Category Archives: Culture

Some thoughts on Prince Caspian

In a very celebratory mood, I entered the theater. All is perfect: the end of a long Master’s Degree and a free movie. My first reaction to Prince Caspian came when I heard it was a two hour and forty minute movie. I have always enjoyed long movies. They generally establish irrevocably the depths of each character. I enjoy that sense of thoroughness. I apply it to all my reading: if a book is not read from preface to conclusion, it has not been read at all. So every detail matters, but I have no intention of exhausting myself with such endeavor. So here are a few thoughts on Prince Caspian.

I was eager at the beginning, but at the end of the movie I felt somewhat relieved. I am not sure if I had too much on my mind or simply that the end seemed never to come. As an aside, I am avid Lewis reader, but never read his children’s works. Some have said that if I had read Prince Caspian, I as a purist, would have detested the liberties the movie takes. But since I never read the book, I felt optimistic, though filled with expectations since the first movie was outstanding.

Unlike the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was filmed in succession, the Chronicles of Narnia has a two-year gap separating the filming of the first and Prince Caspian. This is unfortunate to me. The characters (especially Lucy) looked much older than the supposed one year gap mentioned in the movie. Nevertheless, that was not much of a detraction from the central theme of the movie.

Prince Caspian began with a good background to the story of Caspian as an heir to the throne and King Miraz’s attempt to assassinate him. Caspian flees–thanks to his old mentor–and finds himself confronted with the Narnians, thought to have been annihilated. In despair, he blows the horn, which summons the kings and queens. The Pevensie siblings leave the tedious life of London back to Narnia.

The four characters shape the spiritual dimension of the movie. Little Lucy is a picture of pure faith; a faith that is not shaken by circumstances. Her child-like belief in Aslan’s power to defeat evil is a marvelous example of Paul’s command to live by faith and not by sight. Lucy is steadfast and an example for all her siblings of commitment and loyalty to her king.

Edmund, who was a picture of unbelief and stubbornness in the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe learns from his past mistakes and serves as a testimony of a changed heart. The power of Aslan’s sacrifice and the unwavering love of his family brought him to realize his foolishness and he turns from his ways.

Susan is a warrior. The gentle figure becomes strong in battle. She is the one who brings sense into Peter’s wild adventure in self-absorption.

Peter is struck with great arrogance in Prince Caspian. He is threatened by Caspian’s status as prince. His jealousy leads him to bring death into the camp. His wayward ways almost destroyed the remaining Narnians. Peter is the proud, but eventually repentant leader.

Much of the movie centers around decisions made by each character, mainly Peter and Prince Caspian. What will it take to restore Narnia to its original beauty? The strong will of a king or a prince, the strength of a people to survive extinction, or the faith of a little child to call on Aslan for help? The answer ultimately lies on the strength of the great king, not Peter and not Prince Caspian, but the One who preserves and restores paradise by His power and might. In the end, the enemies of peace are swallowed in the waters of judgment. In the same manner, the Egyptians fell by the hands of Moses, who trusted in his God.

Things do not happen the same way twice, as Aslan stated. There is no need for another sacrifice and there is no need for another resurrection. The work has been accomplished. Let the Narnians bring peace on earth and good-will towards men through the strength of the Great Lion.

Prince Caspian did not meet the demands of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Perhaps it may have been too long, and to some, the thrill of the battle was not as captivating as the first. But Christians can be pleased with another fantastic production containing Christian imagery, typological figures, and a faithful savior of His people.

Screwing up America?

Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to start reading through Bernard Goldberg’s 100 People who are screwing up America. The book begins with a series of articles detailing the trajectory of television in the last 50 years. The author reveals the stark differences of television in the “I Love Lucy” days and the modern sitcom. These sitcoms are effective in promoting their agenda. In fact, they have done so well inculcating their values into our culture that to criticize their worldview is considered a hate speech. The “attitude” writes Goldberg, is that “anyone who is offended by these values is, by definition, a square” (Goldberg, 13).

But what is most remarkable is the mindless content of modern television. Whereas, it was common to watch shows that dealt with substantive issues in politics and religion some decades ago, our celebrity addicted culture today is more interested in the details of some actor’s love-life, instead of the significant debates of our day.

Christians can hardly blame pagans for doing their job well. They are simply expressing their worldview through a medium. It seems proper, therefore, that before Goldberg mentions 100 people who are screwing up America, we–the Church– need to realize that our message is not being heard, and we may even be part of that number.

