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Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art

Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art

Kuyper, Abraham

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Publisher's Description

“If the believer's God is at work in this world, then in this world the believer's hand must take hold of the plow, and the name of the Lord must be glorified in that activity as well.”

Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Reformed theologian politician, elaborated on the doctrine of common grace, a theology of public service and cultural engagement of Christians' shared humanity with the rest of the world.

Includes a Foreword by Gabe Lyons and Jon Tyson and an Introduction by Vincent E. Bacote

About the Author

Dr. Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch Calvinist theologian, philosopher, and politician. As leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands, he served as Prime Minister of his country from 1901-1905. He occupied himself with the task of reconstructing the social structures of his native land on the basis of its Calvinistic heritage in almost every area of life. He developed Neo-Calvinism, which emphasizes the sovereignty of Jesus over all mental pursuits and supports the idea that there is a grace given by God to all things in order to sustain the continued unfolding of creation.

About the Translator

Nelson D. Kloosterman is professor of ethics at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, where he has taught since 1984.

About the Editors

Jordan J. Ballor (DTheol, University of Zurich) is a research fellow at the Acton Institute and serves as executive editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness, and serves as a general editor of the Sources in Early Modern Ethics, Economics, and Law as well as the Opening the Scriptures series.

Stephen J. Grabill is a research scholar in theology at The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the inaugural editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality. While this is his first book as a solo author, he was a contributing author for Beyond Self-Interest: A Personalist Approach to Human Action, and Human Nature and the Discipline of Economics: Personalist Anthropology and Economic Methodology.

Book Details

192 Pages
Publisher: Christian Library Press
Publication Date: November 2011
ISBN 10: 1937498905
ISBN 13: 9781937498900

“The church today is struggling with whether to engage in disciplines such as science and the arts. One approach is simply to ignore them or relegate them to a world that is perishing. Even where it recognizes them as legitimate, the scheme employed is often aggressive and confuses the different spheres in the creation order. Abraham Kuyper navigates with a sure hand on the tiller, taking us through the waters of culture, church and state, calling, and collaboration, with theological wisdom. Kuyper knows of no separation between warm piety and cultural commitment, nor of biblical texts and issues in the contemporary world. This fresh translation of ’Common Grace in Science and Art,’ tastefully titled, Wisdom & Wonder, is a most welcome addition to the growing body of Kuyper’s Å“uvre available in English. No one wrestling with issues of church and society can afford to ignore it.”
- William Edgar, professor of apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary; author, The Face of Truth: Lifting the Veil

“A century before the institutions of Christian higher education took up the conversation over faith and learning in earnest, Abraham Kuyper had already masterfully described the terrain. We are indebted to Christian’s Library Press for publishing this new translation of Kuyper’s work. Wisdom & Wonder deserves a wide readership among all those who have tried to solve the riddle of what it really means to have a Christian world-and-life view.”

- Hunter Baker, professor of political science, Union University and author of The End of Secularism

“Because Abraham Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace became ammunition for academic, ecclesiastical, and ideological warfare, his own intention that it serve God’s people to inspire their wonder and make them wise by encouraging their scientific exploration has often been lost from sight. This gem of a book makes Kuyper, who himself was a brilliant scholar and filled with wonder, accessible to contemporary readers. Kuyper aficionados will enjoy and profit from it and those who are introduced to Kuyper through it will want more.”

- John Bolt, professor of systematic theology, Calvin Theological Seminary and author of A Free Church, A Holy Nation: Abraham Kuyper’s American Public Theology

“The wisdom of Abraham Kuyper can be seen in his refusal to fragment reality into isolated domains. In Wisdom & Wonder Kuyper holds together worship and academic reflection, art and science, creation order and redemption, and piety and cultural engagement. Against the forces of his age, and ours, Wisdom & Wonder continues to give voice to the essential insight that creation’s unified purpose is to offer praise to its Creator. Kuyper’s work remains crucial for those struggling to be faithful in living out the cultural mandate.”

- Matt Bonzo, director of the Institute for Christianity and Cultural Engagement and professor of philosophy, Cornerstone University

“Those familiar with higher education often describe the scope of their work as the ’arts and sciences.’ Wrongly, some see that through the lenses of ’facts and values.’ As we listen to the insight of Abraham Kuyper, the nineteenth-century Christian thinker, we hear this remarkably different way of approaching the sciences and the arts: wisdom and wonder. What a good way to start, a deep and Biblically informed angle of vision to see our work in God’s world, whether in astronomy or painting, biology or film. Kuyper’s profound awareness of God’s common grace sustaining all of life honors Christ and allows us all to understand what is going on in world as it really is. This book is itself wise and wondrous. Highly recommended.”

