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.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Beyond Expression by Albert Weideman

Albert Weideman
Beyond Expression: A Systematic Study of The Foundations of Linguistics.
Reformational publishing Project/ Paiedeia Press, 2009
240 pp. ISBN 978-0-88815-204-6.

Weideman is professor and head of the department of English, University of the Free State. This book is his dissertation on systematic concepts in linguistics first written in the 1980s. It might seem surprising that it has only now been published particularly as it  has only been lightly edited. However, it provides an excellent exemplar of the application of a reformational philosophy on linguistics.  It shows how Dooyeweerd's systematics can apply to one specific discipline and in doing so provides a model for all other disciplines. This book will then be of interest not only to linguists but all academics who want to know how to apply Dooyeweerd's apporach to their own discipline. It is testimony to the consistency and comprehensiveness of reformational philosophy.


Prologue ix

Chapter one
Philosophy and the special sciences 1
The 'objectivity' of linguistic theory
The relationship between philosophy and the special sciences
The foundational character of philosophy
Philosophical linguistics

Chapter two
Developing a linguistic methodology 6
The structural-empirical method
The limits of method-borrowing
General properties of language as linguistic universals in Chomsky's theory
Similarity and difference between languages
Norm and fact
Structures and facts in Chomsky's thought
Chomsky and Kant
Freedom and determinism
Linguistic ideas
Lingual principles
Elementary and complex linguistic concepts

Chapter three
Sample of a previous attempt 30

Chapter four
Material lingual spheres 39
Formal and informal
Reduction of typical structures to general concepts of function
Material lingual spheres
Attempts at distinguishing between material lingual spheres
The material lingual sphere of conversation
The typical characteristics of certitudinal discourse
Scientific language The language of art The material lingual sphere of legal language
Applications of material distinctions in language teaching

Chapter five
The expressive character of language 60
Communication versus expression
The field of investigation of linguistics
A typological linguistic classification
Speech as object of inquiry
Speech and writing
Verbal language
Some remarks on terminology
Anthropological foundations of linguistics

Chapter six
The elementary linguistic concept of lingual unity and multiplicity 75
Introductory remarks
Lingual system and its formal and material aspects
The lingual unity and diversity of lingual subjects and Ojeda
The lingual unity and diversity of lingual facts

Chapter seven
Spatial analogies in the lingual aspect 84
External and internal coherence
The lingual sphere of applicability of a lingual system
The lingual dimensionality of a lingual system
The lingual position of lingual facts
Structuralism as relationism
Lingual extension on the factual side of the lingual aspect

Chapter eight
Lingual constancy as an elementary linguistic concept 104
The theoretical problem
The consistency of lingual norms
The period of appeal to authority
Arguments against The 'mechanical' elements of language
The relative constancy of lingual facts in their lingual extension

Chapter nine
The operation of lingual norms in factual lingual processes 124
Physical analogies in the structure of the lingual aspect
Factual lingual process and normative lingual procedure
Transformations as normative lingual operations
The validity of lingual norms
Changes in lingual norms
Factual lingual maintenance and change

Chapter ten
Lingual development and organization 139
Language and biology
Normative lingual development and maturity
Factual lingual growth and differentiation
Factual lingual organization

Chapter eleven
Lingual volition and sensitivity 147
Linguistics and psychology
Lingual volition and intention
Factual lingual will
The factual perception of lingual objects

Chapter twelve
Lingual identification and distinction 161
Language and thought
Normative lingual concurrence and contradiction
Language and logic
Factual lingual identity

Chapter thirteen
Formative retrocipations in the lingual aspect 170
The internal molding of language
The normative dimension of lingual competence
Other normative analogies
The factual dimension of lingual competence
The constitutive structure of the lingual aspect

Chapter fourteen
Discourse, text and other social anticipations 185
Linguistic concept and linguistic idea
Sociolinguistics as a study of the social anticipations in the lingual aspect
Normative anticipations
Material lingual spheres as normative types of discourse
Typical specifications of the general modal norm of acceptability
The appropriativeness, relevance and informativeness of utterances
'Text' as factual lingual unit

Chapter fifteen
The idea of lingual economy 201
Other linguistic issues
The idea of lingual economy
A system for lingual sharing
A broadening of the concept of objective factual lingual unit
A minimum unit for conversation
Opening and closing conversations
The overall organization of conversation
Some other factual lingual units
The remainder of the agenda

Chapter sixteen
A linguistic alternative 221

Epilogue 225

Bibliography 230

Abstract 236

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Bernard Zylstra on Ridderbos's Paul

Paul: An Outline of His Theology
by Herman Ridderbos
Translated by John Richard De Witt;
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 587 pp. $i2.95hb.