I am Legend

Last week I saw I am Legend with Will Smith. It reminded me both of the tenseness of Signs with Mel Gibson and the one-man dialogue of Castaway with Tom Hanks. Smith is the only survivor in a world destroyed by a virus, which was intended to eliminate cancer. Much of the movie consists of interactions with Will Smith and his dog. Throughout the movie one may wonder the results of such catastrophe in our own world. The movie touches on at least two important questions:

a) On the existence of God. This question arose in a pertinent point of the movie. It forces the Christian thinker to consider to what devastating extent would you still embrace God? Would suffering of any sort be sufficient to deny the Creator?

b) On the issue of vaccines. This may be a bit more implied on my part. Nevertheless, one can hardly deny the significance of vaccinations in our society. When a child is born parents are confronted with several vaccines. One vaccine is a preventative for future sexual encounter; another one deals with preventing unheard illnesses. These are issues serious parents will have to consider. There are legal ways to avoid taking these vaccinations. There may be legitimate vaccines, but others are clearly dangerous. Is it possible that so much of our problems with teen depression may have to do with excessive vaccinations?

Christians will be surprised at the level of cleanness in the movie. There are no sex scenes, nudity or blasphemous statements. Perhaps the most vivid parts of the movie are Smith’s encounter with those affected by the virus. These powerful living/dead creatures are not the typical zombies of horror classic, they run and destroy vociferously. I am Legend is not for the light-hearted. It contains strong images and harsh scenarios.

Rating: 7

An Analysis of Kuyper’s Lecture: Calvinism a Life System, Part 3

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How Shall We Then Live: Concluding Remarks on Predestinarianism and Christian Living from Kuyper’s Lectures

The Calvinistic world-and-life-view is undergirded by one principal theological dogma: God is sovereign over the affairs of men. This dogmatic assertion carries over to the realm of Soteriology. It is in the doctrine of salvation that Calvinism is mostly known. Far from a mere abstract doctrinal proposition, the sovereignty of God in election and predestination furnishes the Kuyperian worldview with plenty of theological ammunition. Since God is the protagonist in the Calvinistic worldview, then He must be preeminent in developing any approach to living the Christian faith.

Kuyper wishes to emphasize that Calvinism is not to be confused with an ethereal doctrine left for the armchair theologian. Rather, as he asserts, “Calvinism has everywhere left…its trace in social and political, in scientific and aesthetic life…”[1] Calvinism belongs to the people, not simply to the magistrates. It is a doctrine oriented around Christian living. It is the beginning and the end of Christianity. It is the beginning because God initiates a work of grace in each of His chosen ones and it is the end because God in His sovereignty carries His own people through life and to ultimate glory. As Kuyper notes:

This all- embracing predestination, the Calvinist places, not in the hand of man, and still less in the hand of a blind natural force, but in the hand of Almighty God, Sovereign Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth.[2]

This sovereignty over all can only serve as a motivating factor in the Christian activity. The Christian is to defend boldly his Apostolic Creed in an immoral society, lest it loses it honor.[3] Calvinism served as an inspiring call to missiological zeal in previous centuries and must continue to encourage and embolden the Church to march forward as Christian soldiers and ambassadors of her King. The great Dutch theologian well understood the consequences of a weak Church when he wrote: “…Christianity that does not prove its worth in practice, degenerates into dry scholasticism and idle talk.”[4]

Let Calvinism and its world-view suffer a million deaths if it is not quickened by the work of the Holy Spirit. In Kuyper’s own words: “Unless God send forth His Spirit, there will be no turn, and fearfully rapid will be the descent of the waters.”[5]


[1] Lectures on Calvinism, pg.192.

[2] Lectures on Calvinism, pg.197.

[3] Lectures on Calvinism, pg. 195.  “Such a Church does not dishonor Calvinism, but itself.”

[4] Lectures on Calvinism. Pg. 187.

[5] Lectures on Calvinism, pg. 199.

An Analysis of Kuyper’s Lecture: Calvinism a Life System, Part 2

im000337_1.jpgIn light of this comprehensive view of the Christian life, it is natural that another strong feature of Kuyperian thinking is an opposition to “escapism.” The Roman Church had abandoned any interest in a Biblical transformation of culture thus the holy life was equated to a monastic life,[1] since anything outside the Church was considered to be under possession. Kuyper opposed this dualism and emphasized that God is redeeming the world, thus “serving him in the world becomes the inspiring impulse,”[2] and the Church provided the strength to fight worldly temptations. Indeed there was no need to hide within the confines of the Church.

