The mis-appropriation of Abraham Kuyper’s ideas about “worldview” by American Evangelical Christians


Francis Schaeffer
American Evangelicals


Beginning in the mid-1970s, the term “worldview” gradually became popular among evangelical and fundamentalist Christians as a result of the work of Francis A Schaeffer. He popularized the term through his best-selling books and films. This paper argues that in developing his thoughts about worldviews, Schaeffer appropriated earlier, and far more sophisticated, theories from Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd. The ideas of these men are explored to enable readers to understand the way evangelicals developed Schaeffer’s ideas. It is argued that they moved away from the way both Schaeffer and his mentors used the term. As a result, they lost sight of the fact that understanding worldviews was intended by Kuyper, Dooyeweerd, and Schaeffer to facilitate discussion between people holding very different views. Instead, worldview was turned into a propaganda device that enable people to avoid engagement with people and ideas they dislike. The paper concludes by suggesting that instead of dismissing Christians who employ worldview thinking for political purposes they ought to be challenged to develop a fuller understanding of worldview and confronted with the insights of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd upon which Schaeffer built his ideas.
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