Historical background[ edit ] Sphere sovereignty is an alternative to the worldviews of ecclesiasticism and secularism especially in its Statist form. Ecclesiasticism was widely evident in the arts. Similarly, the politics in the Middle Ages often consisted of political leaders doing as the Church instructed. In both economic guilds and agriculture the Church supervised. In the family sphere, the Church regulated sexual activity and procreation. In the educational sphere, several universities were founded by religious orders.
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Abraham Kuyper Translated by George Kamps The men upon whom rests the administration of this Institution assigned to me the honor of inaugurating their school for higher education by introducing it to the authorities and the people.
In so doing, I ask that you grant me an unstinted measure of benevolent listening and charitable judgement. A request, the earnestness of which will be evident if you consider that I am not to deliver an inaugural oration nor a rectoral discourse, but that, barred from the quiet hiding-place of scientific research, the nature of my- task drives me to that treacherous terrain of public life, where nettles and thorns on all hedges burn and wound at every step.
For, if a higher criterion could have induced us to acquiesce in the existing conditions, why would we have undertaken this task? Most mildly stated , our undertaking implies a protest against the present environment and a suggestion that something better is available and even that consideration causes a certain embarrassment and diffidence, if only because of the semblance of presumption which 2 - which follows it like a shadow.
This could cause offence; this could hurt; there- - fore I hasten to assure you that whether we look at the might of learning, influence, and gold which oppose us, or whether we humbly consider our own importance and smallness , no lofty conceit but a quiet humility is expressed in the assurance of our words. We should- have preferred to remain in the background; it would have been much more comfortable to see others taking the lead. You are now waiting for me to tell you what this school which we are introducing expects to accomplish in the life of the Netherlands; why it brandishes the liberty cap on the tip of its lance; and why it peers so intently at the book of Reformed religion.
Permit me to link up the answer to those three questions engendered by the one concept f "Sphere Sovereignty" by pointing to this Sphere Sovereignty as the hallmark of our institution in its scientific purpose, and in its Reformed character. The first part of my discourse then will be to present our Institution in its national significance. Every crisis affects a life, and during the process of illness either promises a renewal of youth or threatens destruction by death.
Now I ask, what is the affected life in this case? What is at stake in this crisis, also for our nation? And who would repeat the answer of former times, as if the struggle were concerned with progress or preservation; with one-sidedness or versatility; with ideal or reality; or with rich or poor? The inadequacy, the disproportion, the shallowness of each of these diagnoses is too apparent to do so.
Finally this screen was also contemptuously overturned, and from the center to a constantlywidening circle the realization penetrated -- a realization which originally was understood only by the leading prophets of our century -- that in the present world crisis we are not concerned with nuances, with interests, or with justice, but with a living person, with Him who once swore that He was a King, and Who, because of that Sovereign King-pretension gave His life on the cross on Golgotha.
Not a hero of faith, not a martyr, but King of the Jews, that is, Bearer of the Sovereignty; this was inscribed upon His cross, as a criminal presumption, which demanded his death. And because of that Sovereignty, because of the existence or non-existence of that power of the One born of Mary, the spirits that think, the powers that rule, and the nations that participate are as turbulent now as they were in the first three centuries.
That King of the Jews, the saving truth to which all peoples respond with AMEN, or principial lie, which all peoples ought to oppose, that is the problem of Sovereignty which, even as it was once presented in the blood of the Nazarene, has again rent apart the world of our spiritual, our human, our national existence. Do you not agree with me when I describe it as: the authority that has the right and the duty to exercise power to break all resistance to its will and to avenge such resistance?
If you believe in Him as Planner and Creator, as Establisher and Determiner of all things, your soul must - 4 also proclaim the Triune God as the only and absolute Sovereign. Provided, and this I would stress, provided that one also acknowledges that this exalted Sovereign delegated and does delegate His authority to human beings; so that on earth one actually does net meet God Himself in things visible, but that sovereign authority is always exercised through an office held by men.
Is that all- embracing Sovereignty of God delegated undivided to one single man; or does an earthly Sovereign possess the power to compel obedience only in a limited circle; a circle bordered by other circles in which another is Sovereign? The answers to this question will vary, depending upon whether one is within the sphere of Revela:ion or outside of it. For of old the answer to that question by those in whose world of thought there war no room for.
