Neocalvinism Today

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A bookstore which attempts to create a new space for serious, reflective readers

"A network for Christians to stay in touch and work on actively integrating their Christian faith into every area of life, and hopefully bring about genuine cultural reformation"

A loosely knit network of "people inspired by their discovery of what it means to confess that Jesus is Lord over all of life"

A Canadian trade union with neocalvinist roots: 50 years old in 2002, about 25,000 members

An independent civic education and policy research organization

Neocalvinist philosophers of the world, unite!

A political thinktank in the Netherlands

Groen: proto-neocalvinism!

A unique campus ministry organization - committed to helping students understand the Lordship of Christ in their lives, especially in the development of a Christian worldview - that takes seriously the nature of education, students and student life, and the particular relationship of each of these to the Christian faith.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

This blog is moving to a new site. Updates wil only take place at the new site. Please change your links.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Public Justice Report - Archives
The archives of the Center for Public Justice's Public Justice Report provides a rich vein of neocalvinist political thinking that we hope to point to regularly in the months to come. In the most recent issue, there is a wonderful promise "to make available in 2002 an archive of the Public Justice Report, which began publication in 1977."

Friday, April 19, 2002
Further thank yous
Despite our long inactivity, these folks linked to Neocalvinism Today:

Joel Wilhelm at exaequo et bono.

Rick Capezza at beautifulfeet.

Gideon Strauss' neocalvinist unapologetics & zeitgeist surfing.

The Dutch political party ChristenUnie, because "Zij linken naar ons, dan wij ook naar hen ..." [Neocalvinism Today enthusiastically recommends Dutch as a second language.]

John Butler at okcalvin.

Reveling in Paradox.

Neocalvinism Today appreciates these links.

Thursday, February 28, 2002
Thank you!
Thank you to the following people who recently linked to Neocalvinism Today:

Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds bookstore.

John Barach at KATA IWANNHN (just can't get Pita to do that in Greek script). Scroll down to "Journals" on the left of the page to find us.

Joel Garver at Sacra Doctrina . We're listed under "blogs" on the left of the page.

Neocalvinism Today appreciates these links. And if you link back to them, you'll find these sites well worth the visit.

We've had a few people link through from Pitas.com itself, for which we are grateful. Take care when linking back, though: not all pitas are savoury.

Thursday, February 28, 2002
Genetic engineering
An article by the Dutch parliamentarian and philosopher of science, Egbert Schuurman, on the philosophical and ethical problems of technicism and genetic engineering.

Thursday, February 28, 2002
Charitable Choice
The Center for Public Justice's cache of articles on government support for faith-based initiatives to alleviate poverty in the USA.

Thursday, February 28, 2002
The Importance of Worldview
An address by Craig Bartholomew to a meeting of Gegrapha , a fellowship of journalists all over the world who are Christian believers in mainstream or non-religious news organizations. Dr. Bartholomew's work on Biblical Interpretation is also very interesting.

Thursday, February 28, 2002
Byron Borger's Choices for the Best Daily Devotionals

Monday, February 25, 2002
Neocalvinism still lives in the Netherlands
The other very exciting neocalvinist foray in the political realm is the ChristenUnie (Christian Union) in the Netherlands. The ChristenUnie is a great party, although one must mourn the overwhelming secularization of the Netherlands, once a lighthouse nation.

It appears difficult to link to the ChristenUnie site, since their pages seem not to have distinctive URLs. To see something in English, click on the "Denktank-WI" (Think tank - Scientific Institute) tab at the top of the page, and then on the "English" tab on the left of the page. That will present you with a few options with more information.

If you read Dutch [resigned smile], their publications are well worth the trouble.

Monday, February 25, 2002
September 11
Jim Skillen's Center for Public Justice is one of the two most exciting neocalvinist forays in the political realm today. Their website has this helpful archive of reflections on September 11, political responsibility, and just war doctrine.

Monday, February 25, 2002
Andrew Basden web-publishes Yong-Joon Choi
A year 2000 Ph.D. dissertation on Dooyeweerd's neocalvinist philosophy

Monday, February 25, 2002
Andrew Basden lists critiques of neocalvinist philosophy

Monday, February 25, 2002
A Blogger Manifesto
Why online weblogs are one future for journalism, according to Andrew Sullivan.

