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Nuggets in a gold mine

Reporting through the Creator’s lens

God’s World News is 40 years old this month, but in some ways WORLD’s journalistic philosophy is a throwback to a newspaper, The Standard, started nearly 150 years ago in the Netherlands by Abraham Kuyper. We believe, as did Kuyper, that God objectively knows His creation better than any human can, so we should report with Biblical objectivity rather than our own or someone else’s subjectivity.

There’s also not a person whom God cannot claim, when He providentially chooses to do so. Kuyper—a pioneering theologian, gutsy newspaper editor, and prime minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905—became a Christian from reading a potboiler of a novel, The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge.

Here’s a little backstory. Kuyper in the middle of the 19th century studied literature and philosophy at Leiden University and “cast himself into the arms of barest radicalism.” Regarding Jesus, Kuyper told his fiancée, Johanna, who was five years younger than him, “To me he is a man and nothing but a man. … The rational and religious feeling in us is God. … To me forgiveness through the blood of Christ is completely unintelligible.”

Kuyper became a doctor of theology in 1862 after writing a dissertation supporting liberal views over those of John Calvin. That year, at age 25, he criticized Johanna’s literary taste but married her anyway: “A girl who can frankly admit that she doesn’t care for Shakespeare. … Turn back from this smooth way, my dear, dearest Johanna. I pray, I abjure you! Shake yourself awake!” Nevertheless, Johanna gave him a recent bestseller, The Heir of Redclyffe.

We believe that God objectively knows His creation better than any human can.

The novel’s two main characters are Philip, a proud, ambitious honors student, and his saintly cousin Guy. The two young men, touring Italy, hear that an epidemic has hit the northwest area they planned to visit. Guy wisely changes direction but Philip plunges ahead, stating, “If a fever prevails among the half-starved peasantry, it need not affect well-fed healthy persons.”

The plot from here on is predictable: Philip becomes badly ill, Guy goes to him and nurses him back to health, then becomes ill himself and dies. Philip then compares his own pride and malevolence with Guy’s splendid character and realizes he needs Christ: “He knelt down, with bowed head, and hands clasped.” It’s clichéd fiction, but God used it: Kuyper later wrote, “In the crushed Philip my own heart was devastated, as if each of his words of self-condemnation cut through my soul as a judgment on my own ambitions and character.”

So Kuyper knelt: “From that moment on I despised what I used to admire and sought what I had dared to despise.” He started going to church and during the next five years moved toward accepting Biblical accounts as fact rather than high-minded fiction. In 1867 he spoke of Jesus’ resurrection as a literal event rather than metaphor. That year he wrote his first article for a national audience, titling it “What Must We Do?” He said each person needs to choose between a Biblical worldview and a “heathen, humanistic” one.

In 1872 Kuyper founded The Standard and praised the “revelation of His will which we have in God’s Word. … Human insight must yield to God’s pronouncements.” He said “our opponents do not believe God Himself has spoken. We confess that He has.” And when He has, the battle is clear: “The Gospel versus the Revolution!”

Kuyper acknowledged that applying the Bible to situations as they arise is not always easy: “Scripture contains God’s ordinances—that is, his eternal and unchangeable principles—but mostly in mixed form, like nuggets in a gold mine.” Nevertheless, the Bible is our source for “sound and comprehensive knowledge.” We report God’s world through the lens its Creator provides: Lessons derived either from history or our own reason are secondary.

As Kuyper wrote, “Neither history nor legal science nor philosophy of law, as far as we can judge, offers a reliable starting point for knowledge of the true, sound, eternal principles of justice.”

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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