It was then many gods, and therefore, because of the vis unita fortior, the one unlimited State was more imposing, more majestic than the divided might of the gods. And because of this the State, embodied in Caesar, itself became God. The god-State which could not tolerate any other gods beside itself. Thus came the passion for world-dominion. Divas Augustus! And that man-Messiah made His appearance, with power in heaven; with power over nature; with the pretension of power over all people; with power, in all people, also over conscience, also over faith; even the ties between mother and child must give way when He demanded obedience.
Here then is absolute Sovereignty; dominating all visible and invisible things; all that is both spiritual and material; all placed in the hands of one man. Not one of the kingdoms, but the absolute Kingdom.
For when once that perfect harmony breaks through, the Sovereignty will be transmitted from the Messiah to God Himself, no will then be "all in all". But behold now the glorious Freedom idea! That perfect and absolute Sovereignty of the sinless Messiah at the same time contains the direct denial and challenge of all absolute Sovereignty on earth in sinful man; because of the division of life into spheres, each with its own Sovereignty.
Our human life, with its material foreground, which is visible, and its spiritual background, which is invisible, obviously is neither simple nor uniform, but forms an infinitely structured organism. It is so structured that the individual exists only in groups, and the whole can reveal itself only in those groups. One may refer to the parts of this one great instrument as wheels, spring-driven on their own axles, or call them spheres, each filled with its own exciting life-spirit -- the name or figure is unimportant -- provided that one acknowledges that, as innumerable as the constellations in the firmament, various circles exist in this life, whose - 6 circumference is irawn with a firms radius from the center of a specific principle; the apostolic "every man in his own order", I Cor.
Even as one speaks of a "moral world", a "scientific world", a "world of commerce" and a "world of art", so one might speak with even more justification of "a circle" of the moral, "a circle" of the domestic, "a circle" of the social life, each with its own domain, and because each constitutes its own domain with its own Sovereign within the limits of that domain.
Thus there is a domain of nature, in which the Sovereign exerts power upon matter according to fixed laws. But there is also a domain of the personal, of the domestic, of the scientific, of the social, and of the ecclesiastical life; each of which obeys its own law of life, and each subject to its own head.
There is a domain of thought in which no law may prevail except the law of logic. A domain of conscience where none may exercise sovereign rule except the Holy One. And finally, a domain of faith within whose limits only the individual is Sovereign, and through that faith consecrates himself with his whole being.
Now in all of these spheres or circles the cogwheels engage one another, and it is precisely because of the mutual interaction of these shperes that there is an emergence of that rich, many-sided, multi-formed human life; but in that life there is also the danger that one sphere may encroach upon the neighboring sphere; thus causing a wheel to jerk and to break cog upon cog, and interfering with the progress of the whole.
A Sovereign who, as the Scriptures state so tersely, "establishes the throne by righteousness", whereas without righteousness it will fall and destroy itself.
Thus this State Sovereignty, as the power which protects the individual and determines the mutual righteous relations of the visible spheres of life because -7 it has the right to command and to compel, rises far above all of these. But it does not obtain within any of these spheres. There another authority rules, an authority which, without any effort of its own, descends from God, and which it does not confer but acknowledge.
He must make the wheels to turn as they are destined to turn. Not to oppress life nor to bind freedom, but to make possible a free exercise of life for and in each of these spheres, is not this a beckoning ideal for every noble State Sovereign?
Abraham Kuyper - Sphere Sovereignty.pdf
Abraham Kuyper Translated by George Kamps The men upon whom rests the administration of this Institution assigned to me the honor of inaugurating their school for higher education by introducing it to the authorities and the people. In so doing, I ask that you grant me an unstinted measure of benevolent listening and charitable judgement. A request, the earnestness of which will be evident if you consider that I am not to deliver an inaugural oration nor a rectoral discourse, but that, barred from the quiet hiding-place of scientific research, the nature of my- task drives me to that treacherous terrain of public life, where nettles and thorns on all hedges burn and wound at every step. For, if a higher criterion could have induced us to acquiesce in the existing conditions, why would we have undertaken this task? Most mildly stated , our undertaking implies a protest against the present environment and a suggestion that something better is available and even that consideration causes a certain embarrassment and diffidence, if only because of the semblance of presumption which 2 - which follows it like a shadow.
KUYPER SPHERE SOVEREIGNTY PDF
In , Kuyper returned to politics as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, a post he held until In that lecture, Kuyper lays out what I believe to be one of the most biblically sound models for the relationship among government, church, family and the individual. All governments claim a degree of sovereignty over their people. The question, Kuyper says, is from what source does that authority flow? Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism p.