More Information
ISBN: 9781839736520
Imprint: Langham Monographs
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 16
Publication Date: 30/06/2023
Pages: 296
Language: English

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.

Author Bios

Surya Harefa

SURYA HAREFA has a PhD in Theology from Theological University Kampen, Netherlands. He is originally from Indonesia but has lived in Japan for over twenty years, where he is cooperative pastor at Ibaraki Bible Church in Osaka, Japan, and co-founder of the Asia Kuyper Institute. He also serves as part-time lecturer and researcher at Tokyo Christian University, Inzai, Japan, and lecturer at International Reformed Evangelical Seminary, Jakarta, Indonesia.


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.

Yamaguchi Yoichi
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

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Chapter 1
  3. 1.1 Japanese Christians’ Political Engagement and Ecclesiology
  4. 1.2 Ecclesiology and Abraham Kuyper
  5. 1.3 Appropriating Kuyper’s Ecclesiology into the Japanese Context
  6. 1.4 Research Methodology
  7. Chapter 2
    Christian Responses to Sociopolitical Issues in Contemporary Japan
  8. 2.1 Yasukuni Shrine
  9. 2.2 Constitutional Amendment
  10. 2.3 The Countermeasures to the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Disaster
  11. Conclusion
  12. Chapter 3
    The Context of Japanese Christians’ Political Engagement
  13. 3.1 Early Modern Period (Sixteenth to Early Nineteenth Century)
  14. 3.2 Imperial Period (1868–1945)
  15. 3.3 Post-war Period (1945–present)
  16. Conclusion
  17. Chapter 4
    Kuyper’s Concept of the Church
  18. 4.1 The Organism-Institution Distinction
  19. 4.2 The Believers’ Church
  20. 4.3 A Free Church
  21. 4.4 The Pluriformity of the Church
  22. Conclusion
  23. Chapter 5
    The Context of Kuyper’s Ecclesiology
  24. 5.1 The Church Elections
  25. 5.2 The School Struggle
  26. 5.3 The Doleantie of 1886
  27. Conclusion
  28. Chapter 6
    The Possibilities of Kuyper’s Ecclesiology for Japanese Evangelical
  29. Christians
  30. 6.1 The Organism-Institution Distinction
  31. 6.2 The Believers’ Church
  32. 6.3 A Free Church
  33. 6.4 The Pluriformity of the Church
  34. Conclusion
  35. Bibliography

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