Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bavinck Prize & Neocalvinism Hijacked by Communitarians @ Calvin

Anyone who has followed Dutch politics over the last decade knows full well that Jan Peter Balkenende is a controversial communitarian politician. Just read for example this  recent statement by Jan Peter Balkenende:
"Bitter experience has taught us how fundamental our values are and how great the mission they represent"
Preaching western superiority and judeo-christian values (when did neocalvinism ever preached that BS?? Please give me a link) has been his trademark since he won his first parliamentary elections after the assassination of Pim Fortuyn.

The context of Balkenende's speech was the conference After 9/11/11.... What? Reformed Theology and the Church's Global Mission Today at Calvin Theological Seminary at which the former Dutch prime minister received the Bavinck Prize for Outstanding Reformed Contribution to the Church, the Academy or Public Life.  At this same conference, VU historian George Harinck said on Bavinck's approach to Islam:
"In politics Bavinck criticizes the idea that modernism will conquer Islam from within, and he claims that modern culture is indebted to Christianity. Instead of striving to modernize Islam, the Dutch government would do well to invest in Christian education in the Dutch East Indies. Only the Christian faith has the answers to questions the Islam poses to the West. According to  Harinck Bavinck chose the flight forward and he underestimated the secularizing power of modern thought."
Bavinck and Kuyper succeeded in surfing the wave of democratic development that deeply impacted culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Let's however not forget that democratic development in Europe was more then just getting the right to vote. It was just as much about music and art and theology. The pendulum of an elitist society swung towards a populist society, neocalvinism fell of it's "surfboard" in 1944 (Does the phrase "the revolution eats it's own children" apply to neocalvinism as well?).

Bavinck's speech on modernism and orthodoxy is a great read for those who try to understand his views on the relationship between science and neocalvinism. Huub Mous' blogpost "Modernism and Abraham Kuyper" is a great read for those who try to understand the relationship between art and neocalvinism. Klaas Schilder's sermon "niet verwerpen" is a great read for those who try to understand the relationship between theology and neocalvinism.

If we want to understand the political and cultural context in which Jan Peter Balkenende's communitarian reading of neocalvinism could hijack the Dutch version of Christian Democracy it's worth while reading Wim Dekker's book Marginaal en missionair  (no English translation yet?) which gives a good historical overview of the evolution of theology and the role of the church in Dutch society since the second world war.

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