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, 18 April 2015

An interview with Willen J. Ouweneel.

The latest addition to the All of life redeemed pages is Willem Ouweneel. The author of several books recently published by Paideia Press.

He kindly agreed to be interviewed.

Could you please tell us something about yourself?

Apart from my biography on AoLR: I am married to Gerdien. We have four children and eleven grandchildren. My great passions are preaching, teaching and writing (and music - see below). My religious background is Plymouth Brethren. Officially I still belong to them, although I preach most of the time in a great variety of denominations.

You work have recently had four books and two more on the way published by Paidiea Press. Could you tell us something about the background to the books - how did they come about? And when are the rest of the series to be published?

My Canadian publisher, John Hultink of Paideia Press, invited me to write several books on several subjects, and then soon one book followed the other... Ten manuscripts are almost finished by now.

You are obviously very prolific in your writings over 160 books published. How do you manage dot produce so much - what's the secret?

(a) I started early, (b) I write fast, and (c) I spend most of my time writing.

You books are written from a dooyeweerdian perspective - where did you first come across this philosophy and why do you find it so helpful?

In many theological books, such as Bible commentaries, there is no "Dooyeweerdian perspective" at all. - In the seventies, I began studying philosophy, and through friends came across writings by Dooyeweerd and his associates, and was fascinated by them.

You differ from Dooyeweerd in that you split his psychic mode into the sensitive and the perceptive - why do feel this is necessary? How have other other dooyeweerdians reacted to this?

I believe the perceptive and the sensitive cannot be reduced to each other, or to a common denominator. Moreover, the sensitive seems to presuppose the perceptive, not the other way round. - I have to admit that I know of no philosophers or psychologists who have adopted my point of view.

You have three earned degrees - why did you choose to do that? Most people find that one is onerous enough, let alone three in three different countries! 

I began with biology, but discovered that I became more and more interested in the great philosophical questions preceding it. So I studied philosophy too. In theology I had been interested all my life. I am the opposite of a specialist (someone who knows virtually everything of virtually nothing): as a generalist, I strive to know virtually nothing about virtually everything. I would have loved to study psychology, musicology and linguistics as well... Please notice that in all three fields in which I obtained degrees, I have done academic work.

Who are the people that have most influenced you and in what ways?

To begin with, the great writers among the Plymouth Brethren (Darby, Kelly, Mackintosh, Grant, etc.). Later also theologians from all the great denominational strands, mostly Evangelical (such as C.S. Lewis) and Reformed (Bavinck, Berkouwer etc.). In philosophy, Dooyeweerd and the great dooyeweerdians.

I notice in the Dutch wikipedia entry on you it notes that you have moved from a creationist to a more guided/ theistic evolution position. Is that right? If so what prompted the shift?

That is not entirely correct. I got disappointed in many "results" of creationist research, but keep an open mind when it comes to the exegesis of Genesis 1-3.

What do you do for fun?

Genealogy (I know about 5000 ancestors of my children) and classical music (I love listening to it, but also singing in all the great classical religious choral works, from Bach to Jenkins; I take part in about ten concerts a year).

What music do you enjoy listening to?

All classical music (from, say, Monteverdi to present), with a preference for late Romanticism and impressionism (Bruckner, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Janacek etc.).

What books are you reading at the moment?

I have to admit that I like writers such as John Grisham to 'distract' myself.

If you were on a desert island what two luxuries would you take with you?

A computer with internet (so that, e.g., I could listen to music via, e.g., YouTube, and could keep writing books).

Many thanks. 

Willem has a Dutch website here and tweets at @wjouweneel.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Recent Kuyperania: update on the Kuyper Translation project

The following  is a description of the status of the translation projects as of April, 2015:

1. Pro Rege: Kuyper’s three-volume work on the lordship of Christ will be published and edited precisely as Kuyper viewed them, i.e. as the application of his common grace principles. These volumes are being translated by Albert Gootjes and Nelson Kloosterman. Nelson Kloosterman is doing the editing and annotation for these volumes. Clifford Anderson is writing the introduction.

2. Common Grace: Kuyper’s seminal work comprising three volumes and totaling 1700 pages in the Dutch is being translated for the first time into English. The series is being translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas and annotated/edited by Dr. Jordon Ballor and Dr. Stephen Grabill. Dr. Richard Mouw has provided the introduction. Volume one is completed and available for purchase.

