Tag Archives: famous quotes

The costly grace of serving God, not the cheap grace of self-service

13 Oct

A few posts ago, I mentioned Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a Dutch Reformed theologian-pastor-journalist-professor-politician of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In his famous speech opening the Free University in 1880, Kuyper said, “There’s not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord over all, does not exclaim, ‘Mine’!” This has become Kuyper’s most famous statement, at least in North America.

So notes James Bratt, historian at Calvin College, who has recently published the best biography yet on Kuyper.

(Kuyper has some influence around here in northwest Iowa, where Kuyper himself visited in 1898 because of the Dutch Reformed immigrants who came here 1870 and following. For the latter story, look to our forthcoming book Orange City.)

In a post at The 12, Bratt comments on some problems he has with how Kuyper’s famous quote is too often taken:

Here’s my beef. In announcing that any work can be God’s work, we run the risk of saying that any work is God’s work. That whatever we want to do, we may do and put a God stamp on it. Wherever, however, with whomever, with all the standard rewards in that field. You don’t need Kuyper to crown the main chance with piety; all sorts of Christians in every tradition have been at it for centuries. Plus the inference is a whole lot short of what Kuyper said, and what the Gospel teaches. So if we’re going to intone “every square inch,” let’s have some riders attached.

Indeed. We do not need more remaking God in our image. Instead, we need more of loving God and our neighbor in all the realms of our lives, and of life.

To read about the riders Bratt suggests, here’s his entire post:

the12 – James Bratt – Why I’m Sick of “Every Square Inch”.

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Dumb things by smart people

31 Jul

David Rieff, in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (Spring 2012), as excerpted in the Wilson Quarterly 36 (Summer 2012), p. 68, has managed to express what I have not been able to express about an aphorism we historians have to contend with:

I have always thought George Santayana’s celebrated phrase that those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it to be one of the dumbest things ever said by a smart person. It assumes the past repeats itself, which hardly seems likely, and that the past can be understood by posterity as offering simple moral lessons–history as a kind of McGuffey’s Reader writ large–when in fact history is almost never morally binary, but rather bears out Walter Benjamin’s saturnine claim that every document of civilization is also a document of barbarism.

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