Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mouw on Kuyper: a short review

I just finished reading Richard Mouw's latest book, Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction, which does exactly what the title indicates. Mouw's writing is easy to read, and in this book we all benefit from his years of experience thinking about and applying Kuyper's thought. The book is separated into two sections. In the first part Mouw summarizes Kuyperian thought in a series of short digestible (dare I say, classroom ready) chunks. In the second half he addresses some of Kuyper's shortcomings, blind spots, and applies his thinking to some contemporary issues.

As might be expected given Mouw's background and interests, Kuyper sounds like a theologian of culture and politics in this volume, which of course he was. His views on many other topics are alluded to, but with less attention. Given my interests, I thought that this was a good thing, not a weakness. The real strength of a book like this is that it is long enough for a serious engagement with Kuyper's thought and context, but short enough to give a reader a birds-eye view of Kuyper's theology. The sections on creation, sphere sovereignty, and antithesis are all close enough together in the volume that it is easy to remember that Kuyper held these together.

Mouw also does us a service by being forthright about Kuyper's weakness, indicating that we need to embrace a "neo-kuyperian" framework. (Does this make him a neo-neo-Calvinist?) And as one who was immediately turned off by some of Kuyper's blind spots (i.e. race), I appreciated Mouw's reminder that, in any tradition, we must build on the best that the past offers, and make amends for the worst. Most importantly, Mouw has a way of pointing to the ways in which Kuyper can be mis-used, but without a hint of polemics, inviting us to the most helpful and charitable interpretations. His last chapter, titled "A Kuyperianism 'under the cross,'" does just this, beautifully.

This book is an excellent first read for those new to Kuyper, or for those like me who have read some Kuyper, knew the main points, but needed guidance putting it in context.

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