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.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Kuyperania July 2015

Heslam, Peter S. 2015.  The Spirit of Enterprise: Abraham Kuyper and Common Grace in Business. Journal of Markets & Morality 18(1) (Spring 2015): 7-20


Abstract
This article explores the link between theology and enterprise implied by the phrase “common grace in business.” Common grace is often employed by Christian business leaders and theorists to counter the problematic sacred/secular divide that too often can be used as an excuse for dividing one’s faith from one’s occupation. While Abraham Kuyper’s ideas on social questions are well-known, his ideas on business have been overlooked. Against this background, Kuyper’s understandings of the working of God’s grace in business, the social function of money, and the calling of business are examined in detail. Within these understandings, the division between sacred and secular is transcended and a unique vision for mixing common and particular grace in business is revealed that both restrains evil and promotes human flourishing.





Thursday, 30 July 2015

Every Square Inch by Bruce Ashford - a brief review

Every Square Inch
An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians
Bruce Riley Ashford
Lexham Press
ISBN: 978-1-57-79962-0

This is a great little book. Ashford, Provost and Dean of the Faculty at SEBTS, writes, as the title suggests, from a kuyperian approach. He has written this
‘ ... for Christians who wish to live faithfully in their cultural contexts. It shows how all of life matters to God, and how every Christian can serve powerfully as a representative of Christ, even if he or she is not an international missionary or a pastor.’

He credits Kuyper with giving him his first insight into ‘the  fact that Jesus Christ is relevant to every dimension of society and culture, and that for this reason we should allow our Christianity to shape absolutely everything we do.’ It is from this impulse that he has written this great introduction. 

Although writing as an American for Americans, the insights he draws do have global relevance. 

The first part of the book looks at different ways in which Christians have approached culture. He utilises, as any good kuyperian would, the framework of creation, fall and redemption to articulate a Christian view of culture and a ‘theology’ of vocation. He then draws lessons for cultural engagement from the lives of Augustine, Balthasar Hubmaier, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Francis Schaeffer, and of course Kuyper.

The second part applies these principles to the cultural areas of the arts, science, politics, economics and education. He closes with three key questions:

1.What is God’s creational design for this realm of culture?
2.How has it been corrupted and misdirected by our sin and rebellion? 
3.How can I bring healing and redirection to this realm? 

These are important questions and this book will help Christians begin to be able to articulate answers to them.


This is a great introduction and deserves a wide readership. The strength of the book is that it is short and easy to read. Its weakness is it’s short — I wanted more! But that is remedied by additional suggestions for action and reading at the end of each chapter. This makes it an ideal book for a discussion group.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Friesen's Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy - a review

Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy
Franz Baader, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd
J. Glenn Friesen

Calgary: Aevum Books, 2015
ISBN 9780994775108
Pbk, 586pp, £13.95.

Dooyeweerd always maintained that his philosophy was not ‘a closed system’ and that ‘It does not claim to have a monopoly on truth in the sphere of philosophical reflection, nor that the provisional conclusions of its inquiries have been made sacrosanct because of the central biblical motive which motivates and controls it. As a philosophy it does not in any way demand a privileged position for itself; on the contrary, it seeks to create a real basis for philosophical dialogue among the different movements - movements which often isolate themselves and which can only lead to stagnation and overestimation of one’s own ideas’ (Christian Philosophy and the Meaning of History, Ser B, Vol. 13: 4). He was open to it being modified, debated and developed. Elsewhere he stated that 
‘It has been said so many times that repeating it almost becomes boring: The Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea does not pretend infallibility either in respect of its positive philosophical conceptions or with regard to its critique on traditional philosophy’ (Dooyeweerd 2013 in On Kuyper:154).
This has certainly been evidenced in discussions regarding the supra-temporality of the heart, which has promoted much discussion. Even among Dooyeweerdians this idea does not have wide support. Pete Steen described it as a’difficult problem’; he highlighted and documented some problems and issues with this idea in his The Structure and Nature of Dooyeweerd’s Thought (Toronto: Wedge, 1983). Others that took issue with Dooyeweerd over it were D.H.Th. Vollenhoven, Hendrik Van Riessen, S.U. Zuidema, K.J. Popma, Henk Geertsma and James Olthuis. These reject it on the premise that it is either anthropocentric and/or dualistic.