This is one of the most significant productions of reformed – evangelical scholarship in the seventies. It deals with the main lines of Pauline interpretation since lS50, with the basic structure of Paul's thought, and – in ten long chapters – with the foremost themes of Paul’s letters. Three of these themes are especially noteworthy with reference to current theological debate. In the first place, Ridderbos shows that there is no tension between creation and redemption in Paul, that redemption in effect is the restoration of creation. Secondly, Ridderbos shows that in Paul there is no dualistic notion of man, no dichotomy between soul and body. Finally, Ridderbos beautifully describes how the church is not in the first place an institution or an organization, but is the new mankind redeemed in Jesus Christ.

I believe that the creation theme should have received more attention. Ridderbos mentions, but does not fully develop, the Pauline presupposition of the goodness of God’s creation as the setting of both sin and redemption. Perhaps this neglect is a consequence of Ridderbos’s hermeneutic - the "redemptive-historical” approach - which, in my view, though it begins with the center of the Cross-Resurrection-Ascension, neglects the alpha of creation because of its concern for the eschatological omega. If there is anything which christian theology needs today, it is a recovery of the doctrine of creation and its implications: the creation as the theatre of God’s glory, the creation of the manifold works of God, the creation with its many tasks and assignments for man’s cultural engagement, the creation where men and women - redeemed in Christ – are called to meaningful service, the creation where the New Jerusalem will be found. Without an anchor in creation, Christian life and thought fall into asceticism, passivism, or gnostic utopias.

Ridderbos is far too sane for this. But he could have given the grounds for his “sanity" more fully, I think, if he had explained the continuity between his first great book, The Coming of the Kingdom, and his last. My few critical comments should not be taken too seriously, since this is simply an outstanding book, which no theologian or preacher can afford to neglect and from which many of us who are not theologians can benefit immensely.

Bernard Zylstra

April 1976 p. 26.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

On Being Human: Stuart Fowler

On Being Human: Toward a Biblical Understanding
Stuart Fowler
Amani: Melbourne and Kitale
© 2004; eBook edn 2010
ISBN 0 9750307 4 4
iv + 21 pp; AUD 8.00 (approx £4.00)
available from

Much sterile theological discussion around the issue of what it means to be human stems from holding to a two- (or three-) part view of humanity: body and soul (or body soul and spirit). This is seen even in Calvin; as Fowler points out:
Indeed, the body has often been regarded as a limitation on the soul. Calvin (1851/1958 [Tract and Treatises Vol III. Edinburgh and London: Oliver & Boyd], 443) saw the body as “the prison of the soul” which weighs it down and “greatly limits its perception”. He argued that the soul could only attain its true spirituality when it is loosed from the fetters of the body and no longer subject to its tyranny. (p 1)
This excellent booklet provides a powerful antidote and alternative to the faulty two-component view of humanity. This is a revised version of the original that was published by the Institute for Reformational Studies: Wetenskaplike bydraes van die PU vir CHO. Reeks F1 Pamphlets no 168 (1981). It was revised in 2004 and now is available as a high-quality eBook in a searchable pdf format complete with colour photographs.

Chapter 1 takes a look at the term ‘soul’. He rightly concludes:
The more we explore the biblical text the more clearly we are compelled to conclude that the two-component theory of the human person is an unbiblical idea that has been read into Scripture in the Christian tradition, It forms no part of the biblical message about humanity. Its presence in Christian teaching is due to the contagion of pagan Greek philosophy.

Fowler is concerned to develop a biblical view of humanity as a single, indivisible entity. The discussion of ‘soul’ is followed by an illuminating examination of the ‘image of God’. The image is not something we possess, rather it the whole person that is God’s image.

Chapter 2 examines humanity in relationship: ‘Humanity means relationships. Human relationships are not merely possibilities. They are essential to being human’ (p. 6). This concept of relationship follows from the command to love our neighbours and this must be based on ‘acceptance without exception’. Fowler emphasises the importance of relating to each other in a variety of ways each of which has a definite structure. Unfortunately, space permits him enlarging on this point.

‘The worldliness of being human’ is the provocative title of the next chapter. How can being human legitimately be described as being worldly when we are given the scriptural injunction to die to the world (cf Col 2:20)? Fowler maintains that, paradoxically, ‘To be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ we must accept the worldliness of our humanity’ and ‘To deny our worldliness is to deny our humanity’ (p. 11). We were created from the earth for this earthly world. The fall has not changed this, several times after the fall our relationship with the earth is emphasised (cf Gen 9:1-6). And in the eschaton our home is a redeemed earth. As Fowler puts it: ‘Nothing is lost but the curse’ (p. 12).

