Calvinism as a Worldview

Feb 02, 2021

In 1989, Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper was invited by B.B. Warfield to present at The Stone Lectures. He titled it "Calvinism", but, even though the Stone Lecture series has continued at Princeton (as recently as 2016, anyway), the presentation was so influential, that "the stone lectures" has become synonmous with Kuyper's presentation.

It's been on my reading list for a while because, word on the street is, it outlines his view of sphere sovereignty, and I'm eager to hear it from the horse's mouth.

But Kuyper's actual thesis, is that Calvinism is a worldview (he uses the word "life view", but the footnote expliciatly says he's talking about Weltanschauung). In other words, Calvinism stands alongside thought systems like Islam, Pantheism, and Catholicism as being a complete systems of life.

He argues that a life system/worldview should start from our relationships with God, mankind, and "the world" (interestingly, it was Schaffer, living after the spread of Psychology and specifically addressing ecology, who made the divsion God, others, self, and nature, making "the four relationships" [Polution and the Death of Man, pp 65ff.], which has also been on my reading list for too long)

Here's his argument for Calvinism's relationship with God:

This point, of course, lies in the antithesis between all that is finite in our human life and the infinite that lies beyond it. Here alone we find the common source from which the different streams of our human life spring and separate themselves. Personally it is our repeated experience that in the depths of our hearts, at the point where we disclose ourselves to the Eternal One, all the rays of our life converge as in one focus, and there alone regain that harmony, which we so often and so painfully lose in the stress of daily duty. In prayer lies not only our unity with God, but also the unity of our personal life. Movements in history, therefore, which do not spring from this deepest source are always partial and transient, and only those historical acts, which arose from these lowest depths of man’s personal existence embrace the whole of life and possess the required permanence.

This was the case with Paganism, which in its most general form is known by the fact that it surmises, assumes and worships God in the creature. This applies to the lowest Animism, as well as to the highest Buddhism. Paganism does not rise to the conception of the independent existence of a God beyond and above the creature. But even in this imperfect form it has for its starting-point a definite interpretation of the relation of the infinite to the finite, and to this it owed its power to produce a finished form for human society. Simply because it possessed this significant starting-point was it able to produce a form of its own for the whole of human life.

It is the same with Islamism, which is characterized by its purely anti-pagan ideal, cutting off all contact between the creature and God. Mohammad and the Qur’an are the historic names, but in its nature the Crescent is the only absolute antithesis to Paganism. Islam isolates God from the creature, in order to avoid all commingling with the creature. As antipode, Islam was possessed of an equally far-reaching tendency, and was also able to originate an entirely peculiar world of human life.

The same is the case with Romanism. Here also the papal tiara, the hierarchy, the mass, etc., are but the outcome of one fundamental thought: namely, that God enters into fellowship with the creature by means of a mystic middle-link, which is the Church; not taken as a mystic organism, but as a visible, palpable and tangible institution. Here the Church stands between God and the world, and so far as it was able to adopt the world and to inspire it, Romanism also created a form of its own for human society.

And now, by the side of and opposite to these three, Calvinism takes its stand with a fundamental thought which is equally profound. It does not seek God in the creature, as Paganism; it does not isolate God from the creature, as Islamism; it posits no mediate communion between God and the creature, as does Romanism; but proclaims the exalted thought that, although standing in high majesty above the creature, God enters into immediate fellowship with the creature, as God the Holy Spirit. This is even the heart and kernel of the Calvinistic confession of predestination. There is communion with God, but only in entire accord with his counsel of peace from all eternity. Thus there is no grace but such as comes to us immediately from God. At every moment of our existence, our entire spiritual life rests in God Himself. The “Deo Soli Gloria” was not the starting-point but the result, and predestination was inexorably maintained, not for the sake of separating man from man, nor in the interest of personal pride, but in order to guarantee from eternity to eternity, to our inner self, a direct and immediate communion with the Living God. The opposition against Rome aimed therefore with the Calvinist first of all at the dismissal of a Church, which placed itself between the soul and God. The Church consisted not in an office, nor in an independent institute, the believers themselves were the Church, inasmuch as by faith they stood in touch with the Almighty. Thus, as in Paganism, Islamism and Romanism, so also in Calvinism is found that proper, definite interpretation of the fundamental relation of man to God, which is required as the first condition of a real life-system. (Calvinism: Six Stone Lectures. Ichtus Publications. 14-15.)

That's a facinating start. I'm intreagued to hear the rest of it. I'm also grateful that Ichtus Publications uploaded a modern Kindle edition, because the last one I had was terrible. God bless tecnological progress and the Christians who harness it.

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