Archive Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Simon Kennedy

Kuyper’s Reformed Understanding of History

In the midst of a discussion about the connection between common grace and particular, or special, grace, Kuyper sets out to make clear that Christ is the telos of all things. He does so by distinguishing between Christ himself, and then his ‘body’, the Church. Both are important for Kuyper, but Christ is the ultimate aim of universal history. Still, the Church is understood as the most important element in history. It is the key player in the Reformed understanding of history, according to Kuyper.

There is certainly nothing against saying that all things happen because of Christ, that therefore the body of Christ is the all-dominant element in history, and that on this basis we may confess that the church of Christ is the pivot around which the life of humanity does in fact revolve. Those who overlook or deny this will never discover unity in the flow of history; for them, century follows century, development follows decline, decline is followed again by progress, but the stream of life leads nowhere; it has no purpose. Life lacks a core; it has no pivot … The Reformed confession maintains that all things also in this world have Christ as their aim, and that his body is the chief element, so that in this sense we can say that the church of Christ constitutes the center of world history. Thereby the Reformed confession provides a principle for looking at history that is far elevated above the ordinary view of history. We will therefore strenuously guard against taking away anything whatsoever. Not common grace, but the ordained arrangement of particular grace dominates.1

  1. Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: volume 1: The Historical Section, eds. Jordan J. Ballor and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas, (Lexham Press: 2016) p. 266, s. 30.2

By Simon Kennedy

Simon is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland. He resides in Geelong, Victoria with his wife and four children.