Now J. Glenn Friesen, a lawyer with a PhD in religious studies, claims that the idea of a supra-temporal heart, among other ideas of Dooyeweerd, originates not in Kuyper, van Prinsterer or even in Calvin but in the work and writings of the Christian theosophist Franz Baader. Rather than dismissing the supra-temporal heart as an aberration in Dooyeweerd’s thinking, Friesen maintains that it is a key component of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. He maintains that to reject it is to abandon the basis of his Christian philosophy. Friesen has written on this before - and not without controversy. A series of papers in Philosophia Reformata and a conference at Redeemer University College in 2006 were in part a response to Friesen’s position. (Links to some of the papers can be accessed here.)

This book is the development of these papers and of much more research. It is in three parts. The first looks at the reception of Christian theosophy in neo-Calvinism. It should be mentioned that the theosophy of Baader is far removed from the theosophy of Madame Blavatsky. Baader was a Catholic and presents very much a Christian theosophy. In this section Friesen prevents a helpful overview of the theology and philosophy of Baader, Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye (1818-1874), J.H. Gunning Jr. (1829-1905), Kuyper, Fredrick van Eeden (1860-1932) and Jan Woltjer (1848-1917).

The second part looks at the development of reformational philosophy in Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven. In many ways, Friesen’s approach is complementary, though at times contradictory, to Anthony Tol’s in his Philosophy in the Making. Most interesting - and perhaps most controversial - is the nature of the ‘find’ in 1922. This Friesen maintains is Okke Norel’s article. Unfortunately, Norel’s article hasn’t (yet) been translated into English. 

Part 3, which accounts for well over one-half of the book, is a massive expansion of Friesen’s paper from Philosophia Reformata95 theses on Herman Dooyeweerd’. Here the theses have been expanded to incorporate copious references and showing the parallels to Van Baader’s thought.
Friesen goes against the trend of attempting to harmonise Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd and points out the divergence of their views. A difference which seems to be over the nature of the supra-temporal heart.

There are a number of possible responses to Friesen’s thesis among them:
 (1) He is completely wrong. However, it is difficult to see how someone who has read this book could maintain that position. There are many similarities between Baader and Dooyeweerd that Friesen has highlighted, even if Dooyeweerd doesn’t directly quote Baader. It could, of course be argued, that the similarities are because both are Christians and both are dealing with the same data within reality, rather than any direct influence.
(2) He is largely wrong — this has largely been the response of Strauss, in response Friesen has provided more evidence to support his thesis, and so the onus is on those who would reject his position to respond.
(3) He is largely right — we then embrace his position and perhaps then we should speak of being neo-Baaderists rather than neo-Calvinists and recognise that in agreeing with Dooyeweerd we should reject Calvinism, or we could — as many have done — reject Dooyeweerd’s notion of supra-temporality.
(4) Or we could accommodate his view as one among many interpretations of Dooyeweerd, and accept that there is truth in his thesis but that it doesn’t change the usefulness, effectiveness, comprehensiveness, coherence or truth of Dooyeweerd’s approach. We should take care not to commit the genetic fallacy and throw the dooyeweerdian baby out with the Baaderian water. 
This book will promote controversy - that’s not such a bad thing. It is well-researched treatise and a surprisingly a good read. I look forward to the seeing the discussions it provokes and I hope that in doing so more light than heat will be generated.



Glenn Friesen talks about his book in a two-part interview here  and here


Update: Glenn's article recently published in Philosophia Reformata “Dooyeweerd’s Ida of Modalities: The Pivotal 1922 Article” is online here.
(http://www.members.shaw.ca/hermandooyeweerd/Modalities.pdf)





Wednesday, 22 July 2015

New "must have" gadget: the BOOK

The "BOOK" is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use even a child can operate it. Just lift its cover! Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere, even sitting in an armchair by the fire yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information.

