Volume 46 - Issue 2

Beginning at the End of All Things: Abraham Kuyper’s and Klaas Schilder’s Eschatological Visions of Culture

By Dennis Greeson


Abraham Kuyper’s theology of culture is gaining interest in the English-speaking world, especially among those outside the Dutch Reformed tradition. Historic debates in the Dutch Reformed tradition over Kuyper’s hallmark doctrine of common grace often seem parochial or irrelevant to contemporary engagement with his thought. Revisiting one figure in those debates, this essay argues that Klaas Schilder, one of Kuyper’s most vocal critics, offers an important counterbalance to problematic features of Kuyper’s theology. While the divide between Kuyper and Schilder has historically been severe, consideration of their similarities regarding their eschatological vision of Christian cultural creation offers a way to harmonize their differences.

“Kuyperians were pluralists before pluralism was cool,” writes James K. A. Smith.1 Indeed, neo-Calvinists in the tradition of Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) display a marked fondness for stressing the possibility and imperative of shared cultural labor between Christians and non-Christians in society.2 Christians can work alongside non-Christians to create God-glorifying artifacts of culture, such as art or music, as well as less tangible elements of culture, such as share values, language, philosophic systems, or social and political institutions. While Smith certainly appreciates such contributions of the Kuyperian tradition, his critique aims at correcting what he perceives to be far too great an interest in the commonness which Christians share with the rest of society, at the expense of neglecting their distinctiveness. Neo-Calvinists have lost a sense of Christianity’s prophetic cultural witness, he argues. Or, to put it in more Kuyperian terms: neo-Calvinists have neglected the ecclesial contours of the antithesis between Christ’s work of redemption and humanity’s rebellion in sin. More specifically, they have failed to live out the active ministry of the institutional church of shaping communities in the distinctiveness of Christian liturgical life, which in turn is to serve as a leavening force in society for civic virtue.3

To rekindle the force of the Kuyperian antithesis, Smith has shown interest in the lesser known influence of Dutch theologian Klaas Schilder (1890–1952). Schilder, a strident critic of Kuyper and his legacy, provides what Smith sees as an element lacking in many contemporary neo-Calvinist theologies of social and cultural life. This is namely a “dispositional deflection” away from public life steeped in non-Christian principles, while at the same time providing a call to remain faithfully present within society, for its good and for Christ’s glory.4 Smith is not alone in recognizing the value of the greater emphasis Schilder puts on what neo-Calvinists call the antithesis, the epistemic and existential divide between regenerate Christians and the unregenerate, especially concerning social and cultural cooperation. A growing group of Kuyperians have begun to look to Schilder in an effort to strengthen their Kuyperian heritage.5

This willingness of those sympathetic to Kuyper’s theology of culture and common life to reach across what has been a bitter divide in the Dutch neo-Calvinist tradition represents a promising new chapter in the conversation. Schilder rejected Kuyper’s foundational doctrine of common grace with great skepticism, and any effort to harmonize their thoughts must begin elsewhere. This essay proposes to put Kuyper and Schilder in conversation yet again, seeking to find some constructive unity in their varied understandings of culture, the antithesis, and common life shared between Christians and non-Christians. Whereas much of this discussion has historically focused on areas of disagreement, little serious effort has been given to those areas where Schilder and Kuyper’s theology bear similarities and can in fact work well together. The way to do this, this study proposes, is to begin where these similarities are the strongest.

For various reasons, Kuyper and Schilder disagree about much regarding creation, divine providence, and doctrines which serve to construct a “protology,” that is, a doctrine of the axiomatic beginning of all things. However, their eschatological vision for culture and human life does possess some crucial harmony. This study will therefore begin at the end, so to speak, examining both Kuyper and Schilder’s eschatological visions of culture, in order to discern how Christians in the present ought to understand their cultural task in light of the future. To frame this proposal, this study will survey the nature of the divide between Kuyper and Schilder on culture and common grace, before turning to their respective eschatological visions for culture to begin to work of synthesizing their views.

