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February 12, 2001

CCCS Publishes Kuyper Book

The Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, under director Jim Bratt (left), has a new book out on Dutch theologian, journalist and statesman Abraham Kuyper. The topic is an appropriate one in this era of faith-based collaborations with government. The title is "Religion, Pluralism and Public Life: Abraham Kuyper's Legacy for the Twenty-First Century."

The book is edited by former Calvin professor Luis Lugo, now a director at the Pew Charitable Trusts. It is a collection of essays presented at a fall 1998 conference organized by Calvin College, Princeton Theological Seminary and the Center for Public Justice. All told there are 22 essays in the book, united around a single theme: how can Christians think apart from the standard right and left categories about the important issues of the day.

The book jacket says simply: "Abraham Kuyper's Christian vision of society, powerfully communicated in his Stone Lectures one hundred years ago, remains influential worldwide. In Kuyper's view the Christian faith as a comprehensive worldview has relevance in such disparate areas of life as the arts, science, and politics. His vision sparked a truly international movement that has stretched from the Netherlands to South Africa, the United States, Indonesia and South Korea.

In Religion, Pluralism, and Public Life 22 respected scholars explore Kuyper's legacy, looking especially at his social and political contribution.

Jim Bratt, director of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, says that publishing a book on Kuyper was a natural for the CCCS. "Kuyper's vision of scholarship being rooted in one's religious presuppositions has been one of the founding insights of the CCCS since it began in 1977," he says. "In fact I would say Kuyper has been the patron saint of the Center since its beginning."

Bratt himself is a foremost Kuyper expert, having published a 500-page collection of 16 of Kuyper's essays that covered almost 40 years of Kuyper's writings and encompassed his broad range of interests with sections on such topics as church and theology, politics and society, and culture and education. Bratt introduced each essay and provides some context. He says Kuyper asked a lot of the right questions.

"Some of those questions he asked a century ago we are still struggling with," Bratt says. "Kuyper thought a lot, for example, about how to handle a plurality of religious convictions in public life. The traditional answer had been that you don't recognize plurality in public life. There's one accepted religion and everybody else either converts, dies or at least shuts up. The other answer is that religion is a private thing and the public sphere is neutral. Kuyper said no to both those options. He wanted people of all faiths to be vocal in public life, in the public sphere. He said a person is one whole person; whether Christian or Muslim or Marxist. You look at North America today, you look at Africa today . . . those are burning questions. How do societies deal with plurality of religious beliefs? Kuyper had some thoughts on such questions and I think we do well to pay attention to him."

Kuyper lived from 1837-1920 in the Netherlands. As a politician and journalist, he reorganized the Anti-Revolutionary political party and brought it to power, serving as Prime Minister of The Netherlands from 1901-1905. Of his political achievements, perhaps the greatest were the raising of consciousness in issues of social justice and the granting of freedom of education according to parents' conscience. His zeal for free Christian schools is legendary, and by the anti-revolutionaries' efforts in coalition with the Netherlands' Roman Catholics, full state funding was granted to these free, parent- or society-run schools. Kuyper also founded the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880.

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Contact Phil de Haan.