These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half.

Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain.

A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.

The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it.

The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped in water

The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish.

Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers.
Conversely, numerous bookmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

The media is ideal for long-term archive use. Several field trials have proven that the media will still be readable in several centuries, and because of its simple user interface it will be compatible with future reading devices.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (Pencils).

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future. The BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform.

[HT Bookbarn]

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sunday, 19 July 2015

English translation of Dooyeweerd's biography now published

Update: It has now been published:


ISBN 978-0888152084; Hbk; 558 pages

Paideia Press are in the process of translating the biography of Herman Dooyeweerd, by his nephew Marcel E. Verburg, Herman Dooyeweerd: leven en werk van een Nederlands christen-wijsgeer (Ten Have, Netherlands Baarn/Passage, 1989).




 Here's the proposed contents:

Contents
HERMAN DOOYEWEERD: 
THE LIFE AND WORK OF A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER

Author’s Preface   – xii
Acknowledgments   – xiii
Translators Note   – xviii
Abbreviations   – xix

Chapter One – Youth, 1894–1922   – 1 
School days 4 
Woltjer 4
Law study 5
Earliest writings 7 
Neo-mysticism and Frederik van Eeden 9
Wagnerianism 11 
Dramatic arts 12 Philosophy 13
Completion of doctoral 
studies 15 Reviews of dissertation 17
Dooyeweerd as a civil servant 18
First public speech 20
Immanent criticism 22 
Critical realism 24
Dooyeweerd comments on his own development 31

Chapter Two – At The Kuyper Foundation, 1922-1926 
Roman Catholic and Anti-Revolutionary Politics 44
Cosmos and Logos 48 
Thinking, meaning-giving and meaning 53
The modal categories of logical thought 54
The transition to cosmology 57
New white papers 60
The law 61 
The law-idea (Wetsidee) 61 
Sphere-sovereignty 64 
Further white papers 67
The monthly Nederland en Oranje 67
The Association of Calvinist Jurists 69 
Antirevolutionaire Staatkunde 71
Co-determination, or industrial democracy 75
Antirevolutionaire Staatkunde undergoes a change 77 
Calvinism contra neo-Kantianism 79
Marriage 81
Dependence on Nicolai Hartmann? 82

Chapter Three – The Early Years as Professor, 1926-1931 
Filling the vacancy 87
Vollenhoven 91
Differences between 
Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven 95
Congratulations from Kohnstamm 97
The appointemnt made official 97
Advisory status 98 
Inaugural oration 99
Augustine, Thomas, Luther 103 
The universal law-idea of Calvinism 103
Sovereignty of the law-spheres 104
The law-idea in the science and philosophy of law 106 
Conclusion of the inaugural 107
Reactions to the inaugural 109
Teaching courses in the Law Faculty 110 
First lecture 111
The Geelkerken Affair 115
Synthesis 117 
Family circumstances 119
Subject-functions and object- functions 120 
Criticism of the conceptual apparatus 122 
A debate with Leo Polak 123
Dooyeweerd’s answer 125 
An anthropological note 129
The professors’ scholarly contributions 131
Cosmic time 131
Legal principles and the historical law-sphere 133 
Thing structures 136 
Law-spheres 136
The institution of marriage 137
Gerbrandy’s criticism 137
Co-determination in Amsterdam 139
State intervention 140 
The Annals of Critical Philosophy 143 
Sphere-universality 144
The idea of a “Great Netherlands Culture” 145
Rehabilitation 147
Toward a magnum opus 150

Chapter Four – Carrying On As Professor, 1931-1934 
The Law Faculty 153
The Crisis in Humanist Political Theory 153 
Reviews 160 The meaning of history 164
Dooyweerd’s rectorship 166
The sources of positive law 171 
Germany and the New Order 174
Organic suffrage 175 
The congress of the Calvinist Student Movement 179
The Second International Congress of Calvinists 179

