Excerpt from The Fatherhood of God in John Calvin’s Thought

Excerpt from The Fatherhood of God in John Calvin’s Thought
By Karin Spiecker Stetina

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 11.30.28 AM‘And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, promoting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”[1]

‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit’. This ancient declaration about God has been an essential affirmation of the Christian faith since the birth of the early church. The Apostles’ Creed affirms Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:21 in which he states, ‘For He [God the Father] made him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Christ]’.[2] Faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unites us to Christ’s salvific work. But what if your earthly experience of fatherhood has made it difficult for you to confess a belief in ‘God, the Father Almighty’?

Should ‘contemporary Christian theology’ be ‘sensitive to some of the concerns of feminism’ and ‘introduce diverse images, including female ones, for God into the life of the church,’ as William Placher suggests?[3] The question of whether feminine language for God should be adopted or even used in place of masculine language is one of the most pressing issues facing the church today. In order to answer this question the church must first answer the question of how do we know God. Is our knowledge and language about God grounded in human experience or in divine revelation given in Scripture?

John Calvin, with his belief in sola Scriptura, stands apart from both sides of the debate over the use of language for God. Calvin looked to the Word given by the work of the Holy Spirit as the source of God-language and images used for God. The appropriateness of God-language was not a gender issue for Calvin, but an epistemological issue. He firmly believed that God is to be known and spoken about in accordance with God’s self-revelation.

When the knowledge of God departs from a theocentric approach and is grounded primarily in human experience, Calvin warns that inaccurate ideas can be deposited onto God. Though little flashes of God can be perceived naturally through reason and perception, they are quickly obscured by sin and rebellion. Natural knowledge of God, as Calvin described, is like a ‘traveler passing through a field at night who in a momentary lightning flash sees far and wide, but the sight vanishes so swiftly that he is plunged again into the darkness of the night before he can take even a step—let alone be directed on his way by its help’.[4]  This dilemma can only be corrected by the light of God, which is most clearly expressed in Christ’s revelation of his relationship with the Father.[5]

At the forefront of Calvin’s mind is that which should also be at the forefront of our minds; God reveals not only so we can know God, but also so we can respond to that revelation. Knowledge of God is not for puffing up the human mind, but rather for equipping people to glorify God. Our love of God and neighbor is directly related to our knowledge of God. If we know God only through our marred, natural perceptions, we know nothing of God’s glory and love. If we know God through God’s accommodating self-portrait, we can call out to our ‘Abba Father’ and find liberation.[6]

In grounding the character of Fatherhood in God’s self-revelation, Calvin brings his biblically-based understanding to the title, which is grounded in the doctrine of the Trinity and in God’s universal and particular Fatherhood. Calvin opposes the idea of God as a tyrannical, power-hungry father. God is not a male God who justifies the unjust oppression of women. Instead, divine Fatherhood is characterized by love and mercy. Through this image, defined clearly by Christ and revealed by the work of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to be called children of God and know God in a personal way. It is through the name God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that we find true freedom and love.


[1]Galatians 4.6, NLT.

[2]2 Corinthians 5.21, ESV.

[3]Placher, 60.

[4]Inst. II.2.18.

[5]Donald Bloesch, 78, reinforces this idea saying, ‘The criterion for deciding what analogical language is most appropriate is the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ given in the Bible.  To begin from human nature and experience and then posit in God the perfection of the creature is to end in the impasse of natural theology.  This is the path taken by both ideological patriarchalists and feminists; it has also been the course followed by German Christians and Christian Marxists, who have sought to read into the faith their own ideological commitments.  The way of faith on the other hand, begins with the Word of God in Scripture and listens to God’s own self-witness, which comes to us in the form of analogy to be sure but in an analogy determined by divine revelation and not by human wisdom.’

[6]For further discussion of this see Bernard Cooke, ‘Non-Patriarchal Salvation’, 30-31.


Zack Seals’ Book Review of Alister McGrath’s Reformation Thought: An Introduction

McGrath, Alister E. Reformation Thought An Introduction. 3rd ed. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1999. 329. $17.95

51aCTguuHlL._SX363_BO1,204,203,200_Historians often face the seemingly insurmountable task of condensing the rich atmosphere of an entire century, in its social, political, and religious spheres, into a readable work no more than a few hundred pages. When presented with such a project it becomes natural to tend towards a compartmentalization that neatly places each concept into an anachronistic category. In Reformation Thought, Alister McGrath, the Andreos Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, impressively avoids this pitfall by presenting the Reformation in a manner that is well structured without losing historical progression and diversity without losing a firm center. His work, written for the university student, strives to “provide an entry level guide to the ideas that proved to be so central to this movement in European history, while at the same time distilling the findings of much recent scholarship in its field.” (xi) McGrath shows a surprisingly dual specialty in both theology and history as he demonstrates a keen sensitivity to historical investigation in this classic introductory textbook to the central ideas of the Reformation. Having earned three doctorates from Oxford University, one of which was in Historical and Systematic Theology, McGrath shows his familiarity not only with the primary sources of the Reformation, but also with the contemporary academic discussion of the movement. Fundamental to McGrath’s understanding of the Reformation is that “to tell the story of the Reformation without allowing for the imaginative power of religious ideas is an absurdity.” (267) Although this showcases McGrath’s distinctly Christian motivation for examining the time period, that does not mean he is disinterested in the other contexts that shape the Reformation. The social, political, and ideological environment of the 16th century is a vast field with the rich soil in which the garden of the Reformation grew. Overall, McGrath’s work, although containing some notable shortcomings, is well worth the read for a beginning student in the history of the ideas which shaped the Reformation.