Unlike any other religious expression, only Calvinism urges God’s people to invade the streets of civilization with the message of the triumph of Christ over all things. It is in the people of God, through the Divine Presence, that Calvinism surges as the “required condition for the advancement of human development to a higher stage.”[3]

Strengths and Weaknesses

Richard Mouw once observed that “Calvinists specialized in cleaning up sewers-not only in the spiritual sense, but sometimes also quite literally!”[4] Indeed, Kuyperianism[5] offers the Christian ways to live in a society, rather than merely tolerating it. Ecclesiastical engagement has its limitations and sooner or later, people will begin to ask questions pertinent to their responsibilities at home and at work. This is Kuyper’s greatest strength.

There are certain areas of concern, which would be deemed areas of weakness in Kuyper’s thesis. Absent from Kuyper’s development of Calvin’s ideas is a high view of the sacraments. Kuyper summarizes the role of the Church as a place where God’s people can garner strength to face the evils of the world’s temptations.[6] Indeed, it may not have been in Kuyper’s interest to add positive thoughts on Sacramentology (though he often appears to chastise Rome’s sacerdotalism).[7] Nevertheless, it is hard to conceive of a more nurturing experience for the Christian in the world, than to embrace the fullness of Christ’s New Covenant sign given for His people in bread and wine. In Kuyper’s lecture on Calvinism and Religion,[8] he castigates Roman Catholic priestly intervention, claiming that it interrupts communion with God.[9] Kuyper’s reaction to Rome’s ecclesiastical practices and to a lesser extent Lutheranism seems to have diminished his interest in a Calvinistic view of the Lord’s Supper.

Another weakness in Kuyperian or Neo-Calvinistic thought refers to its understanding of Old Covenant revelation. Kuyperianism does not believe in an immediate application of civil penalties in modern society. In fact, some Kuyperians, like many other evangelicals, find the idea of Old Testament civil application immoral.[10] Instead they opt for a Democracy, where pluralism is embraced. Kuyper was concerned that if one religion ruled, the Church would become tyrannical. Thus, government was to rule not according to God’s revealed word in Scripture, but God’s revelation in nature. Pluralism-the refusal to accept any religion as the ultimate standard-was the ultimate consequence for denying an explicitly Christian society.[11] On the other hand, and ironically, Kuyper argues for certain Christian principles to be established in a society.[12] Kuyper does affirm that “all ethical study is based on the Law of Sinai,”[13] but never develops the application of the Moral Law to a society. This is a great weakness in Kuyper’s thought. If Kuyper had followed Puritan thinking more closely, perhaps the idea of a pluralistic society would have vanished from his writings. Pluralism is diametrically opposed to the exclusive message of Christianity. Van Til argued that epistemologically one begins either autonomously or theonomically. This same principle applies to ethics. A society either derives its ethical standards from Biblical Law or some variation of Natural Law. Though Kuyper dismissed Natural Law as an epistemic foundation, nevertheless, he implicitly leaves the door open in the area of ethics, since he did not connect the Law of Sinai with its corresponding laws-civil/judicial laws.[14] This is made clear in Kuyper’s outrage over the death of Michael Servetus in the 16th century. According to Kuyper, Servetus’s death was unwarranted. The blame is in the “unanimous and uniform advice of Calvin and his epigonies, who demanded intervention of the government in the matter of religion.”[15] Kuyper seems opposed to state intervention in religious matters, but again, what can be considered non-religious in a society? There may be a legitimate dispute over what form of government is best-whether federalism, where certain issues such as capital punishment are left to the individual states or if this authority rested in the Federal government alone–but the question of whether the state may interfere in public blasphemy or other forms of open rebellion is an issue addressed clearly in the Older Covenant.[16] The killing of a man, who openly blasphemed the Trinity and mocked the Orthodox Faith, is certainly justifiable in Biblical terms and thus to be punished by death. Kuyper further notes disapprovingly of Servetus’ death when he writes:

Notwithstanding all this, I not only deplore that one stake, but I unconditionally disapprove of it; yet not as if it were the expression of a special characteristic of Calvinism, but on the contrary as the fatal after-effect of a system, grey with age, in which Calvinism found its existence, under which it had grown up, and from which it had yet been able entirely to liberate itself.[17]