Chapter Five – De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (1935-36) 
The Preface 186
Volume One 188
The selfhood 188
Parts II and III of Volume One 190 
Volume Two 196
Volume Three 200 
Enkaptic structural interlacements 205
Conclusions 207 
Reviews 209
Professor Bellon 210
Professor Robbers 210 
Dr. Goedewaagen 212
Professor Franken 212
Personal reactions 213
Professor Stoker 215
The Association for Calvinist Philosophy 216 
Periodical publications 219 
International congress on penal law 220
Jewish Jurists 221 
Fascism 222
Christian employers 223
The Christian Idea of The State 224

Chapter Six – Disputes At The Free University 
Prelude 230
The first brochure 231
Reactions in the press 234 
The second brochure 235
The Board of Curators acts 236 
Professor Hepp’s interview with Curators 237
Dooyeweerd’s first memorandum 248
Professor Hepp’s memorandum 242 
Dooyeweerd’s second memorandum 248
The Curators deliberate further 255
Dooyeweerd’s theses 256
Hepp’s theses 257

Chapter Seven – Clarifying The Course, 1937-1939 
The Kuyper centenary 261
What the Philosophy of the Law-Idea owed Dr. Kuyper 263
The heart 265
Kuyper’s philosophy of science 266 
An improvisation about the concept of substance 270 
The presuppositions of theoretical thought 272
The transcendental critique of theoretical thought 274 
Dissemination of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea 278
Other publications 280 
Addresses 283
Switzerland 284
Juliana Hospital 287 
Family life 289

Chapter Eight – Wartime Occupation, 1940-1945 
The Law Faculty 293
The transcendental critique 295
The four religious ground-themes 297
The meaning of marriage 299 
The new “Question and Answer” column 301
Reformation and Scholasticism 305
Maurice Hauriou 309 
Thomism 310 
Interruption of instruction 313
The syllabi on Encyclopedia of the Science of Law 314 
The syllabus on Private and Public Law 318
Encyclopedia of the Science of Law 319 
The Schilder Affair 319
Disagreements at the Free University 323 
The transcendental critique in action: Ovink and Pos 324 
Guidelines for industrial organization 328
The Dooyeweerd family 333

Chapter Nine – Renewal and Reflection, 1945-1950
A new Netherlands 337
Further exposition of the transcendental critique 343 
Dooyeweerd and Robbers 344
The Schilder Affair and the Association for Calvinist Philosophy 354 
Professor B. Holwerda 349 Rev. E. G. van Teylingen 351 
The debate 352
Addresses to the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy 354 
Other addresses and publications 356 
The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences 357
The question of the Dutch East Indies 358
Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy, Volume One 360 
The passing of Harry Diemer 363 
Private chairs for Calvinist Philosophy 364

Chapter Ten – Further Elaborations, 1950-1958 
A visit to South Africa 369 Highlights of the years 370 
Twenty-five years as professor 370
Professor Kohnstamm 372 
Professor Miskotte 374
Reformed critics: Isaac Diepenhorst and Dirk Jellema 375 
Scholarly attention from Roman Catholics 378 
Journeys to France 380
Publications in the field law 382
A New Critique of Theoretical Thought 389 
Volume One of A New Critique 391
Volume Two of A New Critique 393
Volume Three of A New Critique 394 
The status of A New Critique 396
Contributions to reference works 397 
Journeys to other countries 399
The Association for the 
Philosophy of Law 401

Chapter Eleven – Recognition, Reflection, Dialogue, 1959-1964
Creation and evolution 407
What is Christian philosophy? In dialogue with van Peursen 418
Van Peursen answers Dooyeweerd 426 
Dooyeweerd’s unfinished response 426 
The future of Western culture 432
The autonomy of philosophic thought 432
Philosophical anthropology 435 Taking stock 440 
Policies regarding government subsidies 444
Chapter Twelve – At Journey’s End 449 
Emeritation 450
Philosophy and Christianity 453
Other publications occasioned by Dooyeweerd’s retirement 455
A brief return to the Free University 457 
Commemorating his teacher 457 
Penal law 458
An honorary doctorate 459 
Later publications and discussions 459
In discussion with Cornelius Van Til 461 
Other critics in the United States 464 
Further publications 466

Chapter Thirteen – Conclusions   475

Appendix – Opening Lecture, Fall 1926   485
List of Sources   – 499
Index of Names   – 517
Index of Subjects   – 525

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The worldview of the Reconstructionists

Portrait of Rushdoony by John Stich.


