areas of endeavor in the societies it has impacted, and why it produced those effects. Anyone who has appreciated the writings of Francis A. Schaeffer will discover in Kuyper an important source of Schaeffer's key ideas.
One need not be Calvinist, nor even Christian, to learn through this book something of the factors that have shaped the most positive aspects of Western culture. But, then, that could put such a person in dangerous territory, couldn't it....
Kuyper believes that a light was lit in this world some 2000 years ago, and that this light has made its impact felt in diverse areas and in concrete ways, in turn, over the course of Christian history. A torch, once ignited in Jerusalem, has been passed, lighting up in succession various places as well as aspects of life, allowing each to come into their own and realize more fully the potentials God intended for them.
The following quote, actually taken from another important work of Kuyper's, will give you a flavor of Kuyper's concept of the historical unfolding of the blessings of the gospel of Christ that is also present in Lectures on Calvinism:
"Christianity conceals in its womb a much greater treasure of rejuvenation than you surmise. Until now it has exerted its power only on the individual and only indirectly on the state. But anyone who, as believer or as unbeliever, has been able to spy out its secret dynamic, must grant that Christianity can exert a wonderful organizing power on society also; and not till this power breaks through will the religion of the cross shine before the whole world in all the depths of its conception and in all the wealth of the blessings which it brings."
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2003
I think it's probably unlikely that anyone will read these lectures by Kuyper and agree word for word with absolutely everything that's in here. There are enough distinctives in Kuyper's thought that make his views somewhat particular, as are the views of everyone. But there is no question that one can surmise from reading this book that Kuyper, philosophically speaking, was a man ahead of his time.
The basic point of this book is to present a Calvinistic worldview that penetrates and transforms all aspects of society - politics, science, the arts, religion, etc. In many ways, such an attempt was, and is, revolutionary by Christian standards. Surprisingly few Christians, either today or in Kuyper's day 100 years ago, think christianly about things beyond the pale of pure religion or spirituality. Many Christians who are indeed quite Christian in regards to religious beliefs and even personal holiness do not take Christianity beyond these areas into the world and in the world's legitimate disciplines like politics or science. There are several reasons that are regularly given for this, but clearly the most pervasive is that many Christians haven't thought about such things and have unnecessarily limited their ability to transform the world. This attitude is decidedly unacceptable to Kuyper, and this comes through loud and clear in this book.
Not only was Kuyper ahead of his time in suggesting a full orbed Christian worldview in place of a compartmentalized Christianity, but he was also prophetic in laying down a solid framework for comparative religious and worldview studies. Those who struggle with answering assertions which suggest that all religions and worldviews are more or less the same should read Kuyper here. Kuyper is very good in contrasting worldviews, showing them to be incompatible with each other, and forcefully arguing for that worldviews can and should be differentiated from each other on the basis of truth versus error. In particular, Kuyper plunges head first into the modernist craze of his time and calling for a full orbed Christian rebuttal to modernism that can only be achieved by developing a full-orbed Christian worldview that can compete with modernistic tendencies in science, politics, etc.
Not every Christian will agree with Kuyper's views, and not even all self-described Calvinists will either. Calvinism is not monolithic on many of these questions, though Kuyper's views are indeed compelling and often persuasive. I think the biggest compliment this book can be given is that it should raise the consciousness of the Christian reader to think outside his own backyard and yearn to develop his faith into a comprehensive life system which is applicable to any circumstance and any discipline or field of study. Kuyper wanted Christians to expand their horizons and expand their influence by outthinking and outworking their worldview opponents, and this is a message that is every bit as critical for Christians to hear today as it was when these lectures were given 100 years ago.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2000
This classic expression of the Reformed faith offers six lectures on Calvinism delivered at Princeton University, 1898 under the auspices of the L. P. Stone Foundation. Though these lecture were delivered in 1898, what Kuper (Dr Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch Calvinist theologian, philosopher and politician) addresses is still very relevant even after a century. This lectures are not just another set of theology. Dr Kuyper helps us discover the richness of calvinism with respect to our world view. These lectures include Calvinism with Life System, Religion, Politics, Science, Art and the Future.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Invited to speak at the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898, Kuyper took the opportunity to deliver this message on the importance of Calvinism as a comprehensive "life-system," or what today we might refer to as a worldview. Kuyper is simply brilliant and his writing is amazing - tackling difficult issues and concepts, yet making it accessible to an interested and engaged reader. Kuyper believed that God was (and is) interested in all facets of human life and that the belief-system of Christianity addressed all the various facets of human endeavor. Lectures on Calvinism begins with an overview of Calvinism as a Life-system and then is broken down into chapters that relate how Calvinism addresses religion, politics, science, art and the future.
