Book Review: A Problem Of Poverty

Author: Abraham Kuyper

Pages: 94

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch statesman, philosopher, churchman and journalist. His works and writings present to us a unique and balanced perspective on ‘social problems.’  One such work is his persuasive speech to the first Christian Social Congress in the Netherlands, on November 9, 1891, where he warned people about the challenge of socialism, individualism and the reality of poverty and other social issues. This book was the result of said speech being written down. It delves into the meaning and the undertaking for us to possess what Kuyper calls an “organic social life”, a balanced solution to social problems, which is unique to Kuyper as he constructed it with his Calvinistic view.

This book itself covers the social problem in 4 parts. In the first part, Kuyper highlights the reality of poverty. He stresses the fact that indeed there are people who are poor and suffering, and contemplates  how Christians have been slow to react to these social problems as they have been complacent regarding matters of cultural mandate as well as taking part in social life outside of the Church. Furthermore, he teaches on how the message of Christ and the reality of sin bring not only a new perspective on social problems but also serve as the spearhead for us all in studying and solving these dilemmas.

In the second part, he highlights Jesus as our example of an agent of social change, and an illustration of what it took to be one. Kuyper also examines the impact of a community (specifically the church) in being an actor of a social reform. Thirdly, Kuyper examines how humanity has dealt with social problems over the course of history, from the French Revolution to Socialism, acknowledging some valid points that these respective ages address yet also the dangers that these new ideologies bring. Lastly, He shares with us a perspective of how the Christian worldview is used to approach poverty while also encouraging us to take action.

There seems to be increasing attention to poverty as well as a growth in the number of student activism addressing this very topic; all the while, socialist ideas are on the rise. Those that hold liberal views clash with those with populist and conservative views in order to provide the sole solution to this social quandary. In an a age like this, this book/speech has never been more relevant for Christians or non-Christians, to introduce and examine this particular social problem, while giving attention to the dangers of worldly solutions to it, and bringing the light of a Reformed Christian perspective on the issue based on the Word of God. (HS)

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