Treat your brain to a 6 course meal.
Of the two pastoral fellowships which have sprung up from ECF, the NCT group (New Covenant Theology) holds a unique place in my heart. One of the things this group does, is invest time in reading a wide range of theological writers and topics to enrich and enlarge our own thinking. It is a place of rapid, often animated discussion, and a safe place to float theories and ponderings. I love it.
In an act of indulgence toward me, the group undertook to read the 6 “Stone Lectures” given by Abraham Kuyper at Princeton in 1898. I had re-read these lectures (after several decades) during my sabbatical. A statesman, politician and theologian, Kuyper came to Princeton at the invitation of the giant B. B. Warfield, and gave these lectures in understanding “Calvinism” as a world-view, not a theological system. In other words, starting from an understanding of God as Creator and continuing ruler of the cosmos, how do we understand all of life through this lens?
Kuyper was a profound thinker and theologian. He was also a pastor, a newspaper man, seminary professor, a Parliamentarian and eventually became the Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905. I was introduced to him by reading his magisterial book on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit whilst still a lad. My Dad had an almost original copy of that work on the bookshelves which happened to also be in my bedroom growing up. I am forever grateful for that exposure.
Before Francis Schaeffer, Malcom Muggeridge, C. S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Carl F. H. Henry or others who follow in that mold, Kuyper spoke and taught in terms of world-view (a comprehensive understanding of existence) and sought to help people consider the “big picture” of life from a thoroughgoing Biblical perspective. In this, he excelled.
So let me recommend to you these lectures for your own consideration. In them, and in this order he investigates the following areas:
1. Calvinism as a Life System. (DO NOT read Calvinism here as T.U.L.I.P., or you will entirely miss his aim in all six lecture. It is Calvinism as a worldview simply having as its starting point, God’s active sovereignty in His created cosmos)
2. Calvinism and Religion.
3. Calvinism and Politics.
4. Calvinism and Science.
5. Calvinism and Art.
6. Calvinism and the Future.
Kuyper’s extraordinarily well developed understanding of common grace (I’ll let the readers get the full understanding of that from him) and how the Holy Spirit works even in the lost is paradigm shifting to say the least.
Warning: he is not easy reading. You will have to apply yourself. But do it. He will challenge your thinking every step of the way. He will make you examine why you hold the opinions you hold on the topics he addresses directly, and the implications of those conclusions in a host of other areas. Agree or disagree with him in any particular point, you will be forced to consider your own views and why you hold them. And this is invaluable.
For me, Kuyper is about the most intellectually satisfying author I’ve read. Every return to these pages is a treat for my mind as well as my soul.
As we’ve been discussing one lecture per meeting, and we meet only once a month, we have already invested 8 months into this book (yes, the math requires you know some lectures we’ve split up because there is so much to be examined – and even then we’ve fallen woefully short), we have yet to leave without being provoked (in the best sense of the word) in our own thoughts and formulations. I very highly recommend these lectures to you as a powerful tool in developing your spiritual thought process.
Now, to give you a taste of something to tease your brain – consider this quote from his lecture on Calvinism and Art, and think about it for a while.
“The world after the fall is no lost planet, only destined now to afford the church a place in which to continue her combats; and humanity is no aimless mass of people which only serves the purpose of giving birth to the elect. On the contrary the world now, as well as in the beginning, is the theatre for the mighty works of God, and humanity remains a creation of His hand, which, apart from salvation, completes under this present dispensation, here on earth, a mighty process, and in its historical development is to glorify the name of Almighty God.”