Herman Bavinck's Contribution to Christian Social Consciousness

By Bolt, John | Journal of Markets & Morality, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Herman Bavinck's Contribution to Christian Social Consciousness


Bolt, John, Journal of Markets & Morality


The year 1891 represents a high-water mark in the development of Christian social consciousness in the modern world, represented most famously by Pope Leo XIII's fertile encyclical Rerum Novarum, the Holy See's answer to the nineteenth-century preoccupation with "the social question." (1) The essay by Herman Bavinck under consideration here was part of the deliberations of the First Christian Social Congress held in Amsterdam on November 9-12, 1891. Bavinck's essay is not nearly as well known as the opening address to the congress given by Abraham Kuyper, "The Social Question and the Christian Religion," but it deserves attention as a thoughtful reflection on the hermeneutic question of how to use the legal framework of the Pentateuch/Torah for Christian social engagement in the modern world. (2) In the introduction that follows I will briefly set the stage for the congress' work in the broader context of nineteenth-century social discussions, summarize the key elements in Bavinck's report, and conclude with some observations about its reception and ongoing value.

The Context: European Social Congresses

The social question--what to do about the growing number of urbanized, working-class poor who struggled to meet basic necessities of life--arose in the nineteenth century thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the resultant dislocation of working people from rural areas into the urban centers of Europe as cottage industries gave way to factory production. Whatever date is chosen for the beginning of this major shift, (3) it is clear that the forces of industrialization, driven by technological innovation in iron and steel production as well as textile manufacture, spread like wild-fire across Europe after its initial phase primarily in England at the conclusion of the eighteenth century. (4) The resultant social upheaval cried for response and a variety of "fixes" were proposed in the nineteenth century. One response, socialism, and its chief intellectual voice, Karl Marx, has been well studied and is generally well known. Much the same can be said about the "Christian socialism" of Anglicans Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) and F. D. Maurice (1805-1887), along with American Baptists Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) and Francis Julius Bellamy (1855-1931). (5) Not as well known in North America is the tradition of continental European Christian Social Congresses, many of them, such as the Dutch First Social Congress, were based in and focused on specific national concerns. The term congress can be misleading if we think in terms of single, conference-like events, again such as the 1891 event in Amsterdam. It is more appropriate to think of them--even when used in the singular--as organized movements for social reform, often including a variety of groups and interests, and acting in varying degrees of concert over an extended period of time. (6) Thus, the simply named Evangelical Social Congress was a diverse social-reform movement of German pastors founded in 1890. (7) The men who played a prominent part in the leadership of the congress reflect this diversity: social thinker Max Weber (1864-1920); the Christian socialist Friedrich Naumann (1860-1919); (8) Adolf Stoeker (1835-1909), chaplain to the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II and founder of the Lutheran, anti-Semitic, Christian Social (Workers) Party (1878); (9) as well as liberal, social gospel mainstays Wilhelm Herrmann (1848-1922) and Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930). (10)

The Dutch Christian Social Congress: Context

The First Christian Social Congress of the Netherlands was held in Amsterdam on November 9-12, 1891, but the events that shaped it went back to the 1860s and included the formation of cooperatives and workers' groups, including typographers (1861, 1866) and construction workers (1866), along with a ship-builders' strike in 1869. (11) In the intervening years, leading up to the congress of 1891, the world's workers formed the International Working Men's Association (IWMA, later the "First Internationale") in London on September 28, 1864, but the Paris Commune momentarily seized power on March 28, 1871, establishing a brief communist rule until its bloody defeat two months later. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Herman Bavinck's Contribution to Christian Social Consciousness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.