Free to Perish

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

A fish lying on dry land is perfectly free, viz., to die and to perish, while a fish, which really shall be free to live and to thrive must be entirely surrounded by water and guided by its fins.


Faith and Science

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

Notice that I do not speak of a conflict between faith and science. Such a conflict does not exist. Every science in a certain degree starts from faith, and, on the contrary, faith, which does not lead to science, is mistaken faith or superstition, but real, genuine faith it is not. Every science presupposes faith in self, in our self-7554743_origconsciousness; presupposes faith in the accurate working of our senses; presupposes faith in the correctness of the laws of thought; presupposes faith in something universal hidden behind the special phenomena; presupposes faith in life; and especially presupposes faith in the principles, from which we proceed; which signifies that all these indispensable axioms, needed in a productive scientific investigation, do not come to us by proof, but are established in our judgment by our inner conception and given with our self-consciousness.

Hence it follows that the conflict is not between faith and science, but between the assertion that the cosmos, as it exists today, is either in a normal or abnormal condition. If it is normal, then it moves by means of an eternal evolution from its potencies to its ideal. But if the cosmos in its present condition is abnormal, then a disturbance has taken place in the past, and only a regenerating power can warrant it the final attainment of its goal.

For the Sake of God

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

Men are religious in order to conjure the spirits hovering behind the veil of Nature, to free themselves from the oppressive sway of the cosmos. It matters not whether the Lama priest confines the evil spirits in his jugs, whether the nature-gods of the Orient are invoked to afford shelter against the forces of nature, whether the loftier gods of Greece are worshipped in their ascendency above nature, or whether, finally, idealistic philosophy presents the spirit of man himself as the real object of adoration;—in all these different forms it is and remains a religion fostered for man’s sake, aiming at his safety, his liberty, his elevation, and partly also at his triumph over death. And even when a religion of this kind has developed itself into monotheism, the god whom it worships remains invariably a god who exists in order to help man, in order to secure good order and tranquility for the State, to furnish assistance and deliverance in time of need, or to strengthen the nobler and higher impulse of the human heart in its ceaseless struggle with the degrading influences of sin. The consequence of this is that all such religion thrives in time of famine and pestilence, it flourishes among the poor and oppressed, and it expands among the humble and the feeble; but it pines away in the days of prosperity, it fails to attract the well-to-do, it is abandoned by those who are more highly cultured.

As soon as the more civilized classes enjoy tranquility and comfort, and by the progress of science feel more and more delivered from the pressure of the cosmos, they throw away the crutches of religion, and with a sneer at everything holy go stumbling forward on their own poor legs. This is the fatal end of egoistic religion;—it becomes superfluous and disappears as soon as the egoistic interests are satisfied. This was the course of religion among all non-Christian nations, in earlier times, and the same phenomenon is repeating itself in our own century, among nominal Christians of the higher, more prosperous and more cultured classes of society. Now the position of Calvinism is diametrically opposed to all this. It does not deny that religion has also its human and subjective side; it does not dispute the fact that religion is promoted, encouraged and strengthened by our disposition to seek help in time of need and spiritual elevation in the face of sensual passions; but it maintains that it reverses the proper order of things to seek, in these accidental motives, the essence and the very purpose of religion. The Calvinist values all of these as fruits which are produced by religion, or as props which gave it support, but he refuses to honor them as the reason for its existence. Of course, religion, as such, produces also a blessing for man, but it does not exist for the sake of man. It is not God who exists for the sake of His creation;—the creation exists for the sake of God. For, as the Scripture says, He has created all things for Himself.

Fundamental Questions

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

Here four mutually dependent fundamental questions arise:

  1. Does Religion exist for the sake of God, or for Man?
  2. Must it operate directly or mediately?
  3. Can it remain partial in its operations or has it to embrace the whole of our personal being and existence?
  4. Can it bear a normal, or must it reveal an abnormal, i.e., a soteriological character?

To these four questions Calvinism answers:

  1. Man’s religion ought to be not egotistical, and for man, but ideal, for the sake of God.
  2. It has to operate not mediately, by human interposition, but directly from the heart.
  3. It may not remain partial, as running alongside of life, but must lay hold upon our whole existence.
  4. Its character should be soteriological, i.e., it should spring, not from our fallen nature, but from the new man, restored by palingenesis to his original standard.

The Restoration of the Cosmos

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

– Revelation 21:1

The Apocalypse returns to the starting-point of Gen. 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In keeping with this, the final outcome of the future, foreshadowed in the Holy Scriptures, is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all under the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.