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The legacy of Abraham Kuyper can be summed up in the truth that if Christ is not the Lord of all, then Christ is not Lord at all. This familiar phrase is a grand and glorious truth, and is also a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at Reformed conferences, but we find ourselves immediately bogged down whenever we start trying to apply it. The devil may not be in the details, but we certainly are bedeviled by the details. If we threw ourselves into a fraction of the “worldview applications” that Kuyper advocated and pursued, we would encounter opposition. And because we are cowardly, and routinely back down at the first sign of disagreement and opposition, we find ourselves in a bad way. We would conquer the world for Christ if the devil would let us.

Because we do not have the courage to engage the adversary, and because our Kuyperian heritage is a standing rebuke to us, we have to pretend to engage. As a result, we treat the biblical world and life view as though it were pie dough—but the farther we spread it, the thinner it gets. This universal but thin application of Christ’s claims has the advantage of not provoking a hostile reaction from the world, and it enables us to feel good about our Kuyperian selves. But the underlying cause of such cowardice is aesthetic and moral, not doctrinal—it is faithlessness.

Beneath any effective profession of the truth of Christ’s universal dominion is an attitude, the attitude that the Scriptures call faith. It is by faith, we are told, that we throw down everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. Those who have faith are those who “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, become valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:33–34).

Faith is the basis of true courage, and true authority. Christ taught with authority, and not like the scribes. Extending this, we should want to say that Christ exercises authority with authority, and not like pencil-neck cultural observers. But the very idea of such authority—in economics, sculpture, dance, painting, politics, education, poetry—scares us sideways. We start fussing, in a self-important kind of way, about the problems of extremes and excesses. Of course. There is a counterfeit boldness that might be called worldview machismo. And there is a counterfeit humility that might be called worldview effeminacy. But rebuking us all, there is a faith that wonders in a loud voice why the uncircumcised Philistines are being allowed to talk the way they do.

Jesus taught us to watch out when all men speak well of us. This means that the only way we can win the respect of the world is by serving God in a way that does not care whether we win the respect of the world. How can you believe, Jesus wondered, when you receive honor from one another (John 5:44)? This honor comes in many forms—accreditation, awards, whispered praise at a faculty gathering—and in every case it scratches a sinful itch.

The claims of Christ are to be pressed in every area. We do not come to any realm of human endeavor, with our hats in our hands, asking to be allowed to apply notions that are reminiscent of the memory of Christ. The key concept is lordship. Christ is Lord—Lord of heaven and earth, and everything between.

We have been effeminate so long that we cannot think of this without assuming that any such claims of universal lordship must take the form of blustering bravado in the name of Jesus. And in thinking this way, we are helped along by those reactionaries, more fundamentalist than Kuyperian, who do engage in such bluster.

If the church were to recover a sense of true femininity toward Christ—we are His bride—we would soon discover that it translates to masculinity in our earthly sojourn as the church engages with the world. When the church is unsubmissive to Christ, it becomes submissive to the world. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Conversely, to be submissive to Christ is the same thing as becoming uppity to the demands of the world.

Moses was meek toward God, which was not the same thing as being a milquetoast. Because he was meek toward God, the meekest man on the earth, God used him to wreck the economy of that era’s superpower, kill all the firstborn (for His mercy endures forever), and drown its army. As we have heard many times, but have not yet fully understood, meekness is not weakness. Blessed are the meek, our Lord said, for they will inherit the earth.

After the conquest is over, and the histories of our long warfare have been written, the place of Abraham Kuyper in that glorious narrative will be secure.

Lectures on Calvinism

Keen Thoughts, Grand Words

Keep Reading Abraham Kuyper: A Man for All Spheres

From the October 2002 Issue
Oct 2002 Issue