Kuyperian thought dignifies the family as a legitimate government sphere in microcosm. And Kuyper maintained that governing spheres should not usurp the domain of the family or that of any of the other social spheres. The state has no sovereignty to intrude into the private sector, the family, or the church. All the various social spheres are independent of the state—neither derived from it nor giving obeisance to it. Instead, they “obey a higher authority within their own bosom.” Thus, the state cannot properly impose its will over private sectors: “The State may never become an octopus, which stifles the whole of life. It must occupy its own place, on its own root, among all the other trees of the forest, and thus it has to honor and maintain every form of life which grows independently in its own sacred autonomy.”
Simply put, Kuyper’s Calvinism derived essential liberties from the sovereignty of God and erected a “dam across the absolutistic stream” of man-centered political force.
A Kuyper for Dummies volume might summarize the five points of Kuyper’s political thought as:
1. Constitutionalism (to limit subjectivity and depravity);
2. Republicanism (to balance authority and freedom);
3. Sphere Sovereignty (to support robust microcosmic levels of government and to protect from authoritarianism);
4. Integration or non-separation of faith from politics (to minimize secularism and an Enlightenment bias);
5. Realistic anthropology (to minimize utopianism and socialism).
Nevertheless, these principles, however strong, would not take root apart from consistent promulgation and a strong practice.
The heart of the Kuyperian political project is practical as well as theoretical. Kuyper devoted thousands of hours to speaking, popular writing, and party organization. His passion for the principles listed above led him to seize every workable medium to promote these organic ideas. He even tailored much of this thought to the masses, and recent studies illuminate how his poetic style and rhetoric furthered his principles’ longevity.
Others eventually recognized his genius. Lutheran theologian Helmut Thielicke summarized: “Kuyper finds the religious and Reformed character of the American Revolution confirmed in a statement of Alexander Hamilton: ‘The French Revolution is no more akin to the American Revolution than the faithless wife in a French novel is like the Puritan matron in New England.’” Kuyper himself thought that, “The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for liberty.”
One of Kuyper’s most famous aphorisms exhibits his thoroughly Christ-centered ethos. Most Christians say a joyous “amen” to his claim that “there is not a square inch of the universe over which King Jesus does not claim, ‘Mine!’”
In contrast to the utopianism of state-centered schemes, Kuyperians know that if we live in a fallen universe, then politics must be pursued accordingly. We may appreciate one of Kuyper’s exhortations: “As for us and our children, we will no longer kneel before the idol of the French Revolution; for the God of our fathers will again be our God.” That’s about as revolutionary as Colonial Calvinism!