Protestant denominations of the Low Countries and Abraham Kuyper

Abraham Kuyper, portrait by H.J. Haverman; in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

Abraham Kuyper, (1837-1920), Dutch theologian, statesman, and journalist – portrait by H.J. Haverman; in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

Abraham Kuyper, son of Jan Frederik Kuyper, was first was home-schooled by his father and as such did not receive a formal primary education, but received secondary education at the Gymnasium of Leiden.

In 1855, he graduated from the Gymnasium and began to study literature, philosophy and theology at Leiden University. He received his propaedeuse in literature in 1857, summa cum laude, and in philosophy in 1858, also summa cum laude. He also took classes in Arabic, Armenian and physics.

In 1862 he was promoted to Doctor in theology on the basis of a dissertation entitled “Disquisitio historico-theologica, exhibens Johannis Calvini et Johannis à Lasco de Ecclesia Sententiarum inter se compositionem” (Theological-historical dissertation showing the differences in the rules of the church, between John Calvin and John Łaski). In comparing the views of John Calvin and the Polish Jan Łaski, whose denomination was considered to be sect. In 1648 there were still more than 200 of his Reformed congregations, but by the late 20th century there were only eight congregations in Poland, five in Lithuania, and one in Latvia. Kuyper showed a clear sympathy for the more liberal Łaski. During his studies Kuyper was a member of the modern tendency within the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk, (abbreviated NHK) or Dutch Reformed Church, which was the largest Christian denomination in the Netherlands from the onset of the Protestant Reformation until 1930.

Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer – Dutch Protestant political leader and religious thinker to whose influence can be traced one of the religious parties active in Dutch politics from the later 19th century.

Kuyper after he married Johanna Hendrika Schaaij became professed as pastor in Beesd (Betuwe) and four years later preacher in Utrecht. In 1870 he became minister in Amsterdam, where he two years later founded an anti-revolutionary newspaper, De Standaard which appeared in the Netherlands from 1872 to 1944. The foundation took place in the year that the 300th commemoration of the liberation of Den Briel (port of Brielle) took place, and Kuyper wanted to name the magazine “De Geus”. [The Capture of Brielle by the Watergeuzen, on 1 April 1572 marked a turning point in the uprising of the Low Countries against Spain in the Eighty Years’ War.] But the commemoration year had already provoked so many emotions that the Dutch historical icon Groen van Prinsterer with the years becoming milder managed to push through the name “De Standaard” in order not to hurt Catholics.

Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer in his early years was a liberal but converted about 1830 to strict Calvinist orthodoxy, becoming one of the pillars of the Réveil, a religious revival and antimodernist movement. In politics Groen provided the theoretical basis for the Dutch denominational political party system.

He prepared the way for the foundation of the Anti-Revolutionary Party formed in 1878 by Abraham Kuyper, who, unlike the aristocrat Groen, was capable of rallying the orthodox Protestant lower-middle classes.

Elected to the States General (national assembly) in 1874, Abraham Kuyper became the leader of Groen’s political group, expanding it to form the Anti-Revolutionaire Partij or Anti-Revolutionary Party (1878), the first properly organized Dutch political party. A far more practical politician than Groen, he built up a large lower-middle-class following with a program combining orthodox religious views and a progressive social program.

To provide a more thorough training in Calvinist doctrine for pastors, Kuyper founded the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU A’dam = Free University Amsterdam) in 1880. In 1886, Kuyper led an exodus from the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk(NHK), the Dutch Reformed Church which he considered overly aristocratic. He grieved the loss of Reformed distinctives within this State Church, which no longer required office bearers to agree to the Reformed standards which had once been foundational.

In 1892 he founded the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland or Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

Having returned to the States General in 1894, Kuyper formed a coalition in 1897 of the three “church” groups: Catholic, Anti-Revolutionary, and Christian Historical parties, the last-named an aristocratic splinter group from the Anti-Revolutionaries. Becoming prime minister and home affairs minister in 1901, he mediated between England and the Boers during the South African War (1899–1902).

