Reformational Philosophy

Abraham Kuyper on science, theology and university

This article analyzes Kuyper’s theory of science in the light of his neo-Calvinist worldview. First we discuss his thesis that there is an inner connection between faith and science. Tensions become visible between a reformational and a scholastic line of thought (1-4). The next part deals with the humanities and theology. Kuyper turns out to have been influenced by the scholastic Logos theory, yet in theology he also defends the idea of a correlation between faith and revelation (5-7). The third part focuses on the self-organization of the sciences in the university. It shows how Kuyper’s doctrine of sphere sovereignty leads to “Free Universities” independent of church and state (8–10). The final part is a critical evaluation pointing up four challenges in Kuyper’s theory of science. They concern the mediating role of worldviews, the need for a transcendental hermeneutics, the concept of transformation in science and the importance of a correlative theology based on creation (11-15).

 

Whoever “speaks” of Kuyper speaks of Calvinism. And whoever speaks of Calvinism risks falling directly into error. In our day and age we are easily inclined to associate Calvinism with a certain type of church organization, church confession or theology. We think for instance of the Reformed- Presbyterian church order, of the Westminster Confession of Faith, or of the theological doctrine of predestination. For Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) these were all a part of Calvinism, to be sure. Yet for him the scope of the label extended much further. He presented Calvinism as a comprehensive vision, even as a renewed shaping of Christianity derived from biblical revelation. And it was to his mind the sixteenth-century reformers, Calvin in particular, that put this global vision front and center.

 

Read the whole article in our magazine Philosophia Reformata 2013/1.

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