Abraham Kuyper

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Prof. Dr. Ds. Abraham Kuyper (October 29, 1837, Maassluis - November 8, 1920 The Hague; name officially "Kuijper") was a Dutch politician, journalist, statesman and theologian. He founded the Anti-Revolutionary Party and was prime minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

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Portrait of Abraham Kuyper by Jan Veth

Contents

[edit] Life

[edit] Life before politics

Kuyper was home schooled by his father, Jan Frederik Kuyper, who was a minister for the Dutch Reformed Church in Hoogmade, Maassluis, Middelburg and Leiden. He had no formal primary education, but received secondary education at the Gymnasium of Leiden. In 1855 he graduated from the gymnasium and began to study literature, philosophy and theology at Leiden University. He received his propedeuse literature in 1857, summa cum laude, and philosophy in 1858, also summa cum laude. He also took classes in Arabic, Armenian, and physics. In 1862 he was promoted to doctor in Theology on basis of a dissertation called "Disquisitio historico-theologica, exhibens Johannis Calvini et Johannis à Lasco de Ecclesia Sententiarum inter se compositionem" (Theological-historical dissertation showing the differences in the rules of the church, between John Calvin and John Łaski). It compared the views of John Calvin and Jan Łaski, Kuyper showed a clear sympathy for the more liberal Łaski. During his studies Kuyper was a member of the modern tendency within the Dutch Reformed Church.

In may 1862 he was officially made minister and 1863 he became minister for the Dutch Reformed Church for the parish in Beesd. In the same year he married Johanna Hendrika Schaay. They would have five sons and three daughters. In 1864 he began corresponding with the anti-revolutionary MP Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, who heavily influenced his political and theological views (see below). Since 1866 he began to sympathize with the orthodox tendency within the Dutch Reformed Church. He was inspired by the simple reformed faith of Pietje Balthus, a farmer's wife. He began to oppose the centralization in the church, the role of the King and began to plead for the separation of church and state. In 1867 Kuyper was asked to become minister for the parish in Utrecht and he left Beesd. In 1870 he was asked to come to Amsterdam. In 1871 he began to write for the "De Heraut" ("The Herald") . In 1872 he founded his own paper, "De Standaard" ("the Standard") this paper would lay the foundation for the network of reformed organization, (the reformed pillar), which Kuyper would found.

[edit] Political Life

[edit] Member of Parliament

In 1873 he tried to enter parliament for the district Gouda, but he was defeated by the conservative lord Willem de Brauw. In 1874 Kuyper succeeded and was elected into the Tweede Kamer for the district of Gouda. He defeated the liberal Herman Verners van der Loeff. He consequently moved to the Hague, without telling his friends in Amsterdam. In parliament he showed particular interest for education, especially the equal financing of public and religious schools. In 1876 he wrote "Our Program" which would lay the foundation for the Anti Revolutionary Party Kuyper would found. In this program he formulated the principle of antithesis, the conflict between the religious (reformed and catholics) and non-religious. In 1877 he left the Tweede Kamer because of problems with his mental health, suffering from overexertion.

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In 1878 he returned to politics, he led the petition against a new law on education, which would further disadvantage religious schools. This was an important impetus for the foundation of the Anti-Revolutuonary Party (ARP) in 1879, of which Kuyper would be chairman between 1879 and 1905. He would be the indisputed leader of the party between 1879 and 1920. His followers gave him the nickname "Abraham de Geweldige" (Abraham the Great). In 1880 he founded the Free University in Amsterdam and he was made professor of Theology there. He also served as its first rector magnificus. In 1881 he also became professor of literature. In 1886 he left the Dutch Reformed Church, with a large group of followers. The parish in Amsterdam was made independent of the church, and kept their own building. Between 1886 and 1892 they would be called the Dolerenden, (those with grievances). In 1892 those Dolerenden found Reformed Churches in the Netherlands with other orthodox reformed, who had left the Dutch Reformed Church.

