Abraham Kuyper, Culture and Art

Abraham Kuyper [1] (b.1837, d.1920) was described in a recent publication ‘as one of those rare intellectuals who actually led a popular movement.  He thought it not enough just to articulate a worldview but built the organisations needed to implement it.’  He is variously described as a theologian, philosopher, minister, politician, newspaper editor, educational innovator, reformer and statesman.  He founded a university, founded two newspapers (in which he authored thousands of articles on politics, literature, science and art), founded a political party and broke from the State religion in forming a religious denomination.  He lectured famously in the United States and served notably as prime minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905.

However, up until three years ago I had never heard of Kuyper despite having previously spent large amounts of time studying the period in which he lived, only encountering him and the impressiveness of his writing as an aside whilst researching for my MA dissertation.  After turning over a few scholarly stones, it became of great interest to me as to why there was a renewed contemporary interest in his work with the first full length biography of his life appearing in 2013, a new organisation being formed in 2011 to perform modern translations of his work and in Princeton University forming a centre dedicated to his study.  Given this “Renaissance-Man” persona, it was even more remarkable to me that he had been virtually ignored in the literature.  In this article, we look at why it should be that this man seems to have so much to say to our own age when he disappeared so quickly without a proper epitaph from his own.

There are two versions of this paper.  An abbreviated version  which was chopped down to 1250 words for a magazine here and the full 5500 word essay here.   The focus of the essay is on the radical, pluralistic but Christian, cultural philosophy of Kuyper that was in direct opposition to the liberalism, nihilism, naturalism and totalitarianism of his milieu.  The magazine article focussed more on his historical significance.

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