Friday, February 22, 2002
Neocalvinism Today is a blog? What is a "blog"?
"Blogging is the art of turning one's own filter on news and the world into something others might want to read, link to, and write about themselves. ... Web logs comprise short or long comments about links to articles, sites, press releases, and discussions. Typically, they're time-bounded and date-stamped, with older entries scrolling off the bottom into chronological archives. ... Tens of thousands of users have Web logs, and many update them daily, or even many times a day, with new snippets or writings. Some blogs are closer to public diaries; others, the idiosyncratic or authoritative musings of experts and cranks." - Glenn Fleishman, Seattle Times

Friday, February 22, 2002
… to populate the world of the human heart with different ideals …
“Calvinism is rooted in a form of religion which was peculiarly its own, and from this specific religious consciousness there was developed first a peculiar theology, then a special church-order, and then a given form for political and social life, for the interpretation of the moral world-order, for the relation between nature and grace, between Christianity and the world, between church and state, and finally for art and science; and amid all these life-utterances it remained always the self-same Calvinism, in so far as simultaneously and spontaneously all these developments sprang from its deepest life-principle. Hence to this extent it stands in line with those other great complexes of human life, known as Paganism, Islamism and Romanism, by which we distinguish four entirely different worlds in the one collective world of human life. And if, speaking precisely, you should co-ordinate Christianity and not Calvinism with Paganism and Islamism, it is nevertheless better to place Calvinism in line with them, because Calvinism claims to embody the Christian idea more purely and accurately than could Romanism or Lutheranism. In the Greek world of Russia and the Balkan States, the national element is still dominant, and therefore the Christian faith in these countries has not yet been able to produce a form of life of its own from the root of its mystical orthodoxy. In Lutheran countries, the interference of the magistrate has prevented the free working of the spiritual principle. Hence of Romanism alone can it be said that it has embodied its life-thought in a world of conceptions and utterances entirely its own. But by the side of Romanism, and in opposition to it, Calvinism made its appearance, not merely to create a different Church-form, but an entirely different form for human life, to furnish human society with a different method of existence, and to populate the world of the human heart with different ideals and conceptions.

"That this had not been realized until our time, and is now acknowledged by friend and enemy in consequence of a better study of history, should not surprise us. This would not have been the case, if Calvinism had entered life as a well-constructed system, and had presented itself as an outcome of study. But its origin came about in an entirely different way. In the order of existence, life is first. And to Calvinism life itself was ever the first object of its endeavors. There was too much to do and to suffer to devote much time to study. What was dominant was Calvinistic practice at the stake and in the field of battle. Moreover the nations among whom Calvinism gained the day – such as the Swiss, the Dutch, the English and the Scotch – were by nature not very philosophically predisposed. Especially at that time, life among those nations was spontaneous and void of calculation; and only later on has Calvinism in its parts become a subject of that special study by which historians and theologians have traced the relation between Calvinistic phenomena and the all-embracing unity of its principle. It can even be said that the need of a theoretical and systematic study of so incisive and comprehensive phenomenon of life only arises when its first vitality has been exhausted, and when for the sake of maintaining itself in the future, it is compelled to greater accuracy in the drawing of its boundary lines. And if to this you add the fact that the stress of reflecting our existence as a unity in the mirror of our consciousness is far stronger in our philosophical age tan it was ever before, it is readily seen that both the needs of the present, and the care for the future, compel us to a deeper study of Calvinism. In the Roman Catholic Church everybody knows what he lives for, because with clear consciousness he enjoys the fruits of Rome’s unity of life-system. Even in Islam you find the same power of a conviction of life dominated by one principle. Protestantism alone wanders about in the wilderness without aim or direction, moving hither and thither, without making any progress. This accounts the fact that among Protestant nations Pantheism, born from the new German Philosophy and owing its concrete evolution-form to Darwin, claims for itself more and more the supremacy in every sphere of human life, even in that of theology, and under all sorts of names tries to overthrow our Christian traditions, and is bent even upon exchanging the heritage of our fathers for a hopeless modern Buddhism. The leading thoughts that had their rise in the French Revolution at the close of the last, and in German philosophy in the course of the present century, form together a life-system which is diametrically opposed to that of our fathers. Their struggles were for the sake of the glory of God and a purified Christianity; the present movement wages war for the sake of the glory of man, being inspired not by the humble mind of Golgotha but by the pride of Hero-worship. And why did we, Christians, stand so weak, in the face of this Modernism? Why did we constantly lose ground? Simply because we were devoid of an equal unity of life-conception, such as alone could enable us with irresistible energy to repel the enemy at the frontier. This unity of life-conception, however, is never to be found in a vague conception of Protestantism winding itself as it does in all kinds of tortuosities, but you do find it in that mighty historic process, which as Calvinism dug a channel of its own for the powerful stream of its life. By this unity of conception alone as given in Calvinism, you in America and we in Europe might be enabled once more to take our stand, by the side of Romanism, in opposition to modern Pantheism. Without this unity of starting point and life-system we must lose the power to maintain our independent position, and our strength must ebb away."

