Peter Berger on the Reformed movement among Southern Baptists

Peter Berger, sociologist of religion and current director of Boston University’s Institute of Culture, Religion and World Affairs, takes note of the growing interest in Calvinism among Southern Baptists.  Berger obviously has no truck with the New Calvinism, but his prediction of where it is going, particularly in politically active circles, is worth reading.

The New Calvinists have shown a particular interest in a Dutch theologian whose work seems particularly relevant to the American situation. Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) also used the term New Calvinism to define his position. He combined orthodox Calvinist theology with a strong commitment to the separation of church and state (he split with the official Dutch Reformed Church over this issue). As far as I can make out, he accepted the doctrine of predestination, but without emphasizing its negative portion (the bit about predestination to hell). He taught the sovereignty of Christ over all realms of reality, but he believed that, if grounded in a strong Christian culture, Christians could participate in a pluralist society and a democratic state. He visited America and lectured at Princeton. Kuyper founded a political party, and he was prime minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. One can understand how Kuyper would appeal to Baptists, who always held a strong belief in the separation of church and state.

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