If Kuyper Could, Why Can’t Swanson?

Rebecca Hamilton adds U.S. political parties to the list of spheres to be evangelized (now that the Vatican has removed Jewish persons):

We must, if we are survive as a nation and a people, re-take control of these run-away political parties. We must also, if we ever hope to build a culture of life, convert both of them.

That means, my dear pro-life brothers and sisters, that we must stop thinking of the other political party as the devil incarnate and begin to look on it as a mission field, ripe for the harvest. In short, we need to stop following political hucksters who want to use our votes to gain power for themselves to be used for themselves, and follow Christ the Lord.

It was Jesus who told us to go out and convert the world. It is Satan who tells us to look at those folks over there and condemn them and damn them to hell with all the smug self-righteousness we can muster. Even if the thought that converting people is what Christ specifically told us to do doesn’t move you, then consider once again the sheer political cliff that we are standing on due to Justice Scalia’s death.

We’ve been trying to pack this court for almost 50 years now, and what we’ve gotten for our efforts is corporatism that is breaking the backs of the people of this nation and gay marriage.

We need to convert the Democratic Party to a party of life. We need to convert the Republican party to a party of conservatism rather than abject corporatism. We need to convert both of them into entities that are focused on how to help America and Americans rather than just raid the national treasury for those who pay for their political campaigns.

Here’s the problem: maybe the existing parties aren’t ripe for taking over. So why not start a new political party? Abraham Kuyper did and it became the vehicle for his tenure of prime minister:

Moving from the pastorate to the Dutch parliament by age 35, Kuyper also became the editor of a daily newspaper, De Standaard. From this post, he rallied and educated a movement that would have a transformative impact in the 1870s. Besides ushering in a new denomination, that movement would launch the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP), which endured for several decades thereafter. (About 30 years ago, it merged with two other parties that were important to Kuyper’s governing coalition.) By 1901, as leader of the ARP, Kuyper would become prime minister, an office he held for four tumultuous years.

His political vision was worked out over decades, and aimed to impede the centralizing tendencies that capitalism appeared to require. The vision rested upon the notion of “sphere sovereignty”: The belief that God created the distinct realms of life—church, education, family, state—to function independently, each ruled by the “ordinances” God had set in place. “It was identifying, celebrating, guarding, and translating those ordinances into action,” Bratt notes, “that defined his ultimate purpose in politics.” Under Kuyper, the ARP sought to convince the nation of these ordinances and align its policy and law according to them. It was a narrow pathway indeed, yet for a time, the ARP was able to follow it with success, thanks in part to an alliance with Roman Catholics seeking to “restore a Christian Netherlands.”

To be sure, I have reservations about parts of the neo-Calvinist project. But Kuyper’s political savvy sure looks much more important and effectual than Christians kvetching about the state of their nation from the relatively comfortable locations of podcasts, blogs, radio shows, or conference addresses. At least Kuyper did more than theorize, cheerlead for w-w, and write op-eds. He built institutions and forged political alliances. Even more, he governed.

If Christians want to “change” their nation, they need to do more than aim at changing the minds of their political representatives (as if that happens).


8 thoughts on “If Kuyper Could, Why Can’t Swanson?

  1. “We need to convert the Republican party to a party of conservatism rather than abject corporatism.” What about Christians who like corporatism…Bainbridge?

    “He built institutions and forged political alliances. Even more, he governed.”
    A lot of good that has done the church in the Netherlands, no?


  2. Hamilton sounds like she’s ready to open the Catholic branch of The Gospel Coalition’s Cultural Engagement Project: Redeeming The Culture, Redeeming The City, Redeeming Race Relations – and now we must add Redeeming the Democrat Party, Redeeming The Republican Party.

    Please let me have my Ol’ Timey Religion where you dealt with Ol’ Timey Sins like lust, gossiping, hate, fornication, love of money, coveting, lying, etc.


  3. Kuyper—“Calvinism and Politics”, The Third Stone Lecture at Princeton, 1898—“Without sin, there would have been neither magistrate nor state order. Neither bar of justice nor police nor army is conceivable in a world without sin, and thus every law would drop away. Every state formation is therefore always something unnatural.” , p 79

    When Christians form their own party to leaven the majority culture of greed and violence, by which standard do they govern? Does the law of Christ in the new covenant apply to everybody, or to nobody? Must we translate what “they” think and what “we” think into some “cherry-picked” form of the Ten Commandments which we call ‘the natural law”?


    Does it matter if we say with Bahnsen that the other nations were judged by Mosaic law or if we say that the other nations needed to convert to Israel? Do we say that the sin of those who do not profess Christ is defined by the law of Christ or do we say instead that those who do not profess Christ need to come into the covenant? How could we possibly command those outside the covenant to do anything? Don’t we have to baptize them with the name before we can teach them that we all have the same law standard to define our sins?

    If we have our own party, can we use the language of the Bible to speak to other parties? Do we command non-Christians to come into our party or do we translate certain ideas into “common denominator” for the sake of pluralism and peace with other parties?


  4. Oliver O Donovan, The Desire of the Nations, p 212—“Evangelical political theology appeals not only to law but to gospel. Like the surface of a planet pocked with craters by the bombardment it receives from space, the governments of the passing age show the impact of Christ’s glory.”


    Kuyper, the Problem of Poverty, p 33—“The ineradicable inequality between men produced a world in which the stronger devours the weaker, much as if he lived in an animal society rather than in a human society. The stronger, almost without exception, have always known how to bend every custom and magisterial ordinance so that the profit is theirs and the loss belongs to the weaker”


  5. “If Kuyper could, why can’t Swanson?”
    Answer: because Swanson is wrong and unimportant, not to mention the fact that when he opens his mouth less than wise things begin to flow, excessively so. He “can” in the the sense he is free to attempt, but he can’t accomplish in the reality of his present caustic self. I hope he just sticks to the holy huddle of “thou shalt only homeschool” theonomist crowd and does not attempt a Kuyper like branch out into political parties or public office. I may not agree with every jot and tittle of Kuyper (I certainly don’t with his devotees), but at least Kuyper had better credibility, was right more often and was less of a demagogue. By comparison Swanson is Trump , Kuyper was Lincoln.

    That’s why


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