(From Abraham Kuyper's first Stone lecture, Princeton, 1898)

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
The Johnny Appleseed of North American neocalvinism
A short article on the legendary Pete Steen

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
A great cache of articles . . .
. . . with a neocalvinist flavour.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
Chicken dignity
Richard Mouw is probably the most influential living neocalvinist on the planet. He is not a follower of Dooyeweerd or Vollenhoven, but a neocalvinist in the broader sense. He is also the president of Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, California), one of the largest evangelical seminaries in the world.

In the linked piece, Mouw illustrates a basic neocalvinist belief: that God created His creatures according to their kinds, and that we should in our stewardship of God's earth treat them accordingly. People require treatment in accordance with their human dignity; chickens, in accordance with their chicken dignity.

Monday, February 18, 2002
A theory of the structure of reality
The philosopher of science Dirk Stafleu writes concerning neocalvinist philosophy that,

". . . what strikes one most is how complex Dooyeweerd's theory of the structure of reality is - or perhaps, rather, how complex natural reality is. The structures that have been exposed by the natural sciences, especially during the twentieth century, show a degree of variation that no-one had previously expected.

"It might therefore well be an advantage of Dooyeweerd's theory that it is so complicated. Only a theory sufficiently rich in distinguishing concepts can give an account of reality, which [itself] appears to be extra-ordinarily complex. Since there also happens to be no serious competition for Dooyeweerd's theory as a philosophical theory of the structure of reality, it is worthwhile taking serious account of it, also for people who do not want to take a reformational [that is, neocalvinist] position as there own, either partly or at all." ("De Verborge Structuur: Wijsgerige beschouwingen over natuurlijke structuren en hun samehang" [The Hidden Structure: Philosophical perspectives on natural structures and their coherence], Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn, 1989, p. 132. Our translation - NT)

Among the few hundred people around the world today who take neocalvinist philosophy seriously, the best known feature of this philosophical theory (which Dooyeweerd did not craft on his own, but rather in close cooperation with his brother in law, D.H.Th. Vollenhoven) is its analysis of the "what" of reality (things in Anglo-Saxon, entities in Latinate English) and the "how" of reality (aspects or modalities).

Building on the existing neocalvinist appreciation for the diversity designed into reality, Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven identified a number of distinct, identifiable aspects to reality. Just as Kuyper argued for sphere sovereignty in the "what" spectrum of human relationships, this later generation of neocalvinists argued for a sphere sovereignty in the "how" spectrum of reality. This theory denied the possibility of reducing reality to any one of its aspects. No "theory of everything" in terms of mere physical laws. No complete explanation of human personality in terms of sexual urges and childhood experiences. No determination of all of history by socio-economic forces alone. Nor any other kind of reductionism. Any serious study of any part of reality has to take into account the functioning of a wide range of distinct aspects.

Friday, February 15, 2002
Religion, pluralism, and public life
Perhaps the most distinctive (if not necessarily the most important) feature of neocalvinism is its idea of sphere sovereignty.

First given clear expression by Abraham Kuyper, the idea of sphere sovereignty simultaneously holds great promise as a way of understanding society, and has brought the most profound shame on neocalvinism.

The basic idea of sphere sovereignty is simple - almost a truism: a state is not a church is not a family is not a business is not a school . . . and so forth.

