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, 30 October 2015

Kuyperania October 2015

Lexham Press have recently announced the publication of several newly translated volumes by Kuyper, under the title: Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology

They include: the three volumes of Common Grace, three volumes of Pro Rege, Our Program and a series of anthologies:
On Charity and Justice - which includes a new translation of The Problem of PovertyOn Islam - pieces gathered from his reflections on a lengthy tour of the Mediterranean world
On the Church - with selections from Kuyper’s doctrinal dissertation on the theologies of Reformation theologians John Calvin and John a Lasco, 'Rooted and Grounded', 'Twofold Fatherland' and 'Address on Missions'.
On Business and Economics - with various meditations onthe evils of the love of money and pieces that provide Kuyper’s thoughts on stewardship, human trafficking, free trade, tariffs, child labour, work on the Sabbath and business.
On Education - this includes the essay 'Bound to the Word.'

A new book about Kuyper is:

Mark J. Larson 2015. Abraham Kuyper, Conservatism, and the Church and State. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

Larson has an interesting and controversial hypothesis:

While contemporary Kuyperians at times reflect a leftward political orientation, Kuyper was a champion of political conservatism who stood in the trajectory of fundamental conservative principles affirmed by Edmund Burke and more recently by Ronald Reagan.

Thomas Harvey 2015. Sphere Sovereignty, Civil Society and the Pursuit of Holistic Transformation in Asia. Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies.
 doi: 10.1177/0265378815595246

Abstract. This article examines the relative efficacy of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd’s sphere sovereignty for holistic transformation in Asia. It examines interest in China and Malaysia in Neo-Calvinism, Civil Society, and sphere sovereignty and its social, cultural, and political implications. It considers the strengths and weaknesses of sphere sovereignty in a secular age particularly in light of the sharp antithesis Kuyper and Dooyeweerd posited between the epistemological and ethical frameworks of secular modernist versus Christian approaches to understanding and social, cultural, and political engagement. The article concludes that although this antithesis marginalizes Christian perspectives in a secular age, Herman Bavinck’s softening of Neo-Calvinist emphasis on antithesis offers a fresh way to consider transformational engagement.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A 'family tree' of Calvinistic philosophy

A 'family tree' of Calvinistic philosophy taken from
Bas Hengstmengel 2011. Herman Dooyeweerd & Alvin Plantinga: Philosophy and Rationality in the Reformed Tradition. Thesis. Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Dooyeweerd Archives

Jasper Verhoogt,  archivist at the VU, has recently completed his 23-page index to the Dooyeweerd Archive. He organized and numbered 9.5 meters of boxes containing Dooyeweerd’s literary remains. It is available online here.

Online at

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Interview with Marcel Verburg

