Notable Quotation: Abraham Kuyper’s Prophecy of the 20th Century

Notable Quotation: Abraham Kuyper’s Prophecy of the 20th Century

I recently finished reading Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism for the first time. If you’re not familiar with the man, I’ve put a brief bio below. The reason I’m posting this extensive quote is because when I read it, it blew me away. The lectures were given in 1898 at the seminary my wife and I attended, Westminster in Philadelphia. What astounded me was his prophetic prediction the 20th century, and how the coming destruction was well under way by the end of the 19th century. He saw with an amazingly astute moral clarity, the rise of a noxious secularism, and the sad and bloody demise of Christian Western civilization in the 20th century. As he lived through World War I, he experienced the beginning of the end in his lifetime. Reading him is not easy, but it is very much worth the effort. 


After this manner, then, we in Europe at least, have arrived at what is called modern life, involving a radical breach with the Christian traditions of the Europe of the past. The spirit of this modern life is most clearly marked by the fact that it seeks the origin of man not in creation after the image of God, but in evolution from the animal. Two fundamental ideas are clearly implied in this:

  1. that the point of departure is no longer the ideal or the divine, but the material and the low;
  2. that the sovereignty of God, which ought to be supreme, is denied, and man yields himself to the mystical current of an endless process a regressus and processus in infinitum.

Out of the root of these two fertile ideas a double type of life is now being evolved. On the one hand the interesting, rich, and highly organized life of University circles, attainable by the more refined minds only; and at the side of this, or rather far beneath it, a materialistic life of the masses, craving after pleasure, but, in their own way, also taking their point of departure in matter, and likewise, but after their own cynical fashion, emancipating themselves from all fixed ordinances. Especially in our ever-expanding large cities this second type of life is gaining the upper hand, overriding the voice of the country districts, and is giving a shape to public opinion, which avows its ungodly character more openly in each successive generation.

Money, pleasure, and social power, these alone are the objects of pursuit; and people are constantly growing less fastidious regarding the means employed to secure them. Thus, the voice of conscience becomes less and less audible, and duller the luster of the eye which on the eve of the French Revolution still reflected some gleam of the ideal. The fire of all higher enthusiasm has been quenched, only the dead embers remain. In the midst of the weariness of life, what can restrain the disappointed from taking refuge in suicide? Deprived of the wholesome influence of rest, the brain is over-stimulated and over-exerted till the asylums are no longer adequate for housing the insane.

Whether property be not synonymous with theft, becomes a more and more seriously mooted question. That life ought to be freer and marriage less binding, is being accepted more and more on an established proposition. The cause of monogamy is no longer worth fighting for, since polygamy and polyandry are being systematically glorified in all products of the realistic school of art and literature. In harmony with this, religion is, of course, declared superfluous because it renders life gloomy. But art, art above all, is in demand, not for the sake of its ideal worth, but because it pleases and intoxicates the senses.

Thus, people live in time and for temporal things, and shut their ears to the tolling of the bells of eternity. The irrepressible tendency is to make the whole view of life concrete, concentrated, practical. And out of this modernized private life there emerges a type of social and political life characterized by a decadence of parliamentarism, by an even stronger desire for a dictator, between pauperism and capitalism, whilst heavy armaments on land and on sea, even at the price of financial ruin, become the ideal of these powerful states whose craving for territorial expansion threatens the very existence of the weaker nations.

Gradually the conflict between the strong and the weak has grown to be the controlling feature of life, arising from Darwinism itself, whose central idea of a struggle for life has for its mainspring this very antithesis. Since Bismarck introduced it into higher politics, the maxim of the right of the stronger has found almost universal acceptance. The scholars and experts of our day demand with increasing boldness that the common man shall bow to their authority. And the end can only be that once more the sound principles of democracy will be banished, to make room this time not for a new aristocracy of nobler birth and higher ideals, but for the coarse and overbearing kratistocracy of a brutal money power.

Nietzsche is by no means exceptional, but proclaims as its herald the future of our modem life. And while the Christ, in divine compassion, showed heart-winning sympathy with the weak, modern life in this respect also takes the precisely opposite ground that the weak must be supplanted by the strong. Such, they tell us, was the process of selection to which we, ourselves, owe our origin, and such is the process which, in us and after us, must work itself out to its ultimate consequences.

—Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, Pages 135-137

Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) was one of the most extraordinary individuals of his time. A prolific intellectual and theologian, he founded the Free University in Amsterdam and was instrumental in the development of Neo-Calvinism. He was also an active politician, serving as a member of Parliament in the Netherlands beginning in 1874 and serving as Prime Minister from 1901 to 1905.

At this intersection of church and state, he devoted much of his writing towards developing a public theology. His passion was to faithfully understand and engage culture through a Christian worldview. The most famous example is his articulation of the doctrine of common grace. His work has influenced countless others, including Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius Van Til, and Alvin Plantinga.

Consideration of the Alternative: Putting Ourselves AND Non-Christians on the Defensive

Consideration of the Alternative: Putting Ourselves AND Non-Christians on the Defensive

I recently wrote a piece about a young man who “de-converted” from Christianity, and in it I made this assertion: “the burden of proof is on everybody!” Non-Christians attack Christianity while assuming Christians are the only ones who need to defend their beliefs. That has been the secular assumption for the last several hundred years, and by the 20th century it became the default position of secular Western culture. And we as Christians all too often play the part, accepting the assumption of the critics. We need to understand everyone, every single person, lives by faith. All people are fundamentally religious, which is one of the reasons I dislike referring to Christians as “believers” and non-Christians as “unbelievers.” There is no such thing as an unbeliever!

The question is, who’s faith is most credible, most plausible, makes the most sense, is most logical, and has the evidence to back up its claims. When secularism became the default plausibility structure of Western civilization, a world devoid of God became the most credible and plausible worldview, and made the most sense for most people (whether God exists or not is irrelevant because as I always say, there are very few philosophical atheists). Whatever they believe, most people are practical atheists, they live as if God didn’t exist.

Western culture in its many varied forms drives practical atheism, be it in education, media, entertainment, government, etc. One example from popular culture makes the point. In most of the shows and movies we watch, all in some way deal with the fallen human condition, which is why they can be so entertaining. However, most leave out the most important piece of the puzzle: God! It’s like going to the beach in the middle of the Sahara Desert; uh, there’s something missing. I can’t watch a TV show or movie where God is ignored without shouting, you’re missing the God part!!! They want me to believe human nature as we find it, as it’s being dramatized on screen, just is, no explanation required. I’m to believe, and assume, no higher answer exists to the continual conundrums that make up the human drama? Mere matter cannot explain it. As Blaise Pascal put it in his Pensées:

What kind of freak is man? What a novelty he is, how absurd he is, how chaotic and what a mass of contradictions, and yet what a prodigy! He is judge of all things, yet a feeble worm. He is repository of truth, and yet sinks into such doubt and error. He is the glory and the scum of the universe!


Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness.

As Christians we believe man became a freak, and displays such greatness and wretchedness, because he rebelled against his Creator (Genesis 3). No other religion or worldview or philosophy can explain why human beings are the way they are, why we are the way we are. Most don’t even try. That man is “the glory and the scum of the universe” just is. Deal with it. No, I won’t. I want to know not just that we are the way we are, but why. What Paul describes in Romans 7 captures it perfectly: why do I do what I don’t want to do, and don’t do what I want? I know how Paul feels:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

He gives us the answer:

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

We might call this the apologetic from human nature. I am more confident Christianity is true because human nature is what it is, exactly the way we’ve known it for thousands of years. 

As I wonder sometimes if my Christian faith is justified, if it’s true, and not a colossal multi-thousand-year scam, I always realize if it isn’t, some other alternative must be, has to be. Unlike agnostics and practical atheists, I can’t delude myself into thinking there is no non-religious sphere of existence. Some neutral place where faith is not required. So, doggone it, I need to know why man is such glory and scum, and how he get that way! Lucky dirt cannot explain Hamlet, for example, so please explain to me what can.

The beauty of the consideration of the alternative, is that in addition to being one of the most powerful strategies in Christian apologetics, it is essential for our own personal trust that Christianity is true and real and worth living and dying for. It forces us, and others, to defend the alternatives to Christianity, whatever the issue might be. We don’t just decide not to believe in Christian position X, and then believe in nothing. When we reject X, we must believe in Y, or A, B, C, D, or any other letter of the alphabet. And in case you weren’t aware, there are no in between letters in the alphabet.

