Abraham Kuyper and the Brexistential Crisis

 

This article was published in Pro Ministerio, a Dutch magazine for Reformed ministers, in a special issue on Abraham Kuyper – who is undergoing something of a renaissance in (at least some) Dutch Reformed circles. I was asked to write a piece on Kuyper from a Scottish perspective, particularly with a view to how Kuyper might be interesting within Scottish culture.

In summary: the article is about how Brexit, and especially the phenomenon of Brexistential crisis, changed the way I thought about Kuyper in a Scottish context. The article sets out that this crisis has to be viewed in relation to the modern self – which is driven to create its own identity and environment, and which, for most Scots, has been severely frustrated by Brexit. It views the experience of Brexistential crisis as another example of a world experienced by its inhabitants as a kind of postmodern chaos, and against that backdrop, it tries to bring Kuyper’s view of the Lordship of Christ to bear on how Scottish Reformed Christians might think about their place in a frustrated and frustrating culture.

Thanks to Pro Ministerio‘s editor Mark Veurink, for granting permission to reproduce the article here.

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Herman Bavinck’s ‘My Journey to America’

My translation of Herman Bavinck’s (short) book, Mijne reis naar Amerika, is now available in Dutch Crossing: Journal for Low Countries Studies (Taylor and Francis).

‘Herman Bavinck’s ‘My Journey to America’

Bavinck travelled to North America in 1892. Although travel journals were relatively commonplace in late nineteenth century Europe (Bavinck’s colleague Abraham Kuyper also published a book, Varia Americana, on his own travels around America), Bavinck’s observations on American culture are fascinating for three reasons. Continue reading

Steve Bishop’s Mind-maps of Trinity and Organism

It’s very nice if you write a detailed (and in places complex) academic work, and later find someone who has actually read it, who has done so with care, and has made a serious effort to take in its flow of ideas: how do the contents progress? How do its ideas develop, and in what order? Who are the key figures? What are the important dates in understanding the context?

One blogger, Steve Bishop, has gone further than most in producing mind-maps for each chapter of Trinity and Organism.

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Thanks Steve! These are fantastic. They look more like neurons than maps, which fits perfectly with the point made in the book (that Bavinck’s thought is profoundly marked by the organic nature of his ideas and their interrelationships).

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On choosing a theologian

In response to my earlier post On training as a systematic theologian, DTKLeven asked:

How would you recommend one go about choosing which master to apprentice under?

I don’t think there is one definitive answer to this. Here, though, are my initial thoughts based on the model of training in systematic theology outlined previously (that prior to writing one’s own constructive systematics, there is much worth in a period, as a PhD student and early career academic, spent interpreting the works of another established theologian): Continue reading

On theology and language learning

Theology, done well, addresses the whole person: body, soul, affections, desires, virtues, faults, history, present and destiny. It also addresses all of human life and culture. It was only with hindsight that I began to see the shape that theology itself gave my own studies while a seminarian. In learning to be a theologian, I learned to be a historian, a constructive systematician, a reader of ancient texts (in their original languages), an interpreter of those texts and a translator of those languages, a preacher, a pastor, an analyst of culture(s), a writer, and many other things. Or at least, I started trying to learn those things. Continue reading

How should theologians speak?

Theologians spend a great deal of time considering what they have to say. How should we give account of particular doctrines, their distinctive content and relationships to each other? A separate issue, one that receives far less attention, concerns not what theologians should say, but rather, how they ought to say it. The particular tone of voice used by the theologian in speaking theologically is an area quite distinct from the positive content of theology itself.

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On training as a systematic theologian

I’m currently writing a (now long overdue) review essay of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology for the Expository TimesOne of the book’s more unusual features, within the realm of systematic theologies at least, is the author’s frank admission that he is not a systematic theologian by training.

Another confession that I have to make is that I am not by speciality a systematic theologian. I cut my scholarly teeth in the realm of biblical studies. I’ve worked in areas as diverse as the historical Jesus, Synoptic Gospels, the life of Paul, New Testament theology, Second Temple literature, and textual criticism, and I have even written a commentary on 1 Esdras based exclusively on codex Vaticanus. Not exactly the standard training ground for a systematician, who is supposed to do a mandatory PhD on Karl Barth and thereafter write a postdoctoral tome on something like divine aseity and divine freedom, enhypostasis versus anhypostasis, or sexual repression in Augustine’s sermons (not my bag unfortunately).

– Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, 25.

In comparison to this, I suppose my training in systematics has followed a more conventional path: as a seminarian I watched in awe as Donald Macleod constructed a living systematic theology before our eyes. Then followed the ‘mandatory’ systematics PhD (albeit not on Barth), a monograph based on my dissertation, a postdoc at a continental European university, and now my current lectureship, with its ongoing research and teaching.

Continue reading