Abraham Kuyper (Richard Mouw, 2011), Portraits of a Radical Disciple (Christopher Wright, 2011)

Two 20th century leaders worth knowing
St. Paul says that God cares for his church. One way he does so is by raising up leaders who can lead his people to maturity so we can flourish, distinguishing truth from foolishness and able to chart a steady path through the myriad choices we confront (Ephesians 4:11-16). This promise requires faith on our part, especially during periods like the present when the church seems adrift, captive to political ideologies and consumerism, and unattractive to a generation who search for spiritual reality. Here I recommend two brief books that introduce us to two men whose legacy of leadership and thoughtful commitment to the gospel form shining bookends to the 20th century.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) and John Stott (1921-2011) never knew one another and I knew neither personally, but together they have helped shape my life and faith. Kuyper was a theologian and statesman, Stott a theologian and pastor. Together they modeled for me some of the very best of Christian thinking and living. In Kuyper I found an understanding of biblical orthodoxy in which Christ’s Lordship extends to every facet of life and culture. In Stott I saw an irenic, compelling use of Scripture to creatively address every question and challenge that a fallen world could generate.

Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction is by Richard Mouw, a scholar who shares Kuyper’s rich theological and philosophical heritage. We learn about the man, though the book is primarily about Kuyper’s ideas about living faithfully in the world, and how they were worked out in a life engaged with the culture of his day and nation. Evangelical Protestants tend to make a lot of noise in the public square in America, but seldom do I have the impression that behind the noise is a solid worldview foundation that undergirds that engagement. It is here that Kuyper’s work can be of help because though he lived in the early years of the 20th century he was especially concerned to see Christian faith brought into appropriate tension with a fallen, modern, and increasingly pluralistic world.

Portraits of a Radical Disciple: Recollections of John’s Stott’s Life and Ministry is by an assortment of people who knew Stott, and so is a bit uneven, but it is a lovely tribute to a man who not only loved the gospel but embodied it. Portraits is edited by Christopher Wright, who is a theologian, author and the international director of John Stott Ministries (Langham Partnership). Each chapter is brief, usually intimate, and always full of warm memory of Stott, in all sorts of settings.

We need wise voices today, leaders who rise above the shrill rhetoric of the marketplace by returning to the tried and true tradition of wisdom found in the Scriptures. Evangelical Protestantism will look very different in the 21st century if our worldview and living is infused with the thinking and model of Abraham Kuyper and John Stott.


Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction by Richard Mouw (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; 2011) 136 pp.

Portraits of a Radical Disciple: Recollections of John’s Stott’s Life and Ministry edited by Christopher J. H. Wright (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2011) 239 pp. + notes.