In the last few days I’ve posted reviews of two new books on Rushdoony and Reconstructionism: by McVicar and Ingersoll. To summarise the positions of Rushdoony and Reconstructionists I have made an attempt to identify how they answer the key worldview questions:

Where are we? We are on Earth, which is a God-given place for humans to pursue dominion. 

Who are we? We are dominion men created and designed to subdue and rule on the Earth under God’s authority. We are special creations of God not evolved creatures.

What the problem?  The human desire to 'be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5), to be independent and autonomous. We fail to keep the biblical laws. The question and issue of authority is key - we have given authority over to the State. The State usurps authority from the family and the church. Men do not take up their roles of headship within the family and church.

What’s the remedy? The remedy is seen in Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law. There is a need to go back to the Bible which speaks to every area of life and to the biblical laws. The remedy doesn’t come through legislation or politics (by which is meant civil government), but with a biblical social order beginning with the family (and male headship). Each of the God-ordained institutions of family, church and state are to function, without encroaching on each other, under the authority of God. This requires a minimal state and limited government. 

Where are we going? Christians through the church should continue to expand and build the kingdom of God and then Jesus will return.



Please do let me know in the comments if I’ve misrepresented them in anyway or the above could be improved.



An extract from Moyers interview with Rushdoony from 1988:

Friday, 17 July 2015

Review of Ingersoll's Building God's Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction

Building God’s Kingdom
Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction
Julie J. Ingersoll
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015
ISBN 9780199913787; hbk; 320 pp; £19.99

This year has seen two major works from University Presses on Rushdooy and Reconstructionism: McVicar’s and Ingersoll.

Comparisons have to be made with McVicar’s Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015). For McVicar Rushdoony is the main focus, for Ingersoll he is the background and starting point. Ingersoll was once an insider — she was married (now divorced) to a key Reconstructionist — she is  now the Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Florida. She focuses at least initially on the more radical Tyler, Texas branch of Reconstructionism and is more critical than McVicar. She concentrates more on the legacy of Rushdoony as seen in Christian education, creationism, biblical economics, the religious right and the revision of Christian American history. She is also more empirically based than McVicar. Ingersoll writes as a sociologist and takes a topical approach, McVicar as a historian and has a more chronological perspective.

Ingersoll’s aim is to ‘trace the Reconstructionist influence on the larger conservative Christian subculture, most especially in the ways in which Reconstructionist language and thinking have made their way into the public discourse and shaped that discourse’.  She does this in a balanced way, she recognises that objectivity is ‘ultimately impossible to attain’:
‘There is a difference between trying to understand a worldview and trying to build a case against it (which is, methodologically speaking, the same as trying to build a case for it). I’m not necessarily opposed to case-building, but I think case-building and understanding are different tasks and, frankly, effective case-building starts with real understanding. Thus I reject the idea that people I don’t understand must be “crazy” or “brainwashed,” and I try to avoid “warfare” language and even the tendency to assume that someone I don’t yet understand is being deceptive (that’s not to say I preclude that possibility). So, while I attempt to tone down the rhetoric about Christian Reconstruction, the religious right, and religious nationalism, I don’t dismiss their detractors as conspiracy theorists’ (p 241).
Her approach is one of attempting to understand Reconstructionism and allows the events and writings of Reconstructionists speak for themselves. 

She writes of her experience of several conferences including Vision Forum’s Reformation 500 Celebration - where she was asked to leave (one wonders what they were trying to hide). Vision Forum takes the patriarchy theme to its extreme  The description of the catalogue split into boys and girls toys would be laughable if it were not so worrying. Vision Forum now no longer exists as its leader Doug Phillips (the son of the US Constitution Party leader) was involved in indiscretions with his children’s nanny.

