Last year, I was given an opportunity to teach at a fishing camp in Alaska. As one who loves talking to people about Jesus and who grew up fishing, it was a great blessing. One thing I loved about the experience was the peace and tranquility of sitting in a boat and just floating. The bay was safe, the fish were plenty, and the current just moved you. So much so, that after a while of enjoying floating around, seeing bald eagles swoop for fish, and trying to get a salmon to take my lure, I noticed I wasn’t in the same spot I started. This was actually a good thing because I was closer to the river mouth where the salmon were heading.
In a similar fashion, over the last five years or so, I’ve noticed many Young Restless Reformed (YRR) pastors and leaders with whom I share a theological camp, floating around the bay, so to speak, shifting from one perspective to another. More often than not, many of us are floating in the same direction.
Most YRR leaders I know would affirm, or almost fully affirm, a traditional Reformed Confession, like the 1689 or the Westminster. Personally, I lean towards the 1689 and would have considered myself a reformed Baptist in faith and mostly in practice. But many of us have moved, or are moving toward, a deeper appreciation, consideration, and engagement, in both faith and practice with a Dutch Reformed perspective in our own theology and ministry.
I was introduced to modern Dutch Reformed theology, which was primarily shaped by the work of Abraham Kuyper, about eight years ago. I was blown away by the beauty of a Kuyperian view of God’s redemptive sovereignty over his creation, but remained very Reformed Baptist in my practice. Over the last few years, I’ve been more and more shaped in my conviction, thinking, and practice by Kuyper and the concepts presented in his work and so have many of my ministry leader friends.
Recently I was reading, The Challenge of Cultural Discipleship by Richard J. Mouw, a collection of essays he penned and published almost eight years ago. In it he comments, “A few years ago, someone remarked that while the Netherlands is in a ‘post-Kuyper phase’, North America may presently be ‘pre-Kuyper.’ I hope so.”
From my limited experience, he may be right.
Kuyperianism is a Bridge Between the Gospel and Culture
I believe the theological current is moving many of the YRR towards a far-reaching reformed position consistent with much of the thought of Abraham Kuyper and his counterparts. Time will tell, but being grounded in such thought and practice as leaders of churches that want to see every sphere of human existence redeemed by Christ for God’s glory and the joy of his people, is something I am eager to see.
In our Post-Christian culture, we are surrounded by people that understand the ideals of God’s Kingdom: a desire for equality, a healthy environment, a utopian society where humans are flourishing. But as Mark Sayers states in his book, Disappearing Church, “Today we want the Kingdom without the King.”
Kuyperianism provides not only an entry point into the promises of cosmos-wide redemption for our culture, but also an introduction to the King. Not the grumpy, authoritarian, personhood-denying king that is portrayed in this culture’s view of Christianity, but the true King, who is both powerful and kind, just and gracious, strong and loving, holy and helping as he brings order to his people and his world.
Movement of the YRR towards preaching a gospel of the Kingdom that reaches every square inch of creation connects with the core of post-Christian culture. A King who is not just the Savior of our souls (which many in post-Christian culture would deny having) but the whole world both material and immaterial, opens doors in our engagement of the lost and might just be the missiological key to the church engaging more effectively with our culture.
In closing on an all too brief assessment of this trend, I believe that as our culture becomes more fragmented, and moves away from, as Flannery O’Connor calls it, the “Christ-haunted” past of our wider cultural history (Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction), the need for and attractiveness of a robust Kuyperian worldview will become more common in our churches and pulpits – especially of those who belong to the reformed tradition.
I pray that as the YRR movement continues to float closer toward historical Dutch Reformed theology, it will have its logical effect and grow the way we think about mission, church planting, outreach ministry, and every square inch of the King’s good Creation that our lives touch.