Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 063:2 (Fall 2001)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

John Bolt: A Free Church, A Holy Nation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. Xxv + 502 pp. $38.00.

“This book is in part a response to American evangelical interest in Abraham Kuyper, an interest heightened by the 1998 centennial commemoration of Kuyper’s own onetime visit to this continent to deliver the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in October 1898” (p. xii). There is no doubt that Kuyper would be saddened by the condition of those institutions and ideas for which he so passionately worked—the Free University of Amsterdam, De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, the (no longer existent) Antirevolutionary Party… He would, no doubt however, be encouraged to see the renewed interest in his work and ideas in the United States. But how can we explain (at least in part) this renewed interest in a country that Kuyper only visited once? Bolt’s book helps us answer that question.

Specifically, Bolt argues for the relevance of Kuyper for an ‘American Public Theology.” Even more specifically, Bolt sees Kuyper as relevant to and helpful for the creation and maintenance of a robust evangelical American public theology (p. 223). In that vein, Bolt offers a new interpretation of Kuyper’s public theology, “an interpretation that can serve as a basis for the further detailed explication that still begs to be done” (p. xviii).

Initially, Bolt envisioned this volume as an application of Kuyperian theological emphases to politics. Kuyper’s notion of antithesis, sphere sovereignty and common grace were meant to provide the overall structure of the discussion. Bolt’s vision changed, however, as he began to view Kuyper more as a rhetorician than a theologian. With that vision came a new interpretation of Kuyper, or of Kuyper’s influence, and thus new emphases and comparisons began to follow.

The outline of the book itself is intriguing. A significant part of Bolt’s new interpretation of Kuyper is his argument for Kuyper as political poet.

Specifically, this involves a consideration—including biblical and national metaphors, symbols, narratives, and myths to accomplish this goal. He did not, in the first place, mobilize a people by positing reasonable, abstract ‘Reformed principles’ (Gereformeerde beginselen), therewith intellectually besting the principles and setting aside the arguments of enlightenment philosophes. Rather—as journalist, churchman, political leader of the Antirevolutionary Party, and public speaker extraordinaire—he effectively captured the political imagination of the Dutch Gereformeerde volk with powerful rhetoric, we...

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