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.

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