It’s rather simple, really, and doesn’t require a theology degree, or masters in apologetics. If someone says they don’t believe in Christian letter R anymore (or Christianity), then we simply ask what they do believe. Then we ask, why do you believe that’s true? Then we wait. We’ll find most people have no idea why they believe what they believe, or that they even believe anything at all! They, like most every secular person, think belief is for religious folks, and since they’re not religious they’ll wonder, why you’re asking them what they believe.

For us, it works the same way. Doubt is a normal part of existence for finite creatures, and those who don’t doubt are not normal. Have you ever met someone who is six trillion on the certitude scale? It’s annoying. For instance, I might wonder if “nature” really is created by God, so I consider the alternatives. Atheistic materialism? Pantheism? Can you think of another alternative? Genesis 1 is far more plausible, especially as we continue to learn about the infinite complexity of creation. Another example is the Bible. Is it God’s inerrant, sufficient, authoritative Word to mankind? I wrote a book called Uninvented to argue that the only alternative, that it is made up, is not the least bit plausible. No matter what the topic is, the alternative to Christianity is not the least bit plausible. Ex-Atheist C.S. Lewis got it right:

I believe in Christianity like I believe the sun has risen not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Notable Quotation: Roger Kimball

Notable Quotation: Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is one of my favorite thinkers alive today. I love that he often uses really big words I’ve never heard before and have to look up, but it’s the incredible insight behind his words that impresses me most. His breadth of classical learning is amazing, which no doubt contributes to his wisdom about the nature of things. The reason for the quote below isn’t the FBI raid, which is old news now, but the second paragraph. First, it is an excellent example of the dissembling dishonesty of our cultural elites. David Brooks and the New York Times couldn’t get any more elite. Second, he exposes how dishonest and innacurate qualifiying words can so easily distort the truth.

I’ve always despised the term “social justice” because all justice is social. Mostly I despise it because of the Marxist-leftist-progressive baggage that comes with it. Christians should never use the phrase, although sadly many do, including many who should knoiw better. What he says about “absolute truth” could not be more spot on either.

It’s because he is nervous that Brooks wants us to close our eyes before he moves on to the next bit of his column. OK, maybe there is “a core of truth” to Trump’s narrative. But really—close your eyes now, and hum loudly—that narrative “simply assumes, against a lot of evidence, that the leading institutions of society are inherently corrupt, malevolent and partisan and are acting in bad faith.”


Let’s leave out “inherent,” since it’s just an unearned intensifier like “absolute” in the phrase “absolute truth,” deployed by people who want to criticize someone for believing that there is a difference between truth and falsehood. Either X is true or it is not; trying to undercut it by perpending the adjective “absolute” is akin to adding the word “social” to “justice” and then thinking you have improved on the concept of “justice.” Is “social justice” more just than plain old, unmodified justice?

— Roger Kimball – A Token of the Managerial Age Bewails Trump’s Surge: David Brooks is very worried the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago helps Trump

Uninvented: A Theology Lesson in Abhorrence, So Counter Intuitive It Must Be True

Uninvented: A Theology Lesson in Abhorrence, So Counter Intuitive It Must Be True

I recently finished reading Leviticus as I’m making my way from Genesis to Revelation. The book is fascinating in its detailed explanation of how Yahweh, the Lord, established his relationship with the people of Israel. Every word in the Bible, every jot and tittle in the KJV version, is Jesus’s declaration about the relevance of the law and its ultimate fulfillment in him. This fulfillment relates to God’s people of the covenant, those the Lord promised to Abraham’s seed, his offspring, what we now call the church. You can read about these promises in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. It is upon those promises, Paul tells us in Romans 4, that because of the integrity of Almighty God our faith thankfully rests upon him and not on us!

Which brings me to an amazing theology lesson in Leviticus 26 that is in some ways so counter intuitive to us it has to be true. What really gives it verisimilitude (the key concept in Uninvented that makes the Bible like no other ancient book) is how contrary it is to our natural inclinations and perspective on things. The theology we glean from this chapter just doesn’t seem like the way things should be.

