A Brief Introduction to the Heart of Abraham Kuyper: “Honey from the Rock” – LogosTalk

Last year Lexham Press released a book of daily devotions from the young Abraham Kuyper, Honey from the Rock.

Though most know Kuyper now for his Christian cultural engagement, in his time he was better known for his personal meditations.

George Harinck, professor of history at the Free University of Amsterdam and Theological University of Kampen, writes in his endorsement of the book:

Kuyper is best known for his Christian vision of cultural engagement. This is his legacy, but in Kuyper’s times he was beloved among the Reformed people in the first place for his weekly meditations. In these reflections on a Bible verse, Kuyper opened his heart to his readers by meditating about the personal relation with God in a creative, personal, and inspiring way. Of all Kuyper’s publications, his volumes with meditations sold best. His meditations seem largely to have been forgotten, and therefore it is more than apt that James de Jong translated one of the most famous volumes and presents the religious Kuyper to a new audience. If you want to learn to know Kuyper, his meditations are the best entree to his biography and work. (Emphasis mine)

So begins this introduction to a major new translation of an important part of Kuyper’s voluminous writings – his meditations. These meditations are some of his first published works, representing the “young” Dutch theologian and churchman. Originally written for the Sunday weekly De Standaard (later De Heraut), these meditations appeared in the years 1877-1882. Later they were published in two volumes in 1880 and 1883 under the title Honig Uit Den Rotssteen (both of which may be found in the PRC Seminary library).

And now comes the first English translation, through the work of Dr. James A. De Jong, former Calvin Theological Seminary president and professor, as commissioned by the Dutch Reformed Translation Society with collaboration from Lexham Press (2018). This is a fine work – in content and quality – and it is a blessing to see all 200 meditations of the original two-volume Dutch set in English in one, large hardcover volume (see cover image).

For the rest of this post, we pull out a portion of De Jong’s “Translator’s Preface” as quoted in the LogosTalk post linked below. In the future, we plan to pull some choice quotations from these Kuyperian meditations to give you a taste of the sweet honey he found in the Word of God.

One cannot understand Abraham Kuyper apart from his meditations. The more one delves into them, the better one comes to know Abraham Kuyper.

…As a theological professor, he produced major theological works, many now being translated into English for the first time. Kuyper’s amazing stamina and productivity, seen in these initiatives, were nurtured by the spirituality so transparent in his meditations. Kuyper did not wear his heart on his sleeve, but his meditations are the lens through which we are privileged to look into his soul.

The title Honey from the Rock is based on Psalm 81:16: “But you will be fed with the finest of wheat. I will satisfy you with honey from the rock.” While Kuyper never did write a meditation on this verse, it perfectly captures how he felt about meditating on Scripture. Communion with the Lord is sweet. It feeds the deepest hungers of the human spirit.

Spiritual nourishment comes from all parts of the Bible. This collection draws heavily from the Gospels, Psalms, New Testament Letters, and Old Testament Latter Prophets. But it also includes meditations based on passages from the Pentateuch, Former Prophets, and wisdom literature.

The themes and topics in this collection are rather wide ranging. Emphasis on personal assurance based on God’s covenant promises is prominent. So is God’s patience and long-suffering with his often-indifferent people. The power and glory of the Christian life are frequent motifs. Endurance and perseverance in the face of hardship appear consistently. The responsibilities of Christian parenting are regularly treated, as are the sad consequences of neglecting them. Formal, empty, powerless religious practice is often denounced, as are hypocrisy and religious practice for social recognition.

The meditations are equally emphatic against cultivating subjective religious experience as the basis for assurance; Kuyper unmasks the spiritual peril of such piety. He is graphic and candid about the power of sin in the lives of Christians as well as among unbelievers. For him, the Devil, sin, and hell are looming realities regularly referenced in his material. He emphasized the ministering power of angels in Christian experience. He stressed the urgency of vibrant Christian community, the Sabbath as a time of sacred refuge and renewal, and the centrality of worship and preaching and sacraments in the ministration of grace. Worldly diversion and the pursuit of material gain and human recognition elicit his warnings.

Kuyper does employ theological terms in these meditations: calling, election, adoption, regeneration, sanctification, atonement, and others. But he does so not to teach doctrine; he assumes that readers understand this vocabulary. He uses these terms only to stress the riches of fellowship with God. Kuyper’s handling of his chosen themes and topics, and his occasional use of theological terms, occur in a surprisingly fresh, creative style. His meditations are spiritually gripping and memorable.

