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, 28 February 2015

Glossary of terms used in reformational philosophy in Wisdom for Thinkers by Willem J. Ouweneel

Numbers in parentheses show where the concept is defined or discussed in Ouweneel’s Wisdom for Thinkers. Where possible the phrasing is Ouweneel’s. The numbers in parentheses indicate where the term is discussed.

Absolutising - making an aspect of reality absolute, making it the one and only thing to which all other things can be reduced. (47)

Abstraction - there are (at least) three kinds of abstraction:
Abstraction of the universal - the unique character of a phenomenon is disregarded in the search for what phenomena have in common so that general principles are formulated.
Abstraction of the objective - personal feelings and prejudices are disregarded so that another investigator would in the same circumstances obtain the same results.
Modal abstraction - every science has its own modal viewpoint from which it studies cosmic reality. (126) 

Anastatic - see Religious ground-motive

Analogies play an important role in the theory of modal aspects. All modal aspects are intertwined, because within each aspect we find analogies with all other aspects; e.g. strong feelings is an energetic analogy within the sensitive aspect. (73)

Apostatic - see Religious ground-motive

Boundary this is not to be taken in the spatial sense - the law is a boundary between God and the cosmos. The boundary also connects - the law could be called the connection point between God and cosmos. (74-75) Law as boundary emphasises the uncreated aspect of the law; it is God’s own Word for creation - it is spoken not created. However, the law-side emphasises the created aspect of the law. 

Culture - human action through which the potentialities of creation are unfolded (78). Culture is manipulated (handled, shaped) nature; it is nature as worked or processed by humanity. (84) It is the specific way in which the object-function of non-human entities have been opened up by humanity. (85)

Direction - see Structure

Destination function - this indicates an entities destination or purpose of an entity within human life. (87)

Encapisis - certain matter may be encapsulated within some other matter. There are several different forms of encapsis:
symbiotic encapsis eg the yucca plant and the yucca moth
correlative encapsis eg a living being and its habitat or between church and state
subject-object encapsis eg a snail and its shell, or the spider and its web.

Entity - something that 'is', something that exists within our empirical reality.  There is a distinction between entities and the properties of entities. A genuine entity functions in all 16 aspects of cosmic reality, whereas the properties of entities do not. (82)
There are different kinds of entities: inanimate things, plants, lower animals, higher animals and humans.

Epistemology The philosophy of knowledge: the part of philosophy that tries to answer questions like: What is knowledge? How can we know that we know something? (5)

Faith underlies beliefs it is supra-rational (8); it is not non-rational, or even irrational; faith is not necessarily against reason, but faith is above reason (9). It always possesses a religious nature p 10. Faith is transcendent, it surpasses everything that belongs to or empirical world (reason and feelings are immanent). It can be expressed in beliefs and emotions but transcends our beliefs and emotions. (30)

Foundational function - in tangible things this is usually the spatial function. (87)

Functionalism - the absolutisation of certain immanent functions. (107)

Heart – this is a metaphor for our innermost being, our ego, our personality centre. (30) 

Idionomy - this term (first suggested by P. Verburg) is used for Dooyeweerd's ‘individuality structure’. The idionomy is a kind of law that makes e.g. all horses, not just your horse, to be horses. The idionomy of a certain entity is characterised by a certain specific modal aspect. Each will have a foundational function and a destination function. (87)

Kernel is the essence of a modal aspect. A kernel is not ‘thing-like’ (71). The kernel of the arithmetical aspect is number; of the spatial is extended form; of the kinematic is motion … 

Law - see Boundary

Law-side - see Ordered world

Law-spheres all things within cosmic reality are subject to the laws that the Creator has instituted for them. (59) 

Modal aspects or modalities of reality. There are sixteen of them: arithmetical, spatial, kinematic, energetic, biotic, perceptive, sensitive, logical, formative, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, juridicial, ethical and pistic. Modal aspects are not phenomena but always only aspects of phenomena; they are not concrete things or states. (51) Each modal aspect has a kernel. Sometimes described as law spheres. 

Nature - the parts of cosmic reality that are unspoiled and pristine, i.e. unaffected by humanity (84).

Natural laws (and norms) natural laws tell us what is, norms tell us what ought to be. (61) Laws cannot be disobeyed whereas norms can be disobeyed.

