Two important days to remember

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

-Mark Twain

For the Defense of liberty

Extremist in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue !
Rich Swier

Psychology Today

I just read through the latest copy of P.T. Mag ; this journal , read by many of today’s psychologists is filled with man centered dribble that contributes to the present American psychosis defined as narcissism. Our cultural maladies will never go away as long as we are satiated with “self”-instead of living transcendently for God and His purposes

The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think by Harry Blamires

I. Thesis
The thesis of the book is that there is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality. In regards to being a thinking person, the Christian has succumbed to secularization. Thus the book is not about Christian behavior but Christian thinking. To summarize: the thesis of the book is that the chance the Christian mind will shake the foundations of secularist individualism are not very great at a time when secularism has all but shaken the Christian mind to pieces.

II. How the Chapters Unfold the Thesis
The book makes a clear distinction regarding writing scholarly about Christian issues (which a secularist can easily do with proper analysis), a Christian writing about secular things, and writing and thinking based on a transcendent view regarding truth, evil, the supernatural, authority and humanity. Consequently, it is a common thing for a devout Christian to believe correctly about salvation and going to heaven but have a totally secular worldview when it comes to economics, education, politics, science, and the role of religion in the public arena.

A salient quote: “It may be that the dominant evil of our time is neither the threat of nuclear warfare nor the mechanization of society, but the disintegration of human thought and experience into separate unrelated compartments” (75).

III. Transferable Principles for Application
The book inspires the Christian to use their mind in all aspects of life, not just in things spiritual. It is a challenge to all Christians to learn to think Christianly in regards to their vocation. The reporter should learn about the Christian perspective on truth, the economist on biblical economics and God’s perspective on wealth creation (Deuteronomy 8:18), the politician should understand how Jesus being called the King of kings (Rev. 19:16) relates to them as a civil leader. In my personal life as a pastor I also have to be able to teach the congregation what it means to have a biblical worldview and then challenge them to investigate what the Scriptures teach about their particular discipline or vocation and adjust their thinking accordingly.

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God’s Renaissance Man: Abraham Kuyper by James Edward McGoldrick

I. THESIS
Like his predecessors in church history, Kuyper was a person of massive intelligence, immense learning, terrific energy and zealous faith.

Although he was a journalist, significant theologian, pastor, founded a political party and a university and served his nation in parliament and as the prime minister, there have only been two substantial efforts to narrate his life in English.

II. IMPORTANT QUOTES
“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling. And peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy with all the fire of your faith” (39).

“There is not one part of our world of thought that can be hermetically separated from the other parts, and there is not an inch in the entire area of our human life of which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not cry ‘mine!’” (69)

“The nation is not a heap of souls on a piece of ground, but rather a God-willed community, a living human organism” (84).

“Kuyper contended that modernists had no real theology, that their belief was a philosophy of religion without revelation” (90).

He rejected the view that theology should be concerned chiefly with religious feelings as the so-called science of religion contended: “The object of theological study is not religion but God” (103).
“Until the birth in Bethlehem, God spoke…in human words, but in Christ God appears…in Human nature” (107).

“Augustine defined the sacraments as the visible Word, or outward and visible signs of an inward spiritual grace” (131).

“In churches that fail to practice discipline, ungodly people intimidate the godly and in effect, impose discipline upon them” (129).

“Nothing is further from our minds than to exercise ourselves in things too high for us, or to penetrate into mysteries hid from our view. Where Scripture stops, we shall stop; to the difficulties left unexplained, we shall not add what must be only the result of human folly” (241).

“In His word God absolutely forbids every inclination and every effort to break up your life into two parts, one part for yourself and the other part for Him” (245).

III. SALIENT POINTS/ANALYSIS

1. His Worldview Analysis
Kuyper understood Christianity as far more than a doctrine that dealt with individual salvation and sin; Christianity is an entire Weltanschauung or worldview, so believers must adhere to and espouse biblical principles in every domain of life (62).

He said “A Calvinist who seeks God does not… think of limiting himself to theology and contemplation, leaving the other sciences…in the hands of unbelievers; but on the contrary, he looks upon it as his task to know God in all his works; he is conscious of having been called to fathom, with all the energy of his intellect, things terrestrial as well as things celestial” (150).

He cited the root principle of his beliefs as being “the sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible” (156).

Kuyper remarked “The Calvinistic dogma of predestination is the strongest motive…for the cultivation of science. This dogma affirms one universal principle that governs everything, and thereby it forces upon us the confession that there must be stability and regularity ruling over everything. Without predestination an orderly universe would be impossible. Calvinists maintain that God’s decrees form one organic programme of the entire creation and the entire history” (220).

2. His Understanding of Sphere Authority
Kuyper was one of the first theologians to have an understanding of sphere authority given by God for a society to function. (By spheres he meant family, education, business, church, and civic government.) His vast understanding of this was aided by the fact that with him it wasn’t just a biblical theory but something he had to put into practice because of his involvement in parliament and as prime minister of Holland, a nation he deemed a “pluralistic society”.

Kuyper said “Society, like the church, is an organism, not just an aggregate of individuals; no person exists as an isolated individual. Man, as the divine image-bearer, must respect the spheres of authority God has ordained, and the state must assure the just operation of those spheres” (80).

Even though he taught that all of life was religious, he also taught that not all of life was ecclesiastical. Spheres of authority denominate various activities (family, school, state, work, etc.) that are religious but not under church auspices (81).

He also said “The Government bears the sword which wounds, not the sword of the Spirit, which decides in spiritual questions.…The government…must…allow to each and every citizen liberty of conscience, as the primordial and inalienable right of all men” (163).