Another organisation that uses the term vision and has close connections to Rushdoony is American Vision, where Gary DeMar is the president and Joel McDurmon, the cigar smoking, beer drinking, tattooed, research assistant (Chapter 8).  The controversial historian David Barton and the Tea Party America’s exceptionalism also come under scrutiny (Chapter 9). 

The book doesn’t put to rest the commonly held notion that Reconstructionism is the ‘think tank of the religious right’ but it does show that they are not  ‘a dangerous secret society intent on turning the United States into a theocracy’. There’s certainly nothing secret in their approach — many of their older materials are available free on the Internet on Gary North’s website . Including all of the Biblical Blueprint Series which Ingersoll discusses in Chapter 3. (www.garynorth.com/freebooks/)

As Ingersoll’s shows Rushdoony’s views were pushed to extremes, extremes that for some included some extreme forms of violence both mentally and physically, including the execution of abortionists (Chapter 10). She points out ‘In Reconstructionist terms, the religious right is philosophically schizophrenic, so its efforts to return America to its Christian moorings are doomed’ (p2). It does make me wonder how much of his legacy in the religious right Rushdoony would have approved of — and yet as Howard Phillips, of the Constitution party, says: ‘the whole Christian conservative political movement had its genesis in Rush’ (p2).

Ingersoll provides a helpful guide through the Mirkwood of the religious right. For the most part she allows the evidence to speak for it self; she has provided a useful introduction to Rushdoony’s legacy, even if at times he wouldn’t necessarily have agreed with it. She carefully avoids the guilt-by-association approach; as she points out:
‘Little slivers of Rushdoony’s work seem to be everywhere. The Tea Party is not Reconstructionist, nor is it entirely religious, but there are clusters within the Tea Party whose concerns are shaped by the work Rushdoony was doing as early as the 1960s.’


Contents

Introduction
1. Christian Reconstructionist Theology
2. Jurisdictional Authority and Sphere Sovereignty
3. Building a Reconstructed Society: Gary North’s Biblical Blueprint Series
4. Raising a Godly Generation: Christian Schooling
5. Homeschooling for Dominion
6. Creationism, Mythmaking, Ritual, and Social Formation
7. Building a Family Dynasty: Doug Phillips and Vision Forum
8. American Vision and the Repackaging of Rushdoony
9. David Barton, Rushdoony, and the Tea party
10. Christian Recomstruction and Violence
Conclusion
Notes
Index




Thursday, 16 July 2015

A Review of Christian Reconstruction - by Michael J. Vicar

Christian Reconstruction
R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism
Michael J. McVicar
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4696-2274-3; pbk; 308pp; £30.95 

Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Christian Reconstruction, Theonomy or Dominionism as it has been variously designated. He has been described as ‘political heretic’ (Rodney Clapp),  'a man every bit as potentially murderous as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or anyone else you may want to name amongst the annals of evil' (BCSE ) and as ‘founder of the Christian homeschooling movement and an intellectual catalyst of the Christian Right’ (Christianity Today 2 April 2001: 25). 

The school of thought that he founded has been described as ‘a dangerous secret society intent on turning the United States into a theocracy’ and as the ‘think tank of the religious right’! As McVicar asserts Rushdoony is an ‘enigma — at once intellectually deep and emotionally distant, a complex mix of hubris and humility’. In this well researched and written book McVicar helps us to understand Rushdoony the man and Christian Reconstructionism the ‘movement’ a little better.

McVicar looks at the influences on Rushdoony by taking a biographical and chronological approach.  It was as a missionary on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Owyhee, Nevada that he began to see what he saw as the overreach of the government. This shaped his view of the need for limited or minimal government. In March 1946 he came across Cornelius Van Til’s The New Modernism. This seemingly caused a paradigm shift in his thinking and he adopted Van Til’s presuppositionalist approach. Van Til gave him the tools to critique the role of the state and to develop his Christian approach to the state. 

