Christian’s Library Press has just released a new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s Scholastica I and II, two convocation addresses delivered to Vrije Universiteit (Free University) during his two years as rector (first in 1889, and then again in 1900).
The addresses are published under the title Scholarship, and demonstrate Kuyper’s core belief that “knowledge (curriculum) and behavior (pedagogy) are embedded in our core beliefs about the nature of God, humanity, and the world,” as summarized by translator Nelson Kloosterman. “In an engaging way, Kuyper shares his view of the divine purpose of scholarship for human culture.”
The addresses were delivered at a time when the Netherlands school system was beginning to foster more religious tolerance, eventually providing equal treatment and funding for all schools, confessional or otherwise, nearly 20 years after Kuyper’s second address.
They were also delivered at a time when the act of scholarship was not nearly as widespread as it is today. As Kuyper explains, we ought to view any such opportunity as an “inestimable privilege”:
To have the opportunity of studying is such an inestimable privilege, and to be allowed to leave the drudgery of society to enter the world of scholarship is such a gracious decree of our God…Now if nature were not so hard and life not so cruel, many more people could have the enjoyment of that sacred calling. But things being what they are, only a few are granted that honor and by far most people are deprived of that privilege.
But you and I have received this great favor from our God. We belong to that specially privileged group. Thus, woe to you and shame on you if you do not hear God’s holy call in the field of scholarship and do not exult with gratitude and never-ending praise that it pleased God out of free grace to choose you as his instrument for this noble, uplifting, inspiring calling.
Another key excerpt (from Scholastica I):
Every man of learning should be fired with a zeal to battle against the darkness and for the light. The glow of gas lay hidden for centuries in the dark coal mine, but not until that coal was dug from the mine and processed by human art did it reveal its luster. Similarly, it is your high calling to wrest the light of God’s splendor from the hidden recesses of creation, not in order to seek honor for yourself but honor for your God.
To be sure, God has caused light to rise in our darkness also along avenues other than science. His is not the cruelty of our age that allowed generation after generation to wander in darkness until at last in this nineteenth century the lights could go on—and then only for the aristocracy of the intellect. God is gracious and compassionate, and by means of his revelation and the founding of his church he had from the beginning ignited a glow that faith imbibed and that enriched an Abraham and a Moses far beyond what any nineteenth-century learning is capable of—rich in their heart, rich in their soul, rich in those more tender sensations that bear the mark of the eternal. And scholars, far from being able to do without that faith, must begin by being rich in that faith if they are ever to feel their heart stir with the holy impulse that drives them to engage in true scholarship.
Scholarship will get its first viewing at this week’s Kuyper Center Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary, where each participant will receive a copy.
The translation anticipates the future publication of a larger anthology of Kuyper’s writings on education, also from Christian’s Library Press, which will include select essays, extracts from parliamentary speeches, and various newspaper articles on the subject.
For updates on this and other forthcoming translations, follow the Acton Institute, CLP and the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society. For details on the titles currently set for translation, see the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society page.
More than a hundred years ago Abraham Kuyper and his followers recognized that knowledge (curriculum) and behavior (pedagogy) are embedded in everyone’s core beliefs about the nature of God, humanity, and the world. Kuyper delivered the two convocation addresses included in this volume to the students of the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam in 1889 and 1900.
A long and hard fight against modern secularizing forces in education and government had in the end provided serious Christians a place at the table of public conversation and gave historic Christianity a voice in the hallowed halls of the university and the public square. Such was the vision for the Vrije Universiteit, a place of religious liberty and rigorous scientific study where the original ideals of the university could flourish again. Here Kuyper offers his views with incisive analysis, good humor, and common sense that still ring true today.