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, 31 July 2015

Kuyperania July 2015

Heslam, Peter S. 2015.  The Spirit of Enterprise: Abraham Kuyper and Common Grace in Business. Journal of Markets & Morality 18(1) (Spring 2015): 7-20

This article explores the link between theology and enterprise implied by the phrase “common grace in business.” Common grace is often employed by Christian business leaders and theorists to counter the problematic sacred/secular divide that too often can be used as an excuse for dividing one’s faith from one’s occupation. While Abraham Kuyper’s ideas on social questions are well-known, his ideas on business have been overlooked. Against this background, Kuyper’s understandings of the working of God’s grace in business, the social function of money, and the calling of business are examined in detail. Within these understandings, the division between sacred and secular is transcended and a unique vision for mixing common and particular grace in business is revealed that both restrains evil and promotes human flourishing.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Every Square Inch by Bruce Ashford - a brief review

Every Square Inch
An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians
Bruce Riley Ashford
Lexham Press
ISBN: 978-1-57-79962-0

This is a great little book. Ashford, Provost and Dean of the Faculty at SEBTS, writes, as the title suggests, from a kuyperian approach. He has written this
‘ ... for Christians who wish to live faithfully in their cultural contexts. It shows how all of life matters to God, and how every Christian can serve powerfully as a representative of Christ, even if he or she is not an international missionary or a pastor.’

He credits Kuyper with giving him his first insight into ‘the  fact that Jesus Christ is relevant to every dimension of society and culture, and that for this reason we should allow our Christianity to shape absolutely everything we do.’ It is from this impulse that he has written this great introduction. 

Although writing as an American for Americans, the insights he draws do have global relevance. 

The first part of the book looks at different ways in which Christians have approached culture. He utilises, as any good kuyperian would, the framework of creation, fall and redemption to articulate a Christian view of culture and a ‘theology’ of vocation. He then draws lessons for cultural engagement from the lives of Augustine, Balthasar Hubmaier, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Francis Schaeffer, and of course Kuyper.

The second part applies these principles to the cultural areas of the arts, science, politics, economics and education. He closes with three key questions:

1.What is God’s creational design for this realm of culture?
2.How has it been corrupted and misdirected by our sin and rebellion? 
3.How can I bring healing and redirection to this realm? 

These are important questions and this book will help Christians begin to be able to articulate answers to them.

This is a great introduction and deserves a wide readership. The strength of the book is that it is short and easy to read. Its weakness is it’s short — I wanted more! But that is remedied by additional suggestions for action and reading at the end of each chapter. This makes it an ideal book for a discussion group.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Friesen's Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy - a review

Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy
Franz Baader, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd
J. Glenn Friesen

Calgary: Aevum Books, 2015
ISBN 9780994775108
Pbk, 586pp, £13.95.

Dooyeweerd always maintained that his philosophy was not ‘a closed system’ and that ‘It does not claim to have a monopoly on truth in the sphere of philosophical reflection, nor that the provisional conclusions of its inquiries have been made sacrosanct because of the central biblical motive which motivates and controls it. As a philosophy it does not in any way demand a privileged position for itself; on the contrary, it seeks to create a real basis for philosophical dialogue among the different movements - movements which often isolate themselves and which can only lead to stagnation and overestimation of one’s own ideas’ (Christian Philosophy and the Meaning of History, Ser B, Vol. 13: 4). He was open to it being modified, debated and developed. Elsewhere he stated that 
‘It has been said so many times that repeating it almost becomes boring: The Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea does not pretend infallibility either in respect of its positive philosophical conceptions or with regard to its critique on traditional philosophy’ (Dooyeweerd 2013 in On Kuyper:154).
This has certainly been evidenced in discussions regarding the supra-temporality of the heart, which has promoted much discussion. Even among Dooyeweerdians this idea does not have wide support. Pete Steen described it as a’difficult problem’; he highlighted and documented some problems and issues with this idea in his The Structure and Nature of Dooyeweerd’s Thought (Toronto: Wedge, 1983). Others that took issue with Dooyeweerd over it were D.H.Th. Vollenhoven, Hendrik Van Riessen, S.U. Zuidema, K.J. Popma, Henk Geertsma and James Olthuis. These reject it on the premise that it is either anthropocentric and/or dualistic.