Marcel Verburg's intellectual biography of Herman Dooyeweerd has recently been published in English translation by Paideia Press. We hope to have a review of it posted shortly. In the meantime here's an interview with Marcel, who provides some of the background to the book.
Many thanks for agreeing to this interview Marcel. 
Could you please tell us something about yourself?
Well, I was born in Amsterdam, where I lived for 53 years. It will always be my hometown.
I studied law and specialized in constitutional law and the history of law. When I was busy with Dooyeweerd's archive there was a historian at the Free University George Puchinger who kept trying to persuade me to write Dooyeweerds biography. I finally did it and I defended it as a dissertation in the philosophy department.
Your book on Dooyeweerd has recently been translated into English and published. Could you tell us why you wrote it in the first place?
I already explained above, but I have to add that I had known Dooyeweerd personally. He was my grandmothers brother and they were rather fond of each other. After my grandmother had died I often visited Herman Dooyeweerd, who lived only a ten-minute walk from where I lived with my parents in the Museum Quarter of Amsterdam.
He sometimes dined with us and I was always impressed about the ease with which he could explain to me, a law student, the most difficult philosophical problems. If only he had been able to write this comprehensible.
Why has it taken so long for it to be translated into English?
I often heard people say: it should be translated in English, but it was only when Theodore Plantinga wrote to me that he wanted to translate it, that it really started. After I hadn't heard from him for quite some time I decided to telephone him. As I didn't have his number, I googled his name and the first thing I came across was his obituary. I then called on Harry Van Dyke, whom I had known when both he and I were connected to the Dooyeweerd archive. Harry and the late Donald Morton have translated the book.
Have any of your ideas changed since then? If you were writing it now would you have made any major changes or adaptions?
Later on I came to understand that the period during Dooyeweerd's youth, when he temporarily lost his faith, and when he came under the influence of Nietzsche, must have been of very great importance to the development of his thought, of his way of thinking. I think it has been decisive in his realizing the importance of faith, of world and life view, on man's thought.
Alas, I have to confess that I haven't been able to follow all the publications about Dooyeweerd, as my own work took another direction.
Why are Dooyeweerd and his work so important? 
Whether you're a Christian or an atheist, it's important to know that your way of thinking is dependent on your world and life view.
Do you use any of Dooyeweerd’s approach in your current work?
In my work it is very useful to be able to distinguish between different aspects of juridical problems. The aspects often allow me a new insight.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
In a few months my fifth book about the history of the Dutch Department of Justice is being published. Its all about the 2nd World War. And it's all about people, most of them trying to do their best. Nobody was all good or all bad. It's a confusing and difficult time to write about.
What do you like to do for fun?
My better half and I love to spend time in France. In December we always spend a week in a Paris apartment, living with the Parisians, visiting exhibitions and loving to practise our knowledge of that most beautiful of languages: French. During the warmer months we like to drive to the more southern provinces of France.
What books are you reading at the moment?
I'm reading Der Totale Rausch by Norman Ohler. It's about drug use in the Third Reich. Not only by Hitler himself, but by all German soldiers. This book throws a new light on many things that happened during the war.
By the way, the Dutch queen Wilhelmina, living in London during WW2, also used pervitin, methamphetamines, crystal meth etc.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Review of Owen Strachan Awakening the Evangelical Mind

Awakening the Evangelical Mind
An Intellectual History Of The Neo-Evangelical Movement
Owen Strachan
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015
ISBN 9780310520795
240 pp; Hbk, £15.99

In 1994, Mark Noll wrote that ‘The the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind'. His complaint echoed that of Harry Blamires who in 1963 wrote more starkly: ‘There is no longer a Christian mind’. This was typified in the approach of evangelist Billy Sunday: 'I don’t know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit does about ping-pong … but I’m on the way to glory.' (72) However, as recent years have shown that scholars such as Noll, Alvin Plantinga, George Marsden, have demonstrated that there is a distinctly evangelical scholarship and that Christianity can hold its place at the academic table. Here Strachan traces this awakening to the work of Harold Ockenga, Edward Carnell, Carl Henry and those who Strachan designates as the ‘Cambridge Christians’ (these include Kenneth Katzner and George Eldon Ladd). I found this designation confusing at first because none of them did go to Cambridge University, but it becomes clear he means Cambridge, MA. The clear hero of Strachan’s story is Ockenga, he writes:
Ockenga’s name has slipped the evangelical memory. In this time, however, he was a movement leader of nearly unparalleled influence. … Ockenga must be reevaluated and restored to the position of prominence he enjoyed in his own. No other figure save for [Billy] Graham played a larger role in envisioning the cornerstone institutions of neo-evangelicalism; no figure, including Graham, did more than Ockenga to run, establish, and invigorate the premier institutions of the movement. (p 23)
This work is obviously focussed on the North American situation - as evidenced by his Cambridge designation - and on big personalities. It reinforces the notion that evangelicalism has tended to be personality-driven. Elsewhere Christians such as Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven and H. G. Stoker have clearly demonstrated what Christian scholarship looks like. Unfortunately, their voices have often been unheard. Hence, Strachan writes of a reawakening rather than a rediscovery.

