Betrayed by a “Legalist”

When I googled “every square inch” I came up with about 17 million hits. Many of them were Christian websites launching off of Abraham Kuyper’s famous quote about conquering every square inch for Christ.

That well-phrased line of his reflects Paul’s teaching, “He has put all things in subjection under His feet.”, or the return of Christ on the white horse with power and glory to rule the world in Rev. 19. It is a biblical, God-honoring image.

In his Lectures on Calvinism Kuyper unpacks that line in four different areas of society. I have heard evangelicals quote him to support the idea that they can be faithful Christians while working in a casino or as underwear models. Would the author support that application? Was Kuyper one of the modern culture-engagers?

At the end of chapter 2, where Kuyper treats religion, he has several pages of which these comments are merely examples. Ask yourself if he is “engaging the culture.”

Kuyper on playing cards:

[Christianity] placed a barrier against the too unhallowed influence of this world by putting a distinct ‘veto’ upon three things, card playing, theatres, and dancing.

[Christians] could not help loathing a game which poisoned [the sensation of God’s ever enduring presence].

Kuyper on theater and drama:

That which offended our ancestors was… the moral sacrifice which as a rule was demanded of actors and actresses for the amusement of the public.

This low moral standard resulted partly from the fact that the constant and ever-changing presentation of the character of another person finally hampers the moulding of your personal character; and partly because our modern theaters, unlike the Greek, have introduced the presence of women on the stage, the prosperity of the theater being too often gauged by the measure in which a woman jeopardizes the most sacred treasures God entrusts to her.

The prosperity of theaters is purchased at the cost of manly character and female purity. And the purchase of delight for the ear and the eye at the price of such a moral hecatomb, the Calvinist, who honored whatever was human in man for the sake of God, could not but condemn.

Kuyper summarizing his case:

Our fathers perceived excellently well that it was just these three: dancing, card-playing, and theater going, with which the world was madly in love. In worldly circles these pleasures were not regarded as secondary trifles, but honored as all-important matters: and whoever dared to attack them exposed himself to the bitterest scorn and enmity. For this very reason, they recognized in these three the Rubicon which no true Calvinist could cross without sacrificing his earnestness to dangerous mirth, and the fear of the Lord to often far from spotless pleasures. And now I may ask, has not the result justified their strong and brave protest?

Have the New Calvinists even read that section? This is an important part of what Abraham Kuyper meant when he said:

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!

You are as dishonest as an Arminian who uses Spurgeon to oppose Calvinism if you use Kuyper to oppose separation from sinful cultural practices. Though we are saturated with advanced degrees in theology, we are confused and awkward about the Christian sensibility of hating sin–possibly there’s a connection between the increase in one and the rise in the other. If you are one who loves quoting Kuyper, but eagerly devours the current cultural fare, you’ve been betrayed.

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