Kuyper addresses three primary spheres of human involvement - (1) our relation to God, (2) our relation to man, and (3) our relation to the world. Kuyper believed that a proper understanding and perspective of these three spheres would give man a proper biblically-based relationship to God and others - and that proper perspective was one of engagement for the cause of Christ, not "monastic flight" from the issues of the day.
Avoidance of the world, according to Kuyper, is not biblical. But understanding how to engage and placing a proper emphasis on the importance of worldly things is also a must. For those who believe they have an understanding of Calvinism from the simplistic "five points of Calvinism," this book would blow them away! The book is not for everyone - I would suggest only a serious reader would enjoy this book - but if well-read, this book is definitely worth the time and effort!
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2005
My first exposure to this book was as required reading for a class by Dr. Douglas Kelly at Reformed Theological Seminary - Charlotte. I can honestly say that since that time it has become what I consider to be one of the most necessary books that I read in seminary.
Typically in our day Calvinism has been reduced to a checklist of Five Points. While this does show the essence of the scriptural teachings of salvation, Kuyper expresses Calvinism as it truly is: an outworking of the principles of Scripture into the cultures of which we are called to be salt and light. Kuyper himself states "He only is a real Calvinist, and may raise the Calvinistic banner, who in his own soul, personally, has been struck by the Majesty of the Almighty, and yielding to the overpowering might of His eternal love, has dared to proclaim this majestic love, over against Satan and the world, and the worldliness of his own heart, in the personal conviction of being chosen by God Himself, and therefore of having to thank Him and Him alone, for every grace everlasting."
With all that is written on "worldviews" today and in the process falls well short of being scripturally based or even realistic, I believe that the church would do well to listen to Kuyper, for how we should handle difficulties that plague the church today and will continue to threaten the church in the future, although he spoke these words long ago. I would suggest this book as a must read for individuals, small groups if even topics for a topical sermon series. I know that the Lord has used it as a catalyst in my own home to discussion of Scripture and practice. While the chapters may seem long for the average reader today, they are manageable and well worth the effort and shows why the church should consider this book as required reading as well.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2010
This is obviously a classic in reformed theology, deserving of no less than five stars (ten stars if we could give it!). Unfortunately this Feather Trail Press edition makes this classic so hard to read that it is almost unbearable. The font itself is not easy on the eyes. The formatting makes it almost impossible to read without having a ruler or bookmark as your eyes go down the page. And the typographical errors are so numerous and frequent that I wonder how this book was even published at all. It's almost like it's some kind of scam or something - like "Feather Trail Press" is not a real publishing company but just specializes at re-publishing horrendous versions of classic literature. Try Googling "Feather Trail Press" for other examples and see what happens. It's really unfortunate.
If you want the edition that is worthy of the five-star rating of its content, I recommend the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company edition which you can find here: Lectures on Calvinism. Not only is it from a more reliable (and actual) publishing company, it also includes a neat biographical note on Abraham Kuyper.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The book can be a bit hard to follow at times because the translation from print to Ebook is spotty. There is stray punctuation in places and misspellings.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2009
This is a book I would recommend to any Christians going into government and politics. Kuyper explains how the Christian faith should inform all aspects of the Christian's life and worldview, and how it should infuse religion, politics, science, and art. My review will mainly explore Kuyper's treatment of politics, since I consider it to be the most important in the book, but I will touch up on some other chapters.
First, let me introduce the remarkable author of these lectures, Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), who was a Dutch theologian and philosopher who served as Prime Minister of Holland from 1901 to 1905. In 1870, he became Editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper The Standard and he would later become the editor of The Herald, a Christian weekly paper. In 1874 was elected to the lower house of Parliament, where he served until 1877, and in 1880, he founded the Free University of Amsterdam, which takes the Bible was the unconditional basis for the structuring of human knowledge.
Dr. Kuyper has said that "One desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One high motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul ... It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people" (p. iii). Throughout all of his writings, Kuyper seeks to establish Christ as "King in every department of human life and activity" (p. vi).
According to Kuyper, there are three sources of authority under God: Church, the State, and the family. Under his theory of "sphere sovereignty," each of these holds its own sphere of influence and may not transgress its boundaries. For instance, the State may not impose its laws in the independent sovereign "social sphere," the "corporative sphere of universities, guilds, associations, etc.," the "domestic sphere of the family and of married life," and the "communal autonomy" (p. 96). Within these independent spheres, Government may only "compel mutual regard for the boundary-lines of each," "defend individuals and the weak ones" in those spheres, and coerce all to bear the "financial burdens for the maintenance of the natural unity of the State" (p. 97).
