The Incarnation of the Antithesis, by Dr. R.E.L. Rodgers; (Edinburgh: Pentland Press Ltd.) xvi + 87 pp., L7.50 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]
Taking the title of this book from Frank VandenBerg’s definitive biography of Dr. Abraham Kuyper, Dr. Rodgers discusses the role that Kuyper’s view of the antithesis took in Kuyper’s educational philosophy and work.
After a short biography of Kuyper, Rodgers informs his readers that Kuyper saw Calvinism as a world-and-life view and not only a theology. That is, Kuyper was concerned about man’s relation to his fellow man and to the world as well as his relation to God.
In the development of his views, Kuyper’s principium was the sacred Scripture, and the heart of his theology was the truth of the sovereignty of God.
From his theology, Kuyper developed the antithesis as between Calvinism and Modernism as the latter was embodied in the French Revolution and the absolutism of the State.
This view of Calvinism became the first stone in the foundation of Kuyper’s educational philosophy.
The second stone in that foundation was Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace. Rodgers treats Kuyper’s common grace from the viewpoint of the good which the wicked are capable of doing. He claims that Kuyper held consistently to the truth of total depravity even though Kuyper held to a restraint of sin which is exercised not only outwardly by God’s providence, but also inwardly by making man less than depraved. Rodgers claims that common grace was Kuyper’s basis for the antithetical and Calvinistic education – although exactly how this is true is not made clear in the book.
The third stone in the foundation is Kuyper’s view of sphere sovereignty which came to expression particularly in the establishment of the Free University.
In chapter III, Rodgers deals with Kuyper’s educational philosophy itself. His intent is to show how Kuyper’s foundation developed into a complete educational philosophy. It is this chapter which is the weak link in the argument, in my judgment.
Rodgers correctly points out that after Kuyper had abandoned the ministry of the gospel and entered Parliament, he fought long and successfully for two goals: one, to establish free Christian schools, i.e., schools free from government control; the other, to obtain government financing for these Christian schools so that Christian parents would not have to pay taxes to support public education and tuition to support Christian schools. While it is true that Kuyper was successful in both these endeavors, the book does not make clear how these endeavors followed from Kuyper’s theoretical foundation.
In chapter IV Rodgers deals with the establishment of the Free University. It was to be a university truly “free” from church and state. It was a university which in a particular way was the expression of Kuyper’s theology of common grace and the antithesis. It is in demonstrating this that the author points out especially the relation between common grace and the Free University by reminding us that: 1) music, art, etc., are, in Kuyper’s view, the products of common grace; and, 2) that the study of all branches of knowledge in a university is due to common grace.
In a concluding chapter, Rodgers discusses briefly the influence of Kuyper’s educational philosophy in the Netherlands, America, and South Africa.
While Rodgers’ general thesis is undoubtedly true, it is not always quite as clear as Rodgers would have it what role common grace played in Kuyper’s educational philosophy. What is true is that in the years of Kuyper’s pastoral ministry he said nothing of common grace, and the doctrine played no role in his thinking. Kuyper did not really begin to pay close attention to common grace until he was elected to Parliament and saw the possibility of breaking the liberal hold on the Dutch government by means of an alliance with the Roman Catholics. At least in part, Kuyper’s development of common grace was intended to be a justification of this alliance – something which Rodgers also admits (see page 50). But all this means that common grace played no role at all in the early formulations of Kuyper’s theology and philosophy of education, and that his philosophy of education was considerably altered as he began his development of common grace.
What is true is that a genuinely Reformed philosophy of education must be developed apart from common grace if it is to be truly Reformed; and that a genuinely Reformed college or university can surely be established only when common grace is repudiated. Kuyper, with his remarkable invention of common grace, sowed the seeds of the death of truly Reformed education, even when he attempted to establish Reformed educational institutions.
Rodgers’ book is an interesting, though somewhat brief, treatment of an aspect of Kuyper’s thought which has been somewhat neglected.
The address from which the book can be ordered is: Pentland Distribution, 3 Regal Lane, Soham, Ely, Cambs. CB7 5BA, England.