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In two words, “sphere sovereignty.” That Craig Bartholomew, in Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition, has a full chapter on Kuyperian sphere sovereignty shows (to me at least) his attunement to the issues still alive today but also to the issues Kuyper himself was facing.
First, the context for Kuyper’s theory of sphere sovereignty:
Background - Kuyper - Concept - Sovereignty - Reconstruction
The overwhelming background of Kuyper’s concept of sphere sovereignty is the reconstruction of nations and societies that developed out of the Enlightenment. [revolutionary starting all over again] … Their challenge was to develop an alternative, modern, Christian philosophy of society, and this culminated in the doctrine of sphere sovereignty (132).
Bartholomew then discusses Johannes Althusius, Friedrich Julius Stahl (denies state absolutism) and then Groen van Prinsterer (with an echo or two of Francke in Germany’s Lutheran pietism). Again at issue is the authority of man and reason in the revolutionary spirit of the age; the counter was the authority of Scripture, gospel and church. This sets the stage for Kuyper and Dutch Calvinism, a kind of worldview still very attractive to many in the USA.
Prinsterer - Summary - Bartholomew - Themes - Kuyper
On Prinsterer, this summary from Bartholomew, with important themes for comprehending Kuyper himself:
As a good Calvinist, for Groen van Prinsterer God is sovereign, and all authority comes from him and should be subject to him. He remained a monarchist and advocated against separating church and state. He did not emphasize distinct spheres over against the state. He defended some autonomy in the lower spheres but viewed society as a hierarchy around the central organ of the state. In his battle for education reform, he stressed the rights of parents and sought to decentralize control of schools, arguing for the control of provinces and local communities as opposed to central government; he did not, however, recognize the nonpolitical character of family life and education (137).
The crucial section...
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