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By In Politics

Abraham Kuyper and the Pluralist Claims of the Liberal Project, Part 4: The Kuyperian Alternative

In response to the evident defects of liberalism, we might well ask what the alternatives might be. We evidently cannot return to the religious establishments of old. Even the most dedicated communitarian is highly unlikely to make such an obviously retrograde proposal. Although at least one church body has long sought to amend the US Constitution to recognize the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ, no one would argue that, for example, the state’s coercive apparatus should enforce ecclesiastical judgements issued against recalcitrant members.

Everyone now presumably agrees that the execution of heretics handed over by the Inquisition to the civil authorities was not only a very bad idea but fundamentally unjust as well. Nevertheless, the major Reformed confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries charge the civil authorities with the responsibility to “protect the sacred ministry; and thus [to] remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship; that the kingdom of antichrist may be thus destroyed and the kingdom of Christ promoted.” By the beginning of the nineteenth century, this confessional charge to the political authorities was sounding less and less plausible in the increasingly pluralistic societies of Europe and North America.

In this context, the Dutch statesman and polymath Abraham Kuyper charted a different path in articulating the relationship between church and state. To begin with, Kuyper understood better than many of his predecessors that the church-state issue was part of a larger societal pattern characterized by a multiplicity of agents, including individuals and a variety of communal formations. In a mature differentiated society, an ordinary person would find herself embedded in many overlapping communities of which the gathered church and the state were only two.

The question is thus enlarged: How do church and state relate to each other? now becomes: What are the proper relationships among church, state, marriage, family, school, business enterprise, and a whole host of voluntary associations? If Thomas Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation” is inadequate to account for the complex relations between state and gathered church, it is certainly inadequate for understanding how a variety of human communities function in the real world.

Kuyper came up with a description for this phenomenon: soevereiniteit in eigen kring, that is, sovereignty in its own sphere or sphere sovereignty. Of course, God himself is ultimate Sovereign, but in his grace, he has conferred limited sovereignty, or, better yet, authority, on human beings and institutions, none of which can claim this ultimacy for itself. “This perfect Sovereignty of the sinless Messiah at the same time directly denies and challenges all absolute Sovereignty among sinful men on earth, and does so by dividing life into separate spheres, each with its own sovereignty.”

Sphere sovereignty corresponds to Mouw and Griffioen’s “associational diversity,” but it is not without relevance for spiritual or directional diversity, even if it is not identical to it. The very notion of sphere sovereignty can hardly be religiously neutral because it is dependent on the recognition that ultimate sovereignty belongs to God alone and cannot be monopolized by a mere human individual or institution. In other words, what I like to call the pluriformity of authorities cannot so easily be divorced from directional diversity.

In fact, the relationship between these two types of diversity is a complicated one. Although many tend to conflate the different forms of diversity as if they were all of one piece, this is not exactly correct. The tolerance of different claims to truth so championed by Crick would, after all, allow one’s fellow citizens to believe in the very ideological illusions that would deny sphere sovereignty and ascribe ultimate sovereignty to the individual, the nation, the economic class or the state. This means that, despite the fact that the concept of sphere sovereignty, for many of us, seems better to account for societal pluriformity than does liberal individualism, the two approaches remain competitors and thus must be tolerated within the political arena.

Acknowledging pluriformity will thus stand in some tension with spiritual or directional diversity, which suggests that efforts at doing public justice to both realities will not reach an easy solution capable of commanding universal assent. The only way to lessen the tension may be for those of us who are persuaded that sphere sovereignty is superior to liberal individualism to show in practice how this superiority is manifested in ordinary life.

This is precisely what Kuyper sought to do both in his writings and in his practice. Two of his essays are particularly relevant to this effort. The first is titled, “Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life,” which he delivered fairly early in his career in 1869, that is, before he entered the Dutch Parliament and before he founded the Free University. Although this essay is perhaps marred by some of the elements of a typical nineteenth-century romantic nationalism, its central point has positive social and political ramifications: that God’s creation is a diverse creation with its unifying principle found in God alone, while a secularizing modernity is improperly preoccupied with seeking another locus of unity in something created. Hence the longstanding efforts of the various pagan and modern rulers to establish an imperial unity that would bring order to the apparent chaos of created diversity. As Kuyper puts it, “sin, by a reckless leveling and the elimination of all diversity, seeks a false, deceptive unity, the uniformity of death.” The world strives for a stifling uniformity that would erase all legitimate distinctions found in God’s creation, but it does so in imitation of God’s plan, which is to unify creation in himself.

