The Stone-lectures of Dr. A. Kuyper on Calvinism are well known in Reformed circles; it may be taken for granted that at least the title of this work is known by many of the readers. For the sake of those who may be interested in this subject and who are acquainted with this work a few remarks of an introductory nature will not be superfluous.
Dr. Kuyper delivered these Stone-lectures in the month of October, 1898 at Princeton, N. J. They were delivered in the English language. However, they are also obtainable now in the Holland language. The question might be asked as to which copy is the original one. Personally we found the Holland copy the easier of the two to read, and again and again, could not avoid the impression that the Holland was the original and that the English was translation. However this may have been our quotations will be from the English copy.
In six lectures the late Dr. Kuyper treats the theme: Calvinism. The method followed in presenting the subject matter is rather uniform throughout. At the outset we are told in nearly each lecture the course of argument to be followed and a brief resumption is given of the ground covered up to that certain point. The speaker (writer) traces a definite line of thought containing an all-embracing life-and-world- view. With bold strokes this is done in the first lecture. It is especially in this first lecture that, the speaker gives us his interpretation of history. In the last and concluding lecture which speaks of “Calvinism and the Future” we again see the speaker’s view of history.
There is indeed very much in these lectures to which we gratefully and heartily subscribe. Dr. Kuyper was no scholar in the common sense of the word; he was a pioneer hacking his way through the forest, a man of broad and penetrating vision overlooking the entire domain of life. Nevertheless we cannot agree with the departed brother’s underlying thesis in his interpretation of the history of this fallen, sinful world. We believe that the lines must be drawn differently not only in the matter of the relationship of nature and grace, but most emphatically also in regard to sin and grace.
Permit us to sketch for you Kuyper’s view of Calvinism and its place in the development of mankind. It is well to bear in mind that thus the matter is constructed by the learned speaker.
“Calvinism” according to Kuyper is not to be defined to the ecclesiastical, dogmatical domain. That this is his contention is evident first of all from his definition and circumscription of Calvinism. By the logical process of elimination Kuyper shows us exactly how he would have us conceive of Calvinism, He catalogues the following senses in which we can and m which also historically we do speak of Calvinism. First of all as it is employed by Roman Catholicism as a stigmatization of Protestantism. This use of the term is both historically and factually beside the point. Secondly there are the denominational Calvinists. These are those who possibly in church government are Presbyterian as Calvin advocated, but deny the doctrine of predestination. Then “Calvinism” also serves as a Confessional name. In this sense, a Calvinist is represented exclusively as the outspoken subscriber to the dogma of foreordination. They who disapprove of this strong attachment to the doctrine of predestination cooperate with the Romish polemists, in that by calling you “Calvinists”, they represent you as a victim of dogmatic narrowness; and what is worse still, as being dangerous to the real seriousness of moral life”, p. 6. Kuyper does not deny that attachment to the doctrine of foreordination is Calvinism, but to this he would not limit it. We quote: “The chief purpose of my lecturing in this country was, to eradicate the wrong idea, that Calvinism represented an exclusively dogmatical and ecclesiastical movement”, p. 231. This last quotation is sufficient commentary on these usages of the term “Calvinism”.
There is, according to these lectures, also a fourth sense in which we can speak of Calvinism. This last interpretation of the term “Calvinism” is to take it in a scientific-philosophic sense. And it is the contention of the esteemed lecturer that in this sense of the term Calvinism must be championed. Writes Kuyper: “But beyond this sectarian, confessional and denominational use of the name “Calvinist”, it serves moreover, in the fourth place, as a scientific name either in an historical, philosophical or political sense. Historically the name of Calvinism indicates the channel in which the Reformation moved, so far as it was neither Lutheran, nor Anabaptist nor Socinian. In the philosophic sense, we understand by it that system of conceptions which, under the influence of the mastermind of Calvin raised itself to dominance in the several spheres of life. And as a political name, Calvinism indicates that political movement which has guaranteed the liberty of nations in constitutional statesmanship; first in Holland, then in England, and since the close of the last century in the United States.”
From the rather lengthy quotation just made, it is quite evident that Kuyper conceives of Calvinism not as a movement born from the principle of regeneration in the heart, of the elect only and ending in the new creation of all things (Matt. 1:28) but that he would draw the line of Calvinism to the life of mankind, the human race. Calvinism is the movement in history when considered in “its deepest logic” (p. 35) from the lower to the higher forms of life in the development of mankind.
To show that we are not yet criticizing but that we are merely attempting to sketch for you Kuyper’s view, attend to the following from his lectures. In the first place Kuyper sketches for us four all-embracing life-and-world-views—which each in their turn have dominated all life. These are as follows: Firstly, Paganism which may be considered to cover everything from Animism to Buddhism. Secondly, Mamism-Mohammeddanism which rose in the 12th century and dominated all life. a. In relationship to God. b. In relationship of our fellow-man. c. In relationship to the world. Next in line comes the Roman Catholic hierarchy as an all-embracing life-and-world-view, that is, the conception of man’s relationship to 1. God; 2. to fellowman; 3. to the world round about us. Calvinism is the last in line historically. Also Calvinism has developed a life and world view from its own deepest principle and religious convictions. Centrally in its conception of man’s relationship to God; then of his relationship to his fellowman, and finally, of his relationship to the world of God’s creation. Calvinism is the highest budding out of the human race. The human race needed to pass through the stages of Paganism-Islamism-Romanism to come to Calvinism.