1. The Nature of the Divide

Beginning with the end of all things is a fitting endeavor in the study of Schilder’s theology of culture. “All threads of life and revelation,” he says, “lead in the end to heaven.”6 Though his thoughts on the cultural life of the eschaton certainly diverge from Kuyper’s, they do find significant common ground here as well. Schilder’s main conflict with Kuyper concerns instead the beginning of history. Kuyper is famous for his expansion of the doctrine of common grace in Reformed thought as the basis for his theology of cultural life. For Kuyper, God’s design for his creation is for humanity, his vice-regents, to develop the hidden potential sown into the created order as seeds awaiting germination.7 Cultural life, that is, the fruit of human labor as they interact together with God’s created order, is but one element of this latency.8 Humanity is charged with the task of creation’s development in Genesis 1:26–28 as part of God’s command to both fill the earth and to subdue it. The fall and the entrance of sin into the life of humanity, however, raises the question of how such a task and humanity’s capacity to fulfill it is affected by so deep a rift in God’s design for things. For Kuyper, God’s common grace accounts for the existential reality that humanity has indeed been able to develop creation’s latent potentials, sometimes for better though often for worse. Common grace, therefore, serves as Kuyper’s account for how cultural life remains possible, and reveals that God’s design for his creation has not been aborted, but continues to unfold and advance in this life prior to its consummation in the eschaton.9

Schilder, writing a generation after Kuyper, rejected Kuyper’s accounting for human cultural life in common grace, partly because of what he saw as problems inherent in Kuyper’s doctrine of divine providence. While both Kuyper and Schilder adamantly embraced a supralapsarian vision of God’s eternal decrees, the nature of Schilder’s critique highlights the supralapsarian tendency to frame the situation in more absolute terms.10 For Schilder, it cannot be the case that what allows both sinful humanity and the redeemed to both seemingly develop culture can be called grace.11 In reality, what Kuyper calls “grace” is simply the prolonging of judgment that will ultimately result in grace for the elect but condemnation for the reprobate, justified by reprobate humanity’s sinfulness manifest and magnified by their cultural labors.12 What accounts for present cultural life is a common “tempering” of God’s judgment against sin, so that his equal plans of both grace and wrath might come to completion in history.13

Despite such a dire prognosis, Schilder does retain a fundamentally positive view towards human cultural life, going so far as to call cultural abstention on the part of Christians a sin against God’s creational calling.14 For Schilder, cultural life is one area of responsibility for humanity under God’s covenant of works, which God entered into with the whole human race via Adam in paradise. This covenant bears actual expectations for faithfulness, namely to live out the fullness of the imago dei for which God created humanity and to the development of creation’s latencies in cultural life—covenant expectations which remain in force for all humanity even today.15

2. One Culture or Two?

One can begin to see in the above outline of Schilder’s thought the emergence of his emphasis on the antithesis. For Schilder, to properly speak of culture in its present reality is to speak only in connection with its ultimate telos. The problem of the fall is that it detaches human cultural striving from its proper integration with right orientation of cultural life, which hinges on right worship of God.16 The hope of the work of Christ is that regeneration restores the possibility of properly integrated cultural labor, that is work which sees “every part in its proper place in the whole”—even if this is only provisionally possible this side of the eschaton.17 The recognition this brings is that according to Schilder’s thought the vast majority of cultural development throughout history is debilitated by sin, even if cultural life as such remains inherently good according to God’s designs.

This raises an important question, with profound implications for conceiving of the Christian’s role in society. Categorically speaking, is there one type of culture, or two? If only Christian cultural development bears the possibility of being properly integrated with God’s creational design, what is to be said of non-Christian culture and any commonality that the two communities share? Do God’s designs for the development of culture throughout history come about through the endeavors of humanity in general, or only through his work of saving grace? Or, to put it differently, does the antithesis bring about a qualitative or quantitative distinction between the cultural lives of those united Christ and in rebellion? Kuyper and Schilder each give emphases in their theologies of culture that fall towards one of these poles or the other. The remaining aim of this study will be to highlight how each of their respective emphases are both helpful and yet not beyond critique in their own way.

