Myodicy, Issue 27, November 2006

The Reformational Movement:
Dialogue and Apologetics

by Theodore Plantinga

NOTE: This essay on the reformational movement in North America is the fourth in a series. Click here to go to the first installment. Subsequent installments will appear in future issues of Myodicy. The series consists not just of narrative essays in which ideas, persons and institutions are discussed but also includes files in which documents of one sort or another that shed some light on the movement and its history are presented. In addition there is a web page devoted to the "cast of characters" and another that provides basic information about many of the institutions and organizations involved in the story. For an overview of the series and the web pages or files of which it is comprised, along with links to those files, click here.

Be not unequally yoked

"A Dooyeweerdian cannot be unequally yoked with a non-Dooyeweerdian." This comment, sometimes made with a twinkle in one's eye, used to pass between Groen Clubbers during my undergraduate days. It was an echo and application of a familiar Bible text, which reads as follows in the King James Version: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers ...." [NOTE yoked33] We normally read this text is applying to marriage, but it has broader implications. It seemed to us that if a Dooyeweerdian student at Calvin were to marry someone who is not a Dooyeweerdian, the marriage would have little hope of succeeding. After all, communication is essential to marriage, and the Dooyeweerdian world operates with a lingo all its own. Communication breakdown would surely lead to marriage breakdown.

Did the Groen Clubbers and self-styled Dooyeweerdians then take no interest in communication with people who had not yet taken the Dooyeweerdian plunge? Were they content to feel forever cut off from hosts of their fellow human beings who just didn't get it -- including a great many in the Christian camp? In the previous essay in this series, I dealt with the tendency toward sectarianism and separatism in the reformational movement, but I did not finish the topic. I have left a significant portion of it for this essay, and so I now need to consider the notion of dialogue (I will also deal with the reformational attitude toward apologetics). What I propose to do in this essay is to consider the question where the reformationals stood in relation to apologetics, on the one hand, and the widespread recognition of the value of dialogue, on the other. Did they accept both dialogue and apologetics as valuable goals and ideals? Were they adept at both?

Some critics of the movement will tell you that Dooyeweerdians are ultimately not interested in dialogue at all. The Dooyeweerdian discussion, such as it continues in our time, is essentially what the Dutch call an "onder onsje" (just among ourselves) in which outsiders are not welcome. Witness the practice of the Dooyeweerd Centre in terms of issuing the master's writings in very expensive volumes published by the Edwin Mellen Press. While much of the rest of the world is scrambling to get the writings of the seminal thinkers of yesteryear available on the internet or in computerized form, [NOTE berkouwer33] little effort seems to be made in this regard in connection with Dooyeweerd. Glenn Friesen's website is an exception; Friesen has posted some provisional translations of writings of Dooyeweerd with permission from the Dooyeweerd Centre.

What about Dooyeweerd himself -- was he really and truly interested in dialogue? In principle he was; there can be no doubt of that. But in practice he was often preoccupied with the further development of his own body of thought. Hendrik Stoker (1899-1993), for one, wanted to dialogue with him. [NOTE stoker22] Dooyeweerd contributed to Stoker's festschrift, but in the essay he wrote for that occasion he politely stayed away from any discussion of Stoker's ideas. [NOTE stoker33]

Dooyeweerd did not wish to be a sectarian addressing only his elite circle of loyalists-- far from it. Neither did Runner have sectarian aspirations. In his first published statement on Dooyeweerd, Runner declared that the survival of philosophy "... depends to no small degree on the renewal of a lively dialectic among the adherents of the various schools." He then added: "For such debate no one is more eager than Professor Dooyeweerd." NOTE runner33

Indeed so. Dooyeweerd expressed his eagerness in plain language in the first volume of his magnum opus, where we read:

The significance of the philosophy of cosmonomic Idea may not be limited to Christian thought as such. For in its transcendental critique this philosophy has raised new problems, which must be considered by every philosophy irrespective of its starting-point. Moreover, it has approached each philosophical system from the standpoint of its own ground-motive and deepest pre-suppositions. Therefore ... this philosophy has opened the way for a better mutual understanding of the various philosophic trends. Under the influence of the dogma of the autonomy of theoretical thought the various schools had isolated themselves in a dogmatic exclusivism and had propagated their supra-theoretical prejudices as theoretical axioms. The significance of the philosophy of the cosmonomic Idea is not at all negative for other philosophic schools. It has a positive contribution to make. [NOTE dooyeweerd33]

