MARY REICHARD, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It, a preview of this week’s Listening In that goes live tomorrow.
NICK EICHER, HOST: This week, Warren Smith talks to Bruce Ashford, the provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ashford recently wrote a book called Letters to An American Christian, in which he offers advice to a hypothetical college student.
REICHARD: In this excerpt from their conversation, Warren asks Ashford to explain the role Abraham Kuyper plays in the book.
WARREN SMITH: Would you tell us who Abraham Kuyper was and why you wanted to use him in some ways as a role model for this book?
ASHFORD: Yeah, I’d be happy to. You know, I actually named my only son Kuyper, so I’m all in. Father Abraham has many sons. Yeah, so let me say a couple of things about Kuyper. As we were talking earlier, you and I were, before the show, Kuyper’s just an amazing individual. He started out as a liberal pastor when he was very young. Became a more conservative Bible-believing pastor, and then eventually founded a national newspaper, founded a university, founded a political party, and eventually became prime minister of the Netherlands. So in addition to his life, his writings were really helpful. He had two essential insights that I’ll mention. One is the relationship of religion and culture. So Kuyper argued that if you want to find somebody’s religion, find their god; if you want to find their god, you might—it might be the God of Jesus Christ, or it might be sex and money and power, but whenever you find their god, you’ll find something that they embrace in a heartfelt manner. In fact, the Bible relates religion to the heart more than 800 times.
And when you say God, and when Kuyper said God, and whenever you use the word—a word like idol—you mean something that creates ultimacy or that sort of points us to ultimate ends, is that correct?
ASHFORD: Yeah, yeah, we can take anything in God’s good creation and elevate it to the level of a god: ascribe ultimacy to it, absolutetise it, and the only person we’re supposed to ascribe ultimacy to is God himself, but we’ll tend to ascribe it to sex or money or power, success, other false gods. But whatever it is we’re worshiping or ascribing ultimacy to, it serves as a central organizer of our lives, right? And so religion, whatever our religion is, it can’t be separated from politics or art or science or any of our public life. So that was one central insight from Kuyper, that our religion will absolutely and necessarily affect our public life.
EICHER: That’s Bruce Ashford speaking with Warren Smith. To hear the rest of that interview, be sure to check out Listening In. The new edition goes live tomorrow, and it’s available on your favorite podcast platform.