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.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Johanna Francis, Fields of Orange: A True Welsh Love Story (Aberystwyth: Ylofa, 2022)

 Herman Dooyeweerd's daughter, Johanna (Hanny), married a Welsh man and wrote a book about her life:

ISBN: 9781800991460


It is a fascinating read - she married Bob Francis, a Welsh farmer, and lived in near poverty as a farmer's wife in Wales.

It has one or two photographs of Dooyeweerd.

This one shows Dooyeweerd on his one visit to Wales in the Welsh hills looking down on the farm owned by Bob and Johanna.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Interview with Harry Van Dyke

It was in 2019 since I last interviewed you with the publication of Kuyper's On Education - what's been happening since then?

My wife and I  have moved to a gated community where I no longer need to mow the lawn or shovel snow from the driveway.

You have recently edited M.C. Smit's Writings on God and History (Dordt Press, 2022) - could you tell us a little about Smit and your interest in him?

After earning my Bachelor's at Calvin College in 1964 I enrolled at the VU University Amsterdam in order to "read" Theory and Philosophy of History with Professor Meyer Smit (1911-1981). In 1965 I became his assistant, which I remained till his death in 1981. From Smit, I learned a view of history that I believe I could not have learned anywhere else: how God is present in history and how the historian must take that into account: with awesome wonder and deep reverence and a humble spirit.

Why the republication of this book now? 
Smit remains in demand. He is the only philosopher of history who explicitly works in the reformational tradition. The first edition of his Writings (1987; 316 pp.) had very limited circulation; only a score were marketable, the other 980 copies all had false folds in them and were destroyed after the printer went bankrupt. Thus this first edition was almost instantly sold out. I later incorporated its contents in M. C. Smit, Towards a Christian Conception of History (2002; 426 pp.), which has meanwhile also gone out of print. The Towards book contained the whole of Writings plus a translation of Smit's doctoral dissertation. The new edition of Writings this year republishes the first edition. Unlike Towards, it omits the dissertation except for two lengthy appendices (pp. 255-304) for which I gleaned Smit's positive (thetical) elucidation of his own, reformational views and conceptions of history (the rest of his dissertation dealt with Roman Catholic philosophers and historians and their approach to historical science, largely shaped by the nature-grace ground-motive).

What are the main themes of his approach to history?
That history is not self-sufficient but receives life and meaning from the Creator. Historians cannot explain events solely in terms of their antecedents but must take into account the underlying and primary active presence of God in history.

What does Smit offer that is relevant for today?
He is a better antidote than Dooyeweerd for historicism and historical relativism.

Who should read this book and why?
University students and university instructors; preachers and teachers. Smit's ideas open our minds to the divine mystery in history.

You have been busy with the Abraham Kuyper Translation Project - are there more plans to translate more of Kuyper?
Not that I am aware of. There are treasures in his E Voto (a 3-vol. commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism). Craig Batholomew also believes that Kuyper's Encyclopedia (an extensive introduction to the loci of theology) is anything but outdated and deserves to be translated, perhaps in abridged form. However, projects like this are costly and the generous patron of the more recent Kuyper translations has gone to be with the Lord. I am still available for any of this work, but by God's grace hope to turn 82 next month.

What advice would you give to budding reformational scholars?
(1) Read widely. 
(2) Get in touch with the Neo-Calvinist research centres in Kampen, Edinburgh, Fuller Seminary, and Redeemer University.
(3) If you have any talent at all in languages, master Dutch. 
(4) "In all your ways, acknowledge Him."

What challenges do you see facing the reformational movement at the moment?
To bring itself into rapport with the needs of our time, both academically and more broadly socially and culturally.

When you are not translating what do you like to do for fun?
Do word puzzles, grow a kitchen garden, and play Bach on the harmonium pump organ.

Monday, 18 April 2022

You Should Know Reformational Philosophy

 My Introduction to Reformational Philosophy is now on Laymen's Lounge.

Reality is multi-aspectual. Consider a garden and a gardener. 

A gardener is faced with many decisions when beginning to garden. How many plants will be planted (numerical), what space will the garden take up (spatial), what changes will need to take place – what seasonal elements will need to be considered (kinematic). Will fertilisers or pesticides need to be used – will these be chemical or organic (physical)? Will the relationship between plants and insects be considered? 

What flowers are best for bees that will be required to pollinate plants (biotic)? Plants have different fragrances (sensitive). Consideration will need to be given to how different parts of the garden fit together and if the type of soil is suitable for the plants (analytical). Plants have names and horticulture has its own terminology (lingual). 

