Abraham Kuyper was an extraordinary figure
uniquely capable of wearing
several hats throughout his long public career as pastor, theologian,
scholar, journalist, educator and statesman. Although he began in the
parish ministry, he moved on to become editor of two periodicals; to
found the Antirevolutionary Party, the first Dutch political party and
the first Christian Democratic party in the world; and to establish
the Free University, a Christian university established on Reformed
principles. He was first elected to the Second Chamber of the Dutch
Parliament in 1874 and eventually served as Prime Minister from 1901 to
1905. Kuyper's thought was introduced to North America in 1898, when he
delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton
Although Kuyper was not an academic political
theorist, he nevertheless laid the foundations for a highly original
approach to politics that would come to be labelled "Kuyperian." Its
originality consisted in the fact that he sought to articulate a
consistently Christian view of the place of politics in God's world
free from the distortions of various nonchristian ideologies.
The most characteristic feature of Kuyper's
political thought is the principle of soevereiniteit in eigen
kring, usually referred to in English as "sovereignty in its
own sphere," "sovereignty in its proper orbit," or simply "sphere
sovereignty." Sphere sovereignty implies three things: (1) ultimate
sovereignty belongs to God alone; (2) all earthly sovereignties are
subordinate to and derivative from God's sovereignty; and (3) there is
no mediating earthly sovereignty from which others are derivative.
Current efforts at rehabilitating what
is often called "civil society" owe something to this principle.
Kuyper's ideas were further developed by Herman
Dooyeweerd and others in the twentieth century.