Sphere sovereignty

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In Neo-Calvinism, sphere sovereignty means that each sphere of life has its own distinct responsibilities and authority or competence, and stands equal to other spheres of life. Sphere sovereignty is an idea that God created new order and that everything is under the sphere of God's control. This includes education, the Church, the State, agriculture, economic enterprises, the family, and the arts. It insists that creational boundaries, and historical differentiation, be affirmed and respected.

Sphere sovereignty asserts that God cares about each area of life, but does not want the Church to rule over them. For example, sphere sovereignty asserts that praying at a football game does not make the game more holy or pleasing to God, rather, the sphere of athletics are good in and of themselves, bringing pleasure to their Creator. Each of these spheres of cultural interaction has its own created integrity. God willed that the creation would manifest itself in separate areas and come to own fruition. Neo-Calvinists claim that since God created “each after its own kind,” the church is not to regulate other spheres like a business. Similarly, they assert that the other spheres such as family or athletics should be kept out of the Church. "One violates sphere sovereignty when one hugs at church or preaches in bed." Since each sphere has its own celebrated individuality, the Church is not to be seen an organization which needs marketing or analogized as team where there is winning and losing.


[edit] Historical Background

Sphere sovereignty is an alternative to the worldviews of ecclesiasticism and secularism. During the Middle Ages, hierarchy, an ecclesiastical worldview, was taught which claimed that God, through the Church, rules over the world, exercising dominion over every sphere of culture. Because of this teaching, the Church ruled the arts, agriculture, government, family, economic guilds and education. [citation needed]

Ecclesiasticism was widely evident in the arts. Religious themes were encouraged by art's primary patron, the Church. Similarly, the politics in the Middle Ages often consisted of political leaders doing as the Church instructed. In both economic guilds and agriculture the Church supervised. In the family sphere, the Church regulated family procreation, sexual positions, sexuality, and infidelity. In the educational sphere, each of the great universities was started by the Church.

During the Renaissance, a secularist worldview emerged and wealthy merchants became patrons of the arts, thus enabling all these areas to be free from ecclesiastical control and patronage of the Church. Government, family, education, and economics were freed from the Church mostly from Protestantism. When the Lutherans obtained control of the German church, they freed up this control of other areas of life. Wealthy merchants became patrons of the arts and personal portraits began to be hung in city halls. The spheres of economics, education, and the State all became more secularized, largely due to the emergence of Protestantism which resulted from the secularist model, which moved to free up from any Church influence.[citation needed]

The concept was first formulated by the Neo-Calvinist theologian and Dutch prime minister Abraham Kuyper and further developed by philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dik Vollenhoven. Kuyper based the idea of sphere sovereignty on corem Deo, every sphere exists “before the face of God”, meaning each is created with its own integrity consisting of levels of authority, purpose, and patterns within. Kuyper asserted that the role of the Church is to prepare people to serve within spheres, and to influence the spheres by influencing individuals.

For Kuyper, sphere sovereignty implied a certain form of separation of church and state and a separation of state and other societal spheres. According to sphere sovereignty, because the Netherlands included multiple religious communities, these all should form their own sphere, with their own social institutions like schools, news media, hospitals and care for the poor. This resulted in a pillarized society. The prime example of this phenomenon is the Vrije Universiteit, founded by Kuyper where ministers for the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands would be educated without interference by the Dutch state, because educating ministers lies beyond the sphere of government in Kuyper's view.

[edit] Criticisms

Addressing the emergence of Kuyper's sphere sovereignty in response to Catholic culture, Peter S. Heslam (along with others) stated that 'Indeed, it could be argued that if Dutch society had been of a more “homogenous” nature—rather than manifesting a roughly tripartite ideological divide between Catholics, Protestants, and Humanists—sphere sovereignty would still have been practicable whereas verzuiling would not have been necessary.' <ref>Peter S. Heslam (Spring 2002) Prophet of a Third Way: The Shape of Kuyper's Socio-Political Vision. Journal of Markets & Morality 5(1).</ref>. Some see the development of pillarization in the Netherlands as the a failure of Kuyper to genuinely separate state from societal spheres.<ref>James C. Kennedy (Spring 2002) The Problem of Kuyper’s Legacy: The Crisis of the Anti-Revolutionary Party in Post-War Holland. Journal of Markets & Morality 5(1).</ref>.

Sphere sovereignty is based on the Christian religious confession concerning creation. In this view God has created the different spheres of family, church, state, and all the other forms of organized social life developing in history.

[edit] References

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[edit] External links

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