In 1952 he took up the pastorate of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Santa Cruz. This was not an easy time for him or his family. His wife had a breakdown and sued for divorce. Rushdoony had custody of the their three youngest children. McVicar’s chapter 2 entitled ‘The anti-everything agenda’ tells of Rushdoony’s association with several right wing Christian organisations, these included Spiritual Mobilisation, William Volker Charities Fund and the Centre for American Studies (CAS). It during this time that Rushdoony came across Albert J. Nock’s idea of the remnant. Rushdoony ‘developed an explicitly religious notion of the Remnant’ (p 61). Rushdoony’s approach was separation rather than connection this didn’t help to win many friends. He was eventually fired from the CAS.

Chapter 3, ‘A Christian renaissance’ describes the beginnings of Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionism. It started  when Gary North introduced Rushdoony to the women associated with the Betsy Ross Book Shop. The Chalcedon Foundation was started in 1965. The plan was to develop a Christian College but that never materialised, however the task of Christian reconstruction and Christian dominion had begun.

The main factors that contributed to the Chalcedon project were presuppositionalism, post-millennialism, and  the need to return to biblical law which entailed a reduction in the reach of the state and the central role of the family. Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty was utilised, but it was a truncated version of it. The only spheres Rushdoony recognised were the church, the state and the family. Missing from the influences McVicar cites is Robert L. Dabney. Dabney’s view of the American civil war was taken up and developed by Rushdoony and incorporated into his 'Christian' America view of history. 

Rushdoony’s tussle with Christianity Today is well told in chapter 4. Here again Rushdoony’s separatist approach made him few friends. In 1969 Rushdoony began his lectures on what came to be his seminal work The Institutes of Biblical Law. Gary North later said of the book  ‘I recognized early that this book would launch a movement’ (Christian Reconstruction 12(2), March/April 1988). In it Rushdoony posited that the biblical law was still binding and provided the ‘structuring blueprint for all aspects of life’ ( p 129). As McVicar notes:
‘Through the law, the reconstructed Christian male - or “dominion man,’ as Rushdoony called him — could “take dominion” over the plate and “reconstruct” all of life in Christ’s image.’
The exclusive language is deliberate - Rushdoony and the Reconstructionist approach is very patriarchal. Women were to be a ‘helpmeet’ to the men. For Rushdoony the family was ‘the most important institution in society’. It was during this time that Gary North and Greg L. Bahsen became more involved with Rushdoony.

North married one of Rushdoony’s daughters and has described himself as one of the co-founders of Christian Reconstruction (Christian Reconstruction March/April 1988). Both North and Bahnsen were popularisers of Rushdoony’s views. Bahnsen lectured at RTS Jackson and his students included Kenneth Gentry, James B. Jordan, David Chilton and Gary DeMar, a group McVicar called the ‘hard core of the second and third generation of Reconstructionists’ (p160). Bashen’s theonomic views weren’t appreciated by at at RTS and he was fired from his post. The catalyst for the firing was the publication of his Theonomy in Christian Ethics.

North, Bahnsen and several of Bahnsen’s students went to Tyler, Texas. There they became involved with Westminster Presbyterian Church pastored by Ray Sutton. They developed their own form of Reconstructionism which McVicar aptly describes as ‘a complex mix of Rushdoony-style Reconstructionism, paramilitary survivalism, and an aggressive theological polemics’ (p 182).

They fell out with Rushdoony over the nature of the church. For Rushdoony the key institution is the family, for the Tyler Group it was the church. And they developed very strict measures of church discipline. Sutton is now a bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church, unfortunately the story of this radical change is untold.

McVicar’s book received a warm review on the Chalcedon website  — this is testimony to McVicar’s even handedness; McVicar even had articles on Rushdoony published in Chalcedon’s Faith and Life magazine:
2008. Working with pygmies: R. J. Rushdoony, Christianity Today, and the making of an American theologian’. Faith for All of Life (Jul/Aug): 14-18,32. [http://www.scribd.com/doc/30522420/July-Aug2008#scribd
2008. ’“First Owyhee, then the world”: The early ministry of R. J. Rushdoony’. Faith for All of Life (Nov/Dec) 18-22, 33. [http://www.scribd.com/doc/30522581/Nov-Dec2008]
Comparisons have to be made with Julie Ingersol’s Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Unlike McVicar, Ingersoll was once an insider; she was married to a key Reconstructionist. McVicar had direct access to Rushdoony’s library (of over 40,000 volumes!) and papers. Ingersoll concentrates more on the legacy of Rushdoony as seen in Christian education, creationism, biblical economics, the religious right and the revision of Christian American history. She is also more empirically based than McVicar. For McVicar Rushdoony is main focus, for Ingersoll he is the background. 

