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By In Books, Theology

Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition

In March 2017, IVP Academic published Craig G. Bartholomew’s systematic introduction to the Neo-Calvinist school of thought entitled, Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition.

Kuyper scholars like James D. Bratt, author of the 2013 Kuyper biography Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat, have recommended Bartholomew’s book. “Agree with Kuyper or not, this is the place to go to learn, in brief, what he said, did, and wrought,” said Bratt.

Over at the Jesus Creed blog on Patheos, The Rev. Canon Dr. Scot Mcknight has two posts on the book. On December 22, McKnight overviews his familiarity with Kuyper’s work and poses the usual objection to Kuyperian thinking: the how. In the Reformed world, we have seen a variety of Neo-Calvinist interpretations from Rushdoony’s Reconstructionism to James K.A. Smith’s efforts to revive Augustine’s “permixtum of the saeculum.”

McKnight is likely familiar with this variety (and history) of its applications and expresses his nervousness at Bartholomew’s paragraph: “Mission is easily reduced to evangelism and church activities, and indispensable as these indeed are, mission is much broader. As David Bosch points out, “Mission is more than and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is alerting people to the universal reign of God.”

McKnight and I belong to the same Anglican Diocese, where he is Canon Theologian. While McKnight doesn’t embrace the term Kuyperian – I do and here’s one reason why. McKnight returned to Contours on December 28, 2017 and pulls up to Kuyper’s conversion story. Interestingly, this is a place where McKnight’s Anglican tradition and Kuyper can actually touch historically. Kuyper’s conversation happens while reading a popular novel: The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge – a disciple of Father John Keble, who closely supervised the writing of the book.

McKnight and Bartholomew point to Kuyper’s quote:

“I read that Philip knelt, and before I knew it, I was kneeling in front of my chair with folded hands. Oh, what my soul experienced at that moment I fully understood only later. Yet, from that moment on I despised what I used to admire and sought what I had dared to despise.”

It is not clear in his blog if McKnight has made (or would agree with) this connection, but I would posit that it is no coincidence that Kuyper’s conversion and ecclesiology are born out of a Yonge novel. McKnight is likely familiar with the “Tractarian/Puseyite” traditionalism (or Oxford Movement) that Yonge hopes to romantically entangle the reader with. Her inclusion of high-church, sacramental Anglo-Catholicism is essential to the historic import of the book. In Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, Bratt notes how Kuyper made the connections himself, “the hero’s funeral rite in the Church of England conveyed the comforts available from a pure ‘mother-church’ that was there to guide each step of the pilgrim’s way.”

McKnight goes on to connect Kuyper’s critique of modernity with his emphasis of separation and the sphere-sovereignty of the church. While Kuyperianism is often maligned as a political theology, McKnight, Bratt, and Bartholomew all point to his bold emphasis on the importance of the Church.

Perhaps, I am putting too much weight on Kuyper’s conversion story and its connection to the Tractarians, but they both spring from the same revolt against modernity. Both Neo-Calvinism and Anglican Traditionalism are born to combat the tides of what they saw as liberalism. It is impossible to understand the Anglo-Catholics as a liturgical movement alone, they also represented an anti-modernist political philosophy for the Church against the encroachments of “whiggery.” In a similar way, Kuyper would develop a political theology as a result of his high view of the church, as a defence against modernism, not as a tool for power or mere social engagement.

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By In Books, Family and Children, Interviews, Scribblings, Wisdom

A Very Kuyperian Book List

Another journey around the sun is almost complete and some of our contributors have compiled a list of book recommendations just in time for Christmastide. Be sure and plunder the Egyptian’s After-Christmas sales before Twelfth Night. (more…)

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By In Books, Family and Children, Interviews

Author Interview: C R Wiley

Congratulations on the new release of The Purloined Boy from Canonball Books (available for pre-order from Canon Press)

KC: Pastor Wiley, I am always interested in hearing from different authors regarding the place of fiction in the Christian pursuit of wisdom. Where, in your opinion, does its value lie? (more…)

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By In Books, Podcast

Episode 21: The Essential Trinity with Dr. Brandon Crowe

On this episode Pastor Uri Brito interviews Dr. Brandon Crowe, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Brandon is the co-editor of The Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance published by P&R.

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By In Books, Culture, Film, Interviews, Wisdom

Author Interview: Steven R Turley, PhD

Dr. Steve Turley teaches Theology, Greek, and Rhetoric at Tall Oaks Classical School, and he also is a professor of Aesthetics, Music and World Cultures at Eastern University, a co-educational, comprehensive Christian university in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, fifteen miles northwest of Philadelphia. He also writes and hosts the Turley Talks podcast and is an accomplished classical guitarist.

Dr. Turley has a recent publication available that posits the question: What if, instead of watching Christian movies, we cultivated the practice of learning to recognize biblical themes and symbology in films in general? (more…)

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By In Books, Culture

The Not So Clean Sea Breeze of the Centuries

There is a glorious reformation happening right now in education called Classical and Christian Education. As a teacher in a Classical and Christian school, I am thankful to be a part of this important work. But at the same time, I see temptations that the movement is prone to. One of those dangers is what I would call reverse chronological snobbery. C.S. Lewis (whom I will talk about in a moment) coined the term chronological snobbery and he used it to talk about the fallacious argument which claims that something from an earlier time (e.g. philosophy, literature, etc) is inherently worse than that of the present, simply because it is from the past. There is also an inverse version of this fallacy (some would call it by the same name) which would claim that something from the past (e.g. philosophy, literature, etc) is inherently better than that of the present, simple because it is from the past. Both claims are incredibly dangerous but it is this second error that is particularly tempting to Classical and Christian schools. This error is tempting because the movement has purposefully shifted its gaze back to the past and is trying to bring the best of the past forward. The difficulty lies then in recovering the best of the past without bringing the worst along with it.

In a wonderful essay by C.S. Lewis “On Reading Old Books,” he argues that we need to read old books because they can help us correct mistakes in the thinking of the modern era. We can see things more clearly in older thinkers because they are further away from us. One of the difficulties of our age is that we live in it. It is like we are standing in a forest and trying to see which parts of the forest are good and which parts are dead and dying. Inside the forest, we can see individual trees but it is almost impossible to see large sections of the forest. But if we were out of the forest and looking at it from a distance, it becomes much easier. Distance gives us perspective.

At one point in the essay, Lewis offers a poetic argument for reading these old works: “The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”[1] This is a wonderful and persuasive image that he employs but it is incredibly easy to overemphasize the palliative nature of these old works. The sea breeze of the centuries is not always so clean.

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By In Books, Family and Children, Interviews

Author Interview: Remy Wilkins

So your novel Strays is available (for order) . What’s it about? What inspired the story?

It’s about a boy named Rodney who has to spend the summer at his weird uncle’s and gets caught up in a demonic invasion. The major influence is The Screwtape Letters, which is a book that never goes more than a couple of years without being pulled off my shelf. The other point of inspiration is Martin Luther, particularly his dealings with Satan. His legendary abuse of the devil has always tickled me. His hymn A Mighty Fortress is also a touchstone and I use its lyrics as chapter titles.

Strays by [Wilkins, Remy]

Canon Press, 2017

I love the title. Is it too much of a spoiler to ask what the name is about? (more…)

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