Acton Institute Powerblog

Kuyper, Pope Leo XIII and the social question today

I was a guest on the Working Man podcast this week, discussing the connections between the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper and Pope Leo XIII. In 1891 both Leo and Kuyper published important documents providing Christian reflection on the “social question.” On the 125th anniversary of those publications, the Acton Institute produced an edition of these landmark contributions to the foundations of modern Christian social thought.

The Working Man podcast is a production of Harmel Academy of the Trades, a new initiative in Grand Rapids to provide post-secondary training and education in trades within the context of Roman Catholic spirituality and formation. Harmel is looking forward to opening with its inaugural class this fall, and is located on the campus of Kuyper College. So somewhat naturally David Michael Phelps, host of the podcast, wanted to talk about some of the historical and even theological linkages between Roman Catholicism and the namesake of their host institution, Abraham Kuyper.

The relevance of these reflections today is striking, as Leo exhorts his readers: “When a society is perishing, the wholesome advice to give to those who would restore it is to call it to the principles from which it sprang.” There are many shared principles common to Christian social thought, principles which have much to teach us about the just ordering of society.

For more on Kuyper and Leo, check out the edited volume, Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought, as well as an editorial from the Journal of Markets & Morality, “The Pope, the Professor, and the Poor.” And be sure to see what is happening at Harmel Academy and subscribe to the Working Man podcast via iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and elsewhere.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.