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Not long after Luther, Calvin, and the reformers began leading Europe’s captive masses out from under the heavy hand of spiritual, intellectual (and thus economic and political) papal bondage, an even worse form of tyranny was about to replace it. One that still has Europe and the U.S. in a death grip. We know that the Reformation succeeded in freeing up society so that the people could, at long last, focus directly on God rather than on a church of corrupt leaders and their collaborating coterie of kings, dukes and landowners. But the Reformation, in one of history’s great ironies, eventually provided so much relief from Rome for people to think, study, learn and strive upwardly, that in less than 150 short years after Calvin’s death this new tyranny’s early stages had already slipped by the gatekeepers. By 1700, thanks largely to philosophers such as Bacon, Locke, Newton, Descartes, Hobbes, and others, an all-out—and to be fair, probably unintended—rebellion against God had taken root, cloaked in the treachery called the “European Enlightenment,” a man-centered idea rife with seeds of intellectual suicide.
What happened was that the unexpected degree of intellectual independence gained by leaving the Roman Church behind caused the pendulum of correction to overshoot so that independence from God became a devastating side effect. As God was being discarded by Paine, Voltaire, and the rest of the usual suspects, the “fact” of “the self, logic, reason and science” became the new deity and atheism the true goal. Although certain milder aspects of the Enlightenment helped support the American Revolution, a version far more inhumane exploded during the French Revolution of 1789 and then on into its 19th-century aftermath. In fact, its great-grandchild, Secular Humanism, is alive and well in 2008. This new brand of tyranny now comes from the State since it is the State, not Rome (and not God, as it should be), which is the force that rules our lives.
All this history could be a backdrop for several topics, but I’m using it today to help tell you about a man who, although a Christian worthy of much respect, could have left a world-changing legacy if not so over-encumbered by Enlightenment madness. Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) was always an innovative forward thinker and forward mover. He grew up in Holland in an age when there was the still fresh memory of the French Revolution; waning respect for Church and Bible because of Enlightenment humbug; the multiple European socialist revolutions of 1848; Marxism; Darwinism et al., were doing a perverse number on European and U.S. minds. As a young minister in the Dutch State Church, Kuyper (rhymes with “hyper”) was readily attracted to liberal modernism in all things secular and sacred. But out of college and by now a pastor in his first church, God determined that he would become theologically re-inspired by the English Puritan-influenced guidance of an elderly Dutch farm wife and her farmer neighbors.
For Kuyper, the lives of these earnest congregants mirrored the beliefs of our own U.S. forefathers thanks to Puritan teachings translated into the Dutch language and taken to heart by the Hollanders. These spiritually sturdy folks helped Kuyper find his way back to the principle of God’s total sovereignty over all of life. Over time, he concluded that it was every Christian’s duty to behave 100% as unto God in whatever sphere of life he/she occupied whether in business, law, church, media, in the home, the arts, politics, industry, medicine, etc. And then, after years as a minister, theologian, newspaper editor, scientist, alpine climber, orator, founder of a Christian university, certified work-aholic and legislator, Kuyper gained such respect that he became prime minister of Holland (1901–1905.) Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is named after him. A key point about his political interest though, is that although politics is never the answer to what ails any nation, it is nevertheless an important part of life. One which—over and above our basic duty to be informed and to vote—certain Christians must be directly involved in as their gifts and the Holy Spirit dictate, just as Kuyper learned.
But Kuyper today is most famous for his “not one square inch” quotation, one that’s well known to all Christians dedicated to the society transforming strategy of the Dominion Mandate. It’s this: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Yes! Everything is His, and Kuyper’s proclamation says that without Him there wouldn’t be any square inch or inches of anything for us to ever be concerned about. Every sphere of life has a God-ward component that must be first factored in before interacting with the sphere overall. His “discovery” stressed that our goal ought to be to think in terms of being engaged in “full time Christian service” whether at work or play and whether as a pastor, missionary, a seminary professor or—and much more to the point—as a butcher, baker or surgeon. It happens that our responsibilities lie exactly there, in the “secular” side of life, where the daily ebb and flow of Christian behavior can best make its true mark in the lives of millions.
Sadly, Kuyper—perhaps overly-swayed by Europe’s mad “elevation of man”—also succumbed to the idea that there can be “neutrality” in regard to the moral-ethical-legal standards by which men and, yes, even nations should behave. “Neutrality” pretends to be a kind of middle position that “avoids both God’s extremes and man’s.” But there are only two ways to go: God’s…or man’s—the “pluralism-riddled” path to hell. Kuyper knew that civic rule by the Church was not biblical or desirable, but he erred by insisting that even though Christians must personally put God first in everything, the State itself, constitutionally, should “stay out of religion” though still allowing churches and atheists alike full freedom of expression. Unfortunately this meant letting the voice of the people (“lordship of the 51%” or “mobocracy”) and of special interests decide the foundation of and for the laws of the land. But the worst of his “State without God” theory lead straight to the present Dutch welfare system with government, not the church, now dictating how “help” is provided. In short, to exclude God’s laws from a State’s legal structure (exactly, sadly, as did the U.S. Constitution’s) means just one thing: societal Chaos. And there’s no better “laboratory” evidence for that than the moral swamp that is Holland today.
Kuyper also dropped the ball by not validating, via explicit scriptural detail, the good ideas that he did develop. Instead, he tried to let soaring rhetoric do the convincing. But it didn’t work, and he is little known today outside of Reformed circles. Fortunately, we can thank R. J. Rushdoony for teaching us in the 20th century what Kuyper came close to doing in the 19th. And, oh yes, in closing you should know that what possibly saved Kuyper from slipping into the then already fermenting dangers of pietism, Darwinism, dispensationalism, etc. was his father who homeschooled him until his early teens. Perhaps just a couple more years could have put a better hedge of intellectual protection around him; one that might have made him the “R. J. Rushdoony of the 19th century” and us the better for it. Alas, it was not to be. But we have all we need by now so let us get on with the Dominion Mandate task.