Neo-Calvinism

Neo-Calvinism

Neo-Calvinism, a form of Dutch Calvinism, is the movement initiated by the theologian and former Dutch prime minister Abraham Kuyper.

Introduction

James Bratt has identified a number of different types of Dutch Calvinism: The Seceders—split into the Reformed Church “West” and the Confessionalists; and the Neo-Calvinists—the Positives and the Antithetical Calvinists. The Seceders were largely infralapsarian and the Neo-Calvinists usually supralapsarian.

Neo-Calvinism has been described in the following way:

Neocalvinism is postmodern Calvinism. Neocalvinism is a global cultural movement that is the result of people motivated by the religious dynamic of the Reformation trying to get to grips with the historical consequences and implications of modernity.

Kuyper wanted to awaken the church from what he viewed as its pietistic slumber. He declared:

No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

This refrain has become something of a rallying call for Neo-Calvinists.

Emphases of Neo-Calvinism

  • Jesus is lord over all of creation. Jesus’ lordship extends through every area and aspect of life it is not restricted to the sphere of church or of personal piety.
  • The idea that all of life is to be redeemed. The work of Jesus on the cross extends over all of life no area is exempt from its impact. All knowledge is effected by the true knowledge of God through redemption in Christ.
  • Cultural Mandate. Genesis 1:26-28 has been described as a cultural mandate. It is the mandate to cultivate and develop the creation. There is a historical development and cultural unfolding. Some Neo-Calvinists hold that the Cultural Mandate is as important as the Great Commission.
  • Creation, fall and redemption. God’s good creation has been disrupted by the fall. Redemption is a restoration of creation.
  • Sphere sovereignty (Soevereiniteit in eigen kring). Each sphere (or sector) of life has its own distinct responsibilities and authority as designed by God for instance, communities dedicated to worship, civil justice, agriculture, family, etc. and no one area of life is sovereign over another. Hence, neither faith-institutions nor an institution of civil justice (that is, the state) should seek totalitarian control or any regulation of human activity outside their limited competence.
  • A rejection of dualism. Dualisms are (purportedly false) bifurcations, dichotomies, contrasts, or oppositions, such as the dualism between nature and grace that dominated much of Scholasticism. In the Neo-Calvinist view, nature is the God-created and sustained cosmic order, not a "non-supernatural" category, and grace is God's means of renewing the cosmic order, it is not something "non-creational" added onto nature (albeit eschatological in consummated glorification of bodily resurrection to eternal life and cosmic transformation of the new heavens and earth).
  • Structure and direction. Structure denotes created laws and norms for things, and created things themselves. Direction denotes relative deviation or conformity to norms; primarily regarding the central orientation of the human heart toward or away from God in Christ.
  • Common grace. God providentially sustains the created order, restraining of possible evils and giving non-salvific good gifts to all humanity despite their fall into sin, God's curse, and his eventual condemnation of the unredeemed.
  • The antithesis. There is a struggle in history and within every person between submission to and rebellion against God; between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness; between the age to come (already inaugurated in Christ) and this present evil age (of sin).
  • World views. Neo-Calvinists reject the notion that theoretical thought can be religiously neutral. All thinking and practice is shaped by world views and religious ground motives. For the Neo-Calvinist, life in all its aspects can be shaped by a distinctively Christian world view.
  • The role of law. For Neo-Calvinists, "Law" is more than the Mosaic Decalogue, or even the entire abiding moral will of God. Law is, rather, the order for creation (or creation ordinances) established by God and includes a variety of types of cultural norms including physiological, psychological, logical, historical, linguistic, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, and faith norms.

Notes

Key individuals associated with Neo-Calvinism

Neo-Calvinist institutions and organizations

Key texts

  • Abraham Kuyper Calvinism: Stone Lectures

References

  • James Bratt Dutch Calvinism in Modern America, Wipf and Stock; original Eerdmans (1984).
  • James Bratt “The Dutch Schools” in David F. Wells (ed.) Reformed Theology in America (Baker, 1997).
  • James E. McGoldrick Abraham Kuyper: God’s Renaissance Man (Welwyn, UK: Evangelical Press, 2000).
  • Richard J. Mouw “Dutch Calvinist philosophical influences in North America”, Calvin Theological Journal, 24 (1) (1989): pp. 93-120.
  • Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey. How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), p.295.

External links

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