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:

Evangelical and Reformed

In the comments to my last post Greory Baus and Paul Otto (here) disputed the positioning of evangelical and Reformed in the relational diagram.

For me evangelicalism implies a high regard of and commitment to scripture this I would see as being compatible with the Reformed view. Evangelical literally means ‘of the gospel’.

David Bebbington in his Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (Unwin Hyman, 1989) describes four ‘qualities’ that are ‘the special marks’ of evangelicalism:

conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be termed crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ at the cross. (p. 3)

It seems to me that there is much overlap between this and the Reformed tradition. According to Bebbington, Thomas More in 1531 refers to advocates of the Reformation as ‘Evangelicalles’ (p. 1)

Unlike Gregory I don’t think evangelicalism has any commitment to any particular form of worship, view of sacrament or church order. There are Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalists, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, Calvinsist … evangelicals.

One misconception that often occurs particularly in the media, paticulalrly in the UK, is that evangelical and evangelism (preaching the gospel with the aim of conversion) are confused and used synonymously.

Friday, 28 October 2005

Evangelical, Reformed, reformational etc.

Paul Otto in a comment on a previous post wanted to know where I'd put evangelical and Vollenhovian onto my relational diagram. Here's my initial attempt:

The question is: where should neocalvinism go on the diagram? I suspect that it should cover reformational, Vollenhovenian and Dooyeweerdian - but can a neocalvinist not be reformed? And what about reformed epistemologists - where would they go? Presumably a subset of neocalvinism (though Alston might not like that!)?

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Neocalvinist distinctives

What are the key emphases of neocalvinism? Earlier today I started a Wiki entry on Neo-Calvinism. It is in skeletal form at the moment and is in desperate need of being filled out. In it I list the following emphases:
  • Jesus is lord over all of creation
  • The idea that all of life is to be redeemed
  • Cultural mandate
  • Creation, fall and redemption
  • Sphere sovereignty
  • A rejection of dualism
  • Structure and direction
  • Common grace
  • The antithesis
  • Worldviews
  • The role of law

Are these accurate? Are there any others?

Another neocalvinist blog

I have just come across another neocalvinist blog: Epignoskin . The latest blogs include one on Gordon Spykman's excellent Reformational Theology and a few on Wash and Kesmat's Colossians Remixed. Well worth checking out.

The Pearcey Report

Nancy Pearcey and her husband Rick have started The Pearcey Report: 'a website of news, comment, information, and worldview'.

News: The News section connects readers with breaking stories of the day from around the world -- in politics, international affairs, the arts, science, health, books, film, people, the odd tidbit, and more.
Comment: The Comment section features insight and opinion from a variety of observers and news outlets.
Articles: The Articles section offers a strategic and humane analysis of contemporary life, thought, and action. Expect to encounter the work of seminal Judeo-Christian worldview thinkers such as Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Udo Middelmann, Os Guinness, and Nancy Pearcey.
Information: The information component opens the door to the wider world of U.S. and international media -- and to a life beyond the crisis of the moment. Thus, in addition to websites for columnists, think tanks, and activist groups, also available are resources for further study, travel, world cities, and more.

Reformed, reformational and Dooyeweerdian

Following on from Reformational blogger's survey question, I have attempted to show how I think the terms Reformed, reformational and Dooyeweedian relate in a relational diagram:

All of life redeemed update

I have now added a new set of pages to the All of Life Redeemed website: The Sewell pages. Keith Sewell is a historian at Dordt College. There are details of his book on Herbert Butterfield, links to some of his Pro Rege articles and an article entitled: 'The idea of a Free Christian University'.

Also added is a new article by Danie Strauss on Dooyeweerd's modal theory , which he desribes as the 'best known but least understood part of Dooyeweerd's theory'. It is to be published in the Journal for Christian Scholarship.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

A new reformational blog

Paul Otto, a history lecturer at George Fox University, has started a new blog, Reformational blogger, 'with the intention of providing a clearinghouse of information related to reformational thinking'.

In his latest blog he's conducting a survey:
Here's my survey:
1) What does "reformational" mean or to what does it refer? (And I invite you to consider it with reference to the terms "reformed" and "neo-calvinist.")
2) Should it (and the other two terms) be capitalized or not?

Sunday, 16 October 2005

A history of the reformational movement

Theodore Plantinga (a third cousin to Alvin Plantinga) has started a history of the reformational movement. Plantinga's history has a narrative stream and a document stream. At present the narrative stream contains an essay on 'The reformational movement: does it need a history?'. The documents on-line include:
He also lists a number of individuals (suprisingly Clouser is missing!) and institutions related to the movement.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

New edition of the Vollenhoven newsletter

A second edition of the Vollenhoven Newsletter is out - the first came out in 2003. This one details some recent publications, an update of John Kok's forthcoming reader of Vollenhoven, news of a Master's thesis by Eric J. Kamphof (ICS) and news of the CPHM study group. It concludes with an obituary of the South African philosopher N. T. van der Merwe (1932-2004), who was a close associate of Vollenhoven.
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Friday, 14 October 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 5 (part 2)

Before 1859 mechanical explanations were the norm in the physical sciences but not in biology. The publication of Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882)The Origin of Species in 1859 changed that. Here was a mechanism – natural selection - that provided a natural explanation for design.

Darwin believed his book to be ‘one long argument’ (p. 114): the argument takes the form of an argument to the best explanation. He compared two rival hypotheses and examined how well they account for the available evidence.

