The nineteenth century was a period of great political upheaval in Europe. Countries across the continent were wrestling with questions of sovereignty, representation, and governance. The relationship between the state and the church was one of the most controversial issues raised by these political movements. In the midst of this debate, Abraham Kuyper completed some groundbreaking work in articulating how the church should function in modern society.
In Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto, Kuyper formulates a Christian political vision in response to the Modernist political programs informed by the French Revolution. It was this document that launched Kuyper’s career as a politician, pastor, theologian, and educator. Our Program is the first volume released in the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. It is an excellent example of his devotion to finding a constructive framework for healthy interaction, participation, and engagement with the world.
Beginning in 1878, Kuyper began developing the political framework that would come to be known as the anti-revolutionary movement. The politics of the time were steeped in the rhetoric of the French Revolution—individualistic, rational, and secular. Kuyper’s political alternative envisioned a healthy relationship between the state and the church:
“Every developed and maturing people ought to have its politics derived from its firm principles which do not float in the air as so many abstractions but which have deep roots in the soil of national life. Our thinking mind, after all, is not some kind of pharmacist’s cabinet with drawers and cubbyholes in which we have a separate compartment for politics and another for social affairs and a third for spiritual questions.”
Kuyper’s vision, today
While the practical and concrete proposals found in Our Program are bound to their context in history, Kuyper’s biblical approach and the concepts he envisions can speak directly to us today. His unique perspective provides great wisdom for us as we consider how to engage our world. James Bratt puts it this way:
“This comprehensive Program, which Kuyper crafted in the process of forming the Netherlands’ first mass political party, brought the theology, the political theory, and the organization vision together brilliantly in a coherent set of policies that spoke directly to the needs of his day. For us it sets out the challenge of envisioning what might be an equivalent witness in our own day.”
Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto could not have come at a more opportune time. This influential volume is available now as part of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology—get it today!