Over the years, generations have shared different perspectives on the idea of wealth and property. People have discussed the topic several times to explain what is right and wrong. Many agreed on the importance of wealth, while others viewed wealth as a source of evil. The population of Europe, when the Enlightenment occurred, often associated wealth with power. Therefore, the lower classes did not own any power over the government due to their lack of wealth.
As the age of Enlightenment refreshed the way people thought, change was oticeable in Europe; however, people were still struggling to solve the problem that the ancient regime left behind. Many great thinkers, philosopher, and politicians were trying to define the problem and explain so people could adjust and understand each other; however, many of the philosopher, theologians did not agree on the results of the Enlightenment. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch politician and theologian, and Russell H.
Conwell, the American Baptist minister and writer, both spent a great amount of time defining and explaining the idea of wealth, poverty, and property for society. Whereas, Kuyper criticizes socialism and argues the outcome of the French Revolution did not solve the poverty problems, Conwell insists the importance of liberalism and considers wealth as a mean of serving others by using one’s talents. Kuyper and Conwell, both shares similar values concerning the world and society, however, their perspectives differ in certain ways. The reason why their perspective are different is explainable based on the environment they embrace.
The outcomes of the French Revolution influenced Kuyper into a direction where he argues if he revolution was useless, whereas Conwell did not have a direct connection to the outcomes of the French Revolution due the geographical distance. Therefore, both Kuyper and Conwell have experienced differences in the outcomes of the French Revolution, which explains the contrast in their beliefs and perspectives. This does not necessarily mean that one is them is wrong or right, but they certainly have believes and values that they share, and ones that are differ from each other.
Therefore, one of the ideas that Kuyper and Conwell viewed from a different angle was wealth. They both agreed that the love of money is considered evil, however, Conwell took his ideas on wealth into the direction towards the economic liberalism, while Kuyper opposed that viewpoint. Kuyper was in the Netherlands, where he was impacted by the French Revolution and viewed the revolution itself as useless, and he believed it did not reach its purpose. Poverty was still present, and the problem was more real than ever before the revolution.
Kuyper argued that the population was too individualistic and internally focused, therefore, nobody could see the clear picture n order to solve the problem of poverty. He demonstrated ideas to support his point that poverty is a social, therefore, everyone’s problem and not just the poor’s problem. However, as the Enlightenment transformed Europe, new notions took over and Kuyper believed that the new direction deepen the problem of poverty. Enlightenment introduced the idea of liberalism, a continuation of humanism, where people were individualistic and self-centered.
Kuyper believed to conquer the issues of wealth, property, and poverty people should not be individualistic, because then they become too focused on the aterial world and tend to forget about the purpose of life. On the other hand, Conwell viewed individualism as a positive outcome of the French Revolution. He was in America and he did not experience the revolution the same way as Kuyper; therefore, the notions originating from the Enlightenment were slightly different by the time Conwell studied them.
He studied liberalism and used its ideas to explain the problem of poverty and property. Conwell believed that being individualistic is positive, and poverty is a result of misusing or not using the given talents properly. He argued that this issue could be resolved if people combined their resources around them according to their talents. Conwell discussed that many people miss out their opportunities around them, and they tend to seek for wealth elsewhere, however, the treasure is right in front of them.
Moreover, he believed that this was the primary reason why the problem of poverty and property exist. He claimed that be wealthy not depending on their location, therefore, according to Conwell the individual himself is the reason of his poverty. This is the aspect where Kuyper and veryone Conwell differ from each other. Both of them use similar foundations, however, the notion of Enlightenment directed them into two different directions, which could be the result of the different experiences they gathered after the French Revolution.
Furthermore, as Kuyper and Conwell had different ideas concerning wealth and also how they viewed the Enlightenment, so they indicated different ways of explanation and solution to deal with the problems. At the beginning of his speech, Kuyper points out a few concerns that he has for the church and for Christianity. He explained that the church did not fill in its role in order to deal with the problem of poverty. Kuyper indicated that even the Catholic church and the notion of socialism had taken steps to solve the problem, but the Christian church and community.
Therefore, he calls the church to step up and face the reality, because by letting the Catholic church and socialism act the problem is deepen. He claimed that the French Revolution by creating freedom and equality for everyone caused more harm than usefulness, because the material world pushed religion onto the side and denied everything that is piritual. Moreover, the French Revolution created a divide between the people and Christianity, and divide itself is the social need of money.
Money became the drive for people, they were self-seeking and individualistic, and therefore, there was nothing that united the people like belief did before the revolution. This is the main reason why Kuyper view the revolution as a harm for the society, because it did not solve the problem of poverty, but created more problems for society and broke the social bonds that people were unified by. However, in America, Conwell looked at the revolution as an pportunity to create change, so people could overcome the boundaries of social bonds to become more individualistic.
Conwell shared the notion of liberalism and especially focused on the aspect of being individualistic. He believed that it is up to the individual to get wealthy, because everyone has access to “acres of diamonds” within an arm length; moreover, he suggested that opportunities are offered for everyone and it is up to the individual how they use it. Conwell emphasized the importance of the materialistic world, and argued that people hould appreciate the material world.
He stated that people are poor because they do not use their resources well enough, and because they tend to seek after other opportunities instead of using the ones that they are given. Conwell showed a great interest towards the Enlightenment, the way he implied the Enlightenment ideas into his daily life was differed from Kuyper. Kuyper argued that the French Revolution had deepen the issues concerning poverty, whereas Conwell at a different location had a different impression and viewed the outcomes of the revolution as positive changes.