Guest article by Uri Brito

Gary North’s recent passing reminded me of the enormous capacity of certain men to produce so much in a lifetime. Of course, men can be productive beings on many fronts, but that productivity often stems from foundational theological stimuli that allow him to conform his thoughts after it. If such roots are stable and coherent, they can provide a rich motivation for creativity and exegetical application. Furthermore, if that foundation is comprehensive, one can articulate a host of themes like economics, politics, history, etc. Gary North’s legacy was the Calvinistic legacy which saw no part of human endeavor unworthy of exploration. He turned every stone and system and hurled his inimitable mind into it, seeking to unearth its treasures and nurture fields yet uncultivated.

While tracing the roots of such prolific Calvinism goes back to the man himself—an astounding Genevan pastor in the 16th century—no one has done more to cultivate the Genevan theologian than the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper asserted that Calvinism provided the rationale for the cultivation of Christendom, unlike any other system.

The Need for Applied Calvinism

The Need for Applied Calvinism

Our humility must drive us to obedience, our freedom to faithfulness, and our awe to action. In our awe we must find his law, and apply it to every area of life. If we are merely attending church every week but not progressing in these matters, we need to question seriously whether we have truly begun to mature in our Calvinism. We may need to ask if we have really even understood its implications much at all. So you're a Calvinist. Now what?

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For Kuyper, Calvinism is the most astute form of biblical Christianity. Further, Calvinism is the only sustainable ideology that meticulously undid the sacerdotalism of the Church, but more than that, it “unveiled again to fullest view the glories of the Cross.”[1]

Due to its very nature, Calvinism is thrust immediately into a dispute with modernism. Both systems cannot both prevail all at once, and both systems are in direct warfare against the other. Kuyper argues that modernism builds a system from the “data of the natural man” and to “construct man from the data of nature.”[2] On the other hand, Calvinism offers a doxological treatise of God as a way of understanding the role of man in his world.

This is a principled battle for the minds, but more importantly, for the preeminence of any civilization. The question Calvinism imposes is, “Which worldview provides the most consistent paradigm for the fruitfulness and prosperity of man and society?” The answer comes in sublime force from the lips of the Dutch theologian: “In Calvinism my heart has found rest.”[3]

Calvinism as Sectarian

But the term itself can be quite controversial. One should expect that if an idea claims to encompass the best of the Christian faith, then undoubtedly such an idea will be attacked from within competing Christian and secularized models. When considering Calvinism, one has to inquire further, “Which Calvinism?” In Kuyper’s day, many demurred the system. They used it broadly as an antagonistic label even against those who had no connections to the 16th-century Reformer or the ecclesiastical commitments of the 16th century Reformation.

The term Calvinism has been used to refer exclusively to its foreordination theology or to define denominational distinctions like Calvinistic Baptists as Spurgeon or Calvinistic Methodists as Whitefield. Calvinism as a modifier indicated that these Baptists and Methodists were not like the others. These Calvinists had the distinctive feature of predestinariasm to narrow the focus of their denominationalism. But such attachments of Calvinism to a religious institution would have been “severely criticized by Calvin himself.”[4]

However, Calvinism encompasses more than confessional interpretations. According to Kuyper, Calvinism shares its unique religious consciousness, which first begins as a theological system that reaches into the ecclesiastical system that penetrates the political and social life and rightly interprets the world, and ultimately touches Church and state, art and science and everything else.[5] Thus, Calvinism functions almost as a hermeneutic to interpret the reality of the world in every sphere. One should conclude that it is more aptly capable of offering a resistance theory to tyrants and a theological theory to explain the world. Wherever Calvinism appears, it leaves a contagious footprint, sufficient to “populate the world of the human heart with different ideals and conceptions.”[6]

Kuyperian Calvinism argues that the “unity of this life-conception”[7] is the only proper order that allows the Church to orient and re-orient its future. Kuyper saw that alternatives to the Calvinistic paradigm are insufficient to fight modern ailments. Further, they do not provide the impetus for a restored and renewed society under the Lordship of Jesus. Indeed, without the comprehensive nature of Calvinism, the Church’s “strength for resistance ebbs away.”[8]

Biblical Blueprints for Victory

Biblical Blueprints for Victory

Important issues for a Christian Worldview. Includes 9 talks given at the American Vision Worldview Conference in 2010.

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This article originally appeared on Kuyperian Commentary

[1] Kuyper, Abraham, Lectures on Calvinism (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 1931), 10.

[2] Ibid., 11.

[3] Ibid., 12.

[4] Ibid., 13.

[5] Ibid., 17. See “Calvinism as a Life-System” for a developed thesis on the Calvinistic worldview.

[6] Ibid., 17.

[7] Ibid., 19.

[8] Ibid., 19.