3. Areas of Agreement

Before moving to a more detailed discussion of Kuyper and Schilder’s respective eschatological visions, something needs to be said regarding some other broad ways Kuyper and Schilder find agreement. To this end, it is helpful to work backwards through the major plot movements of the biblical narrative. Beginning with the new creation, central to both Kuyper and Schilder’s theology is the assertion that human cultural life plays an important role in the eschaton. Both agree that culture and its artifacts will be present in the new creation, and while they generally disagree on what cultural products will be in present in the eschaton and how they come to be there, this gives both viewpoints a fundamentally positive outlook on present cultural life in connection to the world to come. If culture matters to God in the eschaton, it matters now as well. Second, pertaining to the plot movement of redemption as highlighted above, both view the work of Christ as axiomatic for Christian cultural life, and while they differ on the nature and extent both hold to a resultant division between Christian and non-Christian culture. Finally, regarding the fall, both theologians place a very strong emphasis on God’s will that his creational designs for culture continue to develop in spite of the disastrous effects of sin. These points therefore form the broad contours around which to parse their disagreements.

4. Kuyper’s Eschatological Vision for Culture

A hallmark of Kuyper’s eschatology is the transference of cultural life from the present creation to the new creation. In the new creation, the fruit of common grace that is the development and maturation of culture along God’s creational design, “does not simply perish and is not simply destroyed in the universal cosmic conflagration, but such profit will have an abiding significance for the new Jerusalem … for [the] honor and glory attained by our human race will be carried into this new Jerusalem.”18 Though Kuyper embraces a catastrophic climax to history in which the present reality will be purified with fire, he is convinced that elements of the present life transfer across into the next. For Kuyper, this transfer gives significance and “abiding profit” to cultural life in the current dispensation, for if it were not so, the particulars of this life would dim in their eternal importance: “If nothing of all that developed in this temporal life passes over into eternity, then this temporal existence for eternal life leaves us cold and indifferent.”19 For Kuyper, what transfers is more than simply the reality of embodied and enculturated lives, but also the “hidden germs of life” of actual cultural artifacts and institutions, purified in their forms by the work of God, but recognizable no less in their connection to the developments of present realities.20

This transference of culture raises a question, however: Whose hands cultivate those cultural elements that transfer into the new creation? Kuyper is clear that he envisions the contributions of common grace as a whole making it into the eschaton, which implies developments from the hands of both Christians and non-Christians on the condition that they align with God’s creational designs. Indeed, the preservation of history under common grace, leading to the development of the “honor and glory of the nations” is from God and not from Satan.21 Kuyper describes this “honor and glory” as “the degree of general development achieved by the nations in the course of history. Nothing need be exempted from this,” including social life, art, political organization, law, etc., so long as it conforms to God’s creational designs.22

However, despite the fact that what is brought into the new Jerusalem comes from the nations in general, Kuyper asserts that the division within humanity which results from Christ’s work in the plot movement of redemption leads to the pinnacle of cultural development being wrought by Christians.23 The reality is, the majority of what constitutes the highest development of cultural life is brought about because of Christ’s work of special grace. This is a point perhaps often neglected by Kuyper’s followers.24 Kuyper subscribes to “principal thinking” whereby he sees the actions and attitudes of individuals, and even on the macro level the values and products of states or institutions, as the outworking of foundational “life principles.”25 This leads him to see a division within humanity on account of Christ’s work of palingenesis. That is, a new humanity reborn by the Spirit and endowed with the ability to rightly orient cultural life unto God’s designs, and the old humanity remaining in sin. The result of this, however, is not an ontological dualism between the two humanities, but rather, as Nicolas Wolterstorff makes clear, an epistemological divide coupled with a firm embrace of metaphysical realism.26 Sin and the fall bring their effects to bear not on objects of knowledge, but upon knowing subjects. However, since reality truly carries meaning external to the individual, sin does not preclude all possibilities of true knowledge, but rather only what Kuyper describes as “higher” forms of knowledge which involve a proper integration of that knowledge with God’s rule.27 While common grace maintains the conditions for knowledge, and therefore cultural creation, in the use of empirical faculties, particular grace brings about the possibility of knowledge and culture that are truly integrated with God’s creational designs.28

