Great Expectations

I’m reading Kuyper: his lectures on Calvinism and in Spanish this time. Someone decided this was one of the great gems that ought to get translated. There is an old guy in our church who can’t figure him out and so his idea is that I read his book and write in it and then with that he’ll be able to go forward.

Except that I dislike writing in books. So I’m reading it and maybe afterward I’ll type something up for him.

Kuyper was a learned chap, in a broad way, but I wonder if his lectures are anything more than an interesting historical document on how he thought and reasoned. They get excited about it here because they dream and dream of progress and Kuyper offers that. Calvinism betters the human condition, he says. If only they all become Calvinists.

If only Calvinists didn’t believe that the number of the elect is few. Besides, isn’t there something wrong with his grasp of history to think that the USA, GB, Holland and Switzerland were further ahead because they had Calvinists? I’m afraid he was no Dawson or Lukacs. He was not keen on the Lutherans either, and he defends his category of Calvinism rather than Protestantism with some rather sly stuff about Luther which appears to me rather thin. He’s better at broad strokes than intricate observation. His optimism is not unusual for 1898, nor his notion that things are getting better.

Today? See, he was a man with abilities and talents enough for eminence in his day, but there is a certain thinness to these things nowadays that I think is due to the circumstances in which we read and hear what he says. The amplification is switched off and it doesn’t come out the same.

He does say some clever things. Among other curiosities, in the last paragraphs of the second chapter he makes a case for Calvinism (He’s not talking about a theological system as much as a culture—he calls it a life and world system) being against theater . . . and cards and dancing. It is the morality argument and not badly done.

He is obviously a politician speaking to inspire, more than to inform. He has some substance, after all he was a politician of 1898 (had W.J. Bryan licked—which is not saying much). What he lacks in insight he makes up for in scope, and in occasional worthwhile points. I just feel sorry for this old guy who’s awaiting fiery and penetrating ideas that will sweep the confusion out of this country.

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