Norms see Natural laws

Objects see Subjects

Ordered world and World order. The ordered world is made up of facts and is on the factual side or subject-side;  the world order is made up of laws and is on the law-side of reality. (60) 

Ontology - the philosophy of all things that are, or simply, of all things that exist, the philosophy of the whole of cosmic reality. (5)

Qualifying function - this indicates the 'quality', it is the highest subject-function of the entity. (87)

Philosophy  - the foundational science - ‘the science of sciences’. (6)

Reason – this is never autonomous as it is directed by the heart. (31).

Religion - the confidence humans have in Someone or something as a kind of Ultimate Ground. This Someone or something functions as a kind of general, foundational principle from which the whole of reality can be explained. (11)

Religious ground-motives the deepest motives that drive our hearts, and are therefore of a religious nature. They can be of two sorts: anastatic (from the redeemed heart) and apostatic (from the sinful, unregenerate heart; of which there are three types: matter-form; nature-grace; and nature-freedom). (35)

Science - theoretical knowledge. (17)

Special sciences are scientific disciplines (e.g. geometry) interested in the whole of reality but only from a certain aspect or angle (e.g. the spatial). (45)

Spiritive  (a term coined by Ouweneel) for the analytical, historical, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, mural, ethical and pistic modal aspects. (41)

Structure and Direction - Structure deals with the creational structures and the laws God has instituted for the various creatures and cosmic modalities. Direction is a dimension that is, so to speak, perpendicular to that of structure; it involves the directness of any entity, event or state of affairs. There are only two directions: either towards the Creator or an apostate one away from the Creator. (76-77)

Subject and object - these tell us about the ways things function within reality p. 65. Plants are subject to all the  modal laws in the biotic  and lower. They are objects in all the modal aspects above the biotic. Humans are subject to all modal laws, they function as subjects, or have subject functions in all modal aspects. P. 66. Plants function as objects in the modal aspects higher than the biotic. (67). 
All things function in all modal aspects either with subject-functions or object-functions (68). Object functions are not always activated. 

Subject-side (or factual side)- see Ordered world

Supra-rational transcends, rises above the rational. (8) It is distinct from the rational and the irrational.

Time is created, time and the created cosmos belong together, and the modal aspects are aspects of the temporal cosmos. (54).

Typical-function - this is associated with natural things when they are culturally manipulated. In cultural entities this will always be the formative function (88)

World order - see Ordered world

Worldview a (frequently un-articulated) set of ideas and principles concerning the world in which we live, the nature, the origin, the purpose (or lack of purpose) of this world. (7) 

Wisdom for Thinkers by Willem J. Ouweneel: a review

Wisdom for Thinkers
An Introduction to Christian Philosophy
Willem J. Ouweneel
Jordan Station, ON: Paideia Press
ISBN 978-0-88815-226-8
Pbk, 208pp, £7.50

This is the first part of a proposed series entitled ‘Academic Introductions for Beginners’. So far there are four volumes published:

Wisdom for Thinkers
Power in Service
What then is Theology?
Searching the Soul

And two more are proposed on biology and history.

Ouweneel is a prolific author - he has published 165 works - primarily in Dutch and has three earned doctorates in genetics (University of Utrecht, 1970), philosophy (VU, Amsterdam 1986 - one of his supervisors was Andree Troost) and theology (University of the Orange Free State, SA, 1993).  He is thus adequately equipped to deal with these subjects. He has worked as a school teacher, as a scientific officer, laboratory researcher, as a part-time pastor, and as professor of theology, philosophy of science, ethics, psychology in several universities and as a French and German teacher. This wide academic and work background makes Ouweneel an ideal person to write such a broad series.