If the Bible was made up by human beings, we would expect it to read like it was made up by human beings. It doesn’t. The Bible itself claims to be the revelation of God to man, and it reads exactly like that. The contrary, counter intuitive ideas in this chapter are a perfect example, coming in the use of the word abhor, which appears five times (and once in chapter 20). I would argue this word doesn’t show up in a fictional account of God and man, even in ancient times, in the way it does in this chapter.

The word abhor perfectly captures sinful humanity’s relationship to a holy God. To squeeze the meaning out of it, we can think of synonyms like loathe, despise, detest, hate, abominate, and other such terms of endearment. The tendency of sinful human beings is to think, you know, me and God, we’re ok. Sure, I’m not perfect and all, but really, all things considered, I’m not that bad. A question I was asked at 18 years old makes the point. Standing outside of a party with a friend, a VW Bug stopped across the street, a guy got out of the back, and walking up to us said, “If you died right now, would you go to heaven?” My reply was typically human: “Well, I guess so. I’m a pretty good guy. I go to church, and I haven’t killed anybody.” Now that’s a high bar, isn’t it! Until God transforms our hearts from spiritual stone to flesh, we have no idea just how sinful we are, and how loathsome our sin is to a holy God. Nor, in our natural sinful state how loathsome God is to us. The feeling is mutual. We can neither know or accept this apart from special revelation (God’s written word) and the Holy Spirit opening our hearts and minds.

This mutual hostility seems wrong to us. It’s sort of disturbing when we learn our Creator and we could be, literally, at war. No, that is not hyperbole. According to the Apostle Paul we are by nature, born, as objects of God’s wrath. This alienation we have with God is not a simple misunderstanding. It is, rather, an implacable hostility. Paul says in Colossians 1:21: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” The word the NIV translates as enemies is no minor thing. It is someone openly hostile (at enmity), animated by deep-seated hatred. It implies irreconcilable hostility, proceeding out of a “personal” hatred bent on inflicting harm. Is that how you think of your relationship to God apart from Christ? You should because it’s true! Without grace and God’s initiative to fundamentally change the relationship, which he did for us in Christ, there is only alienation, however it manifests itself.

I’ll leave it for you to read Leviticus 26 yourself, but we might think this mutually hostility between the gods, or God, and man was common understanding in the ancient world. Making sacrifices to the gods was after all a common practice. They had no problem believing God or the gods were angry with them. In fact, all ancient pagan religions were driven by attempts to appease the gods. That was the core of the idolatry that was Israel’s constant temptation. If the people jumped through certain hoops, then the gods would no longer be angry with them, and it would rain or the crops would be abundant, or children born, or wars won. Israel’s God, Yahweh, appeared to be the same way, except his law was much more stringent, and moral, than the pagans. Morality was basically irrelevant to pagan religion.

The radical difference was that Yahweh, the Lord, could not be appeased by sacrifice alone; obedience was required. This becomes abundantly clear in Deuteronomy, where we read of the blessings and curses, and if we’re honest it’s kind of depressing. What the Lord is commanding of the Israelites, his people, those he rescued from Egypt out of slavery “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” is perfection! No wonder we have a problematic relationship with this God. Perfection is required! Someone might say, like I did, I’m a pretty good guy, decent fellow, don’t torture cats or anything. Sorry, not good enough. If we stop at every red light our entire lives, and then run just one, we are guilty, we have broken the law. In God’s economy, one slip, and we’re out. The reason we don’t naturally like God, in fact hate him, is because he is our judge, jury, and executioner!

The answer to our dilemma is, of course, the gospel, and Deuteronomy 26 is preparation for it. In Luke 24 after Jesus was raised from the dead, he explained this:

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

The only logical explanation for the abhorrence we read in this chapter is Jesus. What appears so strange and counter intuitive, now makes perfect sense. As we say in the vernacular, you just don’t make this stuff up!


The Most Plausible Form of Christianity?

The Most Plausible Form of Christianity?

I listened to the conversation below of two young men, one who, as they call it nowadays “deconverted” from Christianity. You’ll see why that’s an inaccurate term, but I decided I was going to e-mail him (his e-mail is on his website, Counter Apologetics). The reason I am posting the e-mail here is because it’s a great object lesson for Christians living in a thoroughly secular culture.

Greetings, Emerson!

