Kuyper on Church and State

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            In Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, he strives to make sure that Church and State are not too intertwined. In fact, God has given authority to both institutions in their own sphere. They each have responsibilities they are concerned with and should not take it upon themselves to do the other’s job. At the same time, Kuyper does not seem to be in favor of a Godless State. He faults the French Revolution for ignoring and even opposing God in their efforts (64). To be sure, the sphere of the State is “not profane” (77). The State must obey God “according to His ordinances”, “recognize God as Supreme Ruler”, “restrain blasphemy” and confess His name in their Constitution (76). The State is even to maintain the Sabbath along with prayer and feast days (77)! It seems vital, for Kuyper, that the State be Christian. Both spheres are ruled by God’s Word (77).

            It remains puzzling when Kuyper insists that the State is not the Church’s “pupil” (77). From who did she learn of God’s Word? Kuyper says God’s Word rules, yes, but only “through the conscience of the persons invested with authority” in the State (77). It would seem that (informally at least) the Church maintains an incredible influence over the State through her ministry to persons in authority. Why would Kuyper not allow the Church to officially aid the State in interpreting God’s Word faithfully? It would not necessarily follow that the Church would be writing civil laws for the State. Perhaps Kuyper does not want to limit authoritative interpretation to the Church as institution. Even still, if one recognizes individual leaders as members of the Church organic then the boundaries a blurred. It seems, for Kuyper, that it would be better to have Church members in office than not, if indeed the best expression of the State is Christian. The Church then plays a significant role in producing a better State. On this reasoning it seems safe to claim that just as the Church needs the State to protect her, so does the State need the Church to guide her.