Mark Noll, the very image of a careful historian, says that the career of Abraham Kuyper "was as filled with noteworthy achievements as that of any single individual in modern Western history." Either Noll has turned careless, or Kuyper—the turn-of-the-20th-century Dutch theologian, churchman, journalist, and statesman—requires our attention.
Fortunately, James D. Bratt, professor of history at Calvin College, has been trailing Kuyper for years. Now at trail's end, he has delivered a biography of great significance, particularly for people of faith who are searching for ways to speak decisively in a world that denies faith even as it is embroiled in it.
As the first full English biography of Kuyper, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat (Eerdmans) reflects the achievements of a generation of influential scholars—including historians Noll and George Marsden and philosophers Nicholas Wolterstorff and Alvin Plantinga among, literally, dozens. As such, it bears witness to the force and vitality of Kuyper's revisioning of the Calvinist tradition, often called simply "neo-Calvinism" (without which an institution like Calvin College would not exist). Indeed, the historian James Turner calls neo-Calvinism the "decisive influence" on what he terms the "evangelical intellectual revival" of the past three decades.
So what did Kuyper do? More important, what did he believe? For both questions, Bratt is an invaluable guide, with a sprightly, erudite style and a sharp grasp on Kuyper's sprawling career and writings. To be clear, this is anything but a heroic gloss; Bratt's Kuyper is prescient, canny, profound, and flawed. But above all, he ...1