Johannes C. Sikkel: A Pioneer in Social Reform, by R. H. Bremmer. Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada/Pella, Iowa: Inheritance Publications, 1998. 47pp. US$5.90/CAN$6.95 (paper). [Reviewed by the editor.]
The appeal of this small book to the Reformed reader is manifold. It introduces a prominent minister in the reformation in the Netherlands known as the “Doleantie” who is otherwise only a name on several Dutch books gathering dust on the bookshelf. It indicates the extent to which the Doleantie and its preachers were involved in the national life of the Netherlands, particularly politics and labor. And it demonstrates the sharp disagreements among the ministers of the Doleantie over such matters as labor unions and women working outside the home.
Johannes C. Sikkel was a minister in the state church who joined Abraham Kuyper’s Doleantie in 1886. The book describes Sikkel’s active role in developing a Calvinistic view of labor and of labor’s relation to capital. Basic to Sikkel’s thinking was the conviction that labor is redeemed by Christ. Accordingly, he was critical of Kuyper’s position that labor must be viewed in light of common grace. Sikkel’s stance drew opposition from both Kuyper and Bavinck. Sikkel condemned the trade union movement, as nothing more than Marxist, organized class struggle. This infuriated some of his colleagues. Sikkel urged the “fellowship” of employer and employee—”fellowship in enterprise.”
Bremmer sums up, that for Sikkel “love for one’s neighbour demands that social warfare be settled and peace be restored by means of consultation between capital and labour” (pp. 44, 45).
Adding to the interest in the book is its revelation that the place of women both in the workplace and in the church was a divisive issue in the Doleantie from the very beginning.