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When Kuyper Came to Princeton

Warfield Greets KuyperIf anyone outside of a few small circles of specialists and others acculturated to the particulars of Dutch Reformed theology has read anything by Abraham Kuyper, it is almost exclusively Kuyper’s famous Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton in 1898. These were the inaugural lectures, and Kuyper’s welcome to the campus by Benjamin Warfield is memorialized in a stained glass window in the Dora Maclellan Brown Memorial Chapel at Covenant College.

In his book, Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, Peter Heslam provides some background to Kuyper’s visit. Kuyper wrote the text for the lectures in Dutch and then sent them along to Warfield in Princeton to have them translated into English. Heslam notes that “a handwritten inscription by Warfield in the copy of the Stone Lectures kept in the archives of Princeton Seminary informs the reader how the text came into existence. It is an interesting scenario, shedding light not only on the background to the actual text of the Lectures and on the differences between the various versions, but on the self-assured way in which Kuyper worked.”

Heslam goes on to provide a partial transcription of Warfield’s handwritten notes (I have made some minor alterations):

Note: The “Stone Lectures” in Princeton Theological Seminary were delivered in the autumn of 1898 by Dr. A Kuyper, of the Free University of Amsterdam. About ten days before the lectures were to begin Dr. Kuyper sent his Dutch ms. and asked that it might be translated for his use. In the short time remaining it seemed necessary to engage more than one hand at the task and the following gentlemen kindly undertook to render the several lectures into English: the Rev. J. H. de Vries, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Princeton, who translated Lectures I and V; the Rev. A. H. Huizinga, P. D. of Fishkirk, N.Y., who translated Lecture II; the Revd. Professor Henry E. Dosker D.D. of Holland, Michigan, who translated Lecture III; the Revd. Professor N. M. Steffens of Dubuque, Iowa, who translated Lecture IV; and the Rev. D. G. Vos of Princeton, who translated Lecture VI. The translated text was then set on type at Princeton and the printed sheets provided to Dr. Kuyper for use in the rostrum.

Only a dozen copies were taken off the types–of which the following is one. Before the Lectures were issued to the public in English (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co. [1899]), the text was much altered by Dr. Kuyper himself with a view to bettering the English, but with the effect of waning it sadly….

These sheets are worthy of presentation…as a souvenir of an interesting occasion, and as a means of communicating the labor of love the gentlemen who permitted themselves to be hurried through the task of translating these lectures for the use of the lecturer on the rostrum.

B.B. Warfield

Princeton Seminary has in the meantime embarked on a substantive digitization project of Kuyper’s works, and the Stone Lectures text that includes Warfield’s inscription is available for perusal. Some of the information that Heslam did not transcribe include Warfield’s judgment about subsequent versions of the lectures and further alterations made by Kuyper.

I also have heard that new edition of the Stone Lectures is in the works. But for primary source material beyond the Lectures on Calvinism, which remain a fine place to begin, the standard work has been Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, edited by Jim Bratt. For Kuyper on economics, see The Problem of Poverty in a recent edition by Dordt College Press as well as his essay on “Christ and the Needy.” For Kuyper on the church, see his newly-translated Rooted & Grounded, which elucidates his important distinction between the church as institution and organism. For Kuyper on culture, see the ongoing translation project (of which I am involved) of Kuyper’s three volumes on common grace (the first part of volume 1 is now available), as well as the chapters on science and art appearing in Wisdom & Wonder. And for Kuyper on politics, I recommend the first-ever translation into English of Kuyper’s Ons Program, his companion to the Anti-Revolutionary Party program of 1879, which appears as Guidance for Christian Engagement in Government.

By Jordan Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous volumes. Jordan also serves as associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.

2 replies on “When Kuyper Came to Princeton”

For Kuyper’s devotional writing, see _Near Unto God_, edited by James Schaap. For Kuyper on worship, see _Our Worship_, edited by Harry Boonstra.

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