McGrath’s structure for the work is topical without losing the fluid movement of history. There are fourteen chapters in all and each contain useful italicized sub-headers for easy access. McGrath begins by correcting a number of misconceptions about the Reformation in his introduction such as the view some beginning students have that the ideas of the Reformation are insignificant compared to its social and civil contexts. He notes that the fundamental point behind the Reformation was a cry to reclaim the distinctly Christian identity of the Church. From here he lays out the four branches of the Reformation which will be discussed in each chapter: Lutheranism, Reformed Churches, Radical Reformers, and the Counter Reformation. This simple outline helps the reader expect a pattern in each chapter which makes processing the content easier. McGrath then spends three chapters establishing the context for the Reformation by examining its Medieval background as well as the influence of Humanism and Scholasticism. Here McGrath takes great care to distinguish the ways in which Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and the Radical Reformers were affected by the method of humanism often emphasizing that the Reformers, with the exception of Luther, were more humanists in method than scholastic (84). The biographical information on each Reformer was brief but sufficient to dispel often repeated misconceptions. For example, McGrath firmly argues that there was a symbiotic relationship between John Calvin and the city of Geneva; both needing each other. In his words, “The notion of Calvin as the tyrant of Geneva is without any historical foundation” (18). The next six chapters are about the most important theological contributions of the Reformation. With exception to the chapter on justification, which in many ways was the beating heart of the Reformation, each chapter was evenly proportioned in length which demonstrates a unique balance in the author’s writing. McGrath also managed to avoid being repetitive, even when he covered similar subjects in multiple places.

In these chapters McGrath often presented Luther as being closer to the Catholics and Zwingli closer to the Radicals, but Calvin as the balanced middle ground. He supports his case through pervasive quotations of the primary sources as well as reproducing entire Latin phrases which bring the reader closer to the original authors’. While often dialoguing approvingly with modern scholarship, McGrath is also not afraid to turn a critical eye where it is needed. His disagreement with Heiko Oberman on Luther’s use of scholasticism (80) for example does not prevent him from using Oberman’s work approvingly in the chapter on Scripture and Tradition. The final three chapters of the book deal with the English Reformation, how the Reformation ideas were spread, and its impact upon world history. By noting the way the Reformation depended on certain contingent technological and social situations, such as political support or the invention of the printing press, McGrath brings out the truly remarkable nature of the Reformation’s rapid spread. Any lack of specificity is remedied by the many recommendations for further reading at the end of each chapter. Finally, there are seven appendices at the end of the book that are invaluable to a new student to the Reformation. These appendices allow a newcomer to the field quickly become familiar with the terms, literature, and major theological journals which interact with the material he presented.

Nevertheless, there are some important concerns that arise in reading the work, ranging from minor quibbles to serious failings. To begin with the minor problems, organizationally it is not clear why McGrath chose to present the chapter on the English Reformation after the chapter on the diffusion of thought, especially since he recognizes that the English Reformation was “an Act of the State” (252) which would have flowed well after the material on the Reformers view of political thought. Apparently McGrath agree’s with this observation as the more recent fourth edition of Reformation Thought made precisely that chapter rearrangement. Furthermore, terminologically, it is strange that McGrath would fault historians for using the term “Protestant,” a term that originated in 1529, for ideas that predate 1529 when he is more than comfortable labeling certain Protestant tendencies as humanist despite the term being a “nineteenth-century invention.” (41) Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, McGrath falls prey to the “Calvin vs. Calvinism” thesis that plagues Reformation studies today. This problematic historical revisionism has tended to find ways to emphasize a strong disjunction between the centrality and method of Calvin’s thought and his followers. For example, McGrath claims “Calvin focused on the specific historical phenomenon of Jesus Christ.” whereas “By contrast, Beza began from general principles and proceeded to deduce their consequences.” (141). This contrast between Calvin’s view of predestination and his followers as well as Calvin’s method as a humanist and his followers scholasticism is undoubtedly prevalent in contemporary scholarship, but recent studies have questioned its validity. In particular, this emphatic disjunction between the method and content of Calvin’s thought and his followers received a thorough refutation in Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics which is a tour de force in historical scholarship on the Reformation. Although it may be granted that “Calvin 1 vs Calvinism” is not a major theme in McGrath’s work, he would have done well to entirely avoid it. Unfortunately, McGrath failed to interact with Muller’s work on this subject in the recently republished 4th edition of Reformation Thought which would have greatly updated the work.

In Reformation Thought, McGrath skillfully presents the Reformers in their historical context; complete with its rich cultural, political, and religious convictions. McGrath writes with brevity and depth, making the book informative and concise. He is careful not to avoid a discussion on important subjects as well as the background context that informs them. Each chapter pays a keen attention not only to the theology of the Reformation but also the varying social, political, economic, and civil contexts in which it took place which gives a much richer taste to the history being told. All of these tools are powerfully brought to bear by McGrath in a well-organized book that demonstrates the importance of the ideas of the Reformation and should be used in introductory Reformation courses for years to come.

Reviewed by Zack Seals, Biola University

Micah Hogan’s Review of Roland Bainton’s The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.

Roland H. Bainton. The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. Boston: Beacon Press, 1952 (Enlarged edition, 1985). 278 pages. $15.00.


“Another doctrine repugnant to civil society,” Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) says, “is that whatsoever a man does against his conscience, is sin; and it dependeth on the presumption of making himself judge of good and evil.”[1] Religion and ethics, in Hobbes’ view, must always be subservient to the State. Roland H. Bainton (1894-1984), 42 year Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale, brings forth the legacy of the Reformers against this Hobbesian thesis. In his classic work, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, he argues that Religion, rather than politics, was the driving force of the Reformation, and should be practiced in a sphere separate from the State.

