Announcement of Publication: Article 36 of the Belgic Confession Vindicated against Dr. Abraham Kuyper

To this day, Abraham Kuyper stands as a shining example of responsible and effective Christian action in all areas of life. A leading journalist, theologian, churchman, and politician in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Kuyper effectuated, during a career spanning 50 years, an astonishing metamorphosis of the Dutch political and ecclesiastical landscape. Lifting high the banner of the universal lordship of Christ, he managed to revitalize a moribund political party and mobilize the so-called kleyne luyden, the “little guys,” into a social, ecclesiastical, educational, and political force to be reckoned with. And he did all of this while proclaiming, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

What is less well understood is the degree to which Kuyper was speaking out of two sides of his mouth. In fact, Kuyper shortchanged his trumpeted Christocratic agenda in the interest of political expediency. From early on he redefined theological categories in order to implement a dualism between church and state that could allow him to act politically in the secularized democratic environment while posturing as a champion of historic Christian theopolitical civilization.

The epicenter of this revaluation of Christian values was Article 36 of the Belgic Confession, which mandated that the civil magistrate “remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship; that the kingdom of anti-christ may be thus destroyed, and the kingdom of Christ promoted.” This, in the view of Kuyper and his movement, was a denial of true Calvinism, which championed freedom of conscience and religion.

Philippus Hoedemaker once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Kuyper to advance the very same agenda of Christ’s lordship over every area of life. His cooperation with Kuyper began in the early 1870s, and he joined Kuyper on the faculty of the newly-established Free University in 1880. But over time he came to realize that Kuyper’s practical agenda deviated fundamentally from this proclaimed agenda, starting with the separation from the national church and culminating with Kuyper’s “mutilation” (A. A. van Ruler) of Article 36. Hoedemaker argued that Kuyper could not do this without affecting the entire Confession, because such a modification not only reorients the relationship of church and state, it changes the relationship of theology to science and education generally, while leading to the ghettoization of the church and the marginalization of the Christian faith.

This book presents Hoedemaker’s argument, involving a detailed analysis of Kuyper’s published statements on the subject, mainly his extended discussion included in vol. 3 of Common Grace. It is the translation of Artikel XXXVI onzer Nederduitsche Geloofsbelijdenis tegenover Dr. A. Kuyper gehandhaafd: beoordelingen van de opstellen in de “Heraut” over kerk en staat (Amsterdam: Van Dam, 1901).

Publication date: May 1st, 2019.

Advance copies available upon request.