May 19, 2013

Biography for a Calvinist

A biography ... invites the reader (as it demands of the author) to come to terms with the person at the center of the story. Readers are free to draw their own conclusions about [Abraham] Kuyper as they move along through this volume; I only hope to have supplied ample, nuanced evidence to make theirs a balanced judgement. Here is mine: Abraham Kuyper was a great man but not a nice one. He was immensely talented, energetic, and driven to great exploits. He appeared always confident, partly to quiet his own insecurities. He was an ambitious person who sought power, and often felt uneasy over that quest. He could be congenial and polemical, sometimes to the same person in fairly quick succession. He loved radical options and was typically more generous to opponents than to spiritual kin who differed with him on details. He loved having collaborators and disciples but drove them away when they stepped up as equals. In public he often showed a better understanding of God than himself. He majored in ideas -- Big Ideas above all -- with some impatience over the intricacies of mid-range policy or scholarly discourse as it evolved in its own deliberate way [....] 
I will thus pain Kuyper warts and all -- both the real ones and the ones that might seem like blemishes only to us. As a real Calvinist he would understand such a portrait, even though he might not like it. My critical observations are not meant to disparage his motives, his goals, or his achievements; indeed, these are remarkable enough to survive any record of his personal foibles. Just as Kuyper would own that he was in part a child of his times, so he would, ultimately, appreciate the citation I make, as a fellow Calvinist, from the apostle Paul, that the treasure of the gospel comes to us in earthen vessels to show that its transcendent power belongs to God (2 Cor. 4:7).
-- James D. Bratt, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat