What is the social nature of our relation to God? What is the church, and who is the church? How should it to relate to the broader society?
Such questions are explored at length in On the Church, a newly translated, newly released collection of essays and speeches by Abraham Kuyper on the nature of the church. Published by Lexham Press in partnership with the Acton Institute, the anthology highlight’s Kuyper’s unique ecclesiological vision of the church as both “institution” and “organism” — or as the Apostle Paul puts it, “rooted and grounded.”
“’Rooted and grounded’ unites organism and institution,” Kuyper says, “and Scripture itself refuses to allow any separation — it weaves them together. By means of the person who sows and plants, the metaphor of vital growth overflows into that of the institution; by means of the living stone, the metaphor of the building flows over into that of the organism.”
Kuyper’s doctrine of the church was not developed or delivered in a vacuum, but in response to his own social context and the challenges of his day. The disestablishment of the church in the Netherlands and the resulting social pluralization was one thing; the external challenges to the doctrine of Scripture by “higher criticism” and “modern science” were another. “Enlightenment rationalism continued to challenge Christian epistemology,” explains John Halsey Wood Jr., the anthology’s editor. “In addition, a changing social landscape, as much as the changing intellectual one, also posed a challenge to theology and the church.” (more…)