Most Christians make disparaging comments about the world – this Fowler notes reflects a one-sided view. The NT makes some positive comments about the world. He sees the retreat of Christians fro the world as a denial of the gospel. The world has become distorted and corrupted, but the message of the gospel includes the world. Our involvement in the world is to be guided by the Word of God.

In chapters 4 and 5 Fowler examines ‘The sexuality of our humanity’ and ‘Sexuality and Christianity’. He sees sexuality as being ‘as inseparable from our humanity as religion, community and worldliness’ (p. 14). Humanity in the image of God is not male, humanity is male and female. There is no precedent of male over female. He sees no ‘natural male leadership role’, he rightly concludes that male domination is ‘entirely without biblical foundation’ (p. 15). Fowler is no complementarian and he examines several passages that have erroneously been used to justify male leadership and domination.

He sees the degradation of sexuality stemming from viewing sexual activity as a reproductive mechanism. To do so is to ‘reduce[s] human sexuality to mere animal sexuality’ (p. 18). He calls for Christians to take a lead on sexuality. To do so we must adopt a ‘new set of social mores’ – mores that are not derived from contemporary paganism, but from the word of God, we are subject to his norms and laws. The norm for human sexuality is ‘troth’: ‘sexuality can only be a fulfilling, enriching element in human life when it is subject to God’s norm of troth’ (p.21). He concludes with a call for the single person not to be treated as a misfit within the Christian community.

This is well-written and refreshing little book; it deserves wide attention. It subverts the false dichotomous view of what it means to be human and places an integral view of humanity within relationships, worldliness and sexuality.

It is available here. Grab yourself a copy – you’re human and you’re worth it!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What happens when I die? - slides

What happens when I die?

[These are my notes from a recent talk on 'What hapens when I die?']

Death is something we all have to face. It’s a great leveller! In more than one sense!

Death though is not “natural”; the wages of sin is death, death is the last enemy. However, salvation means victory over sin and death – death, because of Jesus’ resurrection is a defeated enemy. When Jesus died death was conquered – so much so that (Mt 27: 52) the earth quaked, some tombs were broken open and people who had died were raised to life! We don’t have to be afraid of death.

What happens when I die is a question most of us have to face at sometime or another.

Though, you may be surprised to know that not everyone will die! Those alive at Jesus’ return won’t die we’ll put on immortality.

About 10% of what I’m going to tell you is wrong! The only problem is, I don’t know which 10%! We need to test all things against the scriptures.

Many people claim to have had death experiences and have come back – many of them non-Christians. All seem to have a similar story to tell: an out of body experience, a tunnel, meeting someone.

One scientific study done by the university of Southampton has been set up to examine 1.500 survivours of cardiac arrest – the study known as AWARE (awareness during resuscitation) started in 2008 and planned to take 3 years. Time 18 Sept 2008

I’ve not seen any of their results yet.

Other Universities have departments of death studies.

At Bath there is the Centre for Death and Society

At Durham, Centre for Death and Life studies

There are a number of places you can get an MA in death Studies; including Bath and Lampeter,

However, personal experiences or scientific studies are not a reliable basis on which to base a theology or a doctrine.

So, what does happen when we die?

There are many responses to this.

The materialistic atheist on the other hand maintains that when we die we die, we get eaten by worms and that’s it. There is no continuity. We die we rot, end of story

Some maintain that we will be reincarnated, according to what we have done. If we have lived well then we may enjoy an eternal disembodied bliss, otherwise we might come back as a cockroach, an ant eater or an ant.

For the Buddhist they hope to get off the wheel of life and cease to exist or face reincarnation (again).

Two dear old friends, Abner and Fred, had many conversations through their life about death and what they thought Heaven would be like. They made an agreement that whichever of them died first would make every effort to make contact with the one that was still living and tell them what Heaven was like.

Well, Fred was the first to die and about a year later, Abner was truly missing his dear friend. One day, the phone rang...and when he answered it, he heard a familiar voice on the line.

Abner said: "Fred, is that you?"
"Yes it is my old friend, yes it is."
Abner was overjoyed, and said:
"So, tell me, what is it like where you are?"
Fred said: "This is wonderful. You wouldn’t believe what I am experiencing now. The most plentiful food and lushest fields you have ever seen, I sleep in late, have a long luxurious breakfast, and then I go and make love.

If it's a nice day I go out in the fields and make love some more. I come in and have a long lunch, then I go out into the fields again and make love all afternoon and retire early in the evening.”

Abner responded: "Heaven sounds so amazing!"

Fred replied: Heaven? Who said anything about heaven? I’m a rabbit in Minnesota!"

