Turning to the work of statesman and theologian Abram Kuyper (1837-1920), we read of the attack of the historical critical method upon Scripture, the formal principium. Note the continuity of Kuyper’s argument with that of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. In erudite form, Kuyper laments,
It is unfortunate, however that in the olden time so little attention was paid to the formal principium [Holy Scripture]. For now it seemed altogether as though the still darkened understanding was to investigate Scripture as its object, in an entirely similar way to that in which this same understanding threw itself on plant and animal as its object. At first this compelled the understanding to adapt and accommodate itself to the authority of the Holy Scripture, which then maintained a high position. But, in the long run, roles were to be exchanged, and the neglect of the formal principium was to bring about a revision of the Scripture in the sense of our darkened understanding, as has now actually taken place. For if faith was considered under Soteriology, and connection with faith the ‘illumination,’ what help was this, as long as theology itself was abandoned to the rational subject, in which rational subject, from the hour of his creation, no proper and separate principium of knowing God has been allowed to assert itself? Abram Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954, 1898), 347-348
Written in 1898, the “revision of Scripture” that “has now actually taken place” is unspecified. A fair assumption is that Kuyper is referring to the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament published in 1881 that preceded Nestle’s 1st edition Greek New Testament published in 1899. Kuyper strikes at the transcendentless crux of the historical critical method. At first studying Scripture like every other discipline, with a “darkened understanding” accommodated itself to Scripture. But in time, the authority of Scripture, the formal principium was exchanged for a “revision of the Scripture in the sense of our darkened understanding” [or natural understanding]. Kuyper asks what good is this development as long as the study of God is abandoned to men, men who from their creation have rebelled against God, and in this rebellion are incapable of knowing God — “as long as theology itself was abandoned to the rational subject, in which rational subject, from the hour of his creation, no proper and separate principium of knowing God has been allowed to assert itself.” It is a process where those governed by the “darkened understanding” of the natural man who considers the things of the Spirit foolishness, regard the Scripture as his object to be investigated like animals and plants. Welcome to the world of the historical critical method now embraced by many that should know better.
2 thoughts on “Abram Kuyper’s Principles of Sacred Theology (1898) and the Rebellion Against God”
Your edition of His work may be dated 1954, but Abraham Kuyper died in 1920–so the writing of it occurred much earlier.
You’re right. Thanks for the catch. Kuyper lived from 1837-1920. I’ll make the correction. Thanks again!