Once again comes a suggestion that neo-Calvinism in its desire for comprehensiveness paves the way for Roman Catholicism:
As it happened, the young pastor Abraham Kuyper found something to like in the “Syllabus [of Errors]” too, and said so on no less an occasion than his Reformation Day sermon in 1865! The pope went too far, Kuyper quickly assured his startled (if not outraged) congregation; the document was not to be affirmed in all its details. But its intention was correct. The rising philosophy of naturalism and ethical materialism which the pope was condemning was exactly the enemy that needed to be opposed, Kuyper said, and that opposition would mark his work in church, state, and cultural commentary across the 50+-year career upon which he was just embarking. In fact, this philosophical challenge—this rise of a cruel worldview antithetical to Christianity—is what motivated Kuyper’s turn to strict Calvinism from the more nebulous piety in which he had started out his ministry a few years before. A much older Brownson, now near the end of his career, held much the same sentiments.
If I understand the implications of James Bratt’s argument, reasoning about politics, society, economics, and education apart from first principles (read revealed truth) — one of the building blocks of modern liberalism (and secularism) — is an indication of naturalism, and the enemy of Christians. Thus the antithesis between Christianity and secularism, between 1689 (the Glorious Revolution) and 1789 (the Inglorious French Revolution), between Christian schools, labor unions, and political parties and secular schools, labor unions and political parties.
I can understand that. But if the antithesis is right and if Christians live in societies with unbelievers, on what basis are non-Christians supposed to operate in their social endeavors? If Christians alone have the true w-w, then should they allow those with false w-w’s to “run things?” Or if unbelievers do have access to positions of authority, wouldn’t they need to rely on what they know which does not include revealed truth?
Separating church and state was a long and difficult struggle for Roman Catholics. Distinguishing the differences between neo-Calvinist and theonomic arguments is also difficult. Of course, it needs to be noted that Kuyper did affirm social pluralism and found remarkable ways to include Roman Catholics in Dutch society. Still, when you start with opposition to naturalism and the antithesis between Christians and unbelievers, how you avoid winding up in theonomy or church-above-the-state (e.g. Roman Catholicism) is not at all obvious.