Bainton was the author of 32 books, dealing primarily with Reformation and Patristic History, as well as Christian attitudes toward War and Peace. His most famous work, Here I stand, was considered to be the definitive work on Luther for its time. Bainton operates under the assumption that the Church and State should be completely separated from each other, and this colors his evaluative claims about particular Reformers. Bainton writes in clear and easy style for the beginner, but his generally unproven political biases might be unhelpful for the beginner to ingest.

Bainton organizes his book around particular movements within the Reformation, as opposed to Timothy George’s book, The Theology of the Reformers, which revolves around the life and thought of paradigmatic theologians. Bainton’s approach has the benefit of covering the nuances and divergences of a movement that a single figure might not be able to display, and Bainton plays to the strengths of his model (cf. Chapter 7: Free Spirits). He begins with Luther’s faith and reform, and then moves on to chapters on Zwinglianism, Anabaptism, Calvinism, and the far left-wing Reformers. Then, Lutheranism and Calvinism are revisited with an eye to further developments to the movements on the world stage, followed by a chapter on Anglicanism. Finally, the book concludes with three theological summary chapters about the Reformers’ views on Religious Liberty, Politics, and Economics.

Bainton rarely cites sources, primary or secondary, in his work. Instead, he takes advantage of his novice audience and he relies upon his accreditation as an established scholar as sufficient proof for his claims. In the 1985 Enlarged Edition, Jaroslav Pelikan has supplied a thorough bibliography, where the curious reader can track down general concepts, though not specific quotes or ideas. Which, although frustrating for the scholar, makes for a very smooth and uninterrupted reading experience.

The readability of this text is really what marks it out as unique. Bainton is incredibly clear and concise, and has a real talent for bringing a diverse set of material to an approachable and understandable level. The informed reader might not always agree with Bainton, but she will always know what he is saying and where he is going—a valuable quality missing from modern history books.

Because Bainton rarely cites sources, it is difficult on a scholarly level to assess whether or not he is successful in proving religion as the driving force of the Reformation. He is certainly able to artfully paint the narrative in that way, with Luther (who feature prominently on the cover) as “a man of religion” rather than of politics. (24) “Luther,” says Bainton, “took good care not to confuse the gospel with the fatherland. Zwingli was not so careful” (81). Luther, as Bainton frames the narrative, is the ideal Reformer, concerned with religion and content to let the State be the State. Zwingli and Calvin, on the other hand, are seen in a correspondingly less favorable light due to their greater synthesis of Church and State.

This is where Bainton’s simplified characterizations can prove too simple, even for the beginner. A Reformed reader cannot help but chuckle at Bainton’s description of Calvin’s conception of the Christian life as “austere deportment” (116). and cringe at his overly simplistic reading of the Servetus incident (devoid of reference to Geneva council or the labors of Calvin toward his conversion)(134-5). Such negative simplifications do not help but hinder cultural prejudices for or against certain Reformers, and thus would not challenge the average beginner to rethink or pay attention to those voices they would not typically listen to (such as Calvin or the Anglican tradition).

Overall, Bainton presents a good layman’s overview with accurate information, even if phrased in a less than objective way. While Bainton clearly frames his text around religion for religion’s sake as a Reformation principle, he does not prove this through use of sources, but in the particular construction of his narrative. Thus, it is fundamentally disappointing on a scholarly level.

This format, however, is not without it’s advantages. Bainton’s presentation of Luther and the underlying principles of the Reformation renders them “safe” for the average American evangelical. Such a person, after finding a friend of similar convictions in Luther, might be encouraged to dive deeper into Luther and find her or himself challenged and enriched when they find those places where Luther or Zwingli or the Anabaptists might differ from them. I would not recommend this text to an undergraduate or graduate student, but to those brother and sisters in the pews with no understanding or appreciation for the history and theology of the Church catholic.

Micah Hogan, Biola University

[1] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1994. 212.