Kuyper therefore emphasizes a single line of development of culture throughout history which, though Christians serve to rightly orient and therefore lead culture to its highest forms, is brought about by the contributions of all humanity in general. The purposes of culture in God’s economy are therefore to lead to the flourishing of God’s church, and to lead to the maturation of the seeds implanted in creation for God’s glory, both in the present and especially in the future age. Common life takes on an important role in this paradigm, for Christians really do work alongside non-Christians for God’s purposes. This has led to a wealth of social thought for Western democracy emerging from the Kuyperian tradition, yet it has also, as critics have pointed out, often resulted in a neglect of the degree to which the antithesis should highlight the distinctiveness of Christian culture. It is for this reason that some Kuyperians see in Schilder a welcomed counterbalance.

5. Schilder’s Eschatological Vision for Culture

Beginning with Schilder’s vision of the new creation, while he agrees with Kuyper that human cultural life in some way transfers to the eschaton, he vehemently denies that the reference in Revelation 21:26 concerning the “honor and glory of the nations” speaks of cultural products. Rather, Schilder sees this as referring to believers gathered from all nations to inhabit the new Jerusalem.29 Like Kuyper he sees the new eschatological age being ushered in not through a gradual evolution of cultural development, but in a catastrophic instant. This “catastrophe” will not “destroy any seed” implanted in the created order, but will purify it in its transference to the new creation.30 The continuity brought about by such “seed” however, is not to be found in what humanity has developed throughout history, but rather in what God has implanted in the beginning with the original creation. What emerges is not new, but only perfected by the work of Christ in his fulfillment of the cultural mandate where humanity has failed.

In the plot movement of redemption, therefore, what Christ accomplishes is the taking up and the fulfillment of the office given originally to Adam.31 For Schilder, “Christ is the key and clue to culture.” 32 For Christ is the one who ultimately gives culture its value, which he does in two ways. First, Christ in his work exemplifies the integrity for which cultural labor was mandated, namely adherence to creation ordinances within the proper liturgical frame of right worship of God—the crucial element of cultural life missing since the fall. Second, Christ returns to creation in the parousia as both the “Savior-Redeemer” and “Savior-Avenger,” having allowed cultural life to continue so that harvest of the elect and reprobate may have their full number.33 Thus Schilder sees culture as the medium through which history progresses towards God’s dual purposes of both grace and wrath.

The clue that Christ provides therefore is that at the fall humanity became destined to be split in two, and with them, human cultural life. This does not mean, however, that all cultural labor on the part of Christians is necessarily rightly integrated, for the antithesis remains as a divide cut across every human heart in this life. Christians are able to rightly direct cultural life only in part while they remain not fully sanctified, this side of the eschaton. Thus, both Christian and non-Christian cultural labor can result only in “truncated pyramids.” These are constructions of culture using the “remnants” and “vestiges” of creation’s potential which will ultimately not reach high enough to fulfill on their own the consummation of God’s designs.34 Such role is fulfilled only by Christ and his redeeming work. Where does this leave Christians? For Schilder it orients Christians to the fact that the imperative towards cultural labor remains in their calling under God’s covenant of works to glorify him by being his imagers, yet without the expectation that what Christians build or develop will endure. Rather, the purpose of cultural life is to proclaim Christ’s sovereign rule over his creation.

What does this mean for an understanding of culture in general and for common life? Schilder does not hold that cultural labors of Christians and non-Christians will be dissimilar or that they cannot be mutually constructive, for the raw materials and the laws governing the development of God’s creation remain the same across both communities.35 Thus shared life and work is both necessary and inevitable. However, that God’s cultural mandate calls for “teleologically directed cultural construction” which the antithesis precludes means that Christians bear a particular mission with cultural life which calls for a being-apart even as they remain in the present age of the mixed saeculum.36 Namely, Christians are to create culture which leads communities to worship God. As they do so, such work strengthens both the church, and common life, for rightly oriented cultural life flows along God’s creational designs according to which human life was meant to flourish. Thus, for Schilder, that there are distinctly two different types of culture should lead not to the neglect of common life, but rather to its strengthening.

