A View for the World

Even though I love theological nicknames, I don’t want to underestimate the threat some people feel when introduced to something they feel is “new,” even if all that’s new is a name. I remember taking apart and explaining our church’s Sunday morning liturgy after we’d already been following the same pattern for a year, and it caused dyspepsia for more than a few people. It’s like finding out about a surprise ingredient in your favorite dish. You thought you liked it, but knowing changed your taste.

You may already be more Kuyperian (whether you’d use that description or not), you may be more Dispensational (whether you admit that in Reformed circles or not), but there isn’t anyone else we’ve found trying to talk about them together.

Usually “new” theological things are dangerous things. Neither Kuyperian thought or Dispensational thought are new, what’s new is seeing how they necessarily fit together. The trellis and the vine image emphasizes life over structure, even if the structure provides space for growth. Peanut butter and chocolate taste great together but also taste fine apart, and a sword and a trowel could both be hooked on your belt but you’d probably only use one at a time. Oil and water do not mix at all.

But we think Kuyperianism and Dispensationalism are like the tongue-in-groove that keep the worldview floor from sliding around under you. Kuyperianism and Dispensationalism are like a door knob bolt and the latch in the frame that “click” into place. Kuyperianism and Dispensationalism are like the chain and the teeth on a gear that “catch” and crank the wheel forward. Kuyperianism lets the clutch out of Dispensationalism. Kuyperianism is the ink to Dispensationalism’s pen. Kuyperianism takes the lens off of Dispensationalism’s binoculars. Kuyperianism is the bow to Dispensationalism’s arrow.

Some might keep reading and say, “Oh, yeah! That’s exactly what I believe but never had a name for it!” Others might say, “Oh, no! I’ve been wrong! I need to repent!” Still others might say, “Oh, no! You guys are crazy and I don’t want anything to do with you!”

But this is no less than an attempt to fuse a Weltanschauung (German from Welt = world + Anschauung = perception), a new way to perceive the world. This is no less than an attempt to read the Bible from beginning to end, to account for every promise given, every promise fulfilled, and all the ones yet to be fulfilled. This is no less than an attempt to obey every command and commission given to humanity and to Christians, all together in and for Jesus. He is Lord. He claims it as His own, from before the foundation of the world through the last days. It is an explanation of history and an expectation for the future. This is not a worldview so that we can label the world and distance ourselves in order to complain about it, it is a worldview with marching orders for today. Kuyper himself called for:

“a central motive in the mental and emotional life of a people, which shall dominate the whole existence from within, and which consequently carries its effect from this spiritual center to its outermost circumference.” (Lectures on Calvinism, 150)

More than an abstract cause, it is a comfort and a catalyst centered on the Triune God.

The Kuyperian Dispensationalist: it’s not a new brand, but a way of reading the Bible and seeking to obey all of it. We need to define the terms, and then show how things fit. The question is, can Kuyperianism and Dispensationalism commingle, or must they contradict?

When He was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” His Word created a new world of thought and connections. He “said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” On the map, we are here.

Be patient. Be Bereans. Be Kuyperians. Be brothers and sisters. Be humble. Be ready. And may the Lord bless the work of our hands.

What’s In a Name

Soon we’ll start to consider more carefully what a Kuyperian Dispensationalist is. We need to answer questions such as, What makes someone Kuyperian? What is a Dispensationalist? Is it conceivable for them to go together?

But before dealing with those, a typical question, or even strong objection, is: Why use names at all? Abraham is a Bible name, but not Abraham Kuyper. Dispensations can be found in the Bible but never the word itself, even if you agree with the doctrine. Must we use extra-biblical descriptions? Don’t names cause divisions and upset stomachs? And especially, considering the history of using a name such as Calvinism, isn’t this elevating a man over Scripture? Like any system, won’t we be guilty of forcing an external pattern onto the Bible?

It absolutely could be any of those things, and much worse things. But when Adam named the animals God created it didn’t change what they were. Even more so, it was part of Adam’s calling by God to label and classify things. That was part of his image-bearing glory. Recognizing patterns is not making the patterns, like the golden ratio in nautilus shells or planetary orbits in astronomy, or theology. Doctrine about the One God in Three Persons, eternally co-equal, could require us to say the Athanasian Creed every time (though it isn’t inspired either). Or we could use the the one word summary, “Trinity,” that isn’t in the Bible.

As for systemizing things, Spurgeon once said that a truth isn’t contradicted because it can be organized.

“To affirm of any human production that it contained many great and instructive truths which it would be impossible to systematize without weakening each separate truth, and frustrating the design of the whole, would be a serious reflection upon the author’s wisdom and skill. How much more to affirm this of the Word of God! Systematic theology is to the Bible what science is to nature. To suppose that all the other works of God are orderly and systematic, and the greater the work the more perfect the system; and that the greatest of all His works, in which all His perfections are transcendently displayed, should have no plan or system, is altogether absurd. If faith in the Scriptures is to be positive, if consistent with itself, if operative, if abiding, it must have a fixed and well-defined creed. No one can say that the Bible is his creed, unless he can express it in words of his own. (Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, 1872, 141, quoted in The Forgotten Spurgeon by Ian Murray, 9.)

Names help diagnose and then treat diseases. Names help conceive and assemble buildings. Names can be misused, they can also help to communicate, to share the meaning of something in common. It doesn’t matter if someone says he is a Trinitarian as long as he believes the truth of it. It doesn’t matter if someone hates the word dualism as long as he actually hates dualism. It doesn’t matter if someone has ever heard of the “hypostatic union,” but he must believe that Jesus is both God and man. And if he does believe it, why not use the label?

So the Kuyperian Dispensationalist is shorthand, a nickname, a quirky code for sake of convenience in order to share an understanding about how things connect. If it happens to cause some provocation along the way, maybe that’s just what the doctor prescribed.