Kuyper sees the death of Servetus as a lasting bad seed from the Calvinistic tree that needs to be purged. Calvin tried in vain to persuade Servetus to recant of his heresies; in the end, Calvin was unable to change Servetus’ mind.[18] Finally, it seems plausible to make one more critique of Kuyper’s ideology: Though honorable in his intentions, Kuyper failed to see the vast implications of Biblical revelation for modern society. In Oliver Woods’ article Abraham Kuyper: God’s Renaissance Man, he observes the following:

Kuyper’s commitment to pluralism betrayed his poetic dedication to affirm God’s holy statutes in church and state, in home and school. The third article of the Anti-Revolutionary Party platform, Ons Program, exposes the frailty of the tactics Kuyper employed for achieving this end: ‘…the authority of the state is bound by God’s ordinances, not directly…but only via the consciences of persons in positions of authority.’ It should be self-evident that such a tactic explicitly removes civil authority from the Word of God and posits it in the vacillating conscience of the civil magistrate.[19]

The conscience of the civil magistrate is unstable in all its ways. When the government submits to some general guidelines of pluralism and libertarianism, the future of such enterprise guarantees the demise of the state and its turning over to the very systems Kuyper opposed-Humanism and Modernism.

 


[1] Ibid. 29.

 

[2] Ibid. 30.

[3] Ibid. 38.

[4] Mouw’s Musings. Blog Page. http://www.netbloghost.com/mouw/?p=26

Richard Mouw is president of Fuller Theological Seminary. He also makes a few distinctions between Kuyperianism and John Yoder’s Anabaptist theology of life.  He recently delivered several lectures at The Abraham Kuyper Consultation at Princeton 2007.

[5] I am using “Kuyperianism” and “Calvinism” as synonymous terms, unless otherwise noticed.

[6] To my limited knowledge, Kuyper did not develop a robust view of the Church in any of his writings. For instance, Kuyper spoke little, if at all, concerning the role of the Sacraments in preparing Christians to face the onslaught of the world’s philosophies.

[7] Professor Frame argues: “Kuyper seems to have thought of the church as one among a number of equal agencies, including family, state, university, etc. I don’t think he gave adequate attention to the centrality of the church in biblical theology.” (Personal correspondence).

[8] Kuyper, 49.

[9] Ibid. 49.

[10] Professors from Calvin College and Seminary are little concerned about the application of Biblical Revelation to modern society. They are more interested in applying natural law than revealed law. Neo-Calvinists think it is immoral to apply Biblical law because we no longer live in a theocracy such as Israel did.

[11] It appears that Kuyper confused the rule of God in society (theocracy) with the rule of the Church (ecclesiocracy). No advocate of Theonomy embraces the latter. The ideal Biblical picture is that Church and State work side by side submitting to one Lord.

[12] In his third lecture, Kuyper speaks about the duty of a government to stop blasphemy from taking place. However, what is his Biblical basis for this? You cannot establish this much from Romans 13. Why did he not make the next move and ground it in Biblical case laws? Professor Frame answers these questions in the following manner: Kuyper’s exclusion of blasphemy was on the ground that God is the foundation of the state. So K. thought that to exclude blasphemy was not to impose the theology of any sect on the state. He resisted imposing other biblical teachings on the state, because he thought that (apart from the Urim and Thummim) the state was not competent to decide what theology was right. (Personal correspondence)

[13] Kuyper, 72.

[14] Though Professor Frame disagrees with some theonomic authors, he has done the most superb exegetical job in combining Kuyperianism with a robust view of Biblical law. Also, for an excellent and fair treatment of Theonomy’s theses, see Vern Poythress’ The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. Poythress offers a 50 page critique of Greg Bahnsen’s theonomic theses. He gives particular attention the exegesis of Matthew 5:17. Whether he succeeds is another question. In my assessment, once one accepts the idea of the application of Biblical Law, he has by default become theonomic in his viewpoint, though there may be varying nuances. Perhaps my former professor Dr. Mark Ross distinguishes best when divides the theonomic camp into soft and hard Theonomy. If this distinction stands, then Frame and Poythress would be soft; Bahnsen and Rushdoony would be hard. I would find myself in the latter camp most of the time.

[15] Kuyper, 99.