For more on this new title, visit the Logos link below. And yes, the seminary library has a copy of this English edition now added to its collection. And I have one added to my personal library. 🙂 I am making these meditations some of my post-supper reading at present.

Source: A Brief Introduction to the Heart of Abraham Kuyper – LogosTalk

“The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.” ~ D. Bonhoeffer

If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and then we shall be able to pray them. It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. If we were dependent entirely on ourselves, we would probably pray only the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. [That is, “Give us this day our daily bread.”] But God wants it otherwise. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the second section, “Learning to Pray in Jesus’ Name.”

“A shelf in my head.” C. H. Spurgeon

spurgeon_sm1I appreciated this recent devotional that appeared on Grace Gems (October 15, 2017). Taken from Charles H. Spurgeon’s popular devotional book Morning by Morning, it shows the importance of Christ for all of our knowledge and understanding. It is my hope that it profits you as well.

A shelf in my head!

(Charles Spurgeon)

Before I knew the gospel I gathered up a heterogeneous mass of all kinds of knowledge from here, there, and everywhere–a bit of chemistry, a bit of botany, a bit of astronomy, and a bit of this, that, and the other. I put them altogether, in one great confused chaos.

When I learned the gospel, I got a shelf in my head to put everything in its place, just where it should be.

It seemed to me as if, when I had discovered Christ and Him crucified, I had got the center of the system, so that I could see every other science revolving around in order.

From the earth, you know, the planets appear to move in a very irregular manner–some are progressive, retrograde, stationary, etc. But if you could get upon the sun, you would see them marching round in their constant, uniform, circular motion.

Likewise with human knowledge. Begin with any other science you like–and truth will seem to be amiss. But if you begin with the science of Christ crucified, you will begin with the sun–and you will see every other science moving around it in complete harmony.

The old saying is, “Go from nature–up to nature’s God.” But it is hard work going up hill. The best thing is to go from nature’s God–down to nature. If you once get to nature’s God, and believe Him and love Him–it is surprising how easy it is to hear music in the waves, and songs in the wild whisperings of the winds; to see God everywhere, in the stones, in the rocks, in the rippling brooks; and to hear Him everywhere, in the lowing of cattle, in the rolling of thunder, and in the fury of tempests.

Get Christ first, put Him in the right place–and you will find Him to be the wisdom of God in your own experience.

The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

As we come to the close of this Reformation month, an important subject we have not yet touched on is Christian education. Just as the Reformers, by returning to the fundamental truths of the Word of God, impact all areas of the Christian life, so too did they influence the realm of education.

The special Lutheran website, The Hausvater Project (German for house-father, calling fathers to lead their homes in God’s ways, according to Luther’s own comments in his Small Catechism), recently highlighted this aspect of the Luther’s reforming work.

Below is a portion of the article by Ryan MacPherson, as he asks and answers five basic questions in this article:

  1. What Should Be Taught?
  2. How Should It Be Taught?
  3. To Whom Should It Be Taught?
  4. By Whom Should It Be Taught?
  5. How Shall We Honor Luther’s Legacy Today?

Though written for a Lutheran audience, this article may also be read for profit by us Reformed folk, and by all Protestant Christians. Read this part, and then read the rest at the link below.

Martin Luther may be best known for his theological reformation of the medieval church, which had strayed from the pure teaching of God’s Word. Luther did not, however, pursue his theological aims in isolation from other concerns; his writings touch upon politics, social life, and the arts. He also recognized the importance of education, both for the church and for the civil realm.

In 1520—after nailing the 95 Theses but before saying “Here I stand” at Worms—Luther published “An Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate.” Developing the sola scriptura principle of the Reformation, Luther wrote that “the Scripture alone is our vineyard in which we must all labor and toil.” Although he encouraged the universities to teach classical languages, to assign readings in the church fathers, and (cautiously) to glean insights from Aristotle and other pagan authors, Luther above all emphasized the value of the biblical languages and he sternly warned: “I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme.”

Source: The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact – The Hausvater Project

How Do We See and Savor the Glory of the Lord in the NT? By Reading (the Word)!