AP, the National Journal of the Presbyterian Church of Australia (PCA) reflects the confessional stance of the PCA following the false doctrine of the Trinity though they claim that they believe that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God that points us to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our only Lord and Saviour. They desire is to help Australian and international Christians view the world from a Reformed, confessional perspective and on what they call their practical theology – helping people live a reformed life.

In their May 2019 magazine AP they look at the way the Dutch theologian, statesman, and journalist Abraham Kuyper argued how Reformed theology finds expression in and affects such areas of life as religion, politics, science and art.

Looking at his final lecture in which he explored what must be done if Calvinism is to engage modernism effectively they write

Kuyper’s Impact?

What Kuyper outlined in the Stone Lectures lays the foundation of the so called Neo-Calvinism movement, as declared by him in the inauguration speech of the Free University of Amsterdam:

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

Kuyper understood Christianity as a life system that was radically at odds with the cultural activities pursued by unbelievers. It can be called a pity he never came to see how there is only One True God.though he saw that in public life all thought of God was (and is still) ignored. He regretted that in some places church-bells were no more rung and that a few days of prayer were appointed. He knew that we could and should pray every day, though he with many of his confraters insisted on the particular Sunday to have worship. Strangely enough he noticed that

God’s name is no more spoken.

but did not really make a good effort to have the Name of God, Jehovah preached and be known and many times presented Jesus as God, contrary to Jehovah God His saying that Jesus is God His beloved son.

When he spoke of “sacred things” which “are scorned” one can wonder if he has it about the many pagan symbols which could be found and can still be found in many churches.

He wrote

The habit of doing without God in public life puts itself as a stream between God and the God-fearing soul. To hold fast by God, against the current of this stream, takes strong faith.

Though his and lots of the Calvinist churches never dared to go further in the reformation to cut away with all those false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

David Naugle may note:

Regenerate people with a Christian worldview produce a roughly theistic interpretation of science, and non-regenerate people with a non-Christian worldview produce an idolatrous science.

In the majority of Christian denominations, we can find lots of idolatrous actions, pagan rites and heathen festivals (like Christmas and Easter). since Kuyper’s time we can only conclude even more division came into the Protestant churches in the Low Countries (the Netherlands and Belgium). We are still looking forward for a spiritual awakening in those protestant denominations.

While Kuyper carefully nuances his position to avoid absurd conclusions, nonetheless he is clear that the experience of palingenesis [spiritual regeneration], which radically alters the content of human consciousness and reshapes worldview, makes a decisive difference in the way the cosmos is interpreted and science is pursued.

Kuyper’s approach has had far-reaching implications. Just as Paul has written in his letter to the Romans,

“… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2),

the gospel should transform the culture.

The problem in the world is that most peple do want to be connected to the world and being part of it. They give preference to all the human traditions and human doctrines which defiled religion of worship for the True God. It is true we still have hope, because

God created all things good; the Fall corrupted both man and creation, but the redemption of Jesus Christ is complete and, ultimately, all things will be redeemed. The kingdom of God extends to all spheres of life and

“grace restores nature,”

even though we will have to wait until the Second Coming to see this fully realised.




Nederlandstalige protestanten vinden de weg naar vroegere protestantse leermeesters



  1. Where Did All These Young Calvinists Come From?
  2. Between theology and philosophy
  3. Theology among the disciplines in a Republic under Scripture
  4. Generation to Generation: On the Importance of Christian Education
  5. To hold fast by God
  6. Kuyper, Common Grace 1.1
  7. Kuyer Common Grace 1.2
  8. Kuyper, Common Grace 1.10
  9. The Euthypro Dilemma

4 thoughts on “Protestant denominations of the Low Countries and Abraham Kuyper

  1. Pingback: Does Religion Have Any Place In Culture? | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

  2. Pingback: Wes Bredenhof on Abraham Kuyper | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

  3. Pingback: Between theology and philosophy | Stepping Toes

  4. Pingback: If the Bible tells us not to lean upon our own understanding, are preachers, and Bible professors, leaning upon the theirs’? | From guestwriters

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