Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 34, No 1 (2015)

A Calvinist Case for Tolerant Public Pluralism: The Religious Sources of Abraham Kuyper’s Public Philosophy

John L. Hiemstra
Issued Date: 27 May 2015


Religiously generated conflict and intolerance around the world challenge the idea that religion can generate support for plurality, religious freedom, genuine toleration and democracy. Some argue, for example, that Islam is incompatible with democracy. This article argues that each religious tradition must explore its internal resources for how they might generate and support toleration and democracy. I explore the case of neo-Calvinism which shares a belief in God’s sovereignty with Islam, yet strongly supports religious freedom, toleration and democracy. The Dutch neo Calvinist leader, Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) developed distinctive political ideas consistently based on Christian beliefs. This article opens by examining Calvin’s thought for intolerant political ideas. It presents Kuyper’s rationale for the legitimacy of “reforming” earlier Christian ideas and actions. The majority of the article analyzes Kuyper’s rationale for “tolerant public pluralism” in order to show how neo-Calvinist beliefs systematically shaped his political thinking.

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DOI: 10.1558/rsth.v34i1.26901


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