Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Politics and Prose

Byron Borger


August 5, 2011
by Byron Borger

This is a continuation of a series of articles by Byron Borger, introducing new books significant to the principled practice of public justice.

Abraham Kuyper: A Personal and Short introduction, Richard Mouw (Eerdmans) 2011 
It may almost go without saying that the late 19th-century theologian, cultural reformer, journalist and Prime Minister of Holland has had a decisive influence on the political philosophy of the Center for Public Justice.  Yet, there are very few introductory resources that explain who Kuyper was, what was unique about his social and political vision, and how it might be fruitful for our on-going 21st-century efforts at Christian civic life and faithful politics.  At last we have a near-perfect overview, about both Kuyper’s distinctive emphasis on pluralism and sphere sovereignty as well as Mouw’s own discovery and adaptation of Kuyper in his own work as a political theorist.  Very highly recommended for those wishing to be reminded of the core principles and notions of the Kuyperian tradition or those wanting to imagine how it might inform the work of the Center for Public Justice in our time.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, Timothy Keller (Dutton) 2010  

Reverend Timothy Keller has been a remarkably successful and increasingly renowned church planter in lower Manhattan, introducing a savvy and culturally relevant brand of evangelical faith that emphasizes serious Reformed doctrines—centered always in the gospel of grace—and a deep care for the vocations, callings and public responsibilities of the lives of the mostly young professionals with whom he ministers.  Keller has long been an advocate for “good Samaritan” charitable service to the poor and has affirmed the need to be involved in doing public justice as well.  Here he gives a brief, biblically rich, and theologically sound account of the ways we must be people who stand for justice.  This is not a theologically shallow or watered down version of the social gospel but a call to be just because Christ has justified us.  Short, thoughtful, and solid; quintessential Keller!

A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good,  Miroslov Volf (Baker) 2011 

Volf has become a major voice in world-wide Christian theology, respected by scholars, leaders, and readers of his many books from across the broad spectrum of faith.  He has been teaching at the prestigious Yale Divinity School for several years although he was catapulted to fame when he reflected poignantly and prophetically (in the award-winning Exclusion and Embrace) about his experiences as a Croatian-born theologian during the brutal Serbo-Croatian war.  In this new masterpiece he has earned accolades from the likes of Nicholas Woltersdorff (who calls it “a wonderful guide for the perplexed in our times”) and Richard Mouw (who says it offers “profound counsel...packed with wisdom”).  Volf draws insights from important Muslim and Jewish scholars and ponders how the Christian faith has often “malfunctioned” in the public sphere and how we might serve the common good, as followers of Christ, in our religiously pluralistic context.  Very insightful.

Calvin in the Public Square, David Hall (Presbyterian & Reformed) 2009

It should come as no surprise that the Center for Public Justice, beyond its Kuyperian connections, draws much of its philosophical sustenance from roots planted deep in the Protestant reformation.  But it may be surprising just how very rich that sustenance is and how much there is to learn about it.  This book is both a “crisp distillation” (John Witte) of the latest scholarly findings and a “clarion call to reclaim the Calvinist pedigree of some of the most cherished political ideas and institutions.”  Indeed, Hall shows in this very well-researched account just how many notions in the Western political tradition—human rights, political liberty, pluralism—are developed and nuanced by Calvin and his theological offspring.  A very impressive and particularly relevant final chapter introduces contemporary Calvinian political scholars from Groen Van Prinsterer to Kuyper to Herman Dooyeweerd.  Given the negative and often caricatured views held by many about Calvin and Calvinism’s legacy, for those who do not know this intellectual genealogy well, it may be a stunning paradigm shift to realize the healthy and generative characteristic of these lasting notions. 

—Byron Borger runs one of our favorite bookstores, Hearts & Minds Books. Read some if his review essays on that site; you will be glad you did!




“To respond to the author of this Commentary please email:
Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”