Abraham Kuyper and Christian Worldview

In recent times I have been asked my opinion about various matters relating to politics, government, public policy, moral responsibility in society and generally about the relationship between church and state. In light of these questions, I  want to make some general comments here. I would recommend readers of this blog who are wrestling with worldview issues in this area consider reading Abraham Kuyper. He was a pastor and eventually founder of the Free University of Amsterdam. In 1898 he delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary which are now most recently published in the Hendrickson Christian Classics series and rightfully so. These are truly a classic in writings on biblical worldview and can be found under the title: Lectures on Calvinism. Kuyper is a seminal thinker who did a good job of thinking through how a biblical (i.e. Calvinistic) worldview properly engages culture in various ways (science, art, politics, etc.).

For an example of an effort to thoughtfully develop these convictions in a detailed and practical way I have found The Center for Public Justice to be very helpful.  Their concern is that:

Politics in the United States has become increasingly issue-oriented, short-term, and pragmatic. Citizens approach government primarily as a means to achieve the ends that various interest groups, regions, or sectors of society hold dear. Politics often amounts to little more than interest-group competition among diverse groups, each seeking its own goals. Too little attention is given to the soundness of public institutions, to the art of long-term constitutional statecraft, and to the common good of the republic as a whole.

The prevalence of interest-group politics fuels an electoral process in which candidates raise money from special interests and typically appeal to voters on a narrow range of issues. Think tanks do research, some of it quite detailed and in-depth, but most of it focuses narrowly on particular issues, with little concern for other, equally vital matters. The political parties, interest groups, think tanks, and most citizens tend to take for granted this system along with the dominant ideologies and American civil religion that fuel the action.

Their conviction is:

By contrast, the Center starts with the assumption that interest-group politics, the electoral system, and the dominant ideologies call for critical assessment from a comprehensive, public-justice perspective. The Center’s point of view can be called Christian-democratic, which entails a commitment to principled pluralism and the common good. The Center believes that the public good of the American commonwealth, which is shared by all citizens, can flourish only when governed by standards that transcend interest-group competition.

Furthermore…

The Center’s philosophy of principled pluralism flows directly from its conviction that governments have not been ordained by God for the purpose of separating believers from unbelievers, giving privilege to Christians and the church, or serving the interests of one nation over others. This is a religious conviction that mandates publicly established religious freedom for all. Governments have the high calling to uphold public justice for all people living within their territories. States are not churches or families; public officials are not national theologians or clergy. States are public-legal communities that exist for the protection and enhancement of the common good.

Here are some representative papers.

The Biblical Call to Social Responsibility (March-April 1994)
The Question of Authority (May-June 1994)
What Constitutes a Political Community? (September-October 1994)
Government with Representation (January-February 1995)
Political Fairness and Equity (July-August 1995)
Government and the Responsible Society (May-June 1996)
Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Conscience (November-December 1996)

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