The second essay is simply titled, “Sphere Sovereignty,” and was delivered in 1880 on the occasion of the opening of the Free University. Sovereignty Kuyper defines as “the authority that has the right, the duty, and the power to break and avenge all resistance to its will.” Of course, only God can possess sovereignty in this absolute sense. Nevertheless, God has graciously conferred a portion of this sovereignty on a variety of earthly agents. As Kuyper affirms, “This perfect Sovereignty of the sinless Messiah at the same time directly denies and challenges all absolute Sovereignty among sinful men on earth, and does so by dividing life into separate spheres, each with its own sovereignty.” The state and the gathered church are but two of these spheres, which also include “a domain of the personal, of the household, of science, of social and ecclesiastical life, each of which obeys its own laws of life, each subject to its own chief.” The differences among these spheres are irreducible in that the sheer variety of spheres cannot be reduced to or derived from a single sphere superior to all others. God has invested each with its own authority and given it a distinctive calling within the larger panorama of his creation. This is something for which liberal individualism cannot easily account.

An example will suffice to illustrate this. I am lecturing a class of eighteen-year-olds in the early afternoon on a Wednesday, and someone walks into the room without prior knowledge of what she will find there. She may be aware that people are inside, but as yet she has no idea who these people are or what they will be doing or what sort of relationships might exist among them. However, once she enters the room, she does not have to employ sophisticated reasoning to intuit the presence of an instructor and students whose interactions are structured by the classroom context. She knows, almost without thinking, that she is not in the presence of a family. The reasons are obvious. The oldest person in the room is decades older than every one of the young people and physically resembles very few, if any, of them. In other words, he is obviously not their father. He is too short and dark, whereas the males in particular tend to be tall and blond. There is no way he could have sired all of them, at least without the co-operation of a large number of prospective female partners. In other words, there are unmistakable biological cues that this is not a familial community. The fact that the young people are seated at desks while the older adult is on his feet talking up a blue streak suggests that this is not a gathered church community either. Nor is it a parliamentary body, few of which would have eighteen-year-olds as deputies and certainly not in these numbers. Nor is it a business enterprise, a labor union or a garden club. The reality of the classroom community presents itself to the visitor almost immediately upon entry. It is not an abstraction created in her mind out of the raw data of aggregated individuals. The classroom is a classroom. The labor union is a labor union. State is state, and church is church. It is as simple as that.

Many people tend to assume, drawing on H. Richard Niebuhr’s categories, that Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty is part of a grand effort at Christ transforming culture, perhaps through political means. Yet that is to misunderstand what sphere sovereignty is about. Yes, it has implications for political and other forms of social life, but it is above all a framework enabling us to understand the diversity of God’s creation, especially the human cultural and social project. It represents an effort to grasp social realities apart from the distorting effects of the post-revolutionary ideological illusions that sought unity somewhere other than in the creating, redeeming and sustaining God.

However, it is fairly evident to even the casual reader of Kuyper that he did not develop sphere sovereignty into a sophisticated theoretical framework capable of making fine but necessary distinctions. For example, he rather easily conflated political federalism, contextual diversity and societal pluriformity. It would fall to Kuyper’s more philosophical heirs, such as Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), to articulate a more consistent theoretical foundation for sphere sovereignty, something that would have an impact on such organizations as the Center for Public Justice, the Canadian think tank Cardus, the Christian Labour Association of Canada, the Acton Institute, and the network of Christian universities loosely associated with the Christian Reformed Church. In some fashion these would all affirm principled pluralism, including the spiritual or directional pluralism described by Mouw and Griffioen, yet they recognize that they still have an important task before them, namely, to persuade their fellow citizens that a framework taking seriously the diversity of God’s creation is superior to those attempting artificially to squeeze this diversity into a single principle, whether that be the sovereignty of the individual or that of the state, nation, people or class.