All the books in the series are written from a Dooyeweerdian reformational perspective.
Wisdom for Thinkers  lays the foundation for the series. It provides us with an excellent and largely accessible introduction to reformational philosophy. In it he covers a wide range of topics including the nature of philosophy and worldviews, a Christian view of cosmic reality, a Christian view of entities, anthropology, the philosophy of science, and the relationship between philosophy and theology. Several of the chapters are then developed in the subsequent books. For example, there is much overlap between the chapter here on philosophy and theology and his What Then Is Theology? And in the latter he keeps referring back to this book. Those unfamiliar with Christian philosophy would do well to read this introductory book before diving into those later in the series.
Reformational philosophy is not known for its accessibility and there are a large number of new terms that have been coined by adherents of this approach - primarily because old terms don’t adequately express the intricacies of God’s creation. Ouweneel has done much to remedy this as this book is accessible, most of the technical terms are clearly defined, but the subtle nuances and technicalities contained in the terms may well overwhelm someone who has not come across this Christian philosophy before. A glossary would have helped solve some of these problems. (I have been working on one see here.)

Ouweneel presents clearly the Dooyeweerdian perspective and is not afraid to develop and adapt the approach, but where he differs from Dooyeweerd he does often make it clear that he does. For example Dooyeweerd sees fifteen modal aspects, Ouweneel sixteen. He splits the psychic aspect into perceptive and sensitive modes and he has coined the term ‘spirtive’ to describe the modal aspects from the analytical to the pistic.

There are a small number of frustrations I found with the book. These include the lack of a glossary, the use of exclusive language,* the lack of references (but perhaps this is deliberate to make the book more accessible) and the surprisingly short bibliography (2.5 pages). These shortcomings are however more than compensated for by the excellent indexes (8 pages of subject index and 3 pages of scripture index), the price of the book, and the making of a Dooyeweerdian approach (almost) accessible.

This book is a great beginning for what promises to be an excellent series.

Kuyperania February 2015

David Koyzis has the second part of his piece looking at Kuyper's ideas and applying them to evangelism and pluralism: 'When we turn inwards' First Things 

Jordan Ballor offers some thoughts on Koyzis's piece at Calvinist International 

The Kuyper Center Review  vol 5 includes:

Michael Bräutigam 'A queen without a throne? Harnack, Schlatter, and Kuyper on theology in the university'
Gijsbert van den Brink 'Evolution as a bone of contention between church and academy'
Ad de Bruijne 'Not without the church as institute'
Dylan Pahman F.W.J. Schelling: a philosophical influence on Kuyper's thought'
Harry Van Dyke 'Kuyper on the teaching of history'
Gordon Graham 'Abraham Kuyper and the idea of a Christian scholar'
Ernst Conradie 2014. Views on worldviews : an overview of the use of the term, worldview, in selected theological discourses. Scriptura 113: 1-12
Looks at the use of the  term worldview in five texts including Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism.
Abstract. This article explores the ways in which the term 'worldview' is used in five distinct contexts that shape the study of religion and also of Christian theology, namely neo-Calvinism, the sociology of knowledge, discourse on religion and ecology, discourse on science and theology and African Traditional Religion. One text by one author is selected in each case to describe the distinct ways in which the term is used. This description suggests that the term is used in theological debates with very different connotations and also with very little cross-referencing - this can only cause confusion. On this basis a modest proposal is made as to what the notion of a worldview could entail, at least in the context of theological discourse

Jeffrey Skaff 2015. Common Grace and the Ends of Creation in Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. Journal of Reformed Theology 9(1): 3 – 18.
Abstract. Despite its marginal place in contemporary dogmatics, the doctrine of common grace potentially has much to offer to a theological account of the created order. Describing its relationship to special grace, however, to salvation, is no easy task. This article finds that Abraham Kuyper—the most prominent supporter of the doctrine—attempts to describe this relationship in two ultimately irreconcilable ways. In addition, it argues that only one of these ways—one in which common grace is always ordered to special grace—is acceptable. Such an account, which is defended by Kuyper’s contemporary Herman Bavinck, provides the basis for an understanding of the created order that should resonate with Christian theologians both inside and outside the Neo-Calvinist tradition, including those who have been influenced by Karl Barth.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Neo-Calvinism and the French Revolution ed. Eglinton and Harinck

Edited by James Eglinton and George Harinck
London: T&T Clark, 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-567-65663-6
Hbk, xii + 210pp, £65.00