[16] Deuteronomy 21:18-2. The example of the disobedient son is portrayed as a public death penalty. One may argue that this was not a state-level execution, since the local community and the parents were involved in this execution. But the principle is that God has authorized the state (however defined) to use the sword accordingly (Romans 13).

[17] Kuyper, 100.

[18] There is a false notion that Calvin ruled Geneva with an iron fist. This is erroneous. Calvin did not ultimately make decisions of life and death. This was left to the city rulers. It was by their hand that Servetus was put to death, though Calvin never tried to stop it.

[19] Woods, Oliver. Online. July/August 2002. The Christian Statesman.

http://www.natreformassn.org/statesman/02/kuyper.html

An Analysis of Abraham Kuyper’s Lecture: Calvinism a Life System, Part 1

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Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism is a vociferous call to cultural engagement. These lectures are not only a call to activism, but they also summarize Kuyper’s distinctive position, a new direction for Reformed thought that James Bratt[1] calls “Neo-Calvinism.”[2] Thus, the Lectures on Calvinism— delivered at Princeton in 1898–is Kuyper’s “whole vision in brief compass.”[3] In this presentation, the author wishes to provide an analysis of Kuyper’s first lecture entitled: Calvinism a Life-System.[4]

Calvinism a Life-System

Kuyper was an ardent opponent of modernism. He defined modernism thusly: “Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature.”[5] Modernism seeks to undermine a distinctly Christian worldview by denying God’s revelation. It was Kuyper’s concern that those who bow down before Jesus as Lord, would seek to construct a Biblical worldview that would save the “Christian heritage.”[6] This is the struggle of civilization: to preserve the Christian view of life over all autonomous attempts to challenge it.

This Christian world-view, according to Abraham Kuyper, is Calvinism. In contrast to Romanism and Arminianism,[7] Calvinism embodies the “Christian idea more purely and accurately.”[8] In Calvinism, man needs Divine Guidance and lives in the Divine Presence.[9] Any attempt to revive society or culture outside of a theocentric framework will end in futility. Further, Calvinism offers an answer to the post-modern dilemma of relativism. Kuyper’s prophetic voice saw Nietzsche’s de-emphasis on the objective as a sign of the times. Nietzsche deprived the sciences from any spiritual foundation, thus arguing that there is no constancy in values. This foundationless worldview led inevitably to nihilism. Current post-modern thought borrows heavily from Nietzsche’s philosophical denial of absolute truth. Kuyper responds to this Nietzschean post-modern thought by asserting that man cannot understand reality in a world relegated to autonomous or subjective thinking.[10] Only Christianity can make sense of reality. As Van Til rightly observes in so far as “…the believer and the non-believer, are epistemologically self-conscious and as such engaged in the interpretative enterprise, they cannot be said to have any fact in common.”[11]

The 16th century experienced a revival of Biblical thought. The vast abuse of Roman Catholicism awoke the general public to ask “What doth the Lord say?” in contrast to “What does Rome require?” Hence, through the works of the feisty German monk, Martin Luther, a Reformation was under way. Luther challenged Romanism in many ways, but reserved his main critique for the theological and ecclesiastical realm. Thus, Luther challenged Rome’s view of the Eucharist, the Magistrate, and Soteriology.[12] The 16th century Reformation was not confined merely to Luther’s critique. Calvin–after Luther–also challenged Rome’s dogma. However, unlike Luther, Calvin’s challenge went beyond the ecclesiastical and theological. Kuyper boldly asserts that: “Calvinism is the highest form of development reached by the religious and political principle in the 16th century.”[13] Kuyper notes further that “… Calvinism put its impress in and outside the Church upon every department of human life.”[14] Herein lays a crucial virtue of Calvinism in the Reformation era: Calvinism taught the people of God how to live in and outside the Church. In stark opposition to Rome, which emphasized man’s ability to come to God, [15]Calvinism taught that “the whole of a man’s life is to be lived as in the Divine Presence.”[16] This Divine Presence enabled the Christian to live in submission to God. The Divine Presence is that “hidden force,” which Calvin referred to as the work of the Spirit. It is through this presence that the Christian depends on to live a holy life before the world in all that he does. Calvinism, thus, embraces an all encompassing worldview. It is both divine and human; a perfect harmony made in heaven. In one of Kuyper’s most quoted examples of the magnitude of Christ’s Lordship he writes: “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!'”[17]