6. Conclusion

It has been argued that a change in approach to the Kuyper-Schilder debate can provide new traction in overcoming what has been an intractable divide in order to resource Schilder for a Kuyperian theology of culture. In surveying their eschatological vision of culture and the resulting imperative for Christians to be diligent in the cultural labors out of a sense of calling in light of God’s future work of recreation, Kuyper and Schilder impel Christians towards similar ends. Further, their respective differences, owing to divergences in their understanding of God’s purposes in creation, can help strengthen the others’ view by adding a counter-stress against where they each descend into problematic conclusions.

In Kuyper’s paradigm, it has been seen that Kuyper provides a fundamentally positive account of cultural life, along with a strong foundation for Christian collaboration with non-Christians in common cultural endeavors. The dangers of this, however, have also been seen, as Kuyper leaves the door open for the downplaying of the antithesis. Schilder returns a theology of culture to a strong emphasis on the antithesis, and in so doing helps orient Christians to their prophetic and missional purpose in common cultural endeavors. The means by which Schilder does so, however, serves to absolutize the divide between Christian and non-Christian in God’s economy in ways non-supralapsarians would find disconcerting. Can it be that God’s purposes with culture necessitate an equal emphasis on wrath as with grace? Such a duality of divine purposes would be appealing only to the more extreme forms of divine determinism.

Abraham Kuyper and his theology are presently experiencing a resurgence among English-speaking evangelicals. The historic, and what often seems parochial, debates among Dutch Calvinists over Kuyper’s legacy offer necessary nuance to his thought from which those eager to embrace a revived Kuyperianism should seek to learn. This study is an initial proposal of one way such debates can produce a constructive harmony which addresses several dangers in Kuyper’s approach to culture. May there be more to come.

[1] James K. A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology, Cultural Liturgies 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 131.

[2] Kuyperian “principled pluralism” holds that institutions and associations should be free to orient themselves unto the teleological and metaphysical ends which they see fit, without interference from the state. For helpful articulations of “principled pluralism,” see Jonathan Chaplin, “Rejecting Neutrality, Respecting Diversity: From ‘Liberal Pluralism’ to ‘Christian Pluralism,’” Christian Scholar’s Review 35 (2006): 143–75; Jonathan Chaplin, Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of the State and Civil Society (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011), 5–19; Matthew Kaemingk, Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018); Richard J. Mouw and Sander Griffioen, Pluralisms and Horizons: An Essay in Christian Public Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).

[3] Smith, Awaiting the King, 142, 144.

[4] James K. A. Smith, “Reformed Monasticism? Klaas Schilder for the 21st Century,” in Wie is die man? Klaas Schilder in de eenentwintigste eeuw, ed. Marius van Rijswijk, Marinus de Jong, Pieter Kars van de Kamp, and Maarten Boersema, Ad chartas-reeks 22 (Barneveld: De Vuurbaak, 2012), 202. Smith describes his turning to Schilder as motivated by his dissatisfaction with certain Kuyperian tendencies: “I began to worry that ‘common grace’, while often invoked to encourage Christians to ‘transform culture’, was actually functioning as a license for assimilation to culture.” Smith, “Reformed Monasticism?,” 197.

[5] Two other Kuyperians who have expressed an interest in Schilder are Richard Mouw and Henry Van Til. Although avowedly critical of many elements in Schilder’s thought, Mouw shows an interest in Schilder’s provision of a corrective to what he sees as a “triumphalist spirit and a too-easy accommodation to the patterns of non-Christian thought and action” owing to certain elements internal to Kuyperian theology. Richard J. Mouw, “Klaas Schilder as Public Theologian,” Covenant Theological Journal 38 (2003): 287. In his forward to Schilder’s Christ and Culture, Mouw expresses appreciation for Schilder’s eschatological realism which, more so than Kuyper’s thoughts on culture, see history culminating towards a cultural darkening in the rule of the antichrist prior to Christ’s parousia. Richard J. Mouw, “Forward,” in Christ and Culture, trans. William Helder and Albert H. Oosterhoff, by Klaas Schilder (Hamilton, ON: Lucerna CRTS Publications, 2016), viii. Mouw also sees, as argued in this essay, some similarities between Schilder and Kuyper. Both take seriously the call to cultural obedience on the basis of God’s purposes with humanity. However, regarding their eschatological vision of the end of history, Schilder anticipates only the weakening of common grace such that as God’s restraints on sin decrease, lawlessness and eventual cataclysm emerge. For Kuyper, common grace continues in its fullness and leads the best of this creation into the new creation, even if the end will come with greater degrees of lawlessness and sin because the blessings of common grace can enable expressions of both virtue and extraordinary wickedness. Richard J. Mouw, All that God Cares About: Common Grace and Divine Delight (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2020), 108–112.