The rallying cry of the French Revolution can be summed up as “No God, no master”. According to Kuyper: 
“The French Revolution threw out the majesty of the Lord in order to construct an artificial authority based on individual free will. That project resembled a scaffold nailed together from odd planks and beams which cracks and falls when the first gale rises. The Christian religion teaches us that life on earth is part of an external existence. The French Revolution, by contrast, denied and opposed everything beyond the horizon of this earthly life. The Christian religion speaks of a lost paradise, a state of purity from which we fell, and for that reason calls us to humility and conversion. The French Revolution saw in the state of nature the criterion of what is normally human, incited us to pride, and substituted the liberalizing of man's spirit for the need of conversion. Springing from God's love, the Christian religion brings loving compassion into the world. Over against that compassion, the French Revolution placed the egoism of a passionate struggle for possessions. And finally, to touch on the real point that lies at the heart of the social problem, the Christian religion seeks personal human dignity in the social relationships of an organically integrated society. The French Revolution disturbed that organic tissue, broke those social bonds, and left nothing but the monotonous, self-seeking individual asserting his own self-sufficiency (The Problem of Poverty 43-44).

The relationship between neo-Calvinism and the French Revolution is an important one and one that until now has been seldom examined in depth. This book collects the papers from the second European conference on neo-Calvinsim held in Paris in 2012. The first was in Edinburgh 2010. 

Groen van Prinsterer’s refrain ‘Against the Revolution, the gospel’ distills neo-Calvinist views regarding the French Revolution. In chapter 1 James Bratt looks at: What went wrong with the French Revolution? In essence, for kuyper, liberty was replaced by suppression, equality with class segmentation and fraternity with strife. Bratt draws effectively on Kuyper’s 1889 ‘Not the liberty tree but the cross’. 

In Chapter 2 Harinck compares Bavinck’s view with Kuyper’s. The French Revolution is like the fall of Adam and Eve, Groen van Prinsterer introduced the idea to Kuyper who developed it further and contrasted the French Revolution world and life view with the neo-Calvinists. Bavinck didn’t utilise the French revolution as much as Kuyper, for Bavinck the Revolution was an historical event and he focused less as an expression of modernism, over the years it was the ideas behind it that became more important compared with the historical event. 

Eglinton poses the question in Chapter 3: What do Paris and Amsterdam have to do with Babel and Pentecost? The Frnech Revolution disliked linguistic diversity, neo-Calvinism was positive towards it. Here Eglinton looks at Kuyper’s ‘Uniformity: the curse of modern life and his De Gemeene Gratie. The later is more measured than the former, but they provide different accounts of linguistics. Eglinton’s key critique of Kuyper is that despite Kuyper’s opposition  to a false uniformity he seeks to maintain a one nation, one language model. 

What was the French Revolution? Is the question that Elliott seeks to answer in Chapter 4. He does so by examining the views of a number of historians: Burke, Carlyle, Chateaubriand, Lamennais (whose interpretation was appreciated by Bavink),  Hugo and the Dutch Reformed: Groen van Prinsterer, Kuyper and Bavinck.

Covolo sums up well the neo-Calvinst view of the French Revolution in Chapter 5: ‘The French Revolution has been for secularism what the reformation has been for the Christian faith’ (p. 82). Covolo carefully and convincingly argues that fashion during the French Revolution should be taken seriously as it illustrates ‘rituals with deep social, political and even spiritual meaning’.

In Chapter 6 Wilkinson critiques the ideals of the French Revolution as presented in Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy. She explores each film and links them with Kuyper’s critique of the revolution in The Problem of Poverty. Reading Three Colours through a kuyperian lens ‘helps clarify what Kieslowski is doing’ (p 102). This is down in a fascinating and novel way - it provides stimulating reading; I shall certainly be rewatching Kieslowski’s films again to see the nuances I previously missed.

Klei, in Chapter 7, looks at the legacy of Groen van Prinsterer, in the light of the French Revolution, in the political ideology of orthodox political parties in the Netherlands.

Burger looks at Kuyper’s anti-revolutionary doctrine of scripture (Ch 8) and Huttinga (Ch 9) at Bavinck’s view of theology as the queen of the sciences. Surprisingly, Huttinga maintains that such a view is not a misplaced view, but is an ‘affirmation of the glory of science and knowledge in general’ (p. 145), though Bavinck’s view of theology is not so much as ruler, ‘but more of the eschaton of the sciences.’ 

