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.

ProMinisterio, page 1

ProMinisterio, page 2

ProMinisterio 1ProMinisterio 2

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On publishing theological translations

Before moving into my lectureship at New College, I spent three years in the Netherlands, where I worked at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen. When I arrived there, I had finished my PhD on Bavinck, which meant I had a good reading knowledge of late nineteenth century theological Dutch. My spoken Dutch was much more limited: I could work through complex technical material (although I had never heard much of it pronounced), but my everyday vocabulary and range of expression were not extensive. My early attempts to converse dried up quickly and required a lot of patience from my Dutch conversation partners (bedankt voor jullie geduld, Marinus en Wolter!).

Three years in a Dutch university context transformed that. I seized every opportunity to improve my Dutch: I went to language classes, absolutely refused to speak English to my colleagues, watched Dutch TV, read Dutch newspapers, read a lot of Dutch theologians (in Dutch) other than Bavinck, went to Dutch church services (twice!) every Sunday, and got to know our Dutch neighbours. At the end of my first year there, I gave my first public lectures in Dutch, and started to preach in Dutch church services. By the end of my time in Kampen, my home life was in a mix of English and Gaelic, but the rest of my life took place in Dutch. It became comforting and familiar – almost like a second mother-tongue, something I could play with and enjoy. It became a big part of my identity and experience. When I first returned to Edinburgh, I felt bereft of the language. I remember the palpable sense of relief upon meeting a Dutch postgrad and being able to have a long conversation in Dutch. Continue reading “On publishing theological translations”

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 “On theology and language learning”

A short story: This is Home (Dit is thuis)

For those who don’t read Dutch: hover your cursor over the Dutch text, and an English translation will be summoned.

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My feet lingered before the yellow line. The line always made me nervous, as though I would be turned away. We made eye contact as I came forward. “Good afternoon, sir.” He looked up and down. I didn’t have a beard in the passport photo. I had considered shaving it just to make this encounter less awkward, but it seemed irrational to throw away ten months of growth, for whatever minimal effect it might have on the immigration officer. I was just being paranoid, I knew. An American of good standing shouldn’t expect problems at a European passport control. “Goedemiddag, meneer. Waarom bent u hier?” “I am here to study.” He compared my bearded and shaven faces. “Welkom. Gaat uw gang.” Continue reading “A short story: This is Home (Dit is thuis)”