"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.
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.