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Hurrah for Kuyper: statesman, theologian, and educator

Kuyper influenced many areas of life in the Netherlands.

ABRAHAM KUYPER was born in the Netherlands on this day, 29 October 1837. His teachers thought him unpromising, but he proved to be one of the most versatile men of his age. Not only did he take highest honors at the University of Leyden and earn a doctorate in theology, but he also became a linguist, theologian, professor, politician, statesman, philosopher, scientist, and philanthropist. So strongly was his Christian touch felt in his native land that the nation came together on this day, 29 October 1907 to celebrate his seventieth birthday. By proclamation the Netherlands declared that its recent history could not be written without mentioning his name on almost every page. 

In a sense, the credit belonged to a peasant woman. When Kuyper was a young minister in the Reformed Church, Rationalism dominated the pulpits and Kuyper accepted its disbelief. Some of his parishioners at Beesd (about forty miles east of Rotterdam) began to pray for him. When the peasant woman Pietje Baltus confronted him with his lack of faith, Kuyper listened to her, studied the Bible and Calvin, and changed course. To the end of his life, he kept a photo of her on his desk. 

From his new perspective, Kuyper wrote “Our Program,” a statement which laid the groundwork for the Anti-Revolutionary Party—a political organization which opposed the kind of secular thinking that had inspired the French Revolution. In 1872 Abraham became editor-in-chief of the party’s daily newspaper, De Standard. He also edited De Heraut, a Christian weekly. 

In 1874 Kuyper won election to Parliament, where he served until 1877. The Netherlands had largely discarded the Bible from national consciousness. The state universities produced ministers who did not believe God’s word. Kuyper led a drive to found the Free University of Amsterdam, which came into being in 1880. The school took the Bible as its foundation in every subject and was free of state control. 

In 1901 Queen Wilhelmena summoned Kuyper to form a cabinet, and he served as Prime Minister until 1905. His passion was “to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.” This did not sit well with some of his party members. 

In spite of the many duties which kept him always occupied, Kuyper was approachable and found time for people. He was a rare combination of statesman, theologian, and practical Christian. 

Dan Graves


Contemplate the story of the Incarnation day-by-day throughout the season of Advent in our latest publication, The Grand Miracle. Based on the writings of C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, Dorothy Sayers, and others, each day’s reading offers a fresh look at the birth of Christ through the eyes of a modern author. Scripture, prayer, and full-page contemplative images complete each entry. 28 days, 64 pages. Preview the Devotional here.

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