In 1894 Kuyper was re-elected into the Tweede Kamer for the district of Sliedrecht. He defeated the liberal Van Haaften and the anti-takkian anti-revolutionary Beelaerts van Blokland. He also entered elections in Dordrecht and Amsterdam, but was defeated there. In the election he joined the so-called Takkians, in a conflict between the liberal minister Tak, and a majority Tweede Kamer. Tak wanted to reform the census-suffrage, but a majority in parliament rejected his proposal. Kuyper favoured the legislation because he expected the enfranchised lower class voters would favour his party. This orientation towards the lower classes gave him the nickname "De bellringer of the small people" (klokkeluider van de kleine luyden). His position on suffrage also led to a conflict within the ARP: a group around Alexander de Savornin Lohman was principally opposed to universal suffrage, because they rejected popular sovereignty, they left the ARP to found the CHU in 1901. The authoritarian leadership of Kuyper also played an important role in this conflict. Lohman opposed party discipline and wanted MPs to make their own mind, while Kuyper favoured strong leadership. After the elections Kuyper became chair of the parliamentary party of the ARP. In his second term he would concentrate on more issues than education, like suffrage, labour, and foreign affairs. In foreign affairs especially the Second Boer War was of particular interest to him, in the conflict between the Dutch-speaking reformed farmers and the English-speaking anglicans he sided with the Boers, and heavily opposed the English. In 1896 Kuyper voted against the new suffrage law of Van Houten, because according to Kuyper the reforms did not go far enough. In the 1897 elections Kuyper competed in Zuidhorn, Sliedrecht and Amsterdam, he was defeated by liberals in Zuidhorn and Amsterdam, but defeated the liberal Wisboom in Sliedrecht. In Amsterdam he was defeated by Johannes Tak van Poortvliet. In parliament Kuyper kept his job as journalist, and he even became chair of the Dutch Circle of Journalists in 1898, when he left in 1901 he was made honorary president. In the same year, at the invitation of B.B. Warfield, Kuyper delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary, which was his first widespread exposure to a North American audience.He also received a honorary doctorate there. During his time in the United States, he also traveled to address several Dutch reformed congregations.

[edit] Minister President

In 1901 elections Kuyper was re-elected in Sliedrecht, defeating the liberal De Klerk. In Amsterdam he was defeated again, now by the freethinking liberal Nolting. He did not take his seat in parliament however and was instead appointed formateur and later prime minister of the Dutch cabinet. He also served as minister of Home Affairs. He originally wanted to become minister of labour and enterprise, but neither Mackay or Heemskerk, prominent anti-revolutionaries wanted to become minister of home affairs, forcing him to take the portfolio. During his time as prime minister he showed a very authoritarian leadership style: he changed the rules of procedure of cabinet in order to become chair of cabinet for four years, before Kuyper the chairmanship of the cabinet rotated.

The portfolio of home affairs at the time was very broad, it involved local government, industrial relations, education and public morality. The 1903 railway strike was one of the decisive issues for his cabinet. Kuyper produced several particularly harsh laws to end the strikes (the so-called "worgwetten", strangling laws), and pushed them through parliament. He however also proposed legislature to improve working conditions, only those on fishing and harbour construction passed through parliament. In education Kuyper changed several education laws to improve the financial situation of religious schools. His law on higher education, which would make the diplomas of religious secondary education equal to that of public secondary education, was defeated in the Eerste Kamer, consequently Kuyper disbanded the Eerste Kamer and got the legislation accepted. He was also heavily involved in foreign policy, giving him the nickname "Minister of Foreign Travels".

