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Kuyper Scholars head to Princeton

By Julie Ooms

On the 29th of March, at 3:00 a.m., while most of their fellow students were sleeping, three Dordt students and two professors drove to Omaha to catch a 6:00 flight to Philadelphia. After landing, they rented a car and drove to Princeton, New Jersey, to attend the Abraham Kuyper Prize, Lecture, and Consultation at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The three students—junior Kim Deelstra (pre-med), freshmen Jacob Kroeze (Spanish education) and Joel Veldkamp (political studies)—are all participants in the Kuyper Scholars’ Program (KSP), Dordt’s honors program. Their accompanying professors, Drs. Mary Dengler and Roger Henderson, had wanted to attend the conference and thought the students would also benefit from it.

“The students are studying Kuyperian thought in their KSP classes,” says Dengler, “but we wanted the students in KSP to enter into a larger conversation of Kuyper’s worldview and thought, and recognize that Kuyper isn’t just ‘Dordt-speak,’ but a part of the larger Christian scholarly tradition. The conference was an opportunity for them to do so.”

The conference was made up of several parts. On Thursday evening Dr. Richard Mouw received the Abraham Kuyper Prize for his paper, “Church, Pluralism, and Civil Society: Kuyper for the New Century,” presented at Miller Chapel where Kuyper delivered The Stone Lectures in 1898. On Friday, the group listened to a series of lectures that sought to relate Kuyperian thought to world issues such as globalization, pluralism, and poverty. Saturday’s “Faith Beyond Sunday” conference explored ways of applying Kuyper to popular culture. Between and after lectures, the three students and two professors went sightseeing in historic Princeton and shared long conversations and Indian food.

The students were deeply affected by the experience. Veldkamp calls it “very mind-stretching.”

“At times the lectures were way over my head, but I felt like I got a better sense of the Reformed worldview,” he says. He also enjoyed traveling to the East Coast. Kroeze agrees with Veldkamp, saying that the lectures were “way above what I’d heard before,” but also thinks he gleaned something very worthwhile from the conference. “As a Spanish teacher, I can see myself using what I learned from this experience to relate worldviews from different cultures when I teach.” He is quick to say that he still has a lot to learn, however: “I need to read a lot more philosophy if I’m going to go to another conference!”

Deelstra was also profoundly affected by the conference. After the conference, she says she has even more questions, from “What is the proper place for Christians in the business world?” to “How can we call ourselves Christians—‘little Christs’—when we do not seem to believe that the laws and teachings of Christ apply to us, either individually or as a community?”

Deelstra spent last summer in Namibia, one of the most westernized countries in Africa, where she faced poverty, restricted access to healthcare, and a poor education system. 

“I’ve realized the pervasiveness of consumerism in our culture and our churches, and I’m beginning to wonder if we—Kuyperians and other evangelical Americans—have forgotten or ignored Christ,” she says. She found it difficult, at times, to listen to debates about the relationship between church and state while millions of people are displaced in Sudan, sex-slavery continues virtually unchecked in southern Asia and other areas of the world, and North Americans abuse the environment without seeming to care about the impact. Yet despite those frustrations, Deelstra appreciated the opportunity to attend the conference and says that it raised issues she wants to study further. 

“I believe the most important lesson I learned at the conference is that we should not be so proud as to think that we have figured God out,” she says. She’ll continue to struggle with her questions and the issues raised as a result of the conference, trying to understand how God would have her live.