Historic Calvinism And Neo-Calvinism -- By: William Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 36:1 (Fall 1973)
Article: Historic Calvinism And Neo-Calvinism
Author: William Young


Historic Calvinism And Neo-Calvinism

William Young

Calvin and Kuyper may be taken as the initiators of two movements, historic Calvinism and neo-Calvinism. Whether neo-Calvinism is to be viewed as opposed to historic Calvinism or as constituting a legitimate development may not be determined in the present article. What may be established by examination of the texts, however, is that there are significant differences at least of emphasis, tending to develop into differences of religious principle and practice.

The central contrast to be drawn concerns the role of experimental religion in the Reformed Faith. The scene of the Reformed Faith in the Netherlands exhibits a remarkable phenomenon: i.e. a sharp cleavage between Calvinists emphasizing, sometimes in an extreme fashion, experimental religion, even cultivating a kind of mysticism, and on the other hand the Kuyper-Calvinists, including the followers of Schilder as well as the leaders of the Gereformeerde Kerken, who tend to exhibit a marked aversion to experimental religion and to restrict their interests to the doctrinal and practical aspects of religion. The former, i.e. the Old Calvinist circles, in addition to the smaller communities named Oud-Gereformeerd, include the flourishing Gereformeerde Gemeenten, the Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerken, and a substantial orthodox element in the Hervormde Kerk represented by the Gereformeerde Bond. In these circles, the Older Reformed writers are held in the highest esteem, not only Dutch writers such as R. Acronius, Th. and W. a. Brakel, A. Comrie, J. Fruitier, Th.v.d. Groe, J. Koelman, J. van Lodenstein, W. Schortinghuis, B. Smytegelt, W. Teellinck, G. Udemans, G. Voetius, and H. Witsius, but also the Scottish Presbyterian and English Puritan writers such as I. Ambrose, Baxter, H. Binning, Boston, Brown of Wamphray, Bunyan, J. Durham, R. and E. Erskine, A. Gray, T. Hooker, C. Love, Owen, Perkins, Rutherford, T. Shepard and T. Wat-

son.1 Although Kuyper himself and his immediate followers knew and loved the oude Schrijvers, there appears to have arisen a generation of the heirs of Kuyper that is ignorant of the great tradition of experimental and practical divinity to which Dutch as well as British Calvinists have made noteworthy contributions, or if not ignorant of its existence, regards it with indifference or scorn. The deplorable attitude of contempt all too often expressed with respect to the Puritans by representatives of the Kuyper-movement contrasts sharply with the frequent favorable references to the Puritans in Kuyper’s Stone-Lectures,2 as well as with the attitude prevalent in the Old Ca...

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