by The Laymens Lounge
KUYPER WAS A SAINT & SINNER
The Laymen’s Lounge website and podcast hypes Abraham Kuyper a lot and that is intentional. Kuyper was, as we see from his biographer and contemporaries, a bit of a chump (just like me and just like you!), but the Lord was pleased to use him in my own Christian life. Kuyper’s neo-Calvinism has caused me to be stoked on this faith of ours.
A TRUNCATED CHRISTIANITY
I grew up in the SBC thinking the telos of Christianity was merely a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, and I thought the Christian life was sin-management and mass-evangelism (which sucked because I didn’t think the Gospel was truly “good” news, but I thought I had to be busy, busy, busy to be a good Christian). It seemed that my faith only had to do with like 10% of my life (and that was my afterlife). I thought to be a serious Christian meant either being a pastor or giving my money to pastors.
I wanted all of my life to matter to God, and not just times of praying or reading Christian books or going to Church. Yet it seemed the only thing I could do to make Christianity a “bigger” part of my life was to do various “spiritual disciplines.” How could I make the normal things of my life, like my job, my family, drinking cold beer, BBQing, sleeping, watching baseball, riding horses, shooting the breeze with my neighbors, doing cannonballs in the pool, etc. matter on the Kingdom? What hath a cold beer to do with Jesus (other than “don’t get drunk you sinner!”)?
I WAS A DARK KNIGHT OF THE SOUL CHRISTIAN
In an attempt to scratch this itch, I read every Theological book I could get my hands on. But the more reading I did the more jaded I became – I was “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” All I knew to do was, I thought, stay busy and talk about Jesus, so I’d pummel my poor wife about Theological concepts that neither one of us cared about. She was miserable because I was miserable. She called me a “dark-knight-of-the-soul Christian.” Damn she was right. That time in my life sucked. Truncated Christianity is hell.
ENTER JON TYSON > KUYPER > CRAIG BARTHOLOMEW > JOY
Somehow, I happened upon a book by Jon Tyson called “A Creative Minority: Influencing Culture Through Redemptive Participation” and I lost my mind. I forgot exactly what I read in there, I think it was a nuanced doctrine of creation and the cultural mandate, but whatever it was it hit the switch. The coin dropped. I called my PCA pastor-friend to see if he could shed some light. While on the phone he mentioned the words “cultural mandate.” I then took to Google and found our boy Abraham Kuyper’s “Stone Lectures.” It was boring but my mind and heart were blown. I then read Craig Bartholomew’s “Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction.” It was official: I became a card-carrying Neo-Calvinist and a happy Christian. “All of life redeemed” indeed.
Why didn’t anybody ever tell me that my story didn’t begin with the fall (that I am a sinner!), and it doesn’t end with me floating in the clouds in a boring disembodied heaven?
It turns out, there’s a “history of redemption”, and it unfolds in (some would say) “4 acts” of 1. creation then 2. the fall and then 3. redemption and then 4. restoration. Restoration was pure bliss, but it was creation that changed everything. It was in the first few chapters of Genesis in the creation account where I saw what a truly spiritual life looked like. It looked like getting married, having some babies, picking some oranges off a tree, and squeezing them to make some orange juice. It looked like digging down in Eden and extracting some gold to make my wife a ring. It looked like me reflecting the image of God by naming things filling things and expanding Eden with God. It looked like us imaging our creative and legit God in this space He created. Ahhhh, even as I type it now, I have such joy that true spirituality could be digging or working and never once forcing a “spiritual conversation.”
EXAMPLE: TRUE SPIRITUALITY IS NOT PEEING ON THE TOILET SEAT
It all became very real and embodied one day at my mundane job. There was a public restroom, I went in, I took a pee, and I peed on the toilet seat a lil’ (as my wife will tell you I’m prone to do). I thought “I should wipe this pee off.” And it was at that moment I realized, based upon my neo-Calvinism clarity, that something shifted. The old me would have had this conversation in my mind: “I should wipe this pee off because what if someone is out there and they come in after me and they will be like ‘whoa, you are such a good person, you wiped the pee off!’ and I would say ‘Yea! It’s because I’m a Christian and you should be one too because then you don’t have to go to hell!’” That’s how I thought Christianity functioned and informed my life. But instead, this time, my reasoning was different and compelling: I thought “I should wipe this pee off. If I was in the garden, or the new heavens and new earth, there would be no pee on the toilet seat. I wasn’t created to pee on the seat nor were people created to to sit on my pee.” And so right then and there, in the face of God – with nobody watching, in a mighty act of worship, I wiped the pee off the toilet seat. It was one of the first Christian things I have ever done without whack motives.
CHRISTINITY IS FOR HUMANS
Craig Bartholomew will often harken back to what Hans Rookmaaker questioned his students asking “What is Christianity for?” Rookmaaker would answer saying it’s “to make you fully you.” I’m no longer trying to rope people into the mint, the dill and the cumin and get them burdened with mere “Christian activity” (for the sake of being busy), but instead I’m excited to help people simply be the humans they were created to be. “The glory of God is man fully alive” indeed.
If you wonder why I sell stickers of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, or why I dedicate so much time and energy to Kuyper, I hope you see its because to talk of Kuyper, of Bavinck and of neo-Calvinism is to open the door to Jesus. How about this quote from Bavinck:
“[It’s] not the head but it’s the heart that is the center of man. There he dwells himself; this is his inner chamber; in the heart, man is first honest with himself. The head is the entrance and the waiting room; the heart is the temple, the sanctuary of man.”
And so, I bid you, go and read Kuyper and perhaps the Lord will be pleased to use him in your own life as well to see that all of life belongs to Him and its actually pretty awesome.