Kuyper was opposed to the contract theory of government espoused by John Locke, Rousseau and others. He felt that the doctrine of popular sovereignty and the closely connected concept of state sovereignty were objectionable because they ignore the biblical teachings about creation and the spheres of authority God has ordained for His own glory. These principles also violate God’s law in the interests of human autonomy. The French Revolution promoted this rebellion and German idealist philosophers had encouraged it (63).

3. Apologetics
Kuyper helped to promote a major departure from the traditional methods of apologetics. Renowned theologians such as Benjamin Warfield believed that the proper way to defend Christianity is to demonstrate its reasonableness and in the process to supply evidences to validate specific portions of the Bible assailed by critics. Warfield wanted to prove the validity of Christianity before exegesis and systematic theology expounded it. Kuyper on the contrary held that believers do not need proof, that the starting point of all argumentation is the self attesting authority of Scripture (Proverbs 9:10). He believed that faith is the prerequisite for all learning. Faith makes scholarship possible because belief about things always precedes examination of the evidence. Even when Christian and non Christian thinkers agree about particular phenomena in creation, they disagree about principles, such as the doctrine of creation itself, because they approach the study of the world with mutually opposing assumptions.

Like Kant’s transcendentalism, Van Til later built upon this method of apologetics and took it to another level. Van Til’s method can be summarized by saying that Christian theism is the precondition for all intelligence. Van Til would say “antitheism must presuppose theism” to prove itself.

4. Common Grace
One of the most prominent themes in the theology of Abraham Kuyper is the distinction he made between common grace and special grace. He held that divine grace combats the effects of human sinfulness in two principal ways:
-Common grace restrains the human tendency towards destructive evil and encourages people to perform actions that are beneficial to the human race as a whole.
-Special grace transforms the sinful nature of God’s elect so that they renounce unbelief and sinful behaviour to serve the God who has redeemed them (141).

Common grace is manifest to the entire world, while special, or saving grace, only to the elect; common grace coheres a society, while special grace transforms an individual. Common grace enables believer and unbeliever alike to function in society; special grace enables both the natural and spiritual gifts to manifest for the express purpose of glorifying God.

Although some of Kuyper’s critics accused him of overemphasizing common grace to the point in which many who followed after him replaced regular function in the mission of the church with social action, his writings show a good balance in this regard, so I believe that some have taken his teaching on common grace out of its proper context.

IV. CRITIQUE

1. His View on Sovereignty
Kuyper espoused a hyper-Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty called supralapsarianism, or “double predestination.” This view is different from the historic belief of John Calvin and the reformed tradition that espouses infralapsarianism.

According to supralapsarianism, when God created humanity, the sequence was as follows. God decided:
-To elect some people whom He would create for everlasting life and to reject others.
-To create humanity.
-To allow the fall into sin.
-To provide a Savior for His chosen ones.
-To send His Holy Spirit to apply redemption to His elect.

Infralapsarianism has the following sequence. God decided:
-To create the human race.
-To allow the fall.
-To choose some people from among the fallen race for salvation and the leave the others to perish in their sins.
-To send a Redeemer for His elect.
-To send His Holy Spirit to apply redemption to the elect.

In essence, supralapsarianism appears to make God the author of sin since He created people specifically to be lost (231).
 
2. His View on Justification
Kuyper over emphasized God’s sovereignty to the point in which he taught that the election of God’s people took place in eternity before God created His chosen people. In other words, justification occurred in eternity, even though the elect would not become aware of their righteous standing before God until, through faith, they embrace Christ. Reformed theologians agree that election occurred in eternity, but hold that the ordo salutis (sequence of events in salvation) take place in time as parts of an individual’s spiritual experience. Regeneration, justification, and sanctification flow from eternal election but they occur in this temporal sequence (232-233).

3. His View on Presumed Regeneration
Kuyper taught that it is appropriate to baptize the children of Christians with the assumption that they are already regenerated. One difficulty with Kuyper’s doctrine which other Reformed scholars have perceived is that it seems to diminish, or even to eliminate the role of God’s word as an instrument of the Holy Spirit to effect regeneration. Historically, Reformed theologians have not assumed that those the church baptizes as infants have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit in the same way circumcision did not guarantee salvation for people in the Old Testament (234-235).

4. His Relationships with Others
Modesty and mild manners were not characteristics of Kuyper’s personality. The strength of his convictions sometimes expressed itself in opinionated, stridently assertive ways that offended even his friends and supporters. In the conflicts he had against modernism he was sometimes impatient with those who did not employ his confrontational methods, and offended co-workers who were known to forsake his anti-revolutionary movement because they found his style of leadership intolerable.
 
V. APPLICATION
The life story of Kuyper has meant a lot to me because long ago I adopted Kuyper as my model in ministry.

Whenever I think that I am doing too much in the ministry, or that my interests are too eclectic, I just think about Kuyper. I admire him because he was a pastor who was also a scholar and a practitioner. He was a person who attempted to put into practice what he believed .This greatly aids me because I also feel called to be a scholar, a pastor and a reformer. (Quite frankly I don’t know of any contemporaries that match up to Kuyper in this regard.) He was also balanced in that he had an intense personal relationship with God in which he believed God spoke to him, plus he had a ministry of divine healing. Two of the most significant contributions of Kuyper that have impacted me are his groundbreaking teachings on presuppositional apologetics and common grace. His apologetics cleared the path for even clearer thinkers on the subject, such as Van Til and Plantinga to name a few, who created a method of defending the faith that has greatly aided in my approach to Scripture and epistemology. His teachings on common grace have given many an appreciation for all of creation and the fact that God is working mightily even among the unchurched and non-Christian world. It gives us the motivation to serve God in every arena of life without dichotomizing between the sacred and secular. This teaching makes our sojourn in this world make a lot of sense and countenances itself against the dispensational dualistic view that motivates disengagement from culture and escapism.

To download this book review, click here.