Kuyper, Abraham. Pro Rege volume 1. Lexham Press. Kindle.
This book falls under the category of “Good Kuyper.” This is the Kuyper of the antithesis, not the abstracted Kuyper of common grace (though, admittedly, elements of the latter are present). The book begins on a strange note: The Dutch Empire and Islam. Kuyper remarks that the Queen of the Netherlands ruled over more Muslims than she did Christians. Kuyper saw the writing on the wall: no longer could anyone pretend to be a “Christian Netherlands.” How are you going to enforce Article 36 of the Belgic Confession? How can you have a Christian voice in society without committing to either theocracy of secularism?
This book is a series of meditations on Christ’s kingship. It is not sustained analysis. Kuyper analyzes Christ’s kingship according to his exaltation and its operation. Of particular importance is Kuyper’s analysis of the spirit realm. Granted, our understanding of ancient near eastern texts and languages is much more sophisticated today, and there are some things Kuyper couldn’t have known, but still–he was probably the most insightful prior to recent developments. He writes, “Nothing has done more damage to the church’s confession of Jesus’s kingship than the marked increase in indifference towards the spirit world, whether toward angels or demons” (loc. 427).
Christ as Organic Head
Kuyper has received a lot of unnecessary (and often inept) criticism on his use of organic metaphors. Supposedly this is “pantheism” or “Hegelianism” or some rot. It’s biblical. It’s John 15. Kuyper writes, “The Head of the body is a mystical-organic concept, and it points to the organic communion of those who are one in faith, hope, and love” (loc. 1015). While there is an external aspect of his work (preaching of the gospel and a righteousness extra nos), there is an organic aspect: we really are connected to each other via our head.
Something that arises from the very processes of life is organic. Now, if Kuyper is arguing that Christ arises from the human processes of life, and only that, then yes, he is a pantheist. But that is specifically not what he is arguing. Christ’s organic kingship will one day organically communicate itself to us that we will be kings and reign with him (5348).
The Typology of the World City
Kuyper read the signs of the times and saw a systematic darkening of culture. This is manifested in the “world cities,” which in themselves focus the evil. By rejecting the unity of Christ, it seeks a unity of its own (loc. 1750). These are antitypes of Babylon.
What Kind of King?
Evidently Kuyper was already familiar with the false spiritualism of “not of this world.” While it is true that his kingdom is not earthly, the contrast, spiritual, does not mean something nebulous like “gushy pious thoughts.” It means, but not limited to, power of the spirit realm and revelation of knowledge. Echoing George Gillespie, Kuyper rightly argues that political authority does not flow from Christ as mediator, but from God in creation (loc. 2240).
The Essence of Dominion Man
Kuyper, anticipating Klaas Schilder, links man’s essence with dominion and the royal charter (2515).
While he is a cessationist, Kuyper pushes back against the claim “Miracles don’t real no more.” On a more serious note, Kuyper, following the New Testament, notes that Christ’s power to do miracles usually stems from his human nature, not his divine. That’s why he did stuff “in the power of the Spirit.” Indeed, “it remained a human power to the very end” (2914).
While Kuyper is most famous for common grace, and I think that eventually dooms his project, he makes a very pertinent observation that undoes his whole take on common grace: “there is a process that grows in intensity. Similar events return again and again, but every time they return, the same struggle manifests itself with increasing ferocity. The outpouring of God’s wrath begins” (7829). In other words, the eschatological war against the wicked is intensifying in history. Gary North and Klaas Schilder could have written that exact paragraph.
We commend Lexham Press for getting this in English. We further commend them for making it easily accessible at $5.99 on Kindle. We don’t agree with everything Kuyper said. But this is a pretty good volume. My main criticism is that it is too wordy. Some chapters probably could be excised and others could be shorter.