Henry Van Til echoes Mouw’s sentiments, and despite his disagreements regarding Schilder’s theological ground for Christian cultural life, he praises Schilder for being on stronger exegetical ground than Kuyper in his view of the enduring eschatological significance of human culture. Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 154.

[6] Klaas Schilder, Wat is de hemel (Kampen: Kok, 1935), 87. Cf. L. Doekes’ discussion in, “Van de Alpha Tot de Omega,” in K. Schilder: aspecten van zijn werk, ed. J. Douma, C. Trimp, and K. Veling (Barneveld: De Vuurbaak, 1990), 127. Schilder insightfully quips, “Eschatology has to do with the end of all things, but also the beginning and the middle of history. We can only explain God’s alpha in and with the other letters of his alphabet.” Klaas Schilder, Christus in zijn lijden: Overwegingen van het Lijdensevangelie, 2nd ed. (Kampen: Kok, 1951), 68.

[7] Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World, ed. Jordan J. Ballor and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. Van der Maas (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2016–2020), 1:536.

[8] Kuyper nowhere clearly articulates a proper definition of culture. Part of this is owed to the fact that Kuyper sees the term “culture” as fundamentally anthropocentric, focused on what humans can do with the raw materials of creation, rather than theocentric and focused on the development of what God has already sown into the fabric of material reality. N. H. Gootjes, “Schilder on Christ and Culture,” in Always Obedient: Essays on the Teachings of Dr. Klaas Schilder, ed. J. Geertsema (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995), 37, 54–55 n. 7. Van Til helpfully summarizes Kuyper’s view that “culture includes all man’s labor for the development and maintenance of the cosmos, and the results of that labor, both in nature and man.” Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, 118.

[9] For an in-depth summary of Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace, along with an outline of critical responses to him, see Jochem Douma, Common Grace in Kuyper, Schilder, and Calvin: Exposition, Comparison, and Evaluation, ed. William Helder, trans. Albert H. Oosterhoff (Hamilton, ON: Lucerna CRTS Publications, 2017), 3–127.

[10] Richard Mouw helpfully examines the ways one’s precommitments to supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism will affect the way one approaches a theology of cultural life. Richard J. Mouw, He Shines in All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace: The 2000 Stob Lectures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 53–74.

[11] For Schilder, God must be seen not only as universally loving creator, but more properly in the dualistic role of both elector and reprobator. Heidelbergsche catechismus: zondag 1–4, 1:309, 372–73; Heidelbergsche catechismus: zondag 8–9, 3:427.

[12] Schilder explains in relation to Kuyper’s “single-track theology” which only emphasizes God’s purposes of grace in preserving creation, that his “deepest tendency has always been … to show that even after the fall continued existence of nature and man must not be characterized ‘unilaterally’ by the term ‘grace,’ because the continuation of the two on the part of God was necessary, that is, that he would have a substrate for blessing and for curse. For in order to ‘realize’ heaven with the full number of God’s elect, as well as to ‘reach’ hell according to the number of his rejected ones, continuation of nature and man, and therefore history, was made possible.” Klaas Schilder, “Kerkeluk leven: gebrek aan ernst,” De Reformatie, 14 February 1948, 23e Jaargang, 159.

[13] Schilder, Christ and Culture, 86–93, 110.

[14] Schilder, Christ and Culture, 136–41.

[15] Each of these elements is present in Schilder’s lengthy definition of culture and humanity’s cultural task, which has been summarized throughout this paragraph. Schilder, Christ and Culture, 77.

[16] Schilder, Christ and Culture, 81–85.

[17] Schilder, Christ and Culture, 84.