Acceptance of directional or spiritual diversity is not, in other words, a pretext for acquiescing in the persistence of differences of opinion that really do matter. There are still battles to be fought and there will continue to be such until Christ returns. But it does mean, in most circumstances, that we wage our battles with civil means, making our case before the watching world and demonstrating, as we are able, that recognizing and respecting societal pluriformity,  better than its competitors, leads to flourishing communities and balanced social development. There will never be a complete congruence between these two types of diversity, but one provides a context for us to promote the other to the best of our abilities, and that may be the best we can hope for in between the times.

Part 1: Liberalism and Two Kinds of Diversity

Part 2: The Church as Voluntary Association

Part 3: What Liberalism Implies for the Two Pluralisms

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By In Politics

Abraham Kuyper and the Pluralist Claims of the Liberal Project, Part 2: The Church as Voluntary Association

As we noted in Part 1, liberalism attempts to guarantee pluralism by empowering the individual, often at the expense of the very communities that go into shaping her. But in so doing, liberalism denies these communities any authority not reducible to the wills of the component individuals.

If, for example, we were to agree with John Locke’s definition of the church, we would find ourselves in territory foreign to the mainstream of the historic faith. According to Locke, “A church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord in order to the public worshipping of God in such manner as they judge acceptable to Him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls” (emphasis mine). While there are undoubtedly many Christians, especially protestants in the free-church tradition, who would implicitly agree with Locke’s definition, the mainstream of the Christian tradition has viewed the church as the covenant community of those who belong to Jesus Christ, who is its Saviour and head.

Moreover, the gathered church, as distinct from the corpus Christi which is more encompassing, has been generally recognized to be an authoritative institution with the power to bind and loose on earth (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). As such it is more than the aggregate of its members but is a divinely-ordained vessel bearing the gospel to the world and especially to the church’s members.

Throughout the last two millennia, ecclesiastical councils have been convened on occasion to decide authoritatively on difficult doctrinal issues threatening to divide the church. These have yielded creeds and confessions considered binding on the faithful, such as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, deemed authoritative for the major Christian traditions in both east and west. The (Pseudo-)Athanasian Creed is most direct in its claims: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” It is, in short, the church, and not individual Christians, that defines the content of the faith.

It would be difficult to imagine an account of the faith and the church more inconsistent with the voluntaristic ecclesiology of Locke, who asserted that “everyone is orthodox to himself.” By contrast, from the earliest centuries the church as an institution has claimed the authority to determine what is and is not orthodox. Those Christians professing to be orthodox are in effect acknowledging that the terms for their membership in the church are not theirs to set as individuals. Beginning already with the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15, the church as a body asserted its authority, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to resolve potentially divisive issues in binding fashion. To dissent from such decisions was regarded as schismatic and thus sinful.

In past centuries political authorities assumed that ecclesiastical schism was a danger to public order and thus sought to uphold the church’s authority in such matters to protect the unity of the realm. Although some observers like to describe this as a Constantinian settlement, it might better be labelled Theodosian, because it was the Emperor Theodosius who officially established Christianity as the favoured religion of the Roman Empire near the end of the fourth century.

It need hardly be emphasized that, two millennia into the Christian era, most of us live in polities characterized by a diversity of sincerely- and not-so-sincerely-held faiths. We in the west have become concerned, not with the presence of multiple faiths in our own societies, but with the lack of toleration of such multiplicity elsewhere, especially in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, where ancient Christian communities are increasingly besieged by the forces of radical Islam.

Nevertheless, the presence of faith communities adhering to a variety of ultimate beliefs is not without potentially troublesome political implications. This is something that our pre-modern forebears may have understood better than we do. Is law given by God or by the gods? And if by God, the God of Muhammad or the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ? Few Christians would wish to live under Sharia law, but increasing numbers of devout Muslims believe they are called to establish Sharia as the law of the land, whether in Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria or Great Britain. In the face of such evidently divisive efforts, how are we to go about living with each other? How can we come up with political principles enabling us to strike a modus vivendi with citizens of other faiths?

For several centuries now professed liberals have come up with what they believe to be the answer to this vexing question, and they think it sufficient to command the loyalties of all citizens irrespective of the “thick” comprehensive doctrines or worldviews to which they otherwise adhere. This liberal solution has profound implications for both directional diversity and societal pluriformity, and it amounts to this: every community and claimed communal obligation must be reduced to its component parts, namely, the wills of the individual members. To the extent that communal obligations exist, they can be justified only in so far as they conform to the voluntary principle. Communities, with all of their supposed differences, must be recast as mere voluntary associations.