Book Review of The Reformation: A Brief History

Kenneth Appold, The Reformation: A Brief History. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 202. $30
Living in the 500th anniversary of the Reformation one may ponder the dissonance between modern society and the peoples and events of the Reformation. A time machine would be an easy solution and a time machine is what Appold gives to his readers in his book, The Reformation: A Brief History. Many books concerning the Reformation focus on a specific person or movement are written in a language other than English, or are verbose in nature.Although these types of books are great for scholarship they are consequently difficult in nature for the general public or for undergraduate students. A Brief History is inexpensive and barely scratches the 200 page mark, making it very accessible to the general reader. Appold does an excellent job at selecting which topics to include in such a short survey, he fills large holes in the reader’s understanding of the Reformation, for example concerning the historical context and the Scandinavian Reformation.
Kenneth Appold is currently a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in the field of Reformation. Appold’s particular areas of interest include the history of the Reformation,early Christianization, and Christian ecumenics. The Reformation scholar has a particular fascination with Luther, having published two books that focus on Lutheranism. Appold himself is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which no doubt has influence on his writings and views on the Reformation. Appold’s personal passions and scholarly expertise births a pithy and clear narrative on the Reformation in his book.​ Appold uses a lens of the“complex phenomena” of medieval Christianization to view the entirety of the Reformation. He defines Christianization simply as, “the process by which groups of people become Christian”(7). He supports this idea by providing a lengthy introductory chapter to the Reformation discussing the different methods of Christianization used in the medieval period that allowed fora footing for Reformation to take root.
What makes The Reformation quite interesting and distinct from other works on this subject matter are the sources Appold uses. Most of the references cited are of recent scholarship and publication. In addition, this book is unique in its focus of Christianization and thus setting the Reformation into a larger context. Appold is also unique in adding the widely neglected Scandinavian Reformation to his book. Although unique and distantly notable, Appold does bring to the book certain biases and preconceptions. As mentioned previously, due to personal interests and religious beliefs Appold brings to the book his love for Luther. As the book is only four chapters long, one of them is entirely dedicated to Luther, it is important to note, however, Appold seems to give a fair assessment of both people and movements despite his obvious affection toward Luther. Because Appold has a personal interest in Christianization, this perspective is key for Appold’s view of the reformation. This view has some significant grounding, but may very well be a preconception that he brings to this particular topic. Despite possible preconceptions and biases this book is an excellent historical overview of the real concerns and changes in medieval Christianity.
The book is organized in a simple fashion, which ironically gives the book its complex organizational flair. The text is sorted into four chapters followed by an epilogue of the Reformation’s legacy, highlighting relations with America. The book begins with a large introduction of the reformation through the lens of medieval Christianization. Appold begins the official period of the Reformation with Martin Luther and the 95 Theses. After Luther comes Zwingli, the Anabaptists, and the Scandinavian movements. Appold makes it clear that “the reformation was not caused by one person but by a great many historical factors” (59). This is the purpose of Appold’s work– to show the complexities of the Reformation in the context of history. Although Appold believes it is not a person that caused the Reformation, he does give the reader slight suspicion whether or not the author really believes this to be true. Luther is given the largest platform in the book calling him, “one of the most multi-dimensional geniuses in the History of Christianity” (60). In addition, Luther is separated from his contemporaries claiming that it was only Luther who “placed his personal stamp on this remarkable era…by sheer force of personality, charisma, profundity of thought, and an undeniable bit of luck” (59). The topics of each of Appold’s chapters are woven into the larger picture of Christian history. Even in his discussion concerning Luther, he comments that the Reformation was outside of Luther’s control, claiming, “the Reformation was caused by a great many historical factors” (59).
Appold clearly identifies the victors of the Reformation from a social standpoint and pinpoints the European princes as evidence, stating, “almost all saw their powers increase” (189). The “losers”, on the other hand, were the rural peasants, due to the many of them “not tasting freedom until the 1800s” (189). Concerning women, Appold shows how many of them benefited from the Reformation. Benefits include involvement in theological discussions, in education, and in salaries. Other woman, however, remained almost untouched in their rural lives as their workdays were long and hard and they lacked personal rights.
One unique feature that the book contains are references of further research on said topic included at the end of each section followed by recommended additional reading. This gives the reader easy access to additional works that would be useful for their own studies. The sources were used appropriately, noting Appold draws from his own work as well as others. Appold is unafraid to dive into complexities and in constantly weaving topics with one another. This book contains many strengths as it gives a satisfying survey of the Reformation commenting on how it began, political challenges, historical context, significant movements such as the German, Swiss, Anabaptists, Calvin’s reforms, and the counter or Catholic reformation. Appold discusses an array of concepts contributing to the Reformation such as the frequent changing of social, political, and theological agendas. In addition, the author offers a very well and clearly explained commentary on indulgences. In explaining indulgences the author writes that it is “the granting of relief from penalty…[and] did not need to be purchased with money…an entirely temporal construct” (44). He explores the various ways one could receive such relief, for example, through participating in the first crusade or through “supererogatory acts”. Despite the strengths, Appold jumps around, discussing a topic only to leave it for another and come back to later. This is especially seen in his constant attention towards Luther. It is interesting that Appold is very concerned with Church history, but not at all concerned with God’s redemptive plan that church history fits into. Appold, from an evangelical standpoint, can be seen to promote history but one that stands alone apart from God’s history.
While most books on the Reformation are typically longer and focus more on a person or movement, Appold differs from most as he takes the reader on a journey through the causes of the Reformation, the significant people of the Reformation, and its effects on society, the economy, the church, and the generations to come. This book has tremendous value for those wanting a brief survey of the Reformation. Particularly, this book has its place in academia and would be most beneficial for undergraduate students learning Reformation theology.
Lauren Bufano, Biola University

Abraham Kuyper

Biographical Sketch on Abraham Kuyper

By Zachary Seals, Biola University


“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!”

Summary of life

  • 1837 – Born as the third child and first son to the newly appointed Rev Jan Frederik Kuyper in Maassluis, near Rotterdam.
  • 1841 – His father was transferred to teach in a church in the harbor city of Middelburg where Kuyper was raised for the remainder of his childhood years. He quickly learned French and English from his mother and father in addition to his native Dutch tongue and immediately following his learning to read he developed a voracious appetite for keeping up with the newspapers.
  • 1849 – His father received the call to pastor at a church in Leiden so Kuyper moved from his primarily fishing center community to the university town where he entered the gymnasium which was to prepare him for university.
  • 1855 – At eighteen years old Kuyper enrolled at Leiden University to study “letters and theology.” His time at Leiden was both academically rigorous and spiritually damaging. As he excelled in his linguistic and historical studies he was gradually convinced of a liberal modernism which prevented him from attending church.
  • 1858 – Kuyper meets Johanna Schaay, a young girl visiting Leiden whom he would exchange many letters with until he married her the year he graduated. Johanna was quite unlike Kuyper and he would constantly urge her to live a more intellectual life as she would frequently defend her far more orthodox Christian faith.
  • 1862 – Kuyper finishes composing his original treatise comparing the works of John Calvin and the Polish Reformer Johannes A Lasco after discovering original source material that had never before been studied. His treatise, entirely composed in Latin, won the gold medal from Groningen University and launched his academic reputation.
  • 1863 – At twenty six years, he graduated with highest honors and received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Leiden University. Immediately thereafter he took up his role as pastor of a small church in the village of Beesd. The church was firmly Reformed and reacted strongly to Kuyper’s modernistic liberalism. It wasn’t until one of his parishioners, Pietronella Baltus, refused to shake his hand upon visiting her home he knew he needed to listen to his congregants carefully. Upon many days of spending time listening to this woman he became religiously Reformed.
  • 1867 – Kuyper leaves Beesd and accepts the call to teach in Utrecht where he hopes to make an influence on the Dutch State Church.
  • 1869 – After serving in Utrecht for a mere two years a number of State Church leaders develop a hatred for Kuyper’s evident Reformed Theology so they formed a movement to publish against Kuyper’s publicly outspoken theological views. Kuyper defended his views both theologically and on the importance of education retaining parental autonomy and liberty of conscience at a conference where he met Groen van Prinsterer. Groen had a huge impact on Kuyper and inspired him to begin writing De Heraut which was a semi religious, semi political weekly column.
  • 1872 – Kuyper begins publication of his political daily De Standaard
  • 1874 – Serves as elder in the Dutch reformed Congregation of Amsterdam and assumes duties as a member of the Second Chamber.
  • 1879 – Founds the Anti Revolutionary Association
  • 1880 – Founds the Free University of Amsterdam and gives inaugural address.
  • 1898 -Visits America and delivers the Stone Lectures on Calvinism at Princeton.
  • 1901 – Becomes the first Prime Minister in the parliamentary history of the Netherlands
  • 1920 – Kuyper dies due to years of failing health at The Hague.

