By Laura Thierry
When reading on the topic of Christian worldview, one is likely before very long, to be struck by a particually vivid quote: “There is no square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”. And thus, many are introduced to Abraham Kuyper. However, outside of some Presbyterian and Reformed worlds, the aforementioned quote is likely to be the only introduction one receives to this whirlwind of a man. It is into this lacuna that Engaging the Word comes as a beneficial resource. In this instalment of Lexham Press’s Lived Theology series, Michael R Wagenman explores the theology of Abraham Kuyper; through the narrative of his life, for the sake of the church today.
Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch “pastor, journalist, theologian, politician, institution-founder and-builder, church reformer, and cultural critic” (p. 5). His enduring legacy concerns his passionate commitment to bringing the Lordship of Christ to bear upon ever sphere and institution known to humanity. This key Kuyperian idea—the Lordship of Christ for all of life—forms the touchstone of this book. Wagenman approaches this theme in a bifocal manner. He keeps one eye on Kuyper, succinctly introducing his prominent ideas within their historical context, and the other eye ever looking towards ways in which “Kuyper’s theology…might inspire further Christian faithfulness and public engagement today.” (p. 8).
After a helpful introduction that situates Kuyper within his own world as well as introduces his relevance for current thought and practice, chapters 2-7 outline Kuyper’s ‘Lordship’ theology according to six spheres: identity (ch. 2), public discourse (ch. 3), education (ch. 4), the Church (ch. 5), society (ch. 6), and politics (ch. 7). Finally, the conclusion helpfully examines several of the weaknesses present in Kuyper’s life, such as his tendency to extreme overwork and burnout, and the gaps within his practices of Christian character formation. This analysis is not intended to disparage his example, but rather enables the reader to remain “mindful of the pitfalls that are present” as they seek to apply his thought today” (120).
The relationship between Christ and culture continues to be a very live question, not only in the academy, but perhaps even more so within our churches, youth groups, university ministries, and just simply within the daily lives of Christ followers. This slim, highly-readable portrait of a fabulous and fallen practitioner of life under Christ’s lordship would serve as a good guide for anyone seeking to be stimulated to consider how Christianity and culture relate. A helpful set of suggestions for further reading complete the work, making it a useful companion for those dipping their toe into the water of Kuyper’s thought and its ongoing relevance for life and ministry today.