We have seen how Locke did this with the gathered church institution, but he more famously did this with political community and even with marriage. In Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, a social contract among individuals comes to be deemed the source of all political obligation, as graphically illustrated in the famous frontispiece to the first edition of Hobbes Leviathan. Any authority that the state might claim over the individual can be legitimated only with reference to this originating contract.

In the later liberalism of Immanuel Kant and John Rawls, we see a certain level of abstraction added to the social contract, which is reworked such that individuals now use their common reason, ostensibly disconnected from their thicker worldview commitments, to articulate principles of right agreeable to all. Sounds good in theory, but, because it is based on a faulty understanding of human nature and ignores the role ultimate beliefs inevitably play in life, it is unworkable in practice.

Part 3: What Liberalism Implies for the Two Pluralisms

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By In Interviews, Podcast

Episode 7, The Benedict and Boniface Options

On this episode, Steve Jeffery interviews Andrew Isker about Rod Dreher’s popular new book “The Benedict Option” and his response “The Boniface Option”. Boniface was a member of the order that Benedict founded, but after being appointed Bishop of then-pagan Germania he travelled through the region east of the Rhine preaching the gospel, destroying pagan idols and shrines, and leaving churches in their place. The pagans he converted were Pastor Isker’s ancestors. Pastor Isker argues that Boniface has some important additional lessons to compliment Dreher’s “Benedict option”.

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By In Politics

Engaging the University with a Doubleshot of Bavinck(s)

bavink

Guest Post By Tyler Helfers

One of my passions in serving as a campus minister is to introduce our students and faculty to dead, Dutch theologians. Perhaps it is an obligation because I serve in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and study at Calvin Theological Seminary. However, I tend to think it is because of the tremendous gift these men are to the Church, and how, even today, their works remain relevant to faith and practice in our academic setting.

While I could talk of Vos, Kuyper, Schilder, Dooyeweerd, Van Til, Berkouwer, or Ridderbos, I find myself drawing most often on two others: Herman Bavinck and J.H. Bavinck. In a society that champions the sovereignty of self, and increasingly convinced that religion is irrelevant to the common way of lifea, the works of both Bavincks—a balance of cultural nous and confessional fidelity, missional zeal and Kingdom vision—serve as a blessing and bright hope for the future of both the church and wider culture.

Nature and Grace

At the heart of Herman Bavinck’s theology is the principle that “grace restores nature.” According to Bavinck, the religious antithesis should be between grace and sin, not between grace and nature, as posited by the dualistic approaches of both Roman Catholicism and the Anabaptists.b Bavinck writes:

Grace restores nature and takes it to its highest pinnacle…The re-creation is not a second, new creation. It does not add to existence any new creatures or introduce any new substance into it, but it is truly “re-formation.” In this process the working of grace extends as far as the power of sin.c

The implications of this are profound and all encompassing. Not only are fallen human beings reconciled to God and restored to fellowship with Him, but also enabled by the Holy Spirit to once again live out their created purpose (vocation). However, the re-forming effects of grace are also extended to the whole of nature, including the world of culture, society, and politics.d

As it relates to campus ministry, the blessing of this principle is twofold. First, it guards against the twin dangers of separatism and secularism. Much of what is encompassed under the banner of “campus ministry” is nothing more than an Anabaptist separatism that Bavinck describes as “[only] rescuing and snatching of individuals out of the world which lies in wickedness; never a methodical, organic reformation of the whole, of the cosmos, of the nation and country.e” Thus, ministries engage primarily in evangelism, Bible study, and providing a sub-culture for Christian students (as opposed to a holistic approach to discipleship and working for reformation of the broader campus culture). On the other hand, the principle thwarts the efforts of secularism to relegate faith in general, and the work of Christ in particular, to private life and the heart. As a result of the way in which God is at work, faith cannot help but find expression in the public square, and do so in ongoing, relevant ways that point to Christ and the Kingdom.