3. Abraham Kuyper Church Anthology: key essays and speeches that Kuyer gave on the church have been translated. The anthology will include selections from Kuyper’s doctoral dissertation on the theology of John Calvin and John a Lasco; various treatises and sermons such as the Twofold Fatherland and Address on Missions; and selections from Kuyper’s larger works on the church, such as Kuyper’s commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. The centerpiece will be Kuyper’s programmatic statement Tract on the Reformation of the Churches, which takes a unique approach to ecclesiology. Dr. John Halsey Woods, author of the award winning book titled Going Dutch in the Modern Age: Abraham Kuyper’s Struggle for a Free Church in the Nineteen Century Netherlands, is editing this anthology.

4. Abraham Kuyper and Islam: this volume will provide an English translation of the significant pieces that Kuyper wrote about Islam, together with one or more essays of commentary on the context and import of his thought. Dr. Jim Bratt, Professor of History at Calvin College, in conjunction with other scholars, has selected various sections from Abraham Kuyper’s two travel volumes: Om de Oude Werelde-Zee for translation. Dr. Jan van Vliet, Professor of Economics at Dordt College, is doing the translation work for this project. Dr. Bratt is serving as the editor.

 This book will provide students, scholars, pastors, and interested laity with an instructive model for observing another faith and its cultural ramifications from an informed Christian point of view. The importance of this anthology is underscored in that we are not discussing just any faith but that of Islam, when at this moment its role on the global scene is so visible and controversial, its future so significant, and its relationships with Christianity so crucial for both faiths.

5. Abraham Kuyper Business, Economics, and Care of the Poor anthologies. Plans are to translate and publish Kuyper’s major speeches and essays on these subjects in two separate anthologies. The first anthology will contain material on business, ecomonics, and personal social ethics. The second volume will include material on the care of the poor. Dr.Peter Heslam, Dr. Harry VanDyke, and Dr. Jim Bratt are assisting in the selection of material to be included in these two anthologies. Dr. Harry VanDyke will translate and annotate the material for these two volumes.

6. Abraham Kuyper on Christian Education: An Anthology of Essays is a translation of a number of Kuyper’s important essays and speeches on education. In anticipation of this anthology, we have translated and published as a teaser volume Kuyper’s Scolastica I and II-- two convocations addresses that Abraham Kuyper gave as rector of the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam. In these two important addresses Kuyper shares his view of the divine purpose of scholarship for human culture. Additionally, the reader will encounter a human side of Kuyper that is not always readily apparent in his other works.

The education anthology will include Kuyper’s important essay entitled “Bound to the Word,” which discusses the topic of what being bound by the word of God means within the entire world of human thought. The Kuyper education anthology will also include extracts from important parliamentary speeches by Kuyper on the subject of education, plus a translation of Kuyper’s sixteenth article about schooling that appeared in his daily newspaper in 1880 under the title of “Antirevolutionary Also in Your Household.” Other important speeches and essays that Kuyper gave on education are included as well as material on Kuyper’s views on vouchers. Dr. Wendy Naylor and Dr. Harry Van Dyke will serve as co-editors for the Kuyper Education Anthology. Dr. Naylor, Dr. Van Dyke, Dr. John Bolt, and Dr. Nelson Kloosterman have all assisted in the selection and translation of material for this important anthology.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Two new excellent pieces from Jonathan Chaplin

Jonathan Chaplin has had two excellent pieces published very recently. They are both worth a read:

Living with liberalism in Comment

Christian Scholarship Beyond the Theological Guild Fulcrum:

"Insofar as mentoring in this kind of Christian scholarship takes place in the UK it is ad hoc and episodic. As far as I can tell it is offered from one of four sources:
  • by a rather small group of individual Christian scholars in non-theological disciplines who have intentionally equipped themselves for the task;
  • by a handful of faith-oriented research institutes in secular universities;
  • by individuals or programmes within the Cathedrals Group of 16 church-related universities and university colleges;

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dooyeweerd: What is religion?

What is religion?

Herman Dooyeweerd

To the question, what is understood here by religion? I reply: the innate impulse of human selfhood to direct itself toward the true or toward a pretended absolute Origin of all temporal diversity of meaning, which it finds focused concentrically in itself.

This description is indubitably a theoretical and philosophical one, because in philosophical reflection an account is required of the meaning of the word "religion" in our argument. This explains also the formal transcendental character of the description, to which the concrete immediacy of the religious experience remains strange.

If, from out of the central religious sphere, we seek a theoretical approximation of it, we can arrive only at a transcendental idea, a limiting concept, the content of which must remain abstract, as long as it is to comprehend all possible forms in which religion is manifested (even the apostate ones). Such an idea invariably has the function of relating the theoretical diversity of the modal aspects to a central and radical unity and to an Origin.

From: Dooyeweerd, H. 1953. New Critique of Theoretical Thought Volume 1. The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophy. Philadelphia: P&R, p. 57.

Friday, 3 April 2015

A Good Friday meditation - by Abraham Kuyper


Abraham Kuyper

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).