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017So Paul has shifted our focus from the old covenant to the new – from the law of Moses to the gospel of Christ. From the veiled, temporary glory, to the unveiled, permanent glory. And his central point is that when the veil is lifted  – when the hardening and blindness are removed – we see the glory of the Lord. ‘We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed’ (2 Cor.3:18). …Seeing the glory of God was, and is, preeminent.

Recall [from the author’s previous points] that the point of contact with the glory of God was, at one time, supposed to be the reading of Moses (2 Cor.3:14-15). Reading! This was supposed to be the way the glory of God was seen. Has that changed? No. there has been no criticism or abandonment of this window we call ‘reading.’ So we may assume that the value of this window remains.

The difference is that once there was reading with a veil. Now there is reading with no veil. Once there was a window with a curtain, and now that curtain has been pulled aside. But the window of reading remains, as we saw in Ephesians 3:4. It remains God’s plan for the revelation of his glory. …’Beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled face’ (2 Cor.3:18) happens through reading. This is true both for the Spirit-illumined reading of the old covenant as well as a reading (or hearing) of the gospel of Christ.

Quotation from Chapter 4, “Reading to See Supreme Worth and Beauty, Part 2” of John Piper’s new book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). In this chapter he is emphasizing and explaining this part of his “proposal,” ‘that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty.”

Your Mind Matters (2) – J. Stott

mind-matters-stottI have tried to show how basic is man’s rationality to the great doctrines of creation, revelation, redemption and judgment. God has constituted us thinking beings; he has treated us as such by communicating with us in words; he has renewed us in Christ and given us the mind of Christ; and he will hold us responsible for the knowledge we have.

Perhaps the current mood (cultivated in some Christian groups) of anti-intellectualism begins now to be seen as the serious evil it is. It is not true piety at all but part of the fashion of the world and therefore a form of worldliness. To denigrate the mind is to undermine foundational Christian doctrines. Has God created us rational beings, and shall we deny our humanity which he has given us? Has God spoken to us, and shall we not listen to his words? Has God renewed our mind through Christ, and shall we not think with it? Is God going to judge us by his Word, and shall we not be wise and build our house upon this rock?

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott, p.26.

Your Mind Matters – J. Stott

mind-matters-stott…The Christian doctrine of revelation, far from making the human mind unnecessary, actually makes it indispensable and assigns to it its proper place. God has revealed himself in words to minds. His revelation is a rational revelation to rational creatures. Our duty is to receive his message, too submit to it, to seek to understand it and to relate it to the world in which we live.

That God needs to take the initiative to reveal himself shows that our minds are finite and fallen; that he chooses to reveal himself to babies [Matt.11:25] shows that we must humble ourselves to receive his Word; that he does so at all, and in words, shows that our minds are capable of understanding it. One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word, and so to read his mind and think his thoughts after him, both in nature and in Scripture.

I venture to say that when we fail to use our minds and descend to the level of animals, God addresses us as he addressed Job when he found him wallowing in self-pity, folly and bitter complaining: ‘Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.’ [cf. Job 38:3; 40:7]

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott, pp.20-21

When I Feel Stuck (or Handling “Wet Wednesdays”) – Neil Stewart

TT-April-2016This fine article from the April 2016 Tabletalk on how to deal with seasons of discouragement and depression in our lives is worth your reading, in my estimation. And worth passing on to a friend or family member who also struggles with these very real things in his/her Christian life.

I give you a portion of it here; you will find the rest at the Ligonier link below.

Stewart begins by describing the condition we experience:

The soul knows its own wet Wednesday afternoons. All prodigals, we walk home through a world blighted by Adam’s choice. Fallenness dampens every joy. Burdens heavy with guilt, shame, and regret bite into our shoulders. Fears within and troubles without loom black like thunder. We yearn to hear more of the running footsteps of a welcoming father, his strong arms wrapped around, his tears warm and salty on our cheeks. But disappointed longings follow us as constant companions. Our best moments are always interrupted, and like the weekend for the midweek schoolboy, heaven can feel far enough away to seem forever away.

The worst of these times go unexplained. No particular sin, failure, or mistake stands out as the culprit. We feel “blah” and don’t know why (Ps. 42:5). In this far place, we fall easy prey to a dark theology built upon feelings. A depressing inevitability follows: We don’t feel God speaking, so we stop reading our Bibles. We don’t sense God listening, so we stop saying our prayers. Inertia dampens everything; we go nowhere. What to do?

