A Neo-Kuyperian Assist to the Emergent Church

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), the founder of a school of thought known as neo-Calvinism or Kuyperianism, was a pastor, theologian, newspaper editor, and politician in the Netherlands. I first heard of him five years ago when I was candidating for an associate pastor position at a Christian Reformed Church. The name was shelved until recently when I became interested in doing ministry with the Coalition for Christian Outreach. The CCO’s model for college ministry has been shaped by the neo-calvinism of Kuyper.

A former dorm floor friend from seminary days, Vince Bacote, now teaches at Wheaton College and has become an expert on Kuyperianism (His latest book is entitled The Spirit In Public Theology: Appropriating The Legacy Of Abraham Kuyper). He presented a paper at the Evangelical Theological Society and then again at Covenant College called A Neo-Kuyperian Assist to the Emergent Church (which I have published at my website). In it, he talks about how Kuyper’s ideas about Common Grace can help the missional emphasis of the Emergent Church.

Bacote writes,

Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace is incredibly helpful because it allows us to remember a basic tenet of the Christian faith: “the Savior of the world is also the Creator of the world” (Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, 173). Christ does not merely have significance for the believer’s soul, but also for “[his] body, for the visible world, and for the outcome of world history” (Kuyper, 172). If we miss this point, we run the risk, as Kuyper points out, of living in two different worlds, only one of which is directly tied to our Savior. Suddenly scholarship, drama, literature, business, law, politics, etc., are all unholy disciplines.”

Bacote calls this notion a possible “assist” to the Emerging Church. This could be a helpful piece of the puzzle as emergent-types try to figure out how the church can reach out to the 21st Century world around them.

As Brian McLaren said in the Worship Leader Magazine article on the Emerging Church
“The focus [is] on God’s kingdom coming down to earth, so God’s will is done down here—in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and even churches—as it is in heaven…People who are blessed to be a blessing, blessed not to the exclusion of others, but so that we can be a blessing to others. If we get that straight - blessings will flow to the unchurched, blessings of evangelism, and blessings of compassion, justice and peace too.”

As Vince Bacote says in his paper, “The doctrine of common grace can provide the emergent church with a significant theological rationale for Christian participation in every area of society.”


Steve said...

I find it funny that in my denom (SBC) that we understand but don't live out our understanding of common grace. I think it's very helpful.

Thanks for making me aware of your post. Great stuff from a great theologian.

Scot McKnight said...

Have you seen any of Grotius's divine government theory of the atonement in the Emergent stuff?
I know Don Dayton thinks there is much more to this than most Evangelicals are taught. I find him obtuse, but anyone who thinks "kingdom" can find something in Grotius.
Did Grotius impact Kuyper?

Bob Robinson said...

I'm not sure if there is a connection between Grotius and Kuyper. I defer to Vince Bacote on that one.

Mike VanderKwaak said...

I'm just studying for a CRC history exam at Calvin Theological Seminary. I've been wrapping my mind around Kuyper's concept of the church and have noticed some great "assists" to the emergent/church. Common grace helps with the redemptive/social work of the EC, but Kuyper's concept of the church validates the conversation of the emergent tribe. In Henry Zwaanstra's article "Abraham Kuyper's Conception of the Church" he writes about the essense of the church (invisible church) as having potential and actual. The potential of the church is about it's journey towards the full expression of the church. In that sense we are all part of the essense of the church with potential. Anyways, it's hard to explain. Thought I'd add to the conversation. - Mike

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, Mike.
It does seem that Kuyper can certainly be an "assist" to the EC. I ate dinner last month with Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent, and he affirmed that much of the Kuyperian understanding of the church is in line with what he and the other leaders in the EC are thinking.