The similarity of organs across species, the existence of transitional forms, disused characteristics all suggest that natural selection is the best explanation. On the other hand, Darwin admitted that, the complexity of the eye, hybridism and the fossil record were problematical for his theory. Nevertheless, Darwin maintains that natural selection provides a better fit than special creation to the evidence.

The Calvinist Asa Gray (1810-1888), a professor at Harvard University, was a friend of Darwin. They corresponded many times and Gray became Darwin’s defender in the USA (see, for example his Darwiniana). Gray maintained that there was no conflict between natural selection and design. He maintained that it was by faith that we see the natural order as designed.

Dowe then briefly examines the debate between Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce and the 1925 Scopes ‘monkey trial’ before looking at the anti-Darwinian views of Charles Hodge (1797-1878). According to Dowe, Hodge holds to an Augustinian principle of hermeneutics. Hodge held that the days in Genesis 1 were undefined periods of time and maintains that this harmonises with geology.

Dowe writes:

The idea that the opposition to Darwinianism was based on literal interpretations of Genesis is a Whiggish reading of later creation science themes back into the nineteenth century.

This was not only true in the States, but also in the UK. Several prominent evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic accepted evolution; for example, James McCosh (1811-1894) and B. B. Warfield (1851-1921).

Dowe then examines creation science and Henry Morris’s ICR in particular. He prevents an even-handed overview, but makes few evaluative statements, other than creation science present a conflict view – but that is not how they themselves see it. They see themselves as presenting a harmony of religion and true science.

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Genesis and God's accommodation

In an earlier blog I mentioned I would outline an accommodationist view of Genesis. The advantage of this view is that it takes Genesis and its cultural context seriously.

Paul H Seely has shown that the ancient near eastern views of the world were portrayed in Genesis. In a series of papers [‘The firmament and the waters above. Part I: the meaning of raqia‘ in Gen 1: 6-8’, WTJ 53 (2) (Fall 1991); ‘The firmament above. Part II: The meaning of “the water above the firmament” in Gen 1: 6-8’, WTJ 54 (Spring 1992); ‘The geographical meaning of "earth" and "seas" in Genesis 1:10’, WTJ 59 (1997), 231-55; ‘The date of the Tower of Babel and some theological implications’, WTJ 63 (2001), 15-38] he has shown that the firmament (raqia), was conceived of as solid, the waters above earth means, not clouds or water vapour, but rather a large body of water above the solid roof of the universe, and that the conception of the ‘earth’ in Genesis 1 is most probably that of a single continent in the shape of a flat circular disc – all these ideas conform to the cosmology of the times. This then leaves us with a number of options: we acknowledge that Genesis contains scientific errors; we can claim that the language of Genesis is equivocal; or with Calvin we see that God has lisped (Calvin Institutes 1.13.1) in his scriptures.

For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.

The second approach is one that is most popular. However, a close examination of the term firmament shows that it can only be understood as being solid; therefore, the case for understanding it within a present-day scientific worldview fails. (On the failure of concordist attempts, see Paul H. Seely ‘The first four days of Genesis in concordist theory and in biblical context’ PSCF 49 (1997), 85-95 ). This then leaves us with the third approach: this is the approach of Seely and he follows to the logical conclusion Calvin’s accommodation principle. God has graciously accommodated his revelation to the limited scientific knowledge of the day. A. H. Strong, Charles Hodge, B B Warfield as well as Calvin (See, for example, his commentaries on Gn 1:16 and Ps 136:7) and, more recently, Sidney Greidanus, who writes:

Does the Bible make use, here and there, of ancient “scientific” concepts? The answer would be affirmative since language, culture, and thought forms are all intertwined … the language appears to reflect (not teach) the ancient cosmology of the three-storied universe’, in ‘The use of the Bible in Christian scholarship’, Christian Scholar’s Review 11 (1982), 141-2

all recognised that there is some accommodation in the scriptures to the science of the times (for example, hares chewing the cud (Lev 11:6)): hence, it seems the world picture of Genesis is that of the ancients, but at the same time its polemical thrust is to subvert the contemporary worldview.

Saturday, 1 October 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 5 (part 1)

The sceptre of creation and evolution will haunt every book on science and religion; so, it is inevitable that Dowe deals with it in this the longest chapter of the book.

In this chapter Dowe looks at the nature of teleological explanations, Paley’s design argument, Darwin’s natural selection and his views about God, Asa Gray and the modern creation science movement.

He starts by looking at Aristotle and Aquinas’s notion of teleology. Aquinas takes Aristotle’s view of teleology – everything has a purpose – and turns it into a design argument: things have purpose because they are designed by God. Aquinas’s design argument differed from earlier versions such as Sextus Empiricus (AD 160-210) Cicero (106-43 BC) because it appealed directly to the notion of purpose.

The scientific revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries rejected teleological explanation in terms of mechanical explanations. Nevertheless, Isaac Newton, the master of mechanical explanation, still had room for design. For Newton the mechanical operation of the universe was so intricate that it could not have been the product of design, it must have been the product of a cosmic designer.Mechanical explanations were not so successful in biology: ‘physics makes appeal only to efficient causes, whereas biology appeals to function and purpose’ (p. 109).

William Paley’s (1740- 1805) Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature (first published in 1802) made much use of biological examples. The book had much impact of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), he wrote ‘…Natural Theology gave me much delight’.

Paley’s argument rested on analogical reasoning, an important aspect of inductive reasoning. Dowe provides a helpful diagrammatic representation of Paley’s argument.