For a good introduction to Rushdoony the man the best staring point is McVicar, for the on-going legacy then Ingersoll. The books complement each other.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Common grace - ecclesiastical suicide?

This lecture from professor David J.Engelsma, professor emeritus of the PRC Seminary, delivered on 26 Sept, 2014 at Sunshine Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, looks at Kuyper's common grace 'project'. Engelsma is no friend of common grace and his approach is rather polemical.

The immediate occasion for the lecture is the Acton Institute’s translation project of Kuyper’s Common Grace. Engelsma sees common grace as having an important spiritual, social and practical purpose: ie the Christianising of America. Common Grace is a sortie in the culture wars.

In this lecture he is concerned strictly with Kuyper’s common grace as a cultural doctrine and as a teaching that accounts for the doing of good by unbelievers, that calls Christians to unite with Roman Catholics and non-Christians to make America, and the world, Christian.

He maintains that Kuyper taught common grace as the Christianising of the world. He asks is that the Reformed calling or is it ecclesiastical suicide? He asserts that it is ecclesiastical suicide.

Engelsma lecture starts approximately 15 minutes in, after the introduction from Den Hartog.


Saturday, 11 July 2015

Koers - Bulletin of Christian Scholarship: a new website

Koers, after a short hiatus, is now back online here. All the journal articles are now once again online and free to view. 

Koers - Bulletin for Christian Scholarship
Koers is an accredited scholarly journal that strives to promote foundational reflection in science. This includes contemplation of the philosophical presuppositions of scientific disciplines, as well as reflection on the role of worldview in science. The Koers Association, as official body, has been in existence since 1926.

The Koers: Bulletin for Christian Scholarship is the association’s interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed journal which has appeared quarterly since 1935.
Koers promotes the development of Christian scholarship/science in all fields of science and publishes original (mainly reflective) research contributions with an integrated worldview as foundation. We provide a platform for authors to engage constructively and critically with Christian scholarly/scientific points of view in all fields of science.

Editor-in-Chief: Professor Annette Combrink, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

It takes longer to read Harry Potter than it does the Bible


Apparently it takes almost 44 hours to read the Bible, over 60 hours to read the whole Harry Potter corpus and just shy of 100 hours to read Game of Thrones.

Information from personal creations

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Kuyperania June 2015

Kuyper was featured in an episode from a Dutch TV series programme, available here.
Most of it is in Dutch but James Bratt makes an appearance speaking in English.



Simon P. Kennedy 2015. Abraham Kuyper: Calvinist Anti-Revolutionary Politician and Political Thinker. Australian Journal of Politics and History 61(2):169-183.

Abstract:
The figure of Abraham Kuyper looms large over the political and social landscape of nineteenth and twentieth century Holland. He held significant posts in government, education, and the church. His social theory impacted Dutch society for much of the twentieth century. His influence on both continental and American Christian political thought is substantial. And yet, Kuyper’s legacy is largely understated, and his political thought unknown in many corners of the scholarly world, including Australia. This article seeks to address this by surveying some of the major aspects of Kuyper’s political thought while placing him in his historical setting. By doing so, I will show that Abraham Kuyper is a transitory figure in political history, occupying an important place in the development of the relationship between religion and the modern state.

Kennedy is a PhD student at the Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland. He also wrote a review of Peter Escalante and W. Bradford Littlejohn (ed.) 2014. For the Healing of the Nations: Essays on Creation, Redemption and Neo-Calvinism. Charleston: The Davenant Trust in Crucible 6(2) (May 2015).