maandag 9 juni 2014

Groen van Prinsterer: A Dutch statesman who confessed the Gospel of Christ 6

Groen van Prinster as a champion of a state governed by biblical principles 2

As a member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Groen van Prinsterer spoke again and again in favour of the Protestant character of Dutch society. He saw the principles of the revolution as a threat, not only to the Gospel, but also to the constitutional state, gover­ned by law and right. The ideology of absolute equality transforms the nations into ungovernable masses and spiritless individu­als. When this ideology becomes the pattern for the govern­ment, this will lead to an absolute, totalitarian state, which imposes this ideology on her subjects. But Groen van Prin­sterer declared that a constitutional state could only exist and flourish in the sphere of the Gospel.
As against the totali­ta­rian, absolute state Groen van Prinsterer maintained the special significance of church, school and family who all have their own sphere and rights. This thought was later on elabo­rated by his spiritual pupil in politics dr. Abraham Kuyper in his doctrine of ‘sovereignty in its own sphere’. The original ideal of Groen van Prinsterer was that the Protestant character of the Netherlands was acknowledged in the constitution. Later in he accepted the neutral state as a space in which the various religious and ideological persuasions can unfold them­selves. He emphasized in this context that the neutrality of the state ought in this case to be a real neutrality and not a choosing for the ideological principles of the French Revolution making in this way that principles a new kind of state religion.
For Groen van Prinsterer the neutrality of that the state was nothing more than an emergency solution, not the ideal one. That distin-guished him from Kuyper who was a champion of ‘a free church in a free sta­te’ from principle. The reason was that Groen van Prinsterer was deeply convinced that finally it is also for the state not possible to be strictly neutral. In the last analysis neutrality is impossible in the church, in science and in the state. For Groen van Prin­sterer it was God’s revela­tion in the Bible that has given its defini­te stamp to the histo­ry, not just of the Netherlands, but also of Europe and North-America as the root of the constitutional, lawful state. I remind you of his motto: ‘It is written, it has happe­ned.’
For Groen van Prinsterer it was clear that when loosened from these roots the leaves and flo­wers of the constitutional state will wither. Just as a person cannot be neutral, a government cannot be neutral. A so-called neu­tral state will very easily become an anti-Christian state. The policy of a government will somehow be defined by some prin­ciples. Groen van Prinsterer opposes the principles of the French Revolution, viz. freedom, equality and fraternity to the contents of  God’s revelation, the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ.
We could also say that Groen van Prinsterer opposed the ideology of the French Revolution to theocracy rightly under-stood? Theocracy understood as the fact that God reigns and that his revelation is the foundation of all real free­dom, also in society at large. The government whatever form she has (a republic, democracy, monarchy or a mix of them) ought to acknowledge God’s commandments as the principles to order society and so recognize God as King.
Groen van Prinsterer is not only of actual significance for the Netherlands. In America also Christians begin to discover signi-ficance. The American constitution is in fact an amalgam of the principles of the Puritans, with their emphasis on the divine right that is always superior to the position of sovereign, and the principles of the French Revolution.
The separation in the constitution between one national church and government has been interpre­ted in the course of time more and more as an absolute separa­tion between religion in general and Christian faith in particular and government. By this the state is factu­ally surrendered to an anti-Christian ideology. Neutrality is a myth. Several Ameri­can Christians who plead for recognition of a certain bond between government and religion are listening with deep interest to Groen van Prin­ste­rer’s words.
In the light of both the Word of God and the history of the Nether-lands Groen van Prinsterer’s political ideal was a state governed by the principles of historic Protestantism which at the same time gave full religious freedom to all different persuasions. He accepted the neutral state as makeshift contrivance emphasizing that the state must than be really neutral and not choosing for the ideological principles of the French Revolution but giving within the bounds of the constitution all freedom to develop themselves on all areas of life to the different persuasions.
Protestants Christians had to use this free development to form Christian institutions and especially free, Christian schools to permeate the nation with historic Protestantism and so win it back for God and his Word. The Christian school as a school with the Bible in distinction with the public school as a school without the Bible became for Groen one of the most important means for the preservation and disseminating of the gospel of Jesus Christ also with regard to its relevance for the structuring of the society. The Christian school with the Bible ought to become the rule and the public school without the Bible the exception.