Influence and Recognition

Influenced by:

  • Matthias de Vries, Professor of Dutch Literature at the University of Leiden. Vries was Kuyper’s favorite professor and is largely responsible for encouraging and inspiring Kuyper to achieve his academic ambition.
  • Johannes Lasco, Polish Reformer, the subject of Kuyper’s award winning treatise and the focus of a great deal of biographical research by Kuyper. Lasco influenced Kuyper’s view of ecclesiology and politics for most of his life.
  • Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, Dutch Statesman and Political Mentor of Kuyper, he argued that rule derives from divine right as found in revelation. The modern age chose instead to rationalistically derive politics from notions of popular sovereignty which led to deism and eventually atheism. This moral decline is what led to the French Revolution which embodied the very anthropological autonomy that Kuyper sought to resist in naming his party the Anti-Revolutionaries.


  • Abraham Kuyper Center for Public Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary which hosts the annual Kuiper Prize Lecture and publishes the Kuyper Center Review
  • Academics who cite Kuyper as an influence on their thought: Alvin Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Alister McGrath, Nicholas Wolterstorff.


  • Academic: Founded the Free University at Amsterdam where he served as both Chancellor and Professor of Theology.
  •  Journalist: Founded and remained the chief editor’s for almost fifty years the De Standaard which was one of the first popular daily newspapers in the Netherlands.
  • Politician: Organized the first modern Dutch political party the Anti Revolutionary Party and served as its leader for forty years including four years as Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
  • Pastoral: Founded and maintained the De Heraut which was a weekly religious journal with meditations and practical pastoral reflections.
  • Church Reformer: Led the secession from the Dutch Reformed Church and founded a new confederation of Reformed Churches which held for over one hundred years.

Kuyper’s theology

  • Theologian of Culture: The culture mandate (Gen 1:28) still applies to all humanity and so every realm of society ought to contribute in cultivating and contributing to societal progress as well as recognize it’s own limitations.
  • Sphere Sovereignty is a key concept for Kuyper which means each entity, whether artistic, educational, or political ought to recognize their God ordained purpose in society not seek to control beyond their zone. All sovereignty is God’s and thus all spheres of sovereign control in creation is derived from God’s appointed ends.
  • This is only accomplished because of God’s Common Grace which is that act by which God restraints man from their full sinful potential in order for them to prepare creation for God’s coming Kingdom.
  • Calvinism as a Life System – Kuyper saw Calvinism not merely as a certain soteriological view but rather as unique religion which has certain claims to church order political and social life, art and science, Christianity and the world, as well as the moral world order. For Kuyper then Calvinism is both all encompassing and fundamental. It is the view he both defends and uses to attack the pervasive modernism and pantheism which he thought were the most dangerous ideologies of his day.


Types: Theological Treatises, Expositions of Classical Texts, Theological Encyclopedia

Major Works:

  • Our Program: This work is essentially the fully fleshed out political platform that Kuyper ran off of in his campaign to be Prime Minister. It argues that church and state are to recognize their distinct spheres of influence while remaining engaged in the work of each other.
  • Common Grace: Here Kuyper presents his fully developed theology of culture which attempts to recognize the fallenness in creation, but more fundamentally the grace God shows all humanity which makes culture building possible.
  • Pro Rege: Living Under Christ’s Kingship – Here Kuyper lays out how he sees Christ as King over every sphere of life playing out in the battle against sin. Both in and outside of the church Christ is ruler and the evidence of his rulership is to be seen in numerous effects.


  • Kuyper, Abraham, Jordan J. Ballor, Stephen J. Grabill, Nelson D. Kloosterman, Van Der Maas Ed M., and Richard J. Mouw. Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.
  • Kuyper, Abraham, and Harry Van Dyke. Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.
  • Kuyper, Abraham, Jordan J. Ballor, and Melvin Flikkema. Collected Works in Public Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015

Secondary Works:

  • Bratt, James D. Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013. Bratt’s work is well over 400 pages of in depth biographical detail on Kuypers life. His writing is easy to read and at times humorous making this easily the best modern biography of Kuyper to date.
  • Bratt, James D. Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader. Grand Rapids (Mich.): W.B. Eerdmans, 1998. This reader does an excellent job of giving a new reader to Kuyper the perfect taste of Kuypers multidisciplinary expertise.
  • Kuipers, Tjitze. Abraham Kuyper: An Annotated Bibliography 1857-2010. Leiden: Brill, 2011. This impressive bibliography exhaustively covers Kuyper’s many writings.


Bratt, James D. Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013.

Heslam, Peter S., and Abraham Kuyper. Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1998.

Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1961.

Mouw, Richard J. Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2011.

Vandenberg, Frank. Abraham Kuyper: A Biography. St. Catharines, Ont.: Paideia, 1978.