Will there be space in the garden to entertain friends (social)? Will the garden be too expensive to maintain (economic)? Are some plants becoming rare and need to be protected? How will the garden look? Is it pleasing in terms of being well proportioned, does it show beauty and harmony (aesthetic)? Will planning permission be needed to add or remove walls or outbuildings (juridical)? 

Will any changes made offend the neighbours? Does the garden show love for plants and animals as well as humans (ethical)? The overriding question is why do we garden? Is it to produce a symbol of wealth and expertise, or is it to bring glory to God (confessional)?

The idea of the multifacetedness of reality is to be found in the thought and writings of the Dutch lawyer and philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977). Dooyeweerd was one of the major architects of what is known as Reformational philosophy.

Dooyeweerd is one of several Dutch Calvinists who were associated with philosophy. The notable others were his brother-in-law Vollenhoven, Antheunis Janse (1890-1960), S.U. Zuidema (1906-1975), K. J. Popma (1905-1986), the S. African H. G. Stoker (1899-1993), J.P.A. Mekkes (1898-1987), and Hendrik Van Riessen (1911-2000).

Friday, 8 April 2022

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Review of God, Technology and the Christian Life

 God, Technology, and the Christian Life
Tony Reinke

Crossway Books


320pp, pbk

Book website here

Recent years has seen Christians are becoming aware of the impact of technology on cultural life. Although technology has always been with us, from the time Adam used a branch to reach fruit on a tree (as Calvin Seerveld observes) it is good to see books written on a Christian view of technology (see a list here). The 1986 book Responsible Technology was one of the first in recent decades to take it seriously. They pointed out that technology was not a neutral activity and that it must be done under the Lordship of Christ. One of the authors of that book Egbert Schuurman has written extensively on the impact of technology.

It is good to see that Christians are taking this issue seriously and in the last 12 months has seen several books on this topic. One of them is this book by Tony Reinke. Reinke is no stranger to technology he has previously written on 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. In this book, he examines the border effects of technology ostensibly drawing on the insights of John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Jacques Ellul, Wendell Berry, Kevin Kelly, Elon Musk, and Yuval Noah Harari. 

He identifies and debunks 12 common myths regarding faith and technology. These are:

Myth 1: Human innovation is an inorganic imposition forced onto the created order. 

Myth 2: Humans set the technological limits and possibilities over creation. 

Myth 3: Human innovation is autonomous, unlimited, and unchecked. 

Myth 4: God is unrelated to the improvements of human innovation. 

Myth 5: Non-Christian inventors cannot fulfill the will of God. 

Myth 6: God will send the most beneficial innovations through Christians. 

Myth 7: Humans can unleash techno-powers beyond the control of God. 

Myth 8: Innovations are good as long as they are pragmatically useful. 

Myth 9: God governs only virtuous technologies. 

Myth 10: God didn’t have the iPhone in mind when he created the world. 

Myth 11: Our discovery of atomic power was a mistake that God never intended. 

Myth 12: Christian flourishing hinges on my adoption or rejection of the technium.

Each chapter ends with a numbered list of take-always. 

I was hoping to see more on Kuyper and Bavinck - but they like to other authors mentioned are only utilised in passing. It is a shame that the two (unrelated) Schuurman’s are not drawn upon mere extensively - as both Schuurman’s provide some of the best Christian insights int technology. This is no academic book but provides a good introduction to the subject.

One point I found stimulating was Reinke’s observation in Chapter 3 he makes an interesting observation: Cutting-edge advances will mostly come through God rejectors. 

Of course, this is not always the case - most of the early scientists were Christian. And we have the Christian Faraday to thank for discovering electromagnetism. Reinke’s point does however show the effect of common grace. It begs the question is this descriptive or prescriptive?

Why is it the case? Is it because Christians are too heavenly minded to be if earthy use? Is it because technological involvement takes second place to church-based activities? Of course, it shouldn’t be the case - that it is is an indictment on dualistic Christianity.


Chapter 1: What Is Technology?

 Chapter 2: What Is God’s Relationship to Technology?

 Chapter 3: Where Do Our Technologies Come From?

 Chapter 4: What Can Technology Never Accomplish?

 Chapter 5: When Do Our Technologies End?

 Chapter 6: How Should We Use Technology Today?

General Index

 Scripture Index

My thanks to Crossway for a review copy.