I listened to your conversation with Zac and found it fascinating. I will say right up front, I do appreciate your backhanded compliment of we Calvinists. You get our theology wrong about what God does and does not do in predestination, but at least you have a grudging respect for us:)

As I was listening, it was pretty clear what you don’t believe, but I couldn’t quite figure out what you do believe. On the Youtube page, it says you are discussing some of your biggest reasons for rejecting theism. So then, I assume you believe in atheism? And you find a God-less universe more plausible than a universe created by Almighty God? I could see that in the 19th century, and maybe into the early 20th, but a merely material universe is a much tougher sell today.

Anyway, at one point, I think you said something like you are a non-believer or unbeliever. I’m sure you realize there is no such thing as an unbeliever (a title of a future book, God willing). So, I’m curious what you actually do believe. I’ve found people who “de-convert” don’t seem to understand they are not going from belief to non-belief. Such a thing isn’t possible. They are going from one set of beliefs to another set of beliefs, just like you have. You seem far too intelligent and well-read to think you are an unbeliever, but I would be interested to hear/read you defend your current beliefs and worldview. I see you have a podcast on your website, a debate with a Catholic (I hate debates, btw) where you defend the notion that God “probably does not exist.” So, maybe you consider yourself an agnostic? That is still a belief and worldview based on faith.

This idea that people who reject Christianity go from faith to non-faith was the inspiration for my first book called, The Persuasive Christian Parent. In May of 2015 I read a piece online about a young lady who grew up in a Christian home, very dedicated, went off to UVA, and promptly punted her faith. I thought to myself, that would never happen to my children! So, I decided to write a book about it. They didn’t call it “deconversion” back then, which is a misnomer because Lyndsay only de-converted from Christianity. She converted to agnosticism, as best I could tell. It would be more accurate to say she rejected Christianity and the Christian worldview and embraced some other faith and worldview. She clearly didn’t understand she went from one faith to another, and most people who leave or reject Christianity don’t seem to get this.

The reason I listened to your conversation with Zac was because of the title. I discuss something in the book made famous by the late sociologist Peter Berger called plausibility structures. You’re probably familiar with the concept. I argue that most people don’t leave the Christian faith for another faith for intellectual reasons (e.g., not enough evidence for the resurrection), but because it no longer seems plausible to them. So, when Lyndsay went away to college, her Christianity no longer seemed real to her, and the worldview of the secular university seemed more real. Christianity was no longer plausible to her, and another worldview was. I would argue it is the same for you, although you have a plethora of reasons, most of which appear to me extremely weak.

I’m quite certain you haven’t fully examined the assumptions that go into those reasons. In your discussion with Zac, you were consistently guilty of begging the question. Non-Christians do this all the time as from their high horse they pronounced imperial judgment on Christianity and find it wanting. Lewis nailed this, as he does most everything, in his introduction to Miracles related to the text of the Bible:

It is no use going to the texts until we have some idea about the possibility or probability of the miraculous. Those who assume that miracles cannot happen are merely wasting their time by looking into the texts: we know in advance what results they will find for they have begun by begging the question.

As I say in my latest book, Uninvented, there has been a LOT of time wasting in the last several hundred years. Non-Christians, with rare exceptions, ever bring the same intense scrutiny to their worldview and beliefs. They simply go along their merry begging-the-question-way as if every belief doesn’t have some alternative that needs to be defended. If we’re honest and see things as they actually are, we’ll have to admit the burden of proof is on everybody! I call this “the consideration of the alternative” because rejecting one belief means we’re embracing an alternative. The question for me is always, is the alternative more plausible, reasonable, have more evidence, etc. to put faith in it? It’s why I’m a Christian and have beein since the fall of 1978(!).

If you’d ever like to chat about these things, I’d be happy to do that. As I said, I’m no fan of debates, but I am a big fan of having conversations about deep, significant things. I’ll leave you with a quote by ex-atheist Lewis I put on the front of my book, which captures why Christianity is by far the best explanation for reality as we find it, warts and all (few ever address “the problem of the good,” which is a huge problem for the materialist, as is the “problem of evil”):

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.

Bingo! Life without Christ is all puzzle pieces that never fit, with him, they do! Not perfectly of course, but far better than any other puzzle. As I argue in the book, without him, life is a Woody Allen movie.

Thanks for your time.