The Biology and Biography of Liberty: Abraham Kuyper and the American Experiment

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law


Koers, Vol. 64, No. 2-3, p. 173, 1999

In part because ofJohan van der Vyver's pioneering work, Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, educator, journalist, and politician, is well-known in South Africa. This article examines the lesser-known relationship between Kuyper's political theology and American law and politics. Kuyper praised American constructions of religious liberty and pluralism, separation of church and state, and free association and political pluralism. In Kuyper's view, these were the political fruits of an historical Calvinism that needed to be restored to political respectability if the American experiment was to live up to its promise.

While taking much of Kuyper's point, this article argues that Kuyper both overstated the Calvinist contributions to the American experiment, and failed to appreciate the unique covenantal theology that informed the Puritan Calvinist legal and political contributions that were made. Two illustrations of this influence are offered: (1) how the Puritans' emerging theology of liberty of covenant contributed to American views of religious liberty; and (2) how the Puritans' emerging sociology of covenants of liberty contributed uniquely to American views of social and political pluralism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

Keywords: Abraham Kuyper, John Calvin, Puritan

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Date posted: August 7, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, The Biology and Biography of Liberty: Abraham Kuyper and the American Experiment (1999). Koers, Vol. 64, No. 2-3, p. 173, 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1851240

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)

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