For many Christians it is a combination of the Buddhist and the atheist perspective. Our bodies get eaten by worms, but our souls or spirits get into n eternal bliss we call heaven. This however, is not the biblical picture! It is a Greek idea. It stems from a wrong view of what it means to be human. We are not souls or spirits trapped inside a body.

So, what do the scriptures say?

It is something that you’d think they have a lot to say on it. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about getting to heaven when we die? However, there is very little in the scriptures! The problem is that many of our ideas about heaven come not from the scriptures but from non-Christian culture.

As Tom Wright puts it:

“We should remember especially that the use of the word heaven to denote our ultimate goal of the redeemed, though hugely emphasised by medieval piety, mystery plays and the like, and still almost universally at a popular level, is severely misleading and does not begin to do justice to the Christian hope.” FATS p. 20-21

The Bible says nothing about going to heaven when we die.

In the Scriptures heaven is the hidden dimension of our ordinary life – it is where God is. It is not a place that we go to when we die. 

Heaven is not our future hope – our hope is physical bodily resurrection and that will be on the new heavens and new earth.

In the OT it was clear that the dead go to Sheol. David Lawrence in his book Heaven It’s Not the End of the World illustrates it like this. (see slides)

Sheol is translated unhelpfully by the Authorised Version as hell. The two are different places. Sheol is simply the realm of the dead. It was a place of waiting – not punishment or rewards. There are some glimpses of resurrection in the OT but not much. There is some hint that the rewards and fate of the righteous and unrighteous will be different.

The Hebrew word ‘Sheol’ is usually translated as Hades in the NT. This again is the place of the departed and not hell. In Revelation 1: 18 we are told Jesus holds the keys to Hades. Death was not able to hold Jesus and one day when Jesus returns Hades will have to give up the dead.

The New Testament picture looks something like this: (image from Key note – adapted from David Lawrence)

Sheol becomes Hades. There is some sort of “Intermediate State” – the position of the dead between death and Jesus’ return. At Jesus’ return there is resurrection and judgement. The fate of believers will be physical resurrection bodies on a new earth and the unbelievers Gehenna. Gehenna, usually translated as hell, is the name of the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, where a fire burned all the time to destroy the rubbish that was chucked on it.

So, what then happens between death and the return of Jesus, in this ‘intermediate state’?

It was this question that bugged the Thessalonians – they expected Jesus to return pretty quickly, certainly within a few years of his ascension, but things were dragging on. Believers were dying – what was going to happen to them? Would they miss out? It is these questions that Paul is addressing in his letter to them.

Grieve – grief is important, but don’t grieve like the rest who have no hope.

Hope – because of Jesus’ death and resurrection there is hope. They won’t miss out.

Paul’s focus is not on the intermediate state but on the resurrection. The dead and those alive will meet the Lord.

Incidentally, the word meet here has been used to justify a rapture of the saints up into ‘heaven’ before the tribulation – a modern day theory popularised by the Scofield Bible and by the recent Tim La Haye Left Behind books. However, the word used is the word used to denote meeting a visiting dignitary. A group of important people would go out to meet the dignitary, to welcome him and bring him back to the city; not to go off into the distance with him!

In verse 13 and 15 We have the phrase ‘fallen asleep’.

Some have interpreted this to mean an unconscious sleep.

The dead are asleep. They have no consciousness of what is happening.

David Lawrence writes: ‘evidence from other New Testament passages seems to conflict with this. John [in Revelation] hears the souls of the martyrs in heaven not snoring but shouting’! (p 69)

Some have suggested that for the dead in Christ there is no intermediate state – it is as if they die and are at the resurrection at Christ’s return. This has much going for it. Not least an attempt to get away from a dualistic view of what it means to be human.

However, Jesus on the cross speaks to one of the thieves and says, today you will be with me in Paradise – this seems to imply a conscious awareness of Jesus after death. Lk 23:42, 43.

It could be translated ‘I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise’ – the today refers to when Jesus spoke it and not when the thief would be with him in Paradise. But then why would Jesus use the term paradise?

Paul in Phil 1:21 – depart and be with Christ – if this was an unconscious state how could he then say it would be better?

Why aren’t we told much about what happens between death and Jesus’ return?

I suspect because that is not our goal – our hope is resurrection bodies and the new earth. The physical is important!

There are three possibilities then for what happens when we die, in this intermediate state:

1. We are asleep and are not aware of anything until the resurrection

2. When we die we immediately experience the resurrection, so there is no intermediate state for the dead, but there is an intermediate time for those who are still alive

3. We are with Christ in paradise waiting for the resurrection

What is the take home from this?