At Venice, in a Roman Catholic church, officials will show visitors a drop of Jesus’ blood, spattered upon a piece of cloth, carefully preserved. Whether this drop of blood was actually shed by Jesus can never be proved. That it was not is as hard to demonstrate. There is nothing to say against supposing that one of the women who followed Jesus, out of tender regard for Him, blotted up with her skirt some of the blood spattered against the cross or oozing from the thorn-pierced brow. It is not impossible to believe that this piece of cloth was carefully preserved, that it tremulously passed from mother to daughter, until it eventually passed into the hands of ecclesiastical officials.

But, even though nothing compels us to regard such a piece of cloth and drop of blood as unactual, even, in fact, if the actuality of these could be scientifically demonstrated, that bloody mark upon that piece of linen would add nothing to our faith. Granted that the blood were actual, it would not be that blood of which the apostle said that “through it” we have redemption. To those who penetrate more deeply, that drop of blood is blood no longer. Blood is a material substance which has life. When that life leaves it, when that blood congeals and dries, it is nothing more than decaying matter. It has neither life nor potency.

Hence, God’s people may not look to such a preserved particle of the blood of Christ for redemption, but must look to the red blood of Christ, to the blood of Christ when it was still blood, when Christ’s life still coursed with it, when it was still warm by reason of the life-warmth of the exertion of our Lord’s soul.

There is no atonement without blood. Hence, no one may mock the confession of the church of God which asserts that redemption comes by “faith in His blood.” The scornful laughter of the ungodly at the so-called “blood-theology” will, we fear, some day severely aggravate their suffering. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints: How much more precious, then, the death of the Son of God? Nor are we to believe the interpretation that this love was revealed in that blood and that it is really by His love, not by His blood, that we are saved. For the love of Christ is as clearly manifest in the statement made in the counsel of peace: “In the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will.”

No, but the Church of God must, in a literal sense, cling to the beautiful teaching of the apostles and must in quiet reverence confess that she has her redemption through His blood.

That does not, of course, mean that that blood was the source, the fountain out of which salvation flowed, or that the Lord God was first moved to reveal His grace by that blood. Those who think so are not familiar with the Holy Scriptures. The apostle adds the explanation that blood is effectual only according to the riches of His grace. That means, then, that the source of the blessedness, the fountain of salvation, lies not in the blood but in God’s eternal grace, which is superabundantly laid away as a treasure for all His elect. Nevertheless, the Church clings tenaciously to the truth that in the incomprehensible counsel of eternal grace, saving grace is in its effects attached to the blood of Christ. Let no one wishing to avoid that condemnation try to break that relationship between grace and blood. “For the life of the flesh is the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”

Hence we need not guess or conjecture, but we can know what is the seat, the source of this mystery of grace. That source lies not in the corpuscles nor in the plasma, but in the soul of the body.

An animal, or a human creature, is really a wonderful organism. One can come upon it as a composition of matter and moisture lying prostrate. Suddenly one sees it move, arise and approach. One hears sounds issuing from it, and, if it is a human being, one hears songs of freedom and of praise. How is that possible? The Scriptures say that is due to the miracle of blood. Conceive, if you can, of the creature you saw without blood. The composition of matter would crumble then and would decay. But the creature has blood. Hence it has life, unsearchable, incomprehensible life, and that life, the Scriptures say, exists in the blood. God, the Creator of animal life, tells us: “Life, the soul of the body, exists in the blood.” Hence the seriousness of illnesses of the blood; hence the fatality when thirst causes the blood to become parched. Whatever affects the blood affects the whole human being.

Everything depends, therefore, upon a true and certain knowledge that our Refuge and Mediator really poured out His blood for us. That does not mean, of course, that all of our Saviour’s blood flowed away. In fact, very little blood flowed from Jesus’ wounds before He died. It gushed forth only after the spear had been thrust into His side afterwards. Before that, a little had oozed from His whipped shoulders, a little from His thorn- lacerated brow and a little from the wounds of the nails in His hands and feet. It was not a matter of quantity, but of the soul of the body contained in it.

The certainty we needed for full assurance of redemption was this: That He poured His blood for us, that the soul of the body contained in that blood was again separated from it by death, or, in Isaiah’s words, that “He hath poured out his soul unto death.”

John appreciated our need of that assurance most. The Lord God knew that we needed it. Hence He planned it so that a brutal soldier, doing what no one who loved Jesus could have done, profaned Christ’s body by driving his spear into it. Therefore he who loved Jesus, the beloved Apostle John, seeing that brutal act, confirmed it for us preciously, saying that “he saw it” and that he saw that the water issuing from the wound was blood no longer. “Forthwith came there out blood and water.” By that statement we are assured that the soul of Christ’s body had departed from it.