[edit] Minister of State

In 1905 his ARP lost the elections and was confined to opposition. Between 1905 and 1907 Kuyper made a grand tour around the Mediterranean. In 1907 Kuyper became honorary doctor at the Delft University of Technology. In 1907 he was re-elected chair of the ARP, a post which he would hold to his death in 1920. In 1907 Kuyper wanted to return to parliament. In a by-election in Sneek he needed the support of the local CHU. They refused him support. This lead to a personal conflict between Kuyper and De Savorin Lohman. In 1908 he came to conflict with Heemskerk, who had not involved him in the formation of the CHU/ARP/Catholic General League cabinet, thereby denying him the chance to return as minister. In 1908 Kuyper received the honorary title of minister of state. He was elected into the Tweede Kamer for the district of Ommen in the by-elections in the same year, defeating the liberal De Meester. He also entered in Sneek where he was elected as sole candidate. Kuyper took the seat in Ommen. In 1909 he was made chair of the committee which would write the new orthography of the Dutch language. In the same year he also received a honorary doctorate at the University of Louvain. In the 1909 elections he was re-elected in Ommen, defeating the liberal Teesselink, but he was defeated in Dordrecht, by the liberal De Kanter.

In 1909 he came under heavy criticism in the so-called decorations affairs (lintjeszaak). While minister of home affairs, Kuyper supposedly received money from one Rudolf Lehman, to make him Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. A parliamentary debate was held on the subject and a committee of wise men was instituted to research the claim. In 1910 the committee reported that Kuyper was innocent. Between 1910 and 1912 he was member of the committee headed by Heemskerk, which prepared a constitutional change. In 1912 left parliament for health reasons. In 1913 he returned to politics, as member of the Eerste Kamer for the province of South Holland, he would remain a member of the Eerste Kamer until his death. In 1913 he was commander int the Order of the Dutch Lion. During the First World War Kuyper sided with the Germans, because he had opposed the English since the Boer wars. In 1918 Kuyper played an important role in the formation of the first cabinet led by Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck. In 1920, at the age of 73 Kuyper died in the Hague.

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[edit] Views

Kuyper theological and political views are linked. His orthodox Protestant beliefs heavily influenced his anti-revolutionary politics.

[edit] Theological views

Theologically Kuyper has also been very influential. He opposed the liberal tendencies within the Dutch Reformed Church. This eventually led to secession and the foundation of Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. He developed so-called Neo-Calvinism, which differs from conventional Calvinism over issues such as divine grace and the role of the state. Furthermore, Kuyper was the first to formulate the principle of common grace in the context of a Reformed world-view.

Most important has been Kuyper's view on the role of God in everyday life. He believed that God continually influenced the life of believers, and daily events could show his workings. Kuyper famously said, "No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" God continually re-creates the universe through acts of grace. God's acts are necessary to ensure the continued existence of creation. Without his direct activity creation would self-destruct.

[edit] Political views

Kuypers political ideals were orthodox-Protestant and anti-revolutionary: instead of liberty, he favoured divine providence, instead of equality he favoured hierarchy and instead of brotherhood he favoured sovereignty in its own circle.

The concept of sphere sovereignty was very important for Kuyper. He rejected the popular sovereignty of France in which all rights originated with the individual, and the state-sovereignty of Germany in which all rights derived from the state. Instead, he wanted to create an independent reformed society within the Dutch society, with its own schools, papers, hospitals etc., each of which would be sovereign in its own sphere. He sought equal government finances for reformed institutions. He saw an important role for the state in upholding the morality of the Dutch people. He favoured monarchy, and saw the House of Orange as historically and religiously linked to the Dutch people. His commitment to universal suffrage was only tactical, he expected the ARP would be able to gain more seats this way. Principally Kuyper wanted Householder Franchise where fathers of each family would vote for his family.

With his ideals he defended the interests of a group of middleclass orthodox reformed, who were often referred to as "the little people" (de kleine luyden). He formulated the principle of antithesis: a divide between secular and religious politics. Liberals and socialists, who were opposed to mixing religion and politics were his natural opponents. Catholics were a natural ally, for not only did they want to practice religiously inspired politics, but they also were no electoral opponent, because they appealed to different religious groups. Socialists, who preached class conflict were a danger to the reformed workers. He called for workers to accept their fates and be happy with a simple life, because the afterlife would be much more satisfying and revolution would only lead to instability.