Now J. Glenn Friesen, a lawyer with a PhD in religious studies, claims that the idea of a supra-temporal heart, among other ideas of Dooyeweerd, originates not in Kuyper, van Prinsterer or even in Calvin but in the work and writings of the Christian theosophist Franz Baader. Rather than dismissing the supra-temporal heart as an aberration in Dooyeweerd’s thinking, Friesen maintains that it is a key component of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. He maintains that to reject it is to abandon the basis of his Christian philosophy. Friesen has written on this before - and not without controversy. A series of papers in Philosophia Reformata and a conference at Redeemer University College in 2006 were in part a response to Friesen’s position. (Links to some of the papers can be accessed here.)

This book is the development of these papers and of much more research. It is in three parts. The first looks at the reception of Christian theosophy in neo-Calvinism. It should be mentioned that the theosophy of Baader is far removed from the theosophy of Madame Blavatsky. Baader was a Catholic and presents very much a Christian theosophy. In this section Friesen prevents a helpful overview of the theology and philosophy of Baader, Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye (1818-1874), J.H. Gunning Jr. (1829-1905), Kuyper, Fredrick van Eeden (1860-1932) and Jan Woltjer (1848-1917).

The second part looks at the development of reformational philosophy in Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven. In many ways, Friesen’s approach is complementary, though at times contradictory, to Anthony Tol’s in his Philosophy in the Making. Most interesting - and perhaps most controversial - is the nature of the ‘find’ in 1922. This Friesen maintains is Okke Norel’s article. Unfortunately, Norel’s article hasn’t (yet) been translated into English. 

Part 3, which accounts for well over one-half of the book, is a massive expansion of Friesen’s paper from Philosophia Reformata95 theses on Herman Dooyeweerd’. Here the theses have been expanded to incorporate copious references and showing the parallels to Van Baader’s thought.
Friesen goes against the trend of attempting to harmonise Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd and points out the divergence of their views. A difference which seems to be over the nature of the supra-temporal heart.

There are a number of possible responses to Friesen’s thesis among them:
 (1) He is completely wrong. However, it is difficult to see how someone who has read this book could maintain that position. There are many similarities between Baader and Dooyeweerd that Friesen has highlighted, even if Dooyeweerd doesn’t directly quote Baader. It could, of course be argued, that the similarities are because both are Christians and both are dealing with the same data within reality, rather than any direct influence.
(2) He is largely wrong — this has largely been the response of Strauss, in response Friesen has provided more evidence to support his thesis, and so the onus is on those who would reject his position to respond.
(3) He is largely right — we then embrace his position and perhaps then we should speak of being neo-Baaderists rather than neo-Calvinists and recognise that in agreeing with Dooyeweerd we should reject Calvinism, or we could — as many have done — reject Dooyeweerd’s notion of supra-temporality.
(4) Or we could accommodate his view as one among many interpretations of Dooyeweerd, and accept that there is truth in his thesis but that it doesn’t change the usefulness, effectiveness, comprehensiveness, coherence or truth of Dooyeweerd’s approach. We should take care not to commit the genetic fallacy and throw the dooyeweerdian baby out with the Baaderian water. 
This book will promote controversy - that’s not such a bad thing. It is well-researched treatise and a surprisingly a good read. I look forward to the seeing the discussions it provokes and I hope that in doing so more light than heat will be generated.

Glenn Friesen talks about his book in a two-part interview here  and here

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

New "must have" gadget: the BOOK

The "BOOK" is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use even a child can operate it. Just lift its cover! Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere, even sitting in an armchair by the fire yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information.

These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half.

Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain.

A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.

The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it.

The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped in water

The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish.

Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers.
Conversely, numerous bookmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

The media is ideal for long-term archive use. Several field trials have proven that the media will still be readable in several centuries, and because of its simple user interface it will be compatible with future reading devices.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (Pencils).

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future. The BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform.

[HT Bookbarn]

Tuesday, 21 July 2015