Each distinct kind of human relationship should have its own sphere. Within its sphere, it is sovereign. It does not derive its reason for being from the state, or the church, or any other institution. It is subject only to God and his law.

Sphere sovereignty stands against both collectivism (such as fascism or communism) and individualism (such as classical liberalism or libertarianism), as distorted ways of understanding and shaping human society. As such it allows insight into the richness of human diversity. It provides a guiding principle for political action and the crafting of wise laws.

While the idea of sphere sovereignty developed slowly as part of the legacy of the Reformation, its roots are in the Biblical revelation that God created things according to their kinds, and that God delights in the variety of his creatures.

Sadly - grotesquely! - racial supremacists in 20th century South Africa, like the theologian and politician Andries Treurnicht, abused the idea of sphere sovereignty to justify Apartheid. While apartheid thinking has its roots in German romanticism (Herder, Fichte) and the kind of 1930s German liberal protestantism that supported Hitler (and against which Bonhoeffer, Barth and others bravely protested), rather than Dutch neocalvinism, this historical link remains a blemish. If neocalvinism is to be a global Christian cultural movement for the 21st century it must take serious account of this painful historical reality.

Monday, January 28, 2002
Across the Atlantic
While there had been previous waves of migration from the Netherlands to the New World, the wave of the 1950s was marked by the presence of a large numbers of serious neocalvinists, who set about duplicating the network of institutions they knew in their country of origin: particularly in Canada (schools, colleges, a labour movement, a political movement, newspapers and magazines, and so forth) and Iowa (a college, political movements, schools, and so forth).

While this network of cultural organizations never flourished as its predecessor movement in the Netherlands, many of these institutions still make a significant difference, and alumni of this cultural movement continue to do very interesting work - often beyond the ethnic margins of the Dutch Diaspora.

Of all these institutions, perhaps the undergraduate colleges - Calvin in Michigan (although it is much older, and not by any means exclusively neocalvinist), Dordt in Iowa (perhaps the most intensely neocalvinist), Kings in Alberta, Redeemer in Ontario, and Trinity in Illinois (perhaps the least comfortable with its neocalvinist heritage) - are making the greatest impact for the future.

Monday, January 28, 2002
The beginnings of neocalvinist philosophy
The work of Kuyper's generation of neocalvinist cultural activists resulted in a thick network of institutions - like the Free University of Amsterdam, the Anti-Revolutionary Party, the Protestant labour movement, Christian schools, and numerous magazines and newspapers - in which the next generations of neocalvinists could be nurtured.

One such an institution was the Kuyperstichting (Kuyper Foundation), the think tank of the Anti-Revolutionary Party. In October 1922, the Kuyperstichting employed a young legal scholar by the name of Herman Dooyeweerd. For some time, Dooyeweerd and his brother-in-law, the Rev. Dirk Vollenhoven, had been thinking about the implications of Kuyper's neocalvinism for philosophy. They were inspired by the belief that Calvinism "is not a bare theological system, but holds in itself the astonishing vitality of a whole life and world view; it holds a deep philosophical view of life, the fundamental lines of a theory of knowledge of its own, a doctrine of science, its own psychology, its own view of history, its own jurisprudence, and its own view of the state."

Shortly after joining the Kuyperstichting, Dooyeweerd's philosophical work was ignited by an epiphany. In interviews decades later, Dooyeweerd recalled that "one afternoon ... I started reading [a book of Kuyper's collected devotional meditations for the season of Pentecost] at about four o'clock in the afternoon, and that evening at eight I was still sitting there. ... In all of my life I had never read anything like it. Such forceful language that I, I don't know, I was struck so deeply that I had entirely forgotten about dinner. ... So then I started reading a lot of Kuyper." "What particularly grabbed me [that afternoon] was that Kuyper had rediscovered something that had been lost in scholasticism. What had been lost so completely was the Biblical notion of the human person, that the core of being human lies in the heart of human existence, which the Bible indicates with the image of the heart. ... Kuyper expressly says in one of his meditations, 'at the moment I am talking about the heart, indeed to be understood not as the organ of feeling but as that point in your existence where God works in you, that point in your existence where life is undivided,' and then he uses the image of a root and branches, the branches that emerge out of the root - not in the spread-out branches, he says, but in the root of existence, in that sense, that pregnant sense, the Bible uses the word 'heart.' Now, for me that was a turning point in my entire life, I can say. And as I thought further, I thought, that brings about a complete turnabout in the whole view of the human person, and the whole view also of the reality in which we live." [our translation-NT]

From this turnabout we can trace the dynamic impetus of neocalvinist philosophy, as energetically developed and propagated by Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven, their friends and their students.

