02 July 2014

Abraham Kuyper: "Shadows"

It's been longer than I had expected since I've posted on a selection from James Bratt's biography of Dutch theologian-journalist-statesman Abraham Kuyper. (Go here, here, here, and here for some earlier selections.) After his party suffered an electoral defeat in 1905, which cost Kuyper his position as prime minister of the Netherlands, he took a 40 week (!) trip through Eastern Europe, Western Russia, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and thence to Spain. As a result, Kuyper, as astute observer of peoples, cultures, and religions, published a two-volume work, Around the Old World.

A number of Kuyper's observations and conclusions suffer from his residual Hegelian-Romantic "national-spirit" view of history. His commentary on the future for Islam's political and social effects have turned out to be a bit optimistic but one about Western (lack of) understanding of Islam stands out for its prescience. According to Bratt, for Kuyper,
Religion was crucial for understanding peoples and places, and European leaders were naive to believe that technical and economic modernization would cause those religions to disappear.
One hundred years later and the West continues to make the same mistake.

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