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  1. a) Christopher Dawson, Religion and World History: A Selection from the Works of Christopher (University of California: Image Books, 1975), 257. He goes on to explain that the “process of secularisation arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.”  (back)
  2. b) Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Abr. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 82.  (back)
  3. c) Ibid, 498.  (back)
  4. d)Ibid, 83.  (back)
  5. e) Jan Veenhof, “Nature and Grace in Bavinck,” Pro Rege 34, no. 4, (June 2006), p. 17.  (back)

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By In Theology

In Praise of Klaas Schilder

The work of Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) is not very well known in North America, but I hope that will change soon. He was a brilliant theologian—a courageous voice for Calvinist orthodoxy in the Netherlands for over four decades—who, while upholding the “cultural mandate” perspective that provides the basis for Dutch neo-Calvinist thought, disagreed with Abraham Kuyper on some key points. He sets forth his overall case in a concise manner in his little book, Christ and Culture, which has been available to the English-speaking world since 1977. Now, however, the folks at the Canadian Reformed Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario, have produced a much more readable translation, with helpful explanatory notes, which deserves careful attention from those of us in the Kuyperian camp. (Full disclosure: I wrote the Foreword to this new edition.)

As a Kuyper devotee, I do have some serious disagreements with the way Schilder makes his case. But on several key points he offers helpful words of caution to those of us who follow Kuyper. He rightly observes, for example, that Kuyper makes more than one “rather large leap” in claiming a biblical basis for the idea of sphere sovereignty. Even though I am convinced that a biblically sound Kuyperian-type case for diverse creational spheres can be developed, Schilder rightly pushes me to exercise considerable care in making the proper biblical moves.

For all of his criticisms of Kuyper, though, Schilder does not lose sight of the kinds of foundational emphases that Kuyper drew upon from the Reformed tradition. Schilder has his own criticisms of Anabaptist and Barthian perspectives, insisting—in formulations that any Kuyperian will find inspiring—that Christ is indeed the Lord of culture, and his followers must submit to his Lordship in all aspects of life. And while Schilder is not fond of the notion of common grace—such a key theological concept for many of us—Schilder nonetheless insists that we must not lose sight of the reality that all human beings, elect and non-elect, share a created “being together,” a sunousia, that has not been erased by the radical effects of the Fall. (more…)

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By In Culture

Kuyper on Loving and Serving the Poor

Posted by Justin Donathan

“The beauty of a love springing up from God in you displays its radiance not in this, that you allow the poor Lazarus to quiet his hunger with the crumbs that fall from your overburdened table, for all such benefaction is more like an insult to the manly heart which beats also in the bosom of the poor man; but rather in this, that just as you, rich and poor, sit together at the Communion table, so likewise you feel for the poor man as for a member of the body, and so too, for your servant or maid as for a child of man, which is all that you, too, are. To the poor man, a loyal handshake is often sweeter than a bountiful largess. A friendly word, not spoken haughtily, is the mildest balsam for one who weeps at his wounds. Divine pity, sympathy, a suffering with us and for us, that was the mystery of Golgotha. You too, from fellow-feeling, must suffer with your suffering brothers. Only then will the holy music of comfort sound in your speech, and then, driven by this sympathy of fellow-suffering, you will also spontaneously join to your speech the deed.

“For these deeds of love are also indispensable. Obviously, the poor man cannot wait till the repairing of our social structure will have been completed. It is almost certain that he will not live long enough to see that happy day. But nevertheless, he must live, he must feed his hungry mouth, and the mouths of his hungry family, and therefore vigorous help is necessary. However strongly I am inclined to boast of the openhandedness of which many of you are capable, by God’s grace, yet the holy art of “giving for Jesus’ sake” ought to be much more strongly developed among us Christians. Never forget that state relief for the poor remains always a blot on the honor of your Savior.

“So, have sympathy for the suffering of the oppressed and suppressed. In nothing so strongly as in this holy suffering together can you be “followers of God as beloved children.” In that holy dynamic of pity lurks the whole secret of that heavenly power which you as Christians can exercise. And when this awakens in you the impulse to make possible for the poorer man — also through advice, through leadership, through your own initiative — advance against the stream of social suffering, then you will not be at a loss for helpers, but will find all who are Christian, not merely in name but also in reality, vying for the high honor of assisting in this service of mercy in Christ’s name, this service of your suffering brothers.”