Friday, January 25, 2002
Neocalvinism's political heyday in the Netherlands
To date neocalvinism has had its greatest political impact in the Netherlands - not strange, since this cultural movement had its origin in that meticulously cultivated little country. Neocalvinism's influence didn't just happen. It was the result of the work, above all, of Abraham Kuyper and his Anti-Revolutionary Party. From its founding on April 3, 1879, until its demise on October 11, 1980, the ARP made a significant contribution to political life in the Netherlands. These years were the political heyday of neocalvinism in that country - and probably also coincides with the years of its rise and fall as a significant Dutch cultural movement in other spheres of life than the political.

Thursday, January 24, 2002
The mission of Neocalvinism Today is to propagate neocalvinism as an international cultural movement for our times.

As evangelical Christianity flourishes around the world the people of God proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life. But what does that mean for everyday life, especially in the face of the tyranny or anarchy that so much of the world suffers? Neocalvinists have thoroughly thought through many of the implications of Biblical faith for contemporary life, and have a vocation of service to international Christianity.

Neocalvinists believe, along with other orthodox Christians and particularly other calvinists, that God is both sovereign and gracious, both all-powerful and all-loving.

In creation, God has given an enduring design to reality, which he faithfully sustains. By reflecting on the observable patterns in the world around us - also in human life - we can learn much about this design, and how we might cultivate and care for creation.

Because of human sin, the world is twisted and broken, subject to much evil and pain, failure and disappointment. In lamenting this heartbreaking state of affairs we stand along all humanity in its suffering.

In the redemption gained for the cosmos through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there is healing and hope, which we serve even as we cultivate, care, and lament.

Learning from the 19th century Dutch politician and historian Guillaume Groen Van Prinsterer's insightful critique of the French Revolution, neocalvinists celebrate the benefits of modernity but lament its radical denial of transcendence and its consequent efforts to shape human society and human nature anew according to all kinds of utopian schemes.

Learning from Abraham Kuyper, polymath and briefly (1901-1905) prime minister of the Netherlands, neocalvinists suggest against the corrosive individualism of libertarians and the constrictive collectivism of fascists the idea of sphere sovereignty.

Learning from 20th century philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven, neocalvinists recognize with wonder the complexity of the world, and seek to explore it in the light of Biblical revelation.

May the Gospel of Christ be a light to the nations in this 21st century after his first coming!

Books ...

... on calvinism

The motherlode

The theatre of his glory

Early calvinist constitutionalism

Early calvinist federalism ... and a step toward the idea of sphere sovereignty

Genevan spirituality

A glimpse of Calvin as mentor

The man

... introducing neocalvinist philosophy

A bridge from worldview to philosophy

Faiths shape theories

... on art, from Cal Seerveld, a living neocalvinist cultural treasure

Toronto Tuppence Press

An impassioned review of Seerveld's most recent books

... on politics, from the inestimable Jim Skillen

A Covenant to Keep : Meditations on the Biblical Theme of Justice

The Scattered Voice : Christians at Odds in the Public Square

Recharging the American Experiment : Principled Pluralism for Genuine Civic Community

Political Order and the Plural Structure of Society

The School-Choice Controversy : What Is Constitutional?

Welfare in America: Christian Perpectives on a Policy in Crisis

International Politics and the Demand for Global Justice

Buy from the source!

... on Abraham Kuyper: The father of neocalvinism

A Life

His best known work among the English-speaking peoples

An excellent reader

A careful study

American relevance?

His 21st century legacy

A call to Christian social action: The Problem of Poverty

The devotional Kuyper

... on Wisdom: A Christian Worldview

A Bible

Learning to live in God's creation

A framework for understanding all of reality

The challenge of evil


Uncommon Sense

Western Civ.: The grand dynamics thereof

On being human

How long ... ?