- Byron K. Borger, Hearts & Minds Books

“Abraham Kuyper wrote about scholarship (’science’) with great insight, and he practiced one of the key modern arts (that of political communication) with an ability matched by few others in his time. The essays translated in this volume represent Kuyper’s mature and comprehensive thought on science and the arts in general—a coherent position grounded in Calvinist theology and demonstrating a keen understanding of the cultural currents of his day. They set a provocative example that Christian thinkers should try to match in our own day.”

- James Bratt, professor of history, Calvin College and editor of Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader

Wisdom & Wonder offers a balanced perspective on some matters of urgency for contemporary Christians. An incomplete understanding of common grace explains why some believers nowadays are wrongly suspicious of achievements in the natural sciences, of great literature, of modern law, and of artistic genius. Kuyper, for example, is willing to acknowledge genuine scientific progress, properly independent from church and state, in any quarter, but he recognizes critically that the natural sciences are not the model for all knowledge. And he shows how little sense it makes for worshippers of God to condemn artistic beauty. With amazing foresight, Kuyper identifies the risks of narrow thinking, and then calls twenty-first century Christians to engage in, to claim, the enterprises of science, law, politics, education, and the arts as sources for understanding life in God’s creation.”

- David S. Caudill, professor and Goldberg Family Chair in Law, Villanova University

“Abraham Kuyper was a profound theologian, an encyclopedic thinker, and a deeply spiritual man who believed that it is the believer’s task ’to know God in all his works.’ In a day when secular science is seeking to establish hegemony over all knowing, and when postmodern art is threatening to bring an end to art, Kuyper’s solid, Biblical insights can help to restore perspective and sanity to these two critical areas of human life.”

- Chuck Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview

“This selection from Vol. III of Kuyper’s 3-volume work on the doctrine of common grace (1902-1904) is, in part, an elaboration of a theological epistemology, drawing on Reformed Scholasticism, with its Augustinian and Thomistic roots. Given these roots, Kuyper’s work offers an exciting prospect for Reformed ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic tradition. Another point of ecumenical convergence between Reformed and Catholics is found in Kuyper’s architectonic grasp of the whole temporal order, grounded in God’s creation, indeed the Logos,providing a foundation for culture and its historical unfolding in science and art, which are gifts of God of grace. These gifts have been refracted through man’s fallen humanity and hence, not only do they form the creational backdrop of God’s redemptive activity, but also are in themselves subject to the redemptive work of Christ. In short, Kuyper’s work provides us with an intellectually impressive as well as an ecumenically inspiring account of the theological foundations of science and art, calling Christians to take up their vocation to be engaged in the further unfolding of those cultural activities in the light of Christian principles.”

- Eduardo J. Echeverria, professor of philosophy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and author of Dialogue of Love: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic Ecumenist

“The church today is struggling with whether to engage in disciplines such as science and the arts. One approach is simply to ignore them or relegate them to a world that is perishing. Even where it recognizes them as legitimate, the scheme employed is often aggressive and confuses the different spheres in the creation order. Abraham Kuyper navigates with a sure hand on the tiller, taking us through the waters of culture, church and state, calling, and collaboration, with theological wisdom. Kuyper knows of no separation between warm piety and cultural commitment, nor of biblical texts and issues in the contemporary world. This fresh translation of ’Common Grace in Science and Art,’ tastefully titled, Wisdom & Wonder, is a most welcome addition to the growing body of Kuyper’s Å“uvre available in English. No one wrestling with issues of church and society can afford to ignore it.”

- William Edgar, professor of apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and author of The Face of Truth: Lifting the Veil

“Among the most significant Christian voices of the last century is that of Abraham Kuyper. Many evangelical Christians are rediscovering his work because of his ability to retain an emphasis on Christian orthodoxy while at the same time engaging robustly with the challenges of everyday life. I am delighted that this work Wisdom & Wonder has been translated into English! As I read the text I was astonished again and again by the ageless character of his thoughts—indeed, Kuyper has a great deal to say about the proper place of faith public life. The translation, editing, and additional inputs offered in this text are superb. I can highly recommend Wisdom & Wonder as a thoughtful and inspiring theological text for any Christian who desires to think critically about the sciences and the world, yet wants to remain firmly anchored in Christian orthodoxy.”

- Dion Forster, professor of theology, University of Stellenbosch, chaplain to the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical movements, and coauthor of Transform Your Work Life

“Both the cultural critics of Christianity and its contemporary defenders continue to operate within two shared assumptions. The first is that science and art can only realize their true value if they assert their independence from religion. The second is that this same independence must threaten the centrality of Christian faith to human life. Abraham Kuyper’s concept of ’common grace’ undermines both these assumptions. This enables his writings, more than a century after their composition, to bring a novel, insightful and deeply Christian perspective to bear on some of the most contentious questions of the modern world. Kuyper’s 1898 Lectures on Calvinism sketched the outlines of this perspective for an English speaking audience. With the appearance of Wisdom & Wonder English readers now have access to a far more extended and nuanced account of how Christians can wholeheartedly embrace the independence and integrity of science and art as manifestations of God’s sovereignty.”

