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.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Interview with Andrew Basden (part 2)

This is part 2 of the interview with Andrew Basden, whose book The Foundations of Information Systems: Research and Practice has just been published. Part 1 of the interview is here.

The book utilises the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and Andrew maintains the Dooyeweerd Pages.

Dooyeweerd was  Christian philosopher - how have non-Christians responded to your use Dooyeweerd's ideas?

Interestingly, I found it was non-Christians rather than Christians who liked his ideas:  Humanists, Muslims and Hindus.  I think Humanists liked Dooyeweerd because his aspects provide a welcome holistic view of things, which gets over the usual dualisms that occur.  I think that Muslims and Hindus especially liked the fact that in Dooyeweerd's scheme the religious (pistic) aspect is laid alongside all the others, not as dominating them nor as ignored, but as of equal value.  It led me to be able to say in class, something like "In the pistic aspect, my own belief is that God has created all and that he sent Jesus to open up a way to himself; now, please tell my your beliefs ..."  With Dooyeweerd's aspects I can be open about my faith and its effects on my thinking without forcing it on others, and can recognise that religious or ideological beliefs affects thinking.  

What challenges have there been to your Christian beliefs working in a non-Christian academic setting?

None.  At least, it has not caused me to doubt or anything like that.  On the contrary, it has enlivened my Christian faith.  You see, alongside various other influences like Calvinism and the Charismatic movement, I was brought up on what some might deem pietistic theology, such as holiness or the ideas that were important in the East African revival of the 1920s, of deep honesty and fellowship of equals around the Cross of Christ.  This view challenges us to humility, gentleness, and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and all aspects of his fruit are very helpful in the living situation of a non-Christian academic setting.  How to be gracious, gentle, how to forgive, how to allow myself to be forgiven, and so on.  Listening and genuinely understanding is part of that.  Just as we might find in any church community if we are honest.  

It has *shaped* my Christian faith, even if not challenged it.  For example, I discovered that many non-Christians can actually do genuine good (which the Calvinistic streak in my upbringing would deny), so it challenged me to work this out theologically.  I also discovered that many non-Christian thinkers generate really good academic material.  Example:  J¸rgen Habermas, John Searle, Michel Foucault.  Each one has explored and opens up something of the wonder of God's created reality, helping us understand it - even though each one is constrained by his (what Dooyeweerd called) Immanence-standpoint or other such deep beliefs.  

As a result of seeing this, I began to really appreciate the beauty, power and usefulness of Dooyeweerd's ideas.  Dooyeweerd's ideas are both so practical and also so deeply philosophical, and are not so limited as conventional philosophers seem to be.  What I find is not that Dooyeweerd stands against these philosophers, but that he can affirm, critique and enrich them.  The key ideas of each one finds a resonance somewhere in Dooyeweerd's ideas.  

This sounds, of course, as though "Dooyeweerd is the answer to all questions".  Not so.  Dooyeweerd might have offered a framework for understanding philosophy, but he did not work out the details, and where he did work out the details, some of his thinking is at best unfinished and at worst, just wrong.  Many of the insights from mainstream philosophers can inform Dooyeweerdian ideas.  

Dooyeweerd himself recognised this.  He is accused by some of being too influenced by the Existential and Linguistic Turns in philosophy.  I would see it, rather, that both he and they recognised the importance of meaning.  He proceeded to work from the idea of cosmic meaningfulness, while they worked from what they could empirically experience, and Dooyeweerd and they met half way, and Dooyeweerd realised they could inform him.  

What advice do you have for Christians scholars working such a setting?

One is to get your relationship with Christ right; learn to walk with Father God in life, with Christ on the throne of your life, rather than yourself on the throne.  See yourself not as right, nor as being blessed by God (though both are probably true), but as having the responsibility to be used by God to bless the world He made.  Anything done 'to advance my career' or for other similar motives, will ultimately fail.  Treat all failures as gifts from your Heavenly Father to help you learn to walk with Him.  

Another is to recognise that the world that God is blessing, through you, the academic world of scholarship.  That reverses the direction of the last 100 years, in which Christians have retreated from contributing to the theoretical content of humanity's bodies of knowledge, and I believe there might be a move of God today towards engagement with His world that is new.  

Are there any other projects in the pipeline?

Too many!

1.  A book that introduces Dooyeweerd's philosophy in a way that researchers in a wide range of disciplines can find useful as a reference volume.  Hopefully to be delivered by end of 2018, to come out 2019.  

2.  To write several major papers in major international journals that apply Dooyeweerd's ideas in various ways - expanding on ideas in my book.  

3.  To establish a Dooyeweerd Research Fund, which will be funded by continuous subscription or donations, and will provide small amounts of funding to stimulate research in all fields using Dooyeweerd's philosophy.  I am sad at the very limited penetration of Dooyeweerd into the various fields, compared with other philosophers.  

4.  To not only keep developing the Dooyeweerd Pages website but to revamp it before I get senile!  ("") 

5.  To develop and promulgate a theology in which engagement with the world and especially environmental responsibility is not just a bolt-on but is central to God's Plan of Creation and Salvation.  We need a theology of this, which does not ignore the various movements of God throughout the centuries but incorporates their insights.  ("")  

6.  To publicise all of these especially in the mainstream media.  

7.  Oh, and I would love to get the Dooyeweerd Pages and my books translated into Chinese and Arabic, so that people in other cultures could benefit from Dooyeweerd's ideas.  

What do you like to do for fun?

Walking in the Pennine hills and other places - I would love to get back to Scotland.  Seeing hills, streams, plants, birds, insects, etc.  Visiting historical sites.  Playing computer games with good content: ZAngband and Settlers on my Amiga computer, and Clash of Clans, Settlers of Catan and Minecraft on my tablet.  Playing non-computer games.  Listening to some comedy (love Henning Wehn).  Reading biographies of people who took God seriously.  Hearing music of nearly all kinds (love Sibelius, The Proclaimers).  Adding material to various websites, including the Dooyeweerd Pages ("").  Electronics if I have time (which I don't).  And being a domain reseller, making up new Internet domains!

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