In Chapter 10 Kaemingk tests the hypothesis that the French Revolution saw the birth of modern secularity by examining the treatment of Islamic immigrants in contemporary France. As Kaemingk clearly shows the heirs of the Revolution did not transcend religion but developed a new one and behaved as followers of religion. This is illustrated in the French law passed banning the use of clothing in schools that indicates a student’s religious affiliation. This desire for uniformity stems from a religious perspective and illustrates the ‘secularist mission to Islam’. 

Den Boer, in Chapter 11, looks at three markers: perspective, dialectic and integration with regards the French revolution. He suggests that the rise of neo-Calvinism as a reaction to the French Revolution is ‘historically speaking problematic’ (p. 193). He thinks it is better rooted in a wider ‘historical revolutions’. 

What becomes clear from these diverse and wide ranging contributions is that there is little consensus about the role of the French Revolution in neo-Calvinist thought. Kuyper used it as a foil in stressing the antithesis, whereas Bavinck it played much less of a role.

Despite the common themes of neo-Calvinism and The French Revolution we have here a diverse collection of papers, which show that neo-Calvinist studies are flourishing. The book poses - and answers - many fascinating questions. 

This volume will be of  use not only to those with an interest in neo-Calvinism but also in the French Revolution and in the secularisation of Europe.

Book reviews around the web

Rudi Hayward has an excellent review of Willem J. Ouweneel's What Then Is Theology? Paideia Press, 2014.
In this book Ouweneel offers us, according to the subtitle, “an introduction to Christian theology”.  However it is not an introduction in the usual sense of an overview of the main themes and content of theology.  It is rather an introduction to the activity of theology, or as Ouweneel puts it in his foreword “It is more like a chemist taking you into his laboratory, and showing you what he is doing.  That is, the purpose of this book is to analyze the phenomenon of theology itself” (xiii).  This means that the book is not really an example of theology, it is a book about theology, and as such is more philosophical in character.  This is an important point for Ouweneel who is also a philosopher as well as a theologian, and he makes numerous references to his earlier book Wisdom for Thinkers which introduces Christian philosophy.

Luke Stamps at Credo has a review of Craig Bartholomew and Mike Goheen's Christian Philosophy. Baker, 2013.

Jon Coutts, of Trinity College Bristol, takes a helpful look at James Skillen's The Good of Politics. Baker, 2014.  he writes:
The Good of Politics offers an accessible, probing introduction to the issues and histories at play in a Christian approach to government. With a balance of nuance and narrative it deftly traces recurrent concerns without dwelling on them so that it can provide a sweeping review of the biblical and historical contexts that inform and compel our contemporary engagement. As such it commends itself to classrooms and churches as a prompt for group discussion and deeper study, cultural awareness and social activity.

Journal for Christian Scholarship articles by Bennie van der Walt and Danie Strauss

The recent issue of Journal for Christian Scholarship contains two excellent looking articles:

B.J. van der Walt 2014. How and why the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education became a secular institution: a personal analysis Journal for Christian Scholarship 50(4): 13-48.

Danie Strauss 2014. Introducing Christian philosophy. Journal for Christian Scholarship 50(4): 61-79.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Kuyper Center Review Volume 5

The Kuyper Center Review 5 (2015) has been announced. It contains papers from the 2013 Kuyper Conference at Princeton on 'Church and the Academy'. It contains papers by
H. Russel Botman
Michael Bräutigam
Gijsbert van den Brink
Ad de Bruijne
Javier A. Garcia
Gordon Graham
Marinus de Jong
Dylan Pahman
Harry Van Dyke

Monday, 2 February 2015

Kuyperania: to celebrate 10 years of

To celebrate 10 years of here's a new translation of a Kuyper piece by Harry van Dyke:

Dr. A. Kuyper, Het heil in ons (1879; repr. Kampen: Kok, 1910), pp. 165–225. 

This study appeared in thirteen instalments in the Sunday supplement of De Standaard, from Aug. 2 to Nov. 15, 1874. Translated and annotated by Harry Van Dyke. 

Lambert Zuidervaart: On Being a Reformational Philosopher

Dr. Lambert Zuidervaart's lecture to the ICS "Scripture, Faith, and Scholarship" seminar. November 14, 2014. Toronto - followed by Q&A.