Death is not the end. We don’t need to fear it as Jesus has the victory over it.

We don’t have much scriptural information about what happens when we die - because that’s not the focus of the gospel of the kingdom.

Our hope is not in heaven with harps but resurrection bodies on the new heaven and earth. We don’t look forward to life after death, but as Tom Wright puts it, life after life after death!

Music for a Sunday morning

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Not just Christian philosophers but also prophets

Here is a prophetic call from a Christian philosopher, H. Evan Runner, from The Christian Philosophical Enterprise in the Light of Biblical Prophecy:

Well, why have I taken all this time to develop these thoughts, and how had I thought to relate them to us of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy? I wanted to bring out clearly that we who are members of this Association and are Christ's men -- we are called to be prophets, we are meant to be prophets, in our thinking, critiquing, writing, publishing, in our instruction of the new generation, in the way we organize and finance (budget) our Association's efforts. That means that we are to be God-possessed, possessed by the Spirit of God, God-driven in our personal lives and work as members, and in our organized activities. Remember Professor Greydanus' words, "To possess in faith the testimony of Christ the Lord regarding Himself in such a way that it governs your inner being and very existence, all that you do and say, is to have the Spirit of prophecy. He of whom this can be said is a prophet."

We members of this Association are prophets. That means -- let us make bold to say it -- that we are not in the first place philosophers, that is, that is not the ultimate truth about our lives and work, either as individual members of this Association or in our collective work as an Association. We are prophets, and our being philosophers, or, to put it more modestly, our being engaged in philosophical work, must be understood as a moment of our lives as prophets. We may not, we cannot, actually, separate our philosophical task from our prophetic calling as men, and it is the prophetic calling which works through in our philosophizing, not vice versa.

Our task as Christian men [and women] who are engaged in philosophical work is to be witnesses to God's glory, to glorify God in His exaltedness far above all His created works, in His holiness.

Further, our task, again as Christian men [and women] engaged in philosophical work, is to be witnesses to the sovereignty and glory of God in all His works of creation, to the reconciliation of all things to God's sovereign Rule through Jesus Christ, to the coming of the Kingdom.

Again, as Christian men who are engaged in the work of philosophy, we are to point men to their lostness, their alienation in the creation, to their having lost the meaning of their lives in the world, the meaning of experience, to point them to the fact that the real nature of the
transcendental and transcendent horizons of human experience -- the continued revelational witness of God's Order -- escapes them.

Once more, in the philosophical work that we as Christians engage in, we are prophetically, thus not by our own wisdom or in our own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring to the light in our critical analyses the spirit of the lie, of suppression and distortion that is at work in the world, however many traces of the truth may be found, and at the same time to point to the gracious revelation of the Way, the Truth and the Life and the age-old community of the Truth and fellowship in the Way and the Life, the Church of Jesus Christ, already known in the Old Testament, out of which our analysis springs.

It is in the Church of God that the community of scholars is born and flourishes, nowhere else. Finally, as Christians engaged in our philosophical task, we are to go on the offensive to extend God's prophecy to the ends of the earth, to all the nations of the world, and, in pushing outward, always to be busy proving, that is, putting to the test, the spirits that are at work everywhere in the world, confident that He who is in us, and who by His Spirit binds us together in the bonds of love, is greater than he that is in the world, and that our Lord's intention is, as He has told us, the establishment of His supremacy over all His creation and the fulfillment of the creation design. All, however, in His own time and in His own way.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Kuyper Center Review. Vol 1: Politics, Religion and Sphere Sovereignty

The Kuyper Center for Public Justice at Princeton has published a number of essays dealing with politics, religion and sphere sovereignty - hence the title! Many of the essays originated at the annual Kuyper conference at Princeton.

Further details are here.

Social Pluralism
Jonathan Chaplin

Sphere Sovereignty among Abraham Kuyper's Other Political Theories
James D. Bratt

Kuyper, Neo-Calvinism, and Contemporary Political Philosophy
Gordon Graham

Kuyper, Sphere Sovereignty, and the Possibility of Political Friendship
Michael J. DeMoor

Covenant Theology for a Secular Society: Abraham Kuyper's De Leer der Verbonden (1880) as an Experiment in Modern Theology
John Halsey Wood, Jr.

Neo-Calvinism and the Welfare State
George Harinck

Neither Ignore nor Modify nor Disrupt: The Kuyperian Model of Deliberation as Applied to Same-Sex Marriage
James J. S. Foster

'Here the Shoe Pinches': Kuyper, Tolerance, and the Virtues
John R. Bowlin

Kuyper on Islam: A Summary and Translation
Rimmer de Vries