[edit] Legacy

Kuyper's political views and acts have influenced Dutch politics. Kuyper stood at the cradle of pillarization, the social expression of sphere sovereignty and anti-thesis the alliance between Protestants and Catholics, that would both dominate Dutch politics in the 20th century. One of the current governing parties of the Netherlands, the CDA, is still heavily influenced by Kuyper's thought. His greatest theological act, the foundation of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands was undone when the Protestant Church in the Netherlands which united the Dutch Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

In the United States Kuyper's political and theological views have had great impact, especially in the Reformed community. He is considered the father of Dutch Neo-Calvinism and had considerable influence on the thought of Herman Dooyeweerd. Others that have been influenced by Kuyper include: Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Chuck Colson, R Tudur Jones and Bobi Jones. In 2006, Reformed Bible College located in Grand Rapids, Michigan was renamed in honor of Abraham Kuyper and is now Kuyper College.

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Works by Kuyper

Kuyper wrote several theological and political books during his lifetime.

  • "Disquisitio historico-theologica, exhibens Johannis Calvini et Johannis à Lasco de Ecclesia Sententiarum inter se compositionem (Theological-historical dissertation showing the differences in the rules of the church, between John Calvin and John Łaski; his dissertation, 1862)
  • "Conservatisme en Orthodoxie" (Conservatism and Orthodoxy; 1870)
  • "Het Calvinisme, oorsprong en waarborg onzer constitutionele vrijheden. Een nederlandse gedachte" (Calvinism; the source and the safeguard of our constitutional freedoms. A dutch thought; 1874)
  • "Ons Program" (Our program; ARP political program, 1879)
  • Antirevolutionair óók in uw huisgezin" (Anti-revolutionary in your family too; 1880)
  • "Soevereiniteit in eigen kring" (Sovereignty in its own circle; 1880)
  • Handenarbeid" (1889; Manual Labour)
  • "Maranatha" (1891)
  • "Het sociale vraagstuk en de Christelijke Religie" (The Social Question and the Christian Religion; 1891)
  • "Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid" (Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology; 1893-1895)
  • "Calvinisme" (Lectures on Calvinism; six stone lectures Kuyper held at Princeton 1899)
  • "De Gemene Gratie" (Common Grace; 1902-1905)
  • "Parlementaire Redevoeringen" (parliamentary speeches; 1908-1910)
  • "Starrentritsen" (1915)
  • "Antirevolutionaire Staatkunde" (Anti-revolutionary politics; 1916-1917)
  • "Vrouwen uit de Heilige schrift" (1897)

[edit] Works about Kuyper

  • McGoldrick, James E., Abraham Kuyper, God's Renaissance Man, Evangelical Press (2000), ISBN 0-85234-446-5
  • Berg, Frank Vanden, Abraham Kuyper, Grand Rapids, Michigan : WM. B Eerdmans (1960) & St. Catharines, Ont. : Paideia Press, (1978) ISBN 0888150156
  • Praamsma, Louis, Let Christ be King : Reflections on the Life and Times of Abraham Kuyper, Ontario, Paideia Press, (1985) ISBN 0888150644

[edit] External links

 
Prime Ministers of the Netherlands Image:Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kappeyne van de Coppello | Van Lynden van Sandenburg | Heemskerk Azn. | Mackay | Van Tienhoven | Roëll | Pierson | Kuyper | De Meester | Heemskerk | Cort van der Linden | Ruijs de Beerenbrouck | Colijn | De Geer | Gerbrandy | Schermerhorn | Beel | Drees | De Quay | Marijnen | Cals | Zijlstra | De Jong | Biesheuvel | Den Uyl | Van Agt | Lubbers | Kok | Balkenende
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Abraham Kuyper

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