[1] Bratt, James. Dutch Calvinism in Modern America. Wipf and Stock; original Eerdmans (1984). Also see Bratt’s A Centennial Reader.[2] Pork, Cornelis. Neo-Calvinism. Online. November, 1995. First appeared in the Reformed Theological Journal.http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?76

Cornelis Pork contrasts Neo-Calvinism with Classical Calvinism by asserting that Neo-Calvinists have externalized the internal religion of Martin Luther. In Neo-Calvinistic thought there is a greater interest in cultural engagement, unlike in Lutheran thought. In the words of J. Aalders: “Kuyper with his lop-sided emphasis on culture and social involvement has contributed greatly to what he calls the externalisation of the doctrines of grace.” My response is that Aalders’ understanding of Kuyper is misguided. Kuyper, too, cared deeply about Christian piety, though he believed piety had been used as an excuse for cultural retreat. Among Kuyper’s classic works on Christian Piety is: “To Be Near Unto God.” In contrast, Classical Calvinism was much more concerned about the internal cry of the soul. If this distinction has any credit, than Classical Calvinism is much more Lutheran than Calvinistic.

[3] Bratt, James, ed. Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998. pg.1.

[4] Though Calvinism a Life-System will be the main focus, I will also draw on other lectures and resources to enrich this brief study.

[5] Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1931. pg. 11

[6] Ibid. 11.

[7] The Arminian thought– no matter in what religion it was found-sought to uphold man’s knowledge above God’s. This is a crucial point in the apologetic endeavor. The question that must be answered is “How does man know God?” The Thomistic tradition exalted man’s knowledge. Aquinas believed-like Aristotle-that human knowledge is like a blank tablet. Humanity is to write upon that tablet on the basis of his knowledge and intellectual prowess. Calvinistic thought, on the other hand, believes that the human heart is in need of regeneration. The human heart indeed cannot have true knowledge of God apart from a work of divine grace.

[8] Lectures on Calvinism, pg. 17.

[9] See page 25 of Lectures on Calvinism for a lengthier discussion of the Divine Presence.

[10] In this case I do not wish to minimize some of the positive emphasis of post-modernity-however one wishes to define that concept. Rather, I speak of secularistic post-modernity.

[11] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 5.

[12] Undoubtedly, Luther challenged much more; nevertheless, three elements form the center of Luther’s criticism.

[13] Kuyper, pg.14.

[14] Kuyper, pg. 23

[15] This ability came mainly through ecclesiastical mediation. Tetzel claimed that if the people would give to Rome, they would then diminish their time in Purgatory.

[16] Kuyper, pg. 25.

[17] Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488. Quote from Kuyper’s inaugural address at the dedication of the Free University of Amsterdam.

Calvinism: A Comprehensive Worldview

Calvinism, from its earliest days, has expressed a comprehensive worldview. This does not mean that Calvinism has developed a distinctly Christian identity in every area; neither does it mean that the area Calvinism claims has been fully faithful to Biblical revelation. auge-kleiner.jpgThere has certainly been much abuse by those implementing Calvinism into certain areas of culture. Nevertheless, this does not change the thesis that an exhaustive worldview in a Calvinistic framework requires absolute Lordship in every area, though not every area is covered with absolute Lordship in a praxis (practical) sort of way. Finally, it is the proposition that only Calvinism offers a Biblical approach to the world, though its outworking may not always be as pristine as one may imagine.

Other systems of thought do not wish to make their worldviews comprehensive. Rather, they are satisfied with limiting their worldview to a particular manifestation of the kingdom, such as the church, or even worst, they equate the church with the kingdom. By doing so, they argue that only the church and its peculiar theology is to be transformed. This is the reason you will find many in this tradition seeking to diminish the influence of other churches in the world or they will condemn certain ecclesiastical practices.[1] They do this, not out of envy (though this may play a part in any tradition), but out of concern for purity. Denominations that adopt such attitude are generally small in membership. Some in fact, even pride in their size, because “smallness” equals “purer.”[2]

But what is the cause of this way of thinking?

