Part of R.B. Kuiper’s genius is his ability to communicate profound truth concerning the church in a simple, but yet penetrating style. Kuiper is not only of Dutch origin, but he thinks like the marvelous Dutch scholars that preceded him, such as Abraham Kuyper. As a professor of Practical Theology, Kuiper embraces a sort of boldness in his writings that is not found very often in popular books addressing the church. As Sinclair Ferguson says of Kuiper in his distinguished Scottish accent: “He can certainly get you stirred up.” It is, I believe, his knowledge about the common life of the church, that gives his writings much credibility and substance.
The book covers a range of topics from the theology of the church to the persecution of the church. Kuiper stresses that the glory of the church is fundamental to its very nature. Though at times this glory is compromised in every way, shape, or form, the church remains glorious because God always has a remnant (as in the days of Elijah).
Kuiper’s constant emphasis on the catholicity of the church and his condemnation of sectarianism urges the reader to engage in his passion for true unity in the Spirit. He notes that genuine catholicity is “Biblical Ecumenism.” What is rather peculiar about Kuiper’s treatment of the church is his endorsement of a form of communism in the church of Jerusalem in Acts. This form he argues is diametrically opposed to Marx’s dialectic materialism, but nevertheless a form of communism. He summarizes both positions as follows: “For Unbiblical Communism Thine is Mine; in Biblical Communism Mine is Thine.” This refers to the charitable manifestation of the people in the early church as they reflected the love of Christ to one another through giving to the poor.
The strength of Kuiper’s book is that it carefully summarizes the many facets of the church in concise, but complete thoughts. Though at times I wish he delved more deeply in some subjects, the book accomplishes its goal in communicating a distinctly Reformed view of the church. On the other hand, The Glorious Body of Christ fails in interacting with the benefits of Kingdom growth. Kuiper presupposes certain passages to refer to the deterioration of the influence of the church in culture and at times even assumes its hastening end (pg. 48-49). Paradoxically, Kuiper speaks of culture in every respect being under the lordship of Christ (pg. 276) and at the same time speaks of the fruitlessness of such efforts. This is a constant theme in Dutch theologians (such as Van Til Common Grace).
Kuiper’s book has had a vast influence in Reformed circles in the last 50 years and shall continue to do so. His careful analysis of the evangelical crisis and his worthy remedies for the church serves as an enlightening analysis for the Glorious Body of Christ.