The impetus or catalyst for this work appears to be the discovery of archival letters, writings and documents of Ockenga, Henry and Carnell. Strachan worked at the Carl F. Henry Center for Theological Understanding and has been able to access letters and documents from many of the key players.  The strength of this is that we are given new insights into these men but the weakness is that it can become something of a patchwork of the material gleaned from the archives. For example, we are given several extracts from letters to Ockenga’s one-time girlfriend Virginia Ray - but then suddenly Ockenga is married to Audrey Williamson. The only mention of the marriage is in a footnote which references Ockenga’s Who Who application.

The period in which Ockenga and Carnell operated was initially not a great time for evangelicals. As Douglas Frank has pointed out evangelicals entered the twentieth century as ‘Less than conquerors’. They were caught in conflict with both fundamentalists and modernists. It was the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942 that marked the distinction between fundamentalists and (neo)evangelicals. The Scopes trial in 1923 and the end of Prohibition in 1933 were not high spots! Yet, the 30s saw a proliferation of Bible schools (75). It was then in the 40s around the Boston area that saw a number of soon to be influential evangelicals flourish. These included Samuel Schultz, Kenneth Kantzer, Merrill Tenney, John Gerstner, Burton Goddard, Roger Nicole, Terelle Crum, Edward John Carnell, Gleason Archer, George Eldon Ladd, Paul King Jewett, George Turner, J. Harold Greenlee, Jack P. Lewis, Lemoine Lewis, Lloyd Dean, and Glenn Barker (77). Most of them came, Daniel-like, into the modernist den of Harvard to study. Ockenga was clearly a great influence on these budding evangelical scholars. 

The strength of the book is the highlighting of the importance of the Plymouth Scholars’ Conferences launched by Ockenga in 1944 (Chapter 4) and the initiative of Crusade University by Henry (Chapter 6). The Plymouth Conferences at first led to grand visions and the intention to have an annual lectureship, a series of Old and New Testament commentaries printed by a ‘reputable publisher’, and a conservative version of the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia; sadly none of these materialised. As Strachan notes: ‘Aside from a few press releases, we can trace few public products of the gatherings themselves’ (103). 

At the first meeting of  the Evangelical Theological Society in 1949, Henry was the keynote speaker. He called for ‘distinctly Christian scholarship’ (122). His call was for the establishment of an evangelical Harvard. Strachan narrates the story of the plans to form what became known as Crusade University. Sadly, it never materialised. In part for lack of funding and disagreement over the geographical location, but it seems primarily because those involved could agree on the level of morality that was to be imposed on the campus students. Sadly, this reflects the narrow parochial, moral approach of many evangelicals. This chapter makes for a fascinating but ultimately, sad reading - let us hope lessons will be learned from it.

As Strachan notes in his introduction:
In Awakening the Evangelical Mind, we eavesdrop on the founding fathers of scholarly neo-evangelicalism as they share their frustration with one another over fundamentalism’s perceived academic shortcomings. We see their intellectual insecurity, their sometimes preening ambition, their considerable interest in proving themselves before a non-Christian audience that likely took less stock of the group than they might have wanted to admit. This is a quixotic, lively, and conflicted story. It is full of contradictions and paradoxes. (24)
Particularly with its discussions on the Plymouth conferences and Crusade University it makes an important contribution to the history of neo-evangelicalism. The Ockenga-Carnell-Henries in different ways paved the way for other evangelical academics, not least because they helped establish the NAE, Fuller Theological College, The Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (IFACS), Christianity Today, and the Evangelical Theological Society; it is good to see that they are being honoured in this book. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Irving Hexham on What is a worldview?

Irving Hexham in a series of YouTube clips supporting his book Understanding World Religions  looks at the term worldview.

He rightly states that Kuyper used it as an analytic term with the aim of understanding others people's beliefs, today a flip has occurred and it is an excuse for non-communication and name calling. It is used as an excuse for not engaging in debate: we have a different worldview so we disagree. He sees the need to rethink worldview; it needs to be linked to an understanding of other perspectives, which is hard work.