In an interview promoting his recent book Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, D. Michael Lindsay, describes what he sees to be the intellectual sources of evangelicalism:

And the interesting thing is that the Presbyterian tradition, the Reformed tradition, has provided some of the intellectual gravitas for evangelical ascendancy. And it’s being promulgated in lots of creative ways so that you have the idea of Kuyper or a cultural commission of cultural engagement is being promulgated by Chuck Colson, who is a Baptist. So Presbyterians are – if I had to say what are the two main intellectual influences on the evangelical ascendancy – it’s Roman Catholicism, conservative Catholicism, embodied by, let’s say, Richard John Neuhaus in First Things. And it’s going to be Reformed theology coming out of places like the philosophy department at Calvin College.

In 2002, a conference was held at Calvin College as part of recognition of the hundredth anniversary of Abraham Kuyper’s Stone Lectures at Princeton. The proceedings of the conference, “A Century of Christian Social Teaching: The Legacy of Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper,” were published in the Journal of Markets & Morality, and included closing comments from Chuck Colson that illuminates a connection between the two sources of evangelical intellectualism that Lindsay identifies.

Since 1992, I have been involved in an organization called Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). (And I have the scars to show for what has often been a controversial undertaking.) Working for accord between people of goodwill from both communities is something I believe in very deeply, and I see this conference advancing that cause.

The thoughts that I want to share with you tonight are inspired by that great Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, and I do so, noting with particular pride that this is the one-hundredth anniversary of his famous Stone Lectures at Princeton University. Dr. Kuyper’s influence on my life has been profound. I was introduced to him by people here at Calvin. Another influence in my life is that of John Paul II. I suspect that our Catholic brethren here tonight would agree with me that someday he will be known not just as Pope John Paul II but as John Paul the Great—one of the most significant figures of the twentieth century.

And while Kuyper rightly deserves credit for being one of the leading influences on American evangelicalism, so too does his contemporary Herman Bavinck warrant greater appreciation. Two notable publications this year testify to this.

First, the fourth and final volume of the translation of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics is newly available, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. And secondly, a collection of articles and treatises by Bavinck on various topics has been translated in Essays on Religion, Science, and Society. The latter volume includes essays “On Inequality,” “Classical Education,” and “Ethics and Politics” that will be of special interest to PowerBlog readers.

Update: See also, “The Roots of American Evangelicalism,” in five parts.


  • http://crmafia.blogspot.com Jeff Wright

    You are right to highlight the influence of Kuyper and Bavinck. Good stuff. Thanks for the link to The Roots of American Evangelicalism. Keep up the good work.

  • Steve Schaper

    Bavinck will be only of interest to the Reformed.

    Reformed theology (and especially the modern, fideist, determinist-reductionist variety) is not the mainstream of evangelicalism, which owes more to Lutheranism (Evangelical Free, Evangelical Covenant, some of the influence on Wesley, etc), high Arminianism and Dispensationalism.

    Kuyper’s thinking (and Schaeffer’s who popularized him) has a much broader appeal.

    Is Calvin evangelical? Does it not oppose the inerrancy and authority of the Bible in matters of Genesis 1-11 and ordaining priestesses? I wouldn’t think that it was.

  • http://blog.acton.org/ Jordan

    Perhaps Bavinck will only be of interest to Reformed theologians. I wasn’t making a prediction so much as saying that he ought to be of interest to those beyond the Reformed confessional borders. He’s much more engaged in modern philosophical and theological discussions in a way that is relevant, responsible, and fair, compared with somebody like J.T. Mueller, for instance.

    And given the historical and theological links between Kuyper and Bavinck, the latter might yet enjoy renewed attention. If you’ve looked at Bavinck, you’ll know that the description “modern, fideist, determinist-reductionist” hardly applies, even if it is an apt characterization of much of what passes for Reformed (or better “Calvinistic”) theology today.

    As far as “Calvin” being evangelical, I suppose it depends on your definition of evangelicalism. A number of the figures identifiable with the philosophy department of Calvin College over the last 40 years or so probably don’t meet your definition of evangelical.