A Free Church in a Free State
The Possibilities of Abraham Kuyper’s Ecclesiology for Japanese Evangelical Christians
How does Christ call his people to engage the societies, cultures, and politics of the nations they call home? From prioritizing patriotism over faith to withdrawing from the public sphere entirely, the struggle to navigate the intersection of an earthly and heavenly kingdom remains an ongoing challenge for Christians around the world.
Bridging cultures and time periods, Dr. Surya Harefa brings Abraham’s Kuyper’s ecclesiology to bear on questions of Japanese Christian engagement within the political sphere. Harefa offers a contextually robust exploration of evangelical Japanese approaches to ecclesiology and political involvement. Taking care to place Kuyper’s conception of the church within Kuyper’s own political and historical context, careful lines of application are drawn between Kuyper’s theological perspectives and the need for an active Japanese church engaged in all spheres of life.
This book is an excellent resource for those seeking to equip Christians to engage politically as followers of Christ for the good of the church and their nations. It also provides an example of the rich and powerful insight offered by exploring Western and non-Western theologies within their diverse contexts and in conversation with each other.
In this groundbreaking book, Surya Harefa shows how Abraham Kuyper’s ecclesiology, rooted in his robust theology of culture, can effectively address the uniquely Japanese understanding of “communal authority” – often seen as an obstacle to the spread of the gospel in Japan.
Richard Mouw, PhD
President Emeritus and Senior Professor of Faith and Public Life,
Fuller Theological Seminary, California, USA
Challenged by the political situation in Japan and the anonymous role of Japanese Christians in politics, Surya Harefa proposes in this thorough study of Abraham Kuyper’s ecclesiology to equip Christians in Japan to engage in politics as Christians.
George Harinck, PhD
Director of the Neo-Calvinism Research Institute (NRI), Kampen
Professor of History, Free University in Amsterdam
Dr. Surya Harefa grew up in Indonesia and had experience studying theology and pastoring churches in Japan. He understands Japanese church history objectively and existentially. Christianity is a minority in Japan, and thus, political involvement is difficult and tends to be defensive. The achievement of this book is showing how Christianity in Japan can have a sound political contribution by applying Kuyper’s ecclesiology.
President and Professor of Japanese Church History,
Tokyo Christian University, Japan
Harefa’s work illustrates the dynamism in Kuyper’s thought, applying it fruitfully in a seemingly unlikely but ultimately entirely appropriate context – contemporary Japan. Harefa’s work is a salutary model of intercultural and constructive theological retrieval, as he carefully examines Kuyper’s thought in its original setting, and with sensitivity and wisdom applies insights gained from this study to the challenges facing Japanese Christians today.
Jordan Ballor, PhD
Kuyper Conference Coordinator and Director of Research,
The Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy
I heartily recommend Harefa’s study for its carefulness and clarity. It offers an excellent introduction to Kuyper’s thinking about church and society and is written with momentum and conviction. Not only in Japan but in all contexts, Christians who reflect on their public vocation and Christians who feel related to neo-Calvinism can learn a lot from it.
Ad de Bruijne, PhD
Professor of Ethics and Spirituality,
Theological University of Kampen/Utrecht, Netherlands
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1
- 1.1 Japanese Christians’ Political Engagement and Ecclesiology
- 1.2 Ecclesiology and Abraham Kuyper
- 1.3 Appropriating Kuyper’s Ecclesiology into the Japanese Context
- 1.4 Research Methodology
- Chapter 2
Christian Responses to Sociopolitical Issues in Contemporary Japan
- 2.1 Yasukuni Shrine
- 2.2 Constitutional Amendment
- 2.3 The Countermeasures to the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Disaster
- Chapter 3
The Context of Japanese Christians’ Political Engagement
- 3.1 Early Modern Period (Sixteenth to Early Nineteenth Century)
- 3.2 Imperial Period (1868–1945)
- 3.3 Post-war Period (1945–present)
- Chapter 4
Kuyper’s Concept of the Church
- 4.1 The Organism-Institution Distinction
- 4.2 The Believers’ Church
- 4.3 A Free Church
- 4.4 The Pluriformity of the Church
- Chapter 5
The Context of Kuyper’s Ecclesiology
- 5.1 The Church Elections
- 5.2 The School Struggle
- 5.3 The Doleantie of 1886
- Chapter 6
The Possibilities of Kuyper’s Ecclesiology for Japanese Evangelical
- 6.1 The Organism-Institution Distinction
- 6.2 The Believers’ Church
- 6.3 A Free Church
- 6.4 The Pluriformity of the Church