Indeed, what to do?! Here is part of his answer:

First, remember: you are not alone. All God’s children have trodden these paths before. How often the psalmists felt abandoned, yet they still reached for God in song. David cried out: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1). The Sons of Korah asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (42:1). These saints were coming before the Lord and asking how long God would hide His face from them. There is a lesson here: good men often feel worse than they are. These men begin in a moment of dark despair, but they do not end there. As the psalmists agonize, their hearts leak Scripture. In the darkness, back beneath the sense of dereliction, God is still there, giving them words, helping them Godward, inspiring the Bible. Yahweh is always nearer to us than we feel.

Yes, that “first” is truly first! “Hope thou in God!” Psalm 42:5

Source: When I Feel Stuck by Neil Stewart

Note to Self: What is Preaching to Ourselves?

Note-to-self-ThornLast Sunday I began to introduce you to a “new” book I picked up in a local thrift store – Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011).

The main part of the book consists of specific “notes to self”, applying the gospel we hear each week to ourselves. These personal applications are grouped into three sections:

  • Part One: The Gospel and God
  • Part Two: The Gospel and Others
  • Part Three: The Gospel and You

We will be taking a look at some of these specific “notes to self” in the weeks ahead, but for today we should start by looking at the author’s introduction. Under the heading “Preaching to Ourselves?”, Thorn starts by defining what he means by “the discipline of preaching to yourself”:

…Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness.

In that connection, he also explains why this is so important and so necessary:

     …It is critically important to sit under the preaching of the Word in your local church. Additionally, we can listen to podcasts and read books as God continues to work through his Word to impact our lives. But even in the midst of all this listening, it is not enough to hear; we must take the Word preached and continue to preach it to ourselves.

Good preaching always shows how truth is relevant, applicable, or experiential, but preachers can only take the Word so far. They do not know what lies in our hearts or the specific ways in which we may be struggling with doubt, fear, or failure. When hearing the Word preached, we still must apply it to our own hearts and lives. Therefore, my explanation of preaching to ourselves is applicable to those times when we hear another preach the Word to us, as well as when we take in God’s Word privately.

And he closes out this part of his introduction with these words:

     This personal, devotional work is essential to our own health, but also to our effectiveness in sharing the law and the gospel with others. The more deeply we understand and experience law and gospel, the more capable we become in communicating and applying it to those around us. A good teacher or evangelist is first of all a good preacher to himself (p.24).

Note to Self: Take the Word Seriously!

Note to Self

From a “new” book I picked up yesterday, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). Pastor Sam Storms wrote the foreword and has some powerful things to say about the Word of God preached, read, and studied.

Here is just a sampling:

As if that were not enough, this ‘word’ is ‘living and abiding’ (1 Pet.1:23). It is ‘living’ because it has the power to impart life. It is abiding because the life it imparts is permanent and sustained and never dies. The contrast, of course, is not between the Word of God and literal grass and flowers. The latter are cited as representative or symbolic of anything in which we put our confidence, particularly things that are flashy and exciting and bring initial joy, but over time fade and diminish and lose their capacity to guide us and satisfy our souls, whether strength, power, wealth, beauty, or fame (p.14).

And then after some excellent applications concerning how those in the field of sociology, psychology, and philosophy, etc. try to set the latest trends for the church with regard to how to preach the Word to people – paragraphs that have Storms ending each one with this line: “And through it all the Word of God will have remained true and unchanging and ever powerful” – he adds these words:

The price of gold may rise and fall. The stock market may prove bullish or bearish. Your physical appearance will improve and then disintegrate. The loyalty of friends will come and go. Earthly fame will last but for a season. And through it all, the truths and principles and life-giving power of God’s Word will remain.

Let it be the anchor for your soul. Let is be the rock on which you stand. Let it be the compass to guide you through trials and tragic times. Let it govern your choices and renew your heart and restore your joy and ground your hope. Build your life on its moral principles. Embrace its ethical and moral norms. Believe what it says about the nature of God. Believe what it says about the nature of mankind (p.15).

More on the rest of the book in 2016. It appears to be the kind of book that is profitable reading on Saturday night and Sunday in preparation for worship – and especially for hearing the Word.