[18] Kuyper, Common Grace, 1:49.

[19] Kuyper, Common Grace, 1:543.

[20] Kuyper, Common Grace, 1:544.

[21] Abraham Kuyper, “Common Grace,” in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 175.

[22] Abraham Kuyper, The Revelation of St. John, trans. J. Hendrik De Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 326–27. Kuyper goes so far as to say that “the triumph of Christian Europe is absolute.” Quoted in Cornelis Van der Kooi, “The Concept of Culture in Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, and Karl Barth,” in Crossroad Discourses between Christians and Culture, ed. Jerald D. Gort, Henry Jansen, and Wessel Stoker, Currents of Encounter 38 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010), 42. Kuyper’s imagery of the “honor and glory of the nations” comes from Revelation 21:24–26, which pictures the “kings of the earth” bringing “the glory and honor of the nations” into the new Jerusalem.

[23] Kuyper argues that in the new creation there will be cultural differences between individuals depending on their prior context in the old creation, and that those Christians who lived in less culturally developed contexts, on account of a lack of Christian influence on the principles of the culture, will need to be “made up.” Kuyper, The Revelation of St. John, 333–35.

[24] Perhaps the most prominent treatment of the subject among contemporary Kuyperians is Richard J. Mouw, When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem, revised ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002). His thoughts, however, are oriented towards the transference of human culture in general, regardless of its Christian or non-Christian origins.

[25] James D. Bratt, Dutch Calvinism in Modern America: A History of a Conservative Subculture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 17–18; Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1931). Kuyper’s preeminent example of principalism is seen in his Principles of Sacred Theology, trans. J. Hendrik de Vries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980).

[26] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “What Is the Reformed Perspective on Christian Higher Education?,” in Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education, ed. Clarence W. Joldersma and Gloria Goris Stronks (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 284.

[27] Abraham Kuyper, Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, ed. Jordan J. Ballor and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman (Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library, 2011), 79. In lower forms of knowing, such as mathematics or sense perception, the subject supplies little information in the conception of what is received, according to Kuyper. With higher forms, such as theology, philosophy, and art, where the subject plays a greater role in perceiving the connection of an object to its telos, and therefore to its spiritual significance, the antithesis is seen to be absolute between sinful humanity and the redeemed, for only the redeemed can properly know God, and therefore have a sense of an object’s proper relation to him. This has significant implications for understanding and creating culture for Kuyper.

[28] This creates for Kuyper four “terrains” contingent upon the degree to which particular grace is brought to bear upon the realm of common grace. In the highest terrain where “personal confessors of Jesus in their own circle allow the life of common grace to be controlled by the principles of divine revelation” culture reaches its highest form of development. Kuyper, “Common Grace,” 199–200.

[29] Schilder, Wat is de hemel, 2nd ed. (Kampen: Kok, 1954), 194; cf. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, 149.

[30] Klaas Schilder, Wat is de hemel, 214.

[31] Schilder, Christ and Culture, 60.

[32] Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, 142; Douma, “Christus en cultuur,” 177.

[33] Klaas Schilder, Christus en cultuur, 5th ed. (Franeker: T. Wever, 1978), 75.

[34] Douma, “Christus en cultuur,” 175; Schilder, Christ and Culture, 115, 126.

[35] J. P. de Vries, “Schilders betekenis voor het politieke en sociale leven,” in K. Schilder: aspecten van zijn werk, ed. J. Douma, C. Trimp, and K. Veling (Barneveld: De Vuurbaak, 1990), 206–7.

[36] Schilder, Christ and Culture, 126.

Dennis Greeson

Dennis Greeson is associate director of the BibleMesh Institute and a PhD candidate at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Other Articles in this Issue

1 Corinthians 5:1–13 serves as a key text when speaking about the topic of church discipline...

Is it possible to speak of a real separation between Jewish and Christian communities in the first two centuries of the Christian era? A major strand of scholarship denies the tenability of the traditional Parting of Ways position, which has argued for a separation between Christians and Jews at some point in the second century...

This article contrasts two books on missiology: Amos Yong’s Mission after Pentecost and T’ien Ju-K’ang’s Peaks of Faith...