Religion & Liberty Online

Kuyper the anti-revolutionary

Abraham Kuyper knew that revolutions almost always make life worse, says WORLD magazine’s Marvin Olasky:

Theologically, Kuyper followed John Calvin and other Reformers. Politically, he said government must not obstruct proclamation of the gospel, promote a counter-gospel, take away religious freedom, or coerce conscience. Reliance on central government “begets a slow process of dissolution that cannot but end in the demoralization of government and people alike.”

Kuyper’s alternative was “sphere sovereignty.” That meant leaders in education, business, religion, media, and other areas should have authority within their domains and not depend on government, which is one sphere among others. Kuyper first proposed “Christian-historical”—the equivalent of “evangelical” today—as the name for his theological and political position. Then he decided that was vague, so he switched to “Anti-revolutionary.” Kuyper attacked “the attempt to change totally how a person thinks and how he lives, to change his head and his heart, his home and his country … and so to lead us to a complete emancipation from the sovereign claims of Almighty God.”

“Anti-revolutionary” was not the same as “conservative,” because some things should not be conserved, but Kuyper knew that revolutions almost always make life worse. Anti-rev is also very different from antifa.

Olasky also recommends three of Kuyper’s writings that were newly translated and published by the Acton Institute and Lexham Press: Pro Rege, Our Program, and Common Grace.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).