- Gordon Graham, director of the Abraham Kuyper Center, Princeton Theological Seminary, and author of The Re-enchantment of the World: Art versus Religion

“Like William Wilberforce, William Carey, and other nineteenth-century Christian leaders, Abraham Kuyper recognized that Christian faith was not relegated to the interior, private, and devotional sphere of our lives. He calls for us as a Church to engage fully in public life and to wrestle with issues laden with controversy, including science and the arts. Timely, Kuyper’s message speaks to a modern Church seeking to bring restoration and hope to our world.”

- Peter Greer, President and CEO, HOPE International, and coauthor of The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty

“In this overdue work, Abraham Kuyper lends an articulate pen both to defend the rightful autonomy of science and art as well as to describe their salutary function. In a day when either can be oppressed, or when either discipline can become an idol, this needed monograph reminds us of the effects of sin on worldview and also of the value of disciplines that are freed from pleasing either a regime of priests or fashion czars. Both the independence and the createdness of science and art guarantee their integrity and liberty from dominance either by the state or by the guild—each flowers in ’the fear of the Lord.’ All the signatures of vintage Kuyperianism—antithesis, palingenesis, non-neutrality, common grace, the Creator/creature distinction, personhood, and so on, are boldly stamped throughout these lucid and exciting chapters from a voice as cutting-edge as tomorrow’s news. I am pleased to commend this work that is based so squarely on the Kuyperian precept that all disciplines have God at their core—or as he puts it ’all things have proceeded from the thinking of God’—for he is the Creator of science and art! Give this primer especially to aspiring students in these disciplines; and every pastor should read this—slowly, savoringly.”

- David W. Hall, Calvin500; senior pastor, Midway Presbyterian Church Powder Springs, Georgia, and coauthor of Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview

“Kuyper’s ideas on science and the arts are no ivory tower reflections. They were forged in the struggle for the development of Christian thought and practice that creatively engages with every area of life. The contents of this booklet are of great contemporary relevance and this translation will be welcomed by the growing number of Kuyper admirers around the world.”

- Peter Heslam, director, Transforming Business, University of Cambridge, and author of Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism

“How do Christians change the world? Through government, through a broader ’faithful presence,’ or through cultural influence in the intellectual and artistic spheres? In Wisdom & Wonder, one of Christianity’s great heroes of the mind gives us a rationale and roadmap for taking science and art captive for Christ.”

- D.C. Innes, professor of politics, The King’s College, and coauthor of Left, Right and Christ

“Abraham Kuyper thought big even when he considered little things. He challenges us to recognize the Creator as Lord, not simply of some ’spiritual’ part of his world, but of it all. Here, in this beautifully presented volume, we are invited to listen afresh to Kuyper’s wisdom and vision; his words are worth wrestling through today just as they were when he first wrote them.”

- Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies, Covenant College, and author of God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity

“The appearance of this treatise in English translation is for me the beginning of a larger dream come true. Kuyper’s writings on common grace are much needed ’for such a time as this’ and Wisdom & Wonder is a marvelous foretaste of more that is to come!”

- Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction

“How do we make sense of the contributions of, say a Steve Jobs, to human culture? How do Christians account for the rather immeasurable amount of good achieved by those presumably uncovenanted with God? Common grace is the answer: His mercies are over all his works. This first-ever English translation of Abraham Kuyper’s work on common grace hits the sweet spot for Christians seeking answers to questions about the breadth of the gospel, their own roles in public life, and the beneficial contributions of others, especially in science and art. Highly needed and recommended.”

- David K. Naugle, distinguished university professor, Dallas Baptist University, and author of Worldview: The History of a Concept

“’What do you possess that you did not first receive?’ asks St. Paul (1 Cor. 4:7). In other words, everything is grace—in one sense. But if that is so, what happens to the distinctive grace of the gospel? It is the great merit of the neo-Calvinist Abraham Kuyper that he addressed that knotty problem in ways that still command attention. This new translation of Wisdom & Wonder will help all Christians keep their confessional distinctiveness while remaining open to the world. Here is salt that has not lost its tang.”

