An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Another relational diagram

Here's an attempt to put on neocalvinism and Kuyperianism on the relational diagram. I've usually thought of these as being the same - though I'm sure that there will be someone who is Kuyperian and not call themselves a neocalvinist; hence the large overlap. I know of at least one Dooyeweerdian who doesn't like the label neocalvinist.

Anyway, here's something to help discussion:


Baus said...

It's good.
Just a few minor squabbles with it:
you still have a space for non-neocalvinist Kuyperians. I don't think such a space can be inhabited.

But, again, the real work (and the harder part) is to list the repective essentials. Then we know exactly what we're drawing circles around. I'll be working on it... but it may be a while before I've got anything to show.

Anonymous said...

What about Catholic Kuyperians?

Baus said...

If you read Kuyper's Stone Lectures on Calvinism, he distinguishes Calvinism from several other incompatible positions: Paganism, Romanism, and Modernism. He also mentions Islamism, and generic Protestantism as incompatible.

A "Catholic" (that is, a Romanist/Papist) may only be a Kuyperian inconsistently with their Catholicism. However, there is a Catholic "subsidiary" view, which some compare to sphere sovereignty.

The classic Catholic definition of the subsidiary principle in the 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno states the following: Functions should not be transferred to higher collectivities "which can be performed and provided for by lesser and subordinate bodies."

But those who try to uproot Kuyperianism from its Calvinistic ground (which is at odds with all other religious conceptions) are doomed to contradiction.

Owlb said...

Steve - I very much appreciate your Venning the logic of some of these terms of classification. I don't have the same definition, apparently, as does Bebbington (and I presume you) of "biblicism," since it's more useful when confined to designate a certain kind of hermeneutics.

"Biblicism" is also closely connected to "moralism" in certain forms, hence "biblicistic moralism" (of course there are other moralisms as well - nonbiblistic, anti-biblistic, and anti-Biblical - the latter negates a normativity-search for Bible interpretation and the very idea of the Bible being of utmost significance value in moral guidance).

But, a biblicistic approach, on the other hand, would pick commands from among the whole flow of Bible texts in their genres and books and set the stock of commands over against the task of a responsible ethical science as such, against an ethics driven by a distinctly Christian inspiration (which is, in Herman Bavinck's view, an understanding of the Good as "the coming of the Kingdom of God," a notion inscribed in the Bible but lost in the extremities of biblicism that must lead one ultimately to the 613 or so commandments of the Hebrew Bible whereby normative Judaism's Orthodoxy attempted to grow a hedge around the Law in order to protect it from any violation. That hedge is further extended and argued in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds.

There's a New Testament version as well, fixated on Pauline commands largely.

In comparison, to this extreme of biblistic moralism, I would point to the places where Jesus is inscribed as teaching that the Hebrew/Septuagint Bible says (or its hedge in the Sages and Talmuds) such and such, BUT in contrast to some such command He says to His hearers something contrary to those very sources. Of course, the Great Commandment stands, in Old and New Testaments both.

This point is further carried forward by Paul's teaching that the letter of the Biblical law brings death, but the spirit of the Biblical law-making and law-revising of God from time to time and place to place must be taken as a task by the Christian community. Those two teachings, one from Jesus and one from Paul, do not leave us with a Paulinistic moralism either, but with a task that engages deep loving Bible-reading, a reflective scientific ethics, a consideration of the social importance of mores and, in simultaneity, of their need to change over time in Christian communal practice.

To me, that's a reformational program, but many neo-Calvinists and more so Kuyperians don't seem to agree and want instead to revert to biblistic moralism. I'm more with Andre Troost, S. J. Popma, Simon Ridderbos, and James Olthuis than with Kuyper or Calvin on these matters. I certainly reject the theocratic streak in the latter, while appreciating huge hunks of the legacy of both. I think Dr Simon Ridderbos' critical dissertation on Kuyper's culture concept has some merit, but mostly want to register my personal appreciation of him as a faith/morals counsellor at the Valerius Clinic in Amsterdam (a Prot Chrstn counselling center with both a pastoral theology expert (SJ) and a psychiatric expert (a Dr Ullman) at the time I was there. S. J? Popma was the pastor and pastor counsellor of reformational conviction, and brother of K.J. Popma (Classics, VU). At one time, Arnold De Graaff belonged on my short list, but he seems to have moved off into somewhat post-reformational quasi-antinomianism; so, while I can rejoice in many of his earlier formulations and especially his essay in a Runner Festscrift surveying theories of human development for a reformational developmental psychology, still, I'm not comfortable spiritually with where he seems to have moved (away from a Troostian ethical horizon) last I heard (but my info is outdated, and scholars are known for reverting back toward their earlier positions in their old age).

One can be helped in the task of fathoming the direction of Troostian ethics by reading with utmost care what Troost's mentor Dooyeweerd says in opposition to certain Dutch Gereformeerde theological ethicists on the Ten Commandments. To reverence the Ten, does not mean one must uncritically erase the historic framework of their address, for instance, only to the married males of Israel at the time. One lovingly understands that address today (see Thistleton's Two Horizons, Gadamer's Truth and Method) by taking into account God's adoption of His People in their historicity, the time and place and conditions of the original address and the command-giving for those people then. By careful appreciation, we can thru intellectual and prayerful communal labour over time better disclose the norm/s that can best guide us today in our behaviours in the various differentiated spheres of life (see Kuyper's The Work of the Holy Spirit).

For instance, we can perhaps produce a moral advisory that addresses both women and men equally but without erasing differences that are further and further disclosed to us - by the auxiliary sciences (to this ethical reflection) into the gender differences as found by some ongoing but little known work in medicine, human biology, and human psychology. It is this work which primarily, by the way, re-inforces our insight into the distinctiveness of 1woman1man kinds of intimate unions which are made precisely across those gender differences (a very different moral challenge than that of either kind of "same-sex" intimate union, also vowed to exclusivity of all others and with the intention of permanence). Having cited this one example with a long history of reformational thawt that simply does not exist in much of neo-Calvinism. Kuyperianism, or evangelicalism, we do not need to erase the very existence of other forms of intimate union. Still, we can recognize a prority and emphasis of support for the creation of a privileged 1woman1man kind - in church, state, and culture more broadly.

On the example cited and on many many others, there is a moral challenge for all, and certainly or all Christians and Judaic believers, in entering into a vowed relationship of marriage, other forms of intimate union, family, and friendship in its many forms. (These are the relationships that the Troostian line of philosophic ethics singles out on the basis of Vollenhoven's and Dooyeweerd's sense of an ethhically-qualified aspect focal to the configuring of certain specific kinds of human relationships with their specific roles, according to sphere specificity, sovereignty, and universality.)

It seems to me that there's a gradient of openness to the differentiation process and sensitivity to the disclosure process, as one moves from the positions of paleo-Calvinism to Kuyperianism to neo-Calvinism today to reformational advance in theory and practice (which by definition cannot be a stationary position).

Just some thawts set agoing upon my reflection on your Venns.

Steve Bishop said...

Hi Albert,

I agree with you that Bebbington's use of biblicism is rather unfortunate.

Now paleo-Calvinism that a term! What do you mean by that, how does it differ from neocalvinism? And how would it map onto the diagram?



G.J. said...

Now you should put in population numbers and animate it to shrink over time. Could also project it on top of the historical progression of schisms and alliances among Calvinist churches.