For the better part of the 20th Century the Protestant Church in the USA seemed to have divided into two camps: Those interested in Evangelism and those concerned for Social Issues. Which one adopted pretty clearly fell along the lines of how seriously one took the Bible. Conservatives lined up for Evangelism; Liberals for Social Gospel.
One exception to this appears to have been in the Dutch Reformed Church. Somehow, seemingly under the radar screen, these folks managed to engage in both Evangelical scholarship and Holistic Ministry – offering valuable contributions to Gospel understanding; and offering valuable contributions to their communities, engaging in meeting felt needs and addressing issues of social justice.
Perhaps the reason these Dutch Reformed folks were immune to the dichotomy that widely afflicted the rest of American Protestantism probably rest squarely at the feet of a man named Abaham Kuyper – a one time Prime Minister of the Netherlands, newspaper publisher, theologian, etc. Kuyper was a 19th Century Renaissance Man.
I’ve seen Kuyper’s most notable statement posted all over the blogosphere, Facebook, etc.:
In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare: “‘That is mine!”
Kuyperian thought is worthy of exploration.
I have stumbled upon a website that offers a a great introduction to Kuyper: Friend of Kuyper
Here is a quick summary:
The Kuyperian worldview is a theological tradition in Christianity (often called “neo-Calvinism”) that focuses on the redemption of all things. It is also called “Reformational Christianity” because it holds to a worldview that tells the Christian story of
We are in the chapter of God’s Reformational Story called “Redemption,” and therefore are called to fulfill that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Here are four particular insights of Neo-Calvinism:
1. Creation Order
Because the Creation was created “very good,” there is an inherent potential in the created order that is good as well. The “Cultural Mandate” of Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 tells us that humanity has the task of harnessing this potentiality to develop culture as God intended. Technology, popular culture, progress, and yes, even politics, are to be understood as part of God’s original created order.
Sin not only runs through the hearts of every individual human being, but also through the entire cosmos. Romans 8 tells us that all creation is “groaning”—it suffers as well. While Sin is personal, it also manifests itself in the various organizations of society.
3. Common Grace
But God’s creation is still good, though tarnished by sin. If God’s creation is stewarded according to his good will, it still provides good benefits for human beings. By his grace, God not only allows believers to contribute to the common good, but also unbelievers. Because every human is made in the image of God, unbelievers can have true insights and perform beneficial works. This has vast ramifications on our understanding of cultural activity, by both believers and unbelievers, and how we interact together for the common good in societal renewal, technology, politics, etc.
4. Sphere Sovereignty
Neo-Calvinism states that God has designed a differentiation within society between different spheres of authority. Sphere Sovereignty offers a different matrix for understanding society from the American “two-sided paradigm” which reduces society to individual and state. Sphere Sovereignty believes there are intermediary social structures such as families, churches, businesses, and schools that contribute to the social fabric as much as individuals and the state.
In addition to the introduction, this site are a number of contemporary essays exploring Kuyper’s work.
Holistic ministry is not a new development. Sure, it seemed to have gone away for a while. But what we are seeing in our day is a recovery of an old practice – a Biblical practice.
If you are an advocate of holistic ministry, I commend becoming of Friend of Kuyper.