- Edward T. Oakes, SJ, professor of systematic theology, University of St. Mary of the Lake, and author of Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar

“The wisdom of Kuyper remains both relevant and necessary for our age. Here we have a public theologian eager to embrace the high callings of artists and scientists, while reminding them that their genius is rooted in the glorious Creator and is meant to be directed towards the ever-increasing revelation of His beauty. Kuyper’s ability to show how this does not confine but instead expands these vocational pursuits is brilliant. In Wisdom & Wonder we have a wise and celebratory perspective rooted in the rich theology of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Truth is timeless, and readers will find the insights from this old book both fresh and refreshing in a contemporary context that so often falls into the extremes of either fearing or idolizing art and science.“

- Amy L. Sherman, senior fellow, Sagamore Institute Center on Faith in Communities, and author, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

“God’s redemption is as wide and high and deep as the expanse of his creation. This is the central message of Abraham Kuyper that has been heard anew by a generation of young evangelicals who have a new appreciation for the importance of Christian culture-making. This book is a wonderful way to meet Kuyper face-to-face and hear from him first hand. I look forward to pointing friends and students to this wonderful anthology. It's just what we need.“

- James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin College, and author of Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition

“At a time when far too much evangelical Christianity is privatized and when few voices are articulating a public theology, especially in the realms of science and art, Abraham Kuyper’s Wisdom & Wonder is a seminal contribution to the theology and spirituality of everyday life. In this delicious translation Kuyper is now able to speak to the English reading world in a faith-evoking way as he expounds on both sin and grace at work in the world and how Christians are therefore to engage society. The wise householder, as Jesus once said, will bring out old treasures, such as this one, as well as the new. And, as Paul once said, it is only ’together with all the saints’ that we know the height and depth of the love of Christ. This timely volume is a strategic contribution to theological maturity in our own day.”

- R. Paul Stevens, professor emeritus of marketplace theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC, and coauthor of Taking Your Soul To Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace

“C. S. Lewis suggested that for every new book, we should read three old ones. Kuyper is one of those authors we should read. Although he’s familiar to many who have explored worldview thinking, few have actually read him and even fewer have had the opportunity to read this particular work until now. Given the consistent battles of definitions that take place in art and the sciences, we need trusted voices from the past to guide us. I’m grateful that the Acton Institute and Kuyper College have made this available.”

- John Stonestreet, Summit Ministries, Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and coauthor of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview

“A long-forgotten treasure from the pen of Kuyper, today somewhat dated yet still immensely stimulating, is now in English! The translation is resourceful and accurate. Fresh paragraphing, simpler syntax and idiomatic renderings, while faithful to Kuyper’s sure pen, have resulted in fluent prose which in my opinion improves on the original. In addition, layout and type-face are easy on the eye. The translator, editors, and publisher have greatly indebted us to them and are to be heartily congratulated.”

- Harry Van Dyke, D.Litt., Redeemer College

“Young Christians, take heart: we stand in a long tradition of those who seek a fully-orbed faith. Kuyper’s clear, friendly, theologically deep approach is a century-old answer to questions we’re still grappling with—how we ought to live in and work with the natural world and the culture we humans build. This volume is invaluable to anyone who wants to glean from and build upon Kuyper’s important, foundational work.”

- Alissa Wilkinson, Coeditor, Comment, and founding editor, Curator magazine

“American evangelicals are deeply influenced by Neo-Calvinist authors who stand on the shoulders of Abraham Kuyper. Thanks to Acton Institute and Kuyper College, we are now able to drink large gulps straight from the man himself. Wisdom & Wonder is essential reading for all of us who aspire to live well in God’s world, and these lectures on science and art are a particularly relevant place to begin. Nothing is more hotly contested and confused than these two areas of culture, and nothing stands in greater need of Kuyper’s biblical tension between creation and fall and between common and particular grace. Kuyper’s deft handling of these worldview themes proves once again that sometimes the way forward begins with a glance back.”

- Michael Wittmer, professor of systematic and historical theology, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and author of Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God

“Abraham Kuyper’s Wisdom & Wonder is an eloquent theological antidote to the anti-intellectualist and anti-artistic impulses that infect so much of the contemporary church. Kuyper issues a clarion call for Christians to move beyond Bible study and theology, and beyond church art, to engage in these graced endeavors (science and art) in gratitude to God and out of fidelity to Christian conviction. Though Kuyper wrote these words more than one hundred years ago, they have lost none of their bite and relevance.”

- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University, and Senior Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia

“In this era of upheaval, fragmentation, and uncertainty, we need a steady gaze and wise judgment to rediscover truth and hope. Kuyper’s capacious vision and biblical moorings furnish a foundation for consistent Christian outlook and action. Surprisingly little in these essays sounds outmoded—we have by no means transcended the challenges Kuyper found himself addressing. It is wonderful that Kuyper’s gifts as an essayist, theologian, and sometimes even prophet can now inspire English speakers worldwide. This may well constitute a breakthrough for a new generation seeking maximal implementation of God’s call to exercise dominion as well as Christ’s command to make disciples among all peoples.”

- Robert W. Yarbrough, professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary