Sunday, 16 November 2008

Yoder against Kuyper

The Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper advocated “sphere sovereignty” – a theory famously summed up in his statement, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” The political implications of this theory are articulated in Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism (and, more concretely, in the social and legal arrangements of apartheid in South Africa).

John Howard Yoder rightly argues that such a concept of Christ’s lordship – in which Christians are called to participate in every sphere of life – represents a complete reversal of the New Testament witness. In his book Discipleship As Political Responsibility (Herald Press, 2003), Yoder writes:

“It is remarkable how the meaning of Christ’s lordship has been reversed in modern ecumenical discussion. In New Testament times the lordship of Christ meant that even that which is pagan, the state, was under God’s rule. Today exactly the same expression means that Christians have been sent into all areas of public life, including every political position, and that there as Christians they are to do their duties according to the rules of the state – in other words, the opposite of the meaning in the New Testament” (pp. 62-63).

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