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Author: Joshua Kellard

As part of our Cambridge Characters series, Joshua Kellard introduces Beilby Porteus, sometime bishop of London, and vociferous opponent of the Slave Trade. The youngest but one of 19 children, Beilby Porteus grew up in relative wealth and privilege. His parents were natives of the colony of Virginia, and owned a vast tobacco-growing plantation, worked by African slaves. By the time Beilby was born, the family had relocated to York. In those days, Cambridge had something of a reputation for drawing scholars from the northern counties and, aged 17, Beilby was admitted as a sizar (i.e. a student who worked in order to pay tuition fees) of Christ’s College. The 17th Century was marked by intellectual rebellion against Christianity. As the breakers of the European Enlightenment pounded on English shores, and the tide of unbelief swept into the universities, many students found it difficult to stay afloat. Porteus, however, emerged from his studies strong in conviction, was ordained to the ministry, and proceeded to a string of fulfilling church appointments, including Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, bishop of Chester and bishop of London.  Two aspects of his ministry as bishop deserve special mention: his pioneering involvement in the movement to abolish...

Barbarism rarely reveals a bare face. It finds room in our hearts under the generous cover of  ‘modern values’, it spreads with the aid of euphemisms and half-truths, and it covers its tracks with the conscience-numbing virtue of non-judgementalism. But barbarism is with us: quiet, determined, and just occasionally splashed across the opinion pages of national newspapers.   I’m referring here to Rebecca Reid’s defence of the killing of unborn children for any reason whatsoever in the Telegraph last month. The background was the UK Government’s unprecedented move to allow women to obtain pills which would kill their unborn child without the need for an in-person medical consultation. The ‘pills-by-post’ scheme enables women to obtain mifepristone and misoprostol, the two chemical agents used in so-called medical abortions, and to self-administer them at home if they are less than 10 weeks pregnant.  In her article, Reid responded to news that Christian Concern had hired actors to make ‘mystery shopper’ type calls to abortion providers Marie Stopes and Bpas in order to gauge the kinds of reasons for which women were being sent the means to abort. The callers used false names, dates of birth and gestational periods and were, without exception, able to obtain...

A kerfuffle was precipitated this week when it emerged that Chloe Clark, an English professor at Iowa State University, had threatened to dismiss students from her classroom for voicing views contrary to her own on gay marriage, abortion, and the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). This is what her initial syllabus notes for English 250 stipulated:  “GIANT WARNING: any instances of othering that you participate in intentionally (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, body shaming, etc) in class are grounds for dismissal from the classroom. The same goes for any papers/projects: you cannot choose any topic that takes at its base that one side doesn’t deserve the same basic human rights as you do (ie: no arguments against gay marriage, abortion, Black Lives Matter, etc). I take this seriously.” It is, to be sure, a demand for intellectual subjugation far more frank than the usual indirect fare offered in the humanities. The statement also quite plainly contradicts its own call to forsake ‘othering’ as it effectively marginalises and censures any student wishing to express dissident views. To its credit Iowa State University quickly addressed the situation in line with its code on the First Amendment’s provisions...

Today is a day of national tragedy, made all the more poignant by the fact that few will regard it as such. This afternoon Members of Parliament in Westminster voted 253 to 136 to impose radical new abortion laws on Northern Ireland. These regulations will make abortion on-demand available until 24 weeks of gestation, allow the killing of disabled babies up to birth, and provide scant safeguards against sex-selective abortion, and no conscience clauses for medical practitioners unwilling to be accessories in the deaths of pre-born children. The law in Northern Ireland will no longer teach and protect the value of all human lives, provide a safeguard for women who may be confused, overwhelmed or pressured into having an abortion, or serve as an official affirmation of the equality of disabled children in the womb. The law has become anti-life.  Until now, Northern Ireland has been a life-affirming province. Precisely because it did not adopt the 1967 Abortion Act, an act which has led to the deaths of over 9 million unborn children in England and Wales alone, it has maintained a commitment to the value and dignity of each individual human being from the moment of conception. Northern Ireland’s legal...