Taken from: Kuyper, A. 1960. The Death and Resurrection of Christ: Messages for God Friday and Easter. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, pp. 60-62.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Searching the Soul by Willem J. Ouweneel - a review

Searching the Soul
An Introduction to Christian Psychology
Academic Introductions for Beginners IV
Willem J. Ouweneel.
Jordan Station, ON: Paideia Press
ISBN 978-0-88815-225-1
Pbk, xiii + 231 pp, £8.00

What is Christian psychology? Willem Ouweneel answers this question, in the fourth volume of his Academic Introductions Series, by first looking at what it’s not. It’s not a neutral science and it’s not a biblical psychology. In respect to the latter he reminds us that the Bible is true, but not all truth is in the Bible. Christian psychology is based on a Christian worldview which is ‘rooted in the Bible’ (p10). He is scathing about attempts to integrate psychology and theology; all to often the integrationists, like biblicists, understand by ‘psychology’ the current secular psychological views (p 12); they often also confuse theology with the Bible. Theology is unable to provide a Christian worldview as a basis for psychology - the limited role of theology is dealt with further in his What Then Is Theology? 

The book is an expansion of his earlier Heart and Soul (2009), which in turn was a translation of his Dutch work Hart en Ziel (1984).

His working definition is ‘psychology deals with what goes on inside a person as well as with his outward behaviour’. (p3) He develops the formula B = f(R,P,S) to show that behaviours cannot be reduced to one element or another but are a function of religious (R), personal (P) and situational factors (S).

The strength of the book is that it develops a Christian view of psychology within a Christian anthropology. So erroneous dualistic and tricotomistic (body/ soul/ spirit) views of humanity are rejected. (Unfortunately, he keeps using exclusive language.) His approach does not set Christian psychology against secular psychology, he discerns what is good in the former and seeks to transform it. He can do this as he is working from a Christian philosophical view of reality based largely on Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven’s works. 

Particularly interesting for me was the chapter on the development of psychology from its nineteenth century origins through structuralism, functionalism, depth psychology, reflexology, behaviourism, humanistic psychology, cognitive, Gestaltand existentialist psychologies. 

It is in the context of psychology that Ouweneels’s splitting of Dooyeweerd’s psychical modal aspect into two: the perceptive and the sensitive that makes practical sense. He also makes good use of Vollenhoven’s distinction between structure and direction to critique the different psychological approaches on offer.

This books would be an excellent resource for those studying psychology at school or as undergraduates, but any Christian would find something of value in it, particularly if they are involved in any form of pastoral ministry. It is replete with good sound Christian wisdom.

  1. Psychology and Christianity
  2. Starting points for a christian psychology
  3. The unity of man
  4. Psychological knowledge
  5. The development of psychology
  6. The lower mental idionomies
  7. The spiritive idionomy
  8. The normal personality
  9. The human heart
10. The abnormal personality
11. Causes of mental disorders
12. The Christian and psychotherapy.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Computer Science by Jonathan R. Stoddard

Com­puter Sci­ence: Dis­cov­er­ing God’s Glory in Ones and Zeros
Jonathan R. Stoddard 
Presbyterian and Reformed
ISBN: 9781596389908

In this 24-page booklet Jonathan Stoddard, an associate pastor with computer science degree, attempts to understand how God is the Lord over computer science. He takes a Van Tilian approach: 

‘First, God is the foundation for computer science. Second, there is an analogical relationship between God and computer science.’

He views computing as being possible because of God: God created the foundations for computing. It is not the accident of evolution but a reflection of ‘the God who has spoken in our world’ and he has ‘established the laws needed to make computer science possible’.

Stoddard explores several analogical relationships. The way a computer scientists writes his code and the computer executes that code is analogical to the way God creates by his word: ‘there is a relation between the act of God’s creative speech and the creative speech of the programmer’. 

His approach, like Van Til’s (and Poythress, who wrote the preface), gets rather close at times to a Christian theo-ontological view, where the attributes of God provide the basis for the sciences. This perhaps comes to the fore when he writes ‘When we program computers, we are still thinking God’s thoughts after him’. 

This booklet, then is something of a curate’s egg. It is great to see a work - albeit brief - exploring what the lordship of Christ over computing might look like, but is marred by his reliance on Van Til’s analogical thinking. There is no discussion of how worldviews impact on computing or on how computer science can be viewed through the  Christian approach of creation, fall and redemption. But then a booklet of more than 24 pages would be required to do justice to that. Stoddard is right that God is the foundation for computer science, but I would disagree that that foundation is to be found in an analogical relationship.