Any student of the Reformation history will conclude that Lutheranism has been highly influential in developing this thinking, even outside its own tradition. Lutheranism tends to be highly critical of a worldview thinking that goes beyond ecclesiology. It is not the influence and greatness of Luther that is in question, but rather his particular theology that excluded cultural engagement as a means of redeeming society. As Abraham Kuyper summarized:

Lutheranism restricted itself to an exclusively ecclesiastical and theological character, while Calvinism put its impress in and outside the Church upon every department of human life. Hence Lutheranism is nowhere spoken of as the creator of a peculiar life-form; even the name of “Lutheranism” is hardly ever mentioned; while students of history with increasing unanimity recognize Calvinism as the creator of a world of human life entirely its own.[3]

It is an explicit Calvinism that gives impetus to societal transformation, for catholicity, and for ecclesiastical purity. The church is only pure when it is not abandoning its covenantal responsibilities (Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 5:14-16).


[1] Those who embrace a robust Calvinism will also condemn dangerous and compromising practices in various Christian churches, though the difference is, they will not make it their primary goal.

[2] This is not always the case, but case after case proves this rule. This is not to say that all small denominations hold to this position, but it is to say that small denominations who have been around for over 30-100 years share in an implicit anti-Calvinism in their worldview.

[3] Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1931. pg. 23.

Living with a computer

Neil Postman, Jerry Mander oldcomputer.jpgand Wendell Berry, certainly have made powerful contributions to the devastating effects of technology in our world today. It is indisputable that our children are less interested in reading and in old fashioned research.1

I was born in the late seventies and by the time I was old enough to touch a keyboard, the computer industry had grown fairly large and advanced. But for those like James Fallows who still remember his first experience with a keyboard and a screen, I confess, I thank God for my old PC. James wrote the following in 1982:

I skip past the day during which I thought the computer didn’t work at all (missing fuse) and the week or two it took me to understand all the moves The Electric Pencil could make. From that point on, I knew there was a heaven.

What was so exciting? Merely the elimination of all drudgery, except for the fundamental drudgery of figuring out what to say, from the business of writing. The process works this way.

When I sit down to write a letter or start the first draft of an article, I simply type on the keyboard and the words appear on the screen. For six months, I found it awkward to compose first drafts on the computer. Now I can hardly do it any other way. It is faster to type this way than with a normal typewriter, because you don’t need to stop at the end of the line for a carriage return (the computer automatically “wraps” the words onto the next line when you reach the right-hand margin), and you never come to the end of the page, because the material on the screen keeps sliding up to make room for each new line. It is also more satisfying to the soul, because each maimed and misconceived passage can be made to vanish instantly, by the word or by the paragraph, leaving a pristine green field on which to make the next attempt.2

Footnotes

  1. Remember the good ol’ days of unadulterated library research; no internet involved; just you and 15 books in a pile [ back]
  2. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for directing me to this article [ back]

Reviewing “A Good Year”

10m.jpgLast night I had the pleasantness of enjoying Russel Crowe in another superb performance. Granted, my level of criticism tends to be diminished when Crowe plays in most movies. Perhaps I expect too much out of Hollywood, so when “Cinderella Man” comes out, one cannot but cherish family values and the strength of a man to see that his family is provided for in every way.

“A Good Year” has a different focus altogether. It blends well the French and English cultures, fine wine (and not so fine) and cigars. The beautiful and the horrendous (the vineyard keeper). Russel Crowe is a savvy stock market investor who lives for the glory of fame. One day he receives a letter informing that his uncle has died. His uncle Henry was all that he ever considered dear in his young years. Due to selfishness and greed, Max (Russel Crowe) has not spoken to his uncle in a decade. He now returns to Provence to sell the old house where so many memories were made. Nevertheless, his primary intention is to sell the house (which includes the vineyard) his uncle left him (or so he thinks) and make a decent profit from it. But something extraordinary happens when he encounters the beat-up land. It is remarkable how much the director emphasizes taste, smell, and beauty. The character’s virtu (not virtue) is revealed little by little and adds comical scenes in their wine tasting adventures. There is something redeemable in every character though the eye may not see in the beginning.

What to look for in this movie? Look for the art, wine, flowers, trees, the city of Provence, French culture as contrasted to London’s culture, look for a man finding meaning.

How does this movie portray a Biblical worldview? Crowe’s character comes to a stark realization that all that he has worked for has been in vain. The question arises: “What shall I do if I gain London, but lose love?” There are distinctly and implicitly Christian motifs throughout the movie. The Artistic element itself ought to arouse wonder.

What is Unbiblical about this movie? Be aware of some subtle and some explicit sexual language. Some of that did not enhance the movie’s goal, others revealed the characters a bit more.