Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920)
Abraham Kuyper was born in Maassluis, near Rotterdam, in 1837 to a Dutch Reformed minister and a former schoolteacher; he died at The Hague in 1920. He was an astonishing polymath and an organizational genius. He was originally an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church; in 1892, he became one of the founders of a new denomination, the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland. He was the founder of a nationwide society to promote the formation and funding of Calvinist day schools (1878), the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam (1880), a professor of theology in the Free University for some twenty years (1880–1901), and rector of the university on several occasions. He was the chief editor for almost fifty years of the daily newspaper De Standaard and of its weekly supplement, De Héraut. He was the founder (1879) and acknowledged leader until his death of the first mass political party in the Netherlands, the Anti-Revolutionary Party. He twice served as a member of the Dutch Parliament and was prime minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. In addition to all this he was, throughout his adult life, a writer of devotional literature, of theological treatises, of social and cultural analyses, and of an astonishing number of “tracts for the occasion,” as well as being an extraordinarily gifted and busy platform speaker and lecturer.
He was a polymath, but by no means a dilettante. In all that he did, diverse though it was, Kuyper was a religious leader, albeit of an unusual sort. In the course of his theological studies at the University of Leiden (1855–63), Kuyper studied the classics of the Reformed (Calvinist) tradition and wrote a dissertation on Calvin and the Polish reformer John à Lasco. Simultaneously, he became enamored with the theological modernism of some of his professors. That got him into trouble during his first pastorate, in the small country village of Beesd in the southern part of the Netherlands. A number of devout parishioners refused to attend services because his modern