Abraham Kuyper: Calvinist Anti-Revolutionary Politician and Political Thinker. Australian Journal of Politics & History. Jun 2015, Vol. 61 Issue 2, p169-183.


One high desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One High motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul. And sooner than that I should seek escape from the sacred necessity that is laid upon me, let the breath of life fail me. It is this; that in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.” 1897, at the twenty fifth anniversary of his editorship of De Standaard.



St. Ignatius of Loyola

Biographical Sketch Outline on St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Founder of the Jesuits

By Micah Hogan, Biola University

Screenshot 2017-05-10 09.52.00

“Ignatius is the great spiritual guide, one of the most outstanding the Church has had in the course of her history.”[1]

Summary of Life


1491Iñgo López de Loyola (later known as Ignatius of Loyola) is born Azpeitia, Guipúzcoa in Spain to a well-to-do and religious family.

1491-1507- Sometime in his early education, Iñgo is tonsured.

1507- At 16 Iñgo is sent to live with the Treasurer of Castile, where he is trained to be a court secretary and learned to “flirt with girls”[1]

1515- Iñgo leads a gang that attacks clergy in Loyola

1516- Becomes gentleman-in-waiting and soldier to Don Antonio Manique de Lara, Duke of Nájera.

1517- In Wittenberg, Luther posts the 95 theses.

1521- Iñgo seriously injured in battle with the French, returns to Loyola.


1521- While on his death-bead from injuries, Iñgo promises St. Peter he will be soldier and poet in his service if he lives. Iñgo miraculously survives the night.

While recovering, Iñgo reads Jacopo de Voragine’s Lives of the Saints and is inspired by St. Francis and St. Dominic.

Sees a vision of the Virgin Mary and is filled with ecstasy and a changed heart.

Iñgo returns to Nájera and quits his job with the Duke

1522- On the way to Rome to ask permission to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Iñgo stops in Manresa and becomes severely depressed, contemplating suicide.

During this time, Iñgo has a mystical vision of the Trinity and his vocation to share what he has learned.

1523- Arrives in Jerusalem


1524- Iñgo studies classics and humanism in Barcelona under Jeronimo Ardévol.

During this time, Iñgo attains a following and teaches them what will later become the Spiritual Exercises.

1526- Iñgo starts study at the University of Alcala.

Iñgo develops a following and is accused of Gnosticism and Lutheranism

Passes first inspection by Inquisition.

1527- Tried by Inquisition a second time, acquitted with the condition he cease from wearing his monastic habit and from holding spiritual meetings. Iñgo felt unable to do this and so left the University.

Begins studies at the College of St. James in Salamanca.

Imprisoned by the Inquisition for his strange behavior

Allowed to go free as long as he does not talk about grave sins

1528- Iñgo refuses and sets out for the University of Paris.

Iñgo begins to be called Ignatius.

1529- Ignatius quits school at the University of Paris and studies at the college of St. Barbe.

His roommates are Peter Favre and Francis Xavier.

August 15, 1534- Ignatius and his followers make vows to go to Jerusalem and live in poverty.

1535- Ignatius receives his Masters, despite being in poor health.

1537- Ordained a priest.

Founder of the Jesuits

1538- While in Rome, Ignatius asks Pope Paul III for a trial to clear his name once and for all

Ignatius is found not guilty.

He offers his first Mass in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

1540- Society of Jesus approved by Pope Paul III.

Francis Xavier becomes Jesuit missionary

1541- Ignatius, age 50, becomes the first superior of the Society of Jesus.

Reform Work

1542- Persuades the Pope to instigate reforms on the treatments of Jews and Muslims.

1543- Pope Paul III approves Ignatius’s “Martha House” for women.

1544- Writes first diary of mystical experiences

1545- Elizabeth Roser becomes first and only female Jesuit for a brief time.

Writes second diary of mystical experiences.

1546- Ignatius establishes home for young girls.

Portugal becomes first administrative unit in Society.

Jesuits play active role at Trent

1548- Pope Paul III endorses Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

1549- Pope Paul III dies.

1550- Jesuit Fathers gather to advise on the Constitutions of the order.

Pope Julius III confirms approval of the company.

1551- Ignatius submits resignation due to poor health, but is denied.

Advises Pope on battle plans against the Turks

1552- Francis Xavier dies in the mission field of India.

1553- Orders mandatory prayers for England and Germany

1556- Ignatius dies of fever.



  • Francis and St. Dominic: The saints who drew Ignatius to Christ, and to whom he turned for example throughout life.
  • Erasmus: Ignatius was trained in the Catholic humanist school, and was thus indirectly influenced by Erasmus.
  • Thomas a Kempis: Imitation of Christ became Ignatius’s favorite book.
  • Bruno of Cologne: St. Bruno founded the Carthusians, which Ignatius frequently visited while in Paris and whose Rule his own Constitutions strongly resembled.
  • Jacopo de Voragine: Lives of the Saints was Ignatius’s introduction to St. Francis and St. Dominic.
  • Ludolph of Saxony: Life of Christ was one of the books that drew his soul to God.


  • The Society of Jesus: To this day the Society remains loyal to the overarching vision for the order established by Ignatius.
  • Roman (Tridentine) Catholicism: Jesuits were present at the Council of Trent, and their missionary efforts have greatly contributed to the growth of the Catholic Church.
  • Anglicanism: The Anglican Church commemorates Ignatius of Loyola on July 31st.

Most Important Legacies

  • The Society of Jesus: one of the premiere orders of the Catholic Church, including such luminaries as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Pope Francis.
  • Jesuit Universities: made education accessible to a wide variety of people.
  • Saintly Life: Catholics for generations have striven to imitate the character of contemplation and charity that St. Ignatius showed to the world.