-Abraham Kuyper, Christianity and the Class Struggle (italics original, bold my emphasis)<>bassejn-khai.com.uaзаказать рекламу в google

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By In Books

Docteur Dans la Cuisine

Guest Post by Mark Nenadov

Introduction

Have you ever found a little, unassuming book, only to find that takes you by the feet, and shakes you up a bit?

About seven years ago, I found such a book in the University of Windsor library here in Canada. It was an English translation of The Humaness of John Calvin: The Reformer as a Husband, Father, Pastor & Friend by Richard Stauffer.

On the surface, there’s probably nothing in that little 100 or so page book that is, earth shattering. But, nonetheless, it blew me away at the time.

Stauffer does not resort to hagiography, but attempts to give a brief and accurate portrayal of John Calvin in various spheres as Husband, Father, Pastor, and Friend was really illuminating. Stauffer clearly shows Calvin in a way that contradicts the false image of him as a cold-hearted dictator. He shows a pastor who supports the very church leadership which overthrew him. He shows a father and husband who cares for his family through difficult circumstances, such as the plague. He shows a faithful friend, who seeks out friendships and nurtures them, pouring himself out for his friends.

Three Surprising Angles

There are, however, three other aspects of Calvin which aren’t really hinted at in the title.

1. Calvin as a Bachelor. In a letter to William Farel, the single John Calvin reveals his ideals of beauty, love, and femininity. He does have a bit of a “starry eyed” side, so much so that Melanchton teases him by saying he was “dreaming of getting married”. The single life was discouraging for him, and he even once asked whether he should “search [for a wife] any more”. And, yet, the noble bachelor had a serious view of marriage, even reversing the typical platitude about celibacy, commenting that getting a wife would be done in order to “dedicate myself more completely to the Lord”. As it turns out, at the age of 31, Calvin found himself an “upright and honest…even pretty” women in Idlette de Bure.

2. Calvin as a Matchmaker. Calvin desired good matches for his friends, and sought to take actions towards that.

3. Calvin as an Insulted Man. This one is less surprising, and is generally common knowledge to most Reformed people. However, there are some surprising details to this that Stauffer covers.

One Particular Line of “Insults”

I would like to elaborate on #3 a bit. It is incredible to see how far Calvin’s opponents went to bring his name and character through the mud. I seem to remember one attack claiming that Calvin had rats crawling in his garments, or something similar to that.

Since reading Stauffer’s book, I learned that one French Catholic writer, Louis Richeome, in a hit piece on the Huguenots, actually made the audacious claim that Calvin’s impudence “surpasses that of the Devil”.

And, yet, not all of Calvin’s most staunch opponents realized how their words could be taken two ways. Stauffer’s book provides a delightful example of this. One particularly flamboyant critic of Calvin, Jacques Desmay, who was the vicar-general of the diocese of Rouen, tried to condemn Calvin, but it sounds to “Kuyperian” ears more like a commendation:

“[John Calvin] is the author of a religion of the table, the stomach, the fat, the flesh, the kitchen”

“in [John Calvin], the whole reformation only tendeth to “establish the reign of wine, women and song”.

Conclusion

Although, I am sure John Calvin would not have felt that was a fair characterization of the Reformation, I can’t help but surmise that he must have taken a certain secret delight that this was really the best Jacques Desmay could come up with.

There is some measure of truth in it in this attack, especially when we consider these statements in light of Calvin’s writings about beauty and God’s gifts. He certainly felt that God gave things such as food and drink in a spirit of “superabundant liberality”.

Joel Beeke, in Living For God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism, says it well:

“Typically, Calvin uses the complexio oppositorum when explaining the Christian’s relation to the world, presenting opposites to find a middle way between them. Thus, on the one hand, cross-bearing crucifies us to the world and the world to us. On the other hand, the devout Christian enjoys this present life, albeit with due restraint and moderation, for he is taught to use things in this world for the purpose that God intended for them. Calvin was no ascetic; he enjoyed good literature, good food, and the beauties of nature.”

Calvin’s detractors took the fact that Calvin promoted the enjoyment of these good gifts, and blew this a bit out of proportion.

I suppose sometimes our enemies even get us partially right. And sometimes insults go both ways. I suppose it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we, in our day, had a few more “Docteurs Dans la Cuisine”, theologians with a hearty appreciation for things that fill the plate and the cup.  And if that causes detractors to think it is establishing a reign of “a religion of the kitchen”, so be it!

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