Thus is the movement in history as conceived of by Kuyper. The endeavors of nations apart from Israel-Jerusalem had a positive contribution to make to history. That we are not misinterpreting the deceased brother may be evident from the following quotation: “But even this is not all. The fact that in a given circle Calvinism has formed an interpretation of life quite its own, from which both in the spiritual and! secular domain a special system arose for domestic and social life, justifies its claim to assert itself as an, independent formation; but does not yet credit it with the honor of having led humanity (underscoring of me, G.L.) as such, up to a higher stage in its development, and therefore this life-system has not, so far as we have considered it, attained that position which alone could give it the right to claim for itself the energy and devotion of our hearts. In China it can be asserted with equal right that Confucianism has produced a form of its own for life in a given circle, and the Mongolian race that form of life rests upon a theory of its own. But what has China done for humanity in general, and for the steady development of our race? Even so far as the waters were clear they formed nothing but an isolated lake, Almost the same remark applies to the high development which was once the boast of India and to the State of things in Mexico and Peru in the days of Montezuma and the Incas. In all these regions the people attained to a high degree of development, but stopped there, and, remained isolated, in no way proved a benefit to humanity at large. This applies more strongly still to the life of the colored races on the coast and interior of Africa—a far lower form of existence, reminding us not even of a lake but rather of pools and marshes. There is but one world-stream, broad and fresh, which from the beginning bore the promise of the future. This stream had its rise in Middle-Asia and the Levant, and has steadily continued its course from East to West. From Western Europe it has passed on to your Eastern States and from thence to California.”
“The sources of this development are found in Babylon and in the valley of the Nile. From thence it flowed on to Greece. From Greece it flowed on to the Roman Empire. From the Romanic nations it continued its way to the North-western parts of Europe and from Holland and England, it reached at length your continent. At present that stream is at a standstill. Its western course through Japan is impeded; meanwhile no one can tell what forces for the future may lie slumbering in the Slavic races which have thus far failed of progress. But while the secret of the future is still veiled in mystery, the course of this world-stream from East to West can be denied by none. And therefore I am justified in saying: that Paganism, Islamism and Romanism are the three successive formations which this development had reached, when its further direction passed over into the hands of Calvinism”, pp. 33, 34.
From the foregoing it is very evident that according to Kuyper Calvinism must not be understood as having its course of development through the line of Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, David, Christ, the church in the world but most emphatically through the line of Egypt Syria, Babylon, Athens, Rome, the civilization of western Europe and the United States.
If this has not been made clear in the above quotation then may the following serve to assure us that this line in the development of Calvinism is not at all the portion of the line of the Holy Promise. Kuyper no doubt felt the difficulty of maintaining the position he had taken in explaining the history of the world in its development of the human race in the light of both of Scripture and of historic considerations. Consequently he proceeds further in his lecture as follows: “The succession of these four phases of development did not take place mechanically, with sharply outlined divisions and parts. This development of life is organic, and therefore each new period roots in the past. In its deepest logic (in zijn diepste gedachte) Calvinism had already been apprehended! by Augustine; had, long before Augustine been proclaimed to the City of the Seven Hills by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans; and from Paul goes back to Israel and its prophets, yea to the tents of the patriarchs. Romanism likewise does not make its appearance suddenly but is the joint product of Israel’s priesthood, the cross of Calvary and the world-organization of the Roman Empire. Islam in the same way joins itself to Israel’s Monism (belief in one God) to the Prophet of Nazareth and to the tradition of the Koraichites. And even the Paganism of Babylon and Egypt on the one hand and of Greece and Rome upon the other, stand organically related to what lay behind these nations, preceding the prosperity of their lives.
From this last quotation Kuyper must, prove that Calvinism means to be and is the development of the human race. It is his contention that the source of this development is Egypt-Syria-Babylon-Athens- Rome-Western European Civilization-United States. Does the above paragraph demonstrate this. If words have meaning all that Kuyper shows is that the Line of Calvinism is Calvin-Augustine-Paul (Letter to Rome) Prophets, Abraham; that both Romanism and Islamism borrowed elements from this holy work of God in Christ, corrupted these with elements of paganism. And that, the Pagan line is Egypt-Babylon-Greece, Rome and with what lies back of each. Hence two parallel lines in history, at least as far as the chronology is concerned. Yet both having their own spiritual impetus. This is Kuyper’s Analysis, p. 35.
