The Kuyper Conference is delighted to have nine concurrent presenters for the 2017 conference.
Ad de Bruijne, Professor of Ethics and Spirituality, Theologische Universities Kampen (Netherlands)
The Church as ‘Political’ Reality: Recent debates in the field of Political theology focus on the nature of the church. Since the Enlightenment, Christian reflection on the church’s position in society has developed within the parameters of liberal and communitarian views. Reacting against traditional visions of a public church, liberals banish the church to the private sphere, while communitarians reestablish her as a mesostructure or societal sphere between state and individual. However, in recent decades several Political theologians have adopted an alternative stance, depicting the church as a ‘political’ reality in its own right.
Daryl Charles, John Jay Institute
George Harinck, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
“A Previous Ecclesial Turn?” After World War I ‘political religions’ (Voegelin) like Communism, Fascism and National Socialism offered alternatives to Christianity. As an antidote to this totalitarianisms Protestantism stressed the importance of the institutional church as a moral guard in modern society. Theologians like Karl Barth, W.A. Visser ’t Hooft and others, and bodies like the Confessing Church in Germany in the 1930s and the Dutch Reformed Church during Word War II chose this position. I explore why for these theologians and communities specifically the church was the answer to these ideologies and especially how neo-Calvinism applied its view of the church to this new situation.
Hans van der Jagt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
“Into an Islamic Ring of Fire? Neo-Calvinist perspectives on Islam and Church in Southeast Asia” During the late nineteenth century the Dutch reformed churches in colonial Indonesia were confronted with a rise of political Islam. The protestant missionary J.H. Gunning jr. wrote in panic: ‘how do we have to respond on this devastating fire?’ And theologian A. Kuyper asked : ‘what is the future of protestant churches when they are totally surrounded by Islam’? This paper explores the neo-Calvinist perspectives on the Church and Islam against the background of increasing Islamism. To what extent was reformed public theology helpful for churches to survive in a country of 35 million Muslims?
J.M. de Jong, Theologische Universiteit Kampen
“A Neo-Calvinist Church against the Nazis: Klaas Schilder on the Church between Creation and Antithesis” The rise of Nazi Germany in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century has become an historical touchstone for the theologies of that time. Famous is the example of Karl Barth in sharp contrast with his theological adversaries who supported the Nazi regime. Dutch Neo-Calvinism is often considered to be on the ‘wrong side’ of history in this era and identified with 19th century natural theology. The life and work of the Kuyperian Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) challenges this assumption. From the 1930s onwards Schilder publicly challenged the National-Socialist ideology and identified it as profoundly antichristian. Weeks after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, Schilder urged for opposition towards the Nazis at every prize. He wrote, “I could not imagine a greater misfortune for today than an unfaithful church who neglects the proclamation of the truth”. A few months later, Schilder himself was incarcerated. This paper seeks to demonstrate how Schilder’s ideas on the church as both creational and antithetical was a development in line of Kuyper and formed the heart of Schilder’s fierce opposition towards the National-Socialist occupants.
Cornelis van der Kooi, Vrije Universiteit
“More Porous: The Relation between Common Grace and Particular Grace Reconsidered” In this contribution I want to argue for a more porous understanding of the relation between what Abraham Kuyper labelled as ‘Common Grace’ and ‘Particular Grace’. Such a retrieval of this relation will not only affect Neo-Calvinist theology proper, but also be of importance for the way the church as Christian faith community relates to the wider society and world. Starting with some basic elements about church and society that Kuyper developed in his Commentatio (1860) and that connects him throughout his life with Schleiermacher, I will engage in his mature elaboration of ‘Common Grace’. It will be argued that a sharp distinction or even separation between God’s works should be criticized for several reasons. The first reason is that the bible itself gives reasons to think in terms of a porous and mutual relation. A second reason is taken from the work of J.H. Bavinck: When we take God’s universal presence and revelation as personal, then the unity of his revelation should be more emphasized. The main reason has to do with the doctrine of God, particularly the work and person of the Holy Spirit. In line with some basic insights of Karl Barth this will result in proposal that takes the unity of God’s work into account, without denying the usefulness and even more, the necessity of the distinction.
Andrew Ong, University of Edinburgh
“Ethnic Churches in Multi-Ethnic Contexts: A Neo-Calvinist Appraisal”
Within American evangelicalism, a strong push for diverse and multi-ethnic ministries has informed an increasingly common impression that ethnic churches are less than ideal at best, or exclusive and contrary to Christian unity at worst. By utilizing the neo-Calvinist tradition, such as Bavinck’s organic motif and Mark Kreitzer’s biblical theology of ethnicity, this paper will assess the merits of such negative impressions about ethnic churches. Are local churches that focus on ministering to a particular ethnic group within multi-ethnic communities at odds with the unifying principle of the gospel? My contention is that while ethnic churches in multi-ethnic contexts can become misguided, and often fail to maintain a clear testimony, they are nevertheless legitimate instruments of the Spirit and ordained by the Father to bear witness to the Son amongst the nations in this present age.
Greg William Parker, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Liturgy and Organism: In this paper, it is suggested that the organic motif is implicitly at the center of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck’s liturgical goals and that this conceptual tool provides a fruitful framework for Reformed Churches in America to consider their practices. Kuyper’s liturgical aims both prior to and during the liturgical movement will be considered. Additionally, Bavinck and Kuyper’s understanding of the church as both organism and institution is considered. Following this, it is argued that the relationship of synthesis between organism and institution presents liturgy as an ideal instrument through which to consider the dynamic interplay between organism and institution. Finally, the paper will suggest Bavinck and Kuyper as having enduring liturgical voices for the church today.
Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, New College, University of Edinburgh
“‘Confessional, International, and Cosmopolitan’: Herman Bavinck- A Neo-Calvinistic and Protestant Vision of the Catholicity of the Church” This paper retrieves Herman Bavinck’s understanding that only a specifically Protestant view of the church can properly ground a catholicity that centers not so much on institutional unity or universality, but a unity-in-diversity that is ‘confessional, international, and cosmopolitan’ in character. Though Bavinck has been invoked in a current debate concerning whether Protestantism necessarily nurtures secularism and endless interpretive plurality, he is often appended merely as echoing the Reformed orthodox views. This paper would highlight the distinctly neo-Calvinistic tinge to his ecclesiological vision, from texts like Modernisme en Orthodoxie and his treatise on the Catholicity of the Church, with the goal of yielding particularly neo-Calvinistic resources to address this current issue.