Ignatius’ Theology

  • The governing matrix of Ignatius’ theology is the person of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Spiritual Exercises.[2]
  • Ignatius believed that God indwells in all things, and it is the job of the believer to find Him there.
  • Every important choice (or “election”) that we make should be accompanied by the discernment of spirits.[3] A good spirit could be determined through interior peace, spiritual joy, the theological virtues, tears, and elevation of the mind, where as a bad spirit would bring with it a disturbance of the peace, sadness, longing after base things, aridity, and distraction of mind in base things. [4]
  • A central motif of Ignatius’ theology is the concept of the Church Militant. Ignatius believed the Church was called to battle spiritually, which sometimes involved physical warfare. [5]
  • Ignatius believed in absolute obedience to the Pope.
  • Ignatius was strongly Trinitarian, as his Spiritual Diaries His Trinitarian theology was most evident in his mysticism, where he would move from simplicity (God is on, Jesus is man) to complexity (God is three, Jesus is Divine).[6]

Ignatius’s Writings


  • Autobiography
  • Mystical Theology
  • Letters to various Catholic ecclesiastics and theologians
  • Spiritual guidebooks

Major Works

  • The Spiritual Exercises: (1548, 1550) the guidebook for a four weeklong intensive program designed to enhance your spiritual walk.
  • Reminiscences (Autobiography): (1555) Ignatius’s account of his own life spoken in the third person, shortly before his death.
  • The Spiritual Diary: (est. 1544) The written account of a debate Ignatius was having with himself as to how the Society should proceed.
  • Constitutions: The official rule and operating manual for the Society of Jesus.

Primary Sources

  • Iparraguirre, Ignacio. Obras completes do San Ignacio de Loyola. Edicón Manual. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1st 1963 (5th ed. 1991).
  • Monumenta Historica Socetatis Iesu. (Complete Works available online at

http://www.sjweb.info/arsi/Monumenta.cfm )

  • (English trans.) Ganss, George E. Ignatius of Loyola: The Spiritual Exercises and

            Selected Works. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.

  • (French trans.) Giuliani, Maurice. Ignace de Loyola: Ecrits, Collection Christus No. 76,

Textes, Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1991.

Secondary Works

*Caraman, Philip. Ignatius of Loyola: A Biography of the Founder of the Jesuits. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990.

Donnelly, John Patrick. Ignatius of Loyola: Founder of the Jesuits. New York: Pearson Longman, 1956.

Idígoras, José Ignacio Tellechea. Ignatius of Loyola: The Pilgrim Saint. Translated by Cornelius Michael Buckley. Chicago: S.J. Loyola University Press, 1994.

Rahner, Hugo. Ignatius the Theologian. Translated by Michael Barry. New York: Herder and Herder, 1968.

Wulf, Friedrich ed., Ignatius of Loyola: His Personality and Spiritual Heritage. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1977.


Caraman, Philip. Ignatius of Loyola: A Biography of the Founder of the Jesuits. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990.

Donnelly, John Patrick. Ignatius of Loyola: Founder of the Jesuits. New York: Pearson Longman, 1956.

Ignatius of Loyola, Joseph A. Munitiz, and Philip Endean. Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Personal Writings. London: Penguin Books, 1996.

Rahner, Hugo. Ignatius the Theologian. Translated by Michael Barry. New York: Herder and Herder, 1968.

Wulf, Friedrich ed., Ignatius of Loyola: His Personality and Spiritual Heritage. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1977.



1. Friedrich Wulf, Ignatius as Spiritual Guide in Ignatius of Loyola: His Personality and Spiritual Heritage. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1977.

2. Philip Caraman, Ignatius of Loyola: A Biography of the Founder of the Jesuits. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990, p. 11.

3. Hugo Rahner, Ignatius the Theologian. Translated by Michael Barry. New York: Herder and Herder, 1968, 53.

4. Ignatius of Loyola, Joseph A. Munitiz, and Philip Endean. Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Personal Writings. London: Penguin Books, 1996, 68-9.

5. Rahner, 152.

6. Cf. Hans Wolter, Elements of Crusade Sprituality in St. Ignatius in Ignatius of Loyola: His Personality and Spiritual Heritage. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1977, 97-134.

7. Adolf Haas, The Mysticism of St. Ignatius According to His Spiritual Diary in Ignatius of Loyola: His Personality and Spiritual Heritage. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1977, 170-1.

Thomas More

Biographical Sketch of Thomas More

by Summer Warford, Biola University


Summary of Life:

  • Born February 4, 1478 in London to John More, a barrister then judge, and Agnes, a wealthy
  • More’s mother died at an early age, we are not sure when, but his father remarried three times.
  • 1490 More entered the household of Archbishop John Morton, the closest advisor of Henry VII
  • 1492 More is nominated by Archbishop Morton for Canterbury College, Oxford where he studied for two years.
  • 1493 More leaves Oxford and begins to study law at New Inn in London.
  • In 1499 he became a monk and subjected himself to the discipline of the Carthusians
  • In 1504 he entered parliament— he urged a decrease in the appropriation for King Henry VII, so Henry imprisoned More’s father and would not release him until a fine was paid and More himself would withdraw from public life.
  • 1505 More concludes that he is not to remain celibate and follows a career in the public life and marries Jane Colt.
  • 1509 More became active again when the king died, and he was appointed undersheriff of London in 1510.
  • 1511 More’s wife dies suddenly at the age of 22, More marries again because of his children to Alice Middleton.
  • 1516 Utopia is published
  • 1518 becomes member of the Privy Council
  • 1521 More is knighted, and after two years was made Speaker of the House of Commons. During this time he became good friends with King Henry VIII
  • 1529 Became lord Chancellor, he was very successful until he refused to support the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon because it was a defiance of papal authority. He resigned in 1532 and withdrew from public notice.
  • In 1534 the king had him imprisoned, and a year later he was put on trial and refused to take an oath of supremacy, because that parliament did not have the right did not have the right to overpower the papal authority to favor the king. He was condemned and sentenced to death.
  • July 7, 1535 He was decapitated. His last words were “kings good servant, but God’s first.”