The title Abraham Kuyper gave to his third Stone lecture, Calvinism and Politics, could be misleading. While he did have much to say about politics, he emphasised that political authority was just one ingredient in the governance of a healthy society. His key concept, you will remember, was sovereignty. We saw in our first post that Calvinism’s ‘dangerous idea’, according to Kuyper, is the sovereignty of God over all things. This sovereignty is delegated and expressed in various ways in His creation. Kuyper’s second lecture looked at how God’s sovereignty transforms religion, and in the third he explored how it was expressed in human society as a whole. Kuyper wanted to show that it was only the Calvinist who could consistently preserve a healthy tension between the state's desire to order human life, and the determination of people everywhere to maintain their liberties and flourish in the different spheres of free society.  Two key insights guide Kuyper's approach to society: first, the belief that since all authority comes from God, any power possessed by human beings is held ‘in trust’. Second, the observation that there are different types of sovereignty, which belong to distinct spheres of human society. The family is...

Joshua Kellard continues our series introducing Abraham Kuyper’s influential 1898 Stone Lectures on Calvinism. Abraham Kuyper, as we saw in the last post, had an expansive view of what Calvinism was meant to be. Far more than a set of beliefs about salvation, it was a total worldview of its own, standing tall and providing compelling answers to life’s deepest questions. At the centre was its ‘mother principle’: the sovereignty of God over all things. Working from this axiom, it addressed every area of life with a God-centred program for renewal. A skilled vision-caster, Kuyper would use the rest of his Stone lectures to demonstrate the real difference that Calvinism could make in each area of life, and he began, quite understandably, with religion.  In his second lecture, Kuyper set out to answer three basic questions:  - What difference does Calvinism make in the sphere of religion?  - What sort of Church organisation is encouraged by applying Calvinism?  - How does Calvinism transform morality?  We will briefly summarise Kuyper’s answers to these questions, thinking as we go about their relevance to us today.  Religion: Of God, by God and For God  Is religion primarily for people or for God? When Kuyper posed this question, Karl Marx had recently...

To talk about a ‘Christian worldview’ today is to use an already well-worn phrase. Many of us are familiar, perhaps over-familiar, with the idea that Christianity can provide a lens through which to look out on the world and make sense of it. In Abraham Kuyper’s day, however, it was a concept which was far from obvious to Christians in the West. This was partly because many assumed that the Christian faith was in harmony with the mainstream thinking of the day. What need was there to develop a distinctly Christian worldview? Surely everyone had that, right? Kuyper begged to differ. Not only did he reject the idea that the worldview of Christianity and that of the age were the same: he believed they were on a collision course. For this reason, he began his six lectures on Calvinism sounding more like a war-time leader than a professor:  There is no doubt that Christianity is imperiled by great and serious dangers. Two life systems are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while, on...

Few figures of the modern period have shaped evangelical Christianity as profoundly as Abraham Kuyper. Despite this, his legacy is little-appreciated today, even in those circles where his ideas still exert great influence. In the evangelical household he seems to play the role of the mysterious great-uncle who has given the family a wonderful collection of furniture pieces: a great oak dresser, a set of grand bookcases and a couple of ripened armchairs, all of which shape the inside of the house and control its traffic-flow. Although we are vaguely aware that the furniture came from him, and couldn’t imagine the house without them, the details of his life and accomplishments remain fuzzy: after all, we never met him, and the stories about him have often come down to us through, ahem, some of the more ‘colourful’ members of the family. November 2020 marks a hundred years since Kuyper passed into glory, and we could do worse than to treat this centenary as an opportunity to get to know a man who, in fascinating ways, has shaped a tradition which itself continues to transform the world. As an aid in this quest, over the next three weeks we’ll be introducing what...

On behalf of the Christian Heritage team, I want to extend a warm welcome to Thinking in the Round, our new blog! Although we have done many things over the years, we have yet to venture into cyberspace in quite this way, and there is a mood of excitement in the air at CH HQ. Let me offer a few words of introduction to who we are, what we do and why we do it, and then lay out our hopes for this blog. Christian Heritage has been based at the Round Church in Cambridge since the mid-1990s, and our initial focus was offering guided walks of Cambridge, with a view to telling the story of the transformative influence of Christianity on this university town. We still offer walks (three different varieties, in fact!) but since then have expanded our work to include exhibitions at the Round Church, termly lectures on Christianity and culture, and regular lunch conversations in our Scriptorium (writing room). We have also run events, summer schools and apprenticeship programs all geared towards relating the historic Christian faith to key questions our culture is asking. Our desire is to show that Christianity, far from being an outmoded and culture-bound...