Under Kuyper's political system, the State may not interfere with the sovereignty of the Church in weeding out heterodoxy from orthodoxy. Kuyper thereby rejects Calvin's demand for the "interventionfo the government in the matter of religion" (p. 99). They state cannot "form an individual judgment, as to which of those many Churches is the true one" (p. 105). Only "the system of a free Church, in a free State, may be honored from a Calvinistic standpoint" (p. 106).
Kuyper lays out basis for the State's God-given authority and need for constitutional limits of authority, which is similarly limited by God. "No man has the right to rule over another man" (p. 82), he writes. It is not in man's prelapsarian nature to submit to state authority. Had it not been for sin, there would be no need for government, which bears the sword to "mete out corporeal punishment to the criminal ..., to defend the honor and the rights and the interests of the State against its enemies ..., [and] to thwart at home all forcible rebellion" (p. 93). However, even in a prelapsarian state, submission in the family, in the church, and before God would have continued. Without sin, "political life, in its entirety, would have evolved itself, after a patriarchal fashion, from the life of the family" (p. 80).
Kuyper goes on to discuss the popular sovereignty proclaimed in Paris in 1789 as well as state sovereignty, which had been spreading throughout Europe at the time. Because each of these theories rejects God--whereas State sovereignty puts the State above God, popular sovereignty puts the people and their free wills above God--Kuyper in turn rejects them. He contrasts these movements to the rebellion against Spain, under William the Silent, the English Glorious Revolution, which overthrew Stuarts, and the American Revolution, all of which proceeded from an acknowledgement of God. He contrasts the American Revolution with the French Revolution. In the former, although the people were held to be above the government, God was viewed as above the people. Perhaps Hamilton captures this distinction best when he considered "the French Revolution to be no more akin to the American Revolution than the faithless wife in a French novel is like the Puritan matron in New England" (p. 87). The liberty in the French Revolution "for every Christian to agree with the unbelieving majority is in turn contrasted wit the notion of liberty in Calvinism--"a liberty of conscience, which enables every man to serve God according to his own conviction and the dictates of his own heart" (p. 109).
Kuyper concludes by stating that the chief purpose of his lectures "was to eradicate the wrong idea that Calvinism represented an exclusively dogmatical and ecclesiastical movement. Calvinism did not stop at a church-order, but expanded in a life-system, and did not exhaust its energy in a dogmatical construction, but created a life- and world-view" (p. 171). He goes on to lay out the framework for a coalition between Protestants and Catholics to defend "those fundamentals of our Christian creed now most fiercely assaulted by the modern spirit" (p. 183). United with Rome on the fundamentals, Protestants can more effectively promote "the Bible as given by inspiration of God over against a purely human product; the ten commandments as ordained by God over against a mere archeological document; the ordinances of God absolutely established over against an ever-changing law and morality spun out of man's subjective consciousness" (p. 183), and the other doctrines key to the Christian worldview. "Therefore," he concludes, "let me ask if Romish theologians take up the sword to do valiant and skilful battle against the same tendency that we ourselves mean to fight ot the death, is it not the part of wisdom to accept the valuable help of their elucidation?" (p. 184). In this way, he argues for a political coalition that would go on to hold sway against the revolutionary forces sweeping Europe at the time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Abraham Kyper's "Lectures" and Richard Weaver's "Ideas Have Consequences" should top the list of essential reading for folks who have not been introduced to the idea of a distinctly Christian world view and those who need equipping to deal with the questions being asked in the world today.
Kuyper may seem dated on first reading (as may Weaver) but if you hang in there with him you will begin to see the significance of his thought. Essentially his attempt is to "take every thought captive." His presupposition is that God has made all things good and that this goodness can be developed and appreciated when carefully appropriated in a manner which does not obscure the goodness. Whether it is politics or art, there can be nobility in the enterprise even as there can also be depravity. What Kuyper enables us to do is understand how to approach life such that nobility is in greater proportion.
Be prepared for turn of the century (19th-20th) prose and language. Kuyper expects a certain level of literary acumen in his readers (and hearers, these were originally lectures). Once you settle in to his style though, you will find his thought stimulating even if you don't agree with everything.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Kuyper is essential reading for developing a reformed protestant worldview. Reading Kuyper is to developing your worldview is like eating your intellectual wheaties. Few have developed and expounded on a reformed worldview with the clarity of the Kuyper system of thought. A great resource for anyone interested in reformed theology as it applies to politics, culture, and life in general.