Influence and Recognition:

Erasmus: Their friendship is regarded as one of the jewels of the renaissance. They shared a love of greek and the belief that being educated in classical literature could create a sound piety in the present and helped reform the church. They met when Erasmus was visiting England in 1499, at a time when Erasmus was very lonely and craving companionship. They did not have much in common, More was a lawyer and Erasmus didn’t trust lawyers, and we don’t know exactly how they became friends. They bonded over their love of rhetoric and even made a sport of it. Whitford, who More addressed one of his publications to, said that More and Erasmus were more alike than twins, because their beliefs were so aligned. They both published translations on Lucian from Greek to Latin, who was not religious and believed that religion was nonsense. Erasmus spent time at Thomas More’s house in London where he wrote “In Praise of Folly”, which when spoken in Latin can sound like “In Praise of More”. He dedicated this work to More, and begged More to defend the work and its author. More differed from Erasmus’s view on the need of love for a Christian and the centrality of it to the Christian life in that he thought the Christian must believe in the dogmas of the church before love could be active. There is some evidence that the work was damaging to their friendship. However, Erasmus in a letter described him as the perfect model of friendship. Erasmus was not shy about his love for More, although we d not have a lot of information on how More really felt about Erasmus.

William Tyndale: More and Tyndale disagreed on predestination, More believed that predestination would be taken as a license to sin, but Tyndale saw it as the predestined loving the law of God. More did not like that by believing the elect, people did not have to do good and be moral to have the gospel, so the community they lived in was less pleasant. These beliefs infringed on More’s love for order. Tenderly made translation decisions that reflected the theological views he had, such as translating Luke 13:3 as “repent” instead of “do penance”. More had the responsibility of getting rid of heretical books, and he did a raid in January of 1526 at the Steelyard where they had been bringing in Lutheran books, but it was too early before the Tyndale translation have come out. Thomas More was frustrated with the books, because there was no way to stop it all.

King Henry VIII: In 1525, the Peasants’ revolt was coming to a bloody end, and Luther was forced to write a letter seeking reconciliation to the king on the basis that the king admit his initial error. The king’s response was harsh, and there is speculation that Thomas More wrote it, essentially saying that the king would not change his mind and that Luther will always be a heretic. When More wrote Utopia, it brought him closer to the king and he became a member of his council.

Luther: He and More share a lot of similarities, from the desires of their fathers for them to their insecurity of their salvation to their struggles with lust. In March of 1518, Erasmus sent a copy of the 95 Theses, and with both More’s and Erasmus’s lack of devotion to the papacy we can believe that they both enjoyed it. In the beginning, More enjoyed Luther and saw him not as a heretic, but only as an extreme augustinian. Eventually More came to see Luther as a threat to the church, especially based on Luther’s writing of Babylonian Captivity of the Church in 1520, which attacked the ancient sacraments of the church. He essentially ended the mediation of the priest, which was central to More.

Thomas More is most known for his writing of Utopia, which analyzed and critiqued the living styles of those in Europe, and his faithfulness to what he believed God commanded, which can be seen in the death he suffered because he would not validate the king’s divorce. He is also known for being a lawyer and his work under king Henry VII. He was known to be a man of extremes in personality and viewpoints, often focussing on the contradictions that exist in the world. He would fixate on the conflict that exists between desire and obligation.

More particularly struggled with the ideal morality as it contrasted with the realities of the world. His goal, which shows up in Utopia, is to have a standard of morality, which comes for Christians, but even non-Christians are held to. This is why he held to papal authority and a priestly mediator, which included the ancient sacraments. He felt that if there was no need to be good, then it would be impossible to have a moral community. He valued his convictions as being a servant of God higher than his servanthood to the king.


More wrote many letters, both personal and legal letters. He also wrote religious polemics that responded to many of the reformation progressions that took place in Germany, particularly responses to Luther.

More, Thomas, and George M. Logan. The History of King Richard the Third. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005.

This was written in both Latin and English separately, and was not published in his lifetime because of the political problems it would create. This piece works together with Utopia, because More saw Richard as the worst there could have been, as the sum of a bad government leader, valuing ambition and executing hypocrisy.

Ward, Colin, and Colin Smithson. Utopia. Harmondsworth: Penguin Education, 1974.

Utopia was written to illustrate the impossibility of desire and reality in the world, and the standard of morality that should be had. It is an overflow of More’s preoccupation with government and society and the tension between desire and responsibility.

Secondary Works:

Clayton, Joseph. Sir Thomas More: a short study. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1933.

Fox, Alistair. Thomas More: history and providence. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.

Marius, Richard. Thomas More: a biography. New York: Vintage Books, 1985.

More, Thomas, William Roper, and J. Rawson Lumby. Utopia / the life of Sir Thomas More: William Roper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1879.

More, Thomas, and John M. Headley. The complete works of St. Thomas More. New Haven: Yale University press, 1969.


Clayton, Joseph. Sir Thomas More: a short study. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1933.

Fox, Alistair. Thomas More: history and providence. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.

Marius, Richard. Thomas More: a biography. New York: Vintage Books, 1985.

More, Thomas, William Roper, and J. Rawson Lumby. Utopia / the life of Sir Thomas More: William Roper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1879.

More, Thomas, and John M. Headley. The complete works of St. Thomas More. New Haven: Yale Univesrity press, 1969.

More, Thomas, and George M. Logan. The history of King Richard the Third. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Ward, Colin, and Colin Smithson. Utopia. Harmondsworth: Penguin Education, 1974.