Yet this is not at all the conclusion of Kuyper in these Stone-lectures. Attend to the following: “But even so (notice the concession, G.L.) it, is as clear as day that the supreme force in the central development of the human race moved along (successively from Babylon to Egypt to Greece and Rome, then to the chief regions of the Papal dominion, and finally to the Calvinistic nations of the western Europe. If Israel flourished in the days of Babylon and Egypt, however high its standard, the direction of the human race was not in the hands of the sons of Abraham but in those of the Belshazzar’s and the Pharaohs. Again this leadership does not pass from Babylon and Egypt on to Israel, but to Greece and Rome. However high the stream of Christianity had risen when Islam made its appearance in the 8th and 9th centuries the followers of Mahomet were our teachers and with them rested the issues of the world. And though the hegemony of Romanism still maintained itself a short time after the peace of Munster, no one questions the fact, that the higher development, which we are now enjoying, we owe neither to Spain nor to Austria, nor even to the Germany of that, time, but to the Calvinistic countries of the Netherlands and to England of the 16th century. Under Louis XIV, Romanism arrested the higher development in France, but only that in the French Revolution it might exhibit a ghastly caricature of Calvinism, which in its sad consequences broke the inner strength of France as a nation, and weakened its international significance.”
We are not now criticizing Kuyper’s presentation of Calvinism, but are merely attempting to make clear the position taken by the author of the Stone-lectures. In another article we will give our criticism of Kuyper’s conception, his life and world view. And so we notice that with might, and main Kuyper maintains that the Calvinistic line runs Egypt-Babylon-Greece-Rome-Islam-Romanism-Calvinistic Western Europe.
There is one more element that Kuyper brings into the picture. This is the element, of the commingling of blood. The stand of the author is that in those countries where the one type of man is prominent, there is less development then where there is a mingling of nations. On the contrary where there is an intermingling as in the cases of the sons of Shem and Japheth. These groups by commingling have crossed their traits with those of other tribes and thus have attained a higher perfection.
Now what, according to Kuyper, has this all to do with Calvinism? Calvinism has as its purpose the development of mankind. This is a fundamental thesis with the writer. Attend further to the following from his pen: “To this should be added that the history of our race does not aim at the improvement of any single tribe, but at the development of mankind taken as a whole, and therefore needs this commingling of blood in, order to attain its end. Now in fact, history shows that the nations among whom Calvinism flourished most widely, exhibit in every way this same mingling of races.”
Our criticism of the foregoing we will reserve for a following issue. We now pass on to some of the highlights of the other lectures. These lectures treat of the following subjects: Lecture II—Calvinism and Religion. Lecture III—Calvinism and! Politics. Lecture IV—Calvinism and Science. Lecture V—Calvinism and Art. To the Lectures I and VI we have virtually called attention in the foregoing. Our evaluation of these Lectures will also have to wait until the following issues of the Standard Bearer.
The following is a synopsis of the content of these lectures.
In Lecture II, which treats of Calvinism and Religion, the author calls attention the following questions. 1. Is religion for man’s sake or is it for God according to Calvinism? 2. Is it mediate through the church institution as was the case with Rome, or is it immediate and placing us directly before the face and majesty of God and His law. 8. Is religion total or partial; does it include the entire man, or is it merely a matter of the will and feeling? 4. Is religion now since the fall normal or is it abnormal and soteriological? In passing we wish to remark, that we do not intend to call attention to every detail of this lecture. In the next issues we wish to call attention to elements of Kuyper’s conception of man is personality which stand! in direct relation to his conception of the progress of mankind and the presupposition of common grace.
In the third lecture we receive an insight into Kuyper’s conception of a Calvinistic State. To quote Kuyper’s own words: “In order that the influence of Calvinism on our own political development may be felt, it must be shown for what fundamental political conceptions Calvinism has opened the door, and how these political conceptions sprang from its root principle.”
And again we quote: “This dominating principle was not soteriologically, justification by faith, but, in the widest sense cosmologically, the sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. A primordial Sovereignty which eradicates in mankind in a threefold deduced supremacy, viz., 1. The Sovereignty in the State; 2. The Sovereignty in Society; 3. The Sovereignty in the Church.”
In the fourth lecture Kuyper develops what to his mind is the relationship of Calvinism to Science. (Wetenschap) We quote: “Four points of It only do I submit to your thoughtful consideration; first, that Calvinism fostered and could not but foster love for science; secondly, that it restored to science its domain; thirdly, that it delivered science from unnatural bonds; and fourthly, in what manner it sought and found a solution for the unavoidable scientific conflict.”
The fifth lecture of this series treats of Calvinism and Art. Here we enter upon a discussion of the beautiful, the field of aesthetics. The esteemed speaker considered the following points: 1. Why Calvinism was not allowed to develop an art style of its own; 2. What flows from its principle for the nature of Art; 3. What it has actually done for its advancement.”
A hasty perusal of this august list of subjects will convince us that that subject matter is very broad and lies in part outside of the range of the regular study of a minister. It will not be possible for us to enter into the field of aesthetics in our discussion. Neither will we be able to enter into the detailed questions of politics and science which are provoked by these lectures.
We gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to Dr. Kuyper for having taught us much in these lectures. Especially is this true of the lectures on Politics and Art. This does not imply that we subscribe to all. It is especially on the points touching the place of Science and Politics in Kuyper’s conception of history as the development of mankind that we take exception to. But of this we will write more later.