In the foreword to the third volume of his magnum opus, which was dropped when the book went into a second edition in the English language alone, Dooyeweerd addressed the question whether the philosophy he offered was something radically new (in which case it might be dismissed as esoteric and incomprehensible). In dealing with this issue he distinguished between "oorspronkelijkheidszucht" (desire or thirst for originality) and "Oorsprongszucht" (desire or thirst for the Origin -- note the capital letter). He disavowed the former and embraced the latter, thereby emphasizing the divine foundation of his thinking and setting aside any hankering after personal fame and glory as due to one who has propagated something new. He explained:

In its starting point, the Philosophy of the Law-Idea is not new at all but builds on the foundation of all Ages. ... [It] betokens the opposite of a revolutionary assault on the great law of historical continuity. [NOTE dooyeweerd38]

In an important article devoted specifically to the notion of a dialogue (tweegesprek) between competing philosophical traditions, which appeared in the interval between the publication of the first and second editions of his magnum opus, Dooyeweerd sounded the same call. Again he spoke out against philosophical isolation: "Ever since it appeared on the Dutch philosophical scene, the Philosophy of the Law-Idea has pleaded with increasing urgency for a breakthrough out of the isolation of the various schools and directions which, especially in the first decades of the twentieth century, had led them to be isolated from one another in a certain spiritual exclusiveness." Lest anyone should suppose that Dooyeweerd believed that people with different philosophical convictions live in different worlds and share no knowledge or experience to which they could appeal in discussion, he went on to affirm:

... an essentially philosophical thought-contact between the various philosophical directions is indeed possible on the basis of the transcendental critique and would be mutually fruitful because both sides have to account theoretically for the same reality, the same structure and lawfulness of theoretical thought by which they are bound, in the context of a single, encompassing, historically founded community of thought in which they have developed; and finally, they all are forced to give an account of undeniable states of affairs in reality if those states of affairs do not come to adequate expression in a particular system. NOTE dooyeweerd43]

Vollenhoven's agenda

In this essay the name of Dooyeweerd will appear more often than that of Vollenhoven. Part of the reason for the disparity is that Vollenhoven did not accept the dialogue-and-communication challenge as part of his job description to nearly the extent that Dooyeweerd did, which may be part of the reason why the notion of a "transcendental critique" as helping to prepare the way for discussion with one's philosophical opponents held little interest for him. Vollenhoven was more a man to stick to his own knitting than Dooyeweerd was. Vollenhoven was keen to build up Calvinism, whereas Dooyeweerd took more and more distance from Calvinism as a label.

Jacob Klapwijk was once asked in an interview why Dooyeweerd appeared in the limelight much more than Vollenhoven. In his response he challenged the premise in the question and pointed out that in Free University circles and in the churches Vollenhoven was at least as well known as Dooyeweerd. Vollenhoven taught each and every student that passed through the Free University, whereas Dooyeweerd taught only those who took courses in the faculty of law. But when it came to the wider world, so to speak, the Vollenhovian conception of philosophy did not seem to place much priority on arguing with people in other traditions and faith communities. Klapwijk explained that Vollenhoven's agenda had to do with his ideal of "Scriptural philosophy." The task of such philosophy was twofold: on the one hand it involved building up Reformed life and working out the implications of Calvinism for science and philosophy, and on the other hand it was intended as criticism, which meant that it aimed to unmask and reject any sort of synthesis.

Because he pursued such an agenda, it seems that Vollenhoven's fame (mainly local in the first place) soon faded. Klapwijk observed:

Vollenhoven's influence did undergo a certain stagnation because he was not strong when it came to publicity and presentation. It's a real shame that Vollenhoven was motivated so strongly by philosophical investigation itself that he hardly got around to publishing anything. And what he did publish was often a summary of his latest "discoveries" in the history of philosophy, discoveries that were generally provisional in character and bore the imprint of his special "problem-historical" method. Vollenhoven refused to devote much time to working out his own fundamental convictions in the area of systematics for a broader circle of readers. [NOTE klapwijk33]

Backslapping groupthink?

Back to Dooyeweerd, who made inspiring commitments about dialogue and communication. Did he really mean the things he said? And if he did, were his followers of the same mind? Did he and they manage to avoid the "isolation of the various schools"?

Not everyone thinks so. For example, Daniel Knauss, responding to a Gideon Strauss invitation to reveal what he really thinks of "neo-Calvinism" (roughly Dooyeweerd and company), voiced an eloquent complaint in this regard. After admitting to "partial admiration from a distance," Knauss went on to mention a number of

... points of historiographical and philosophical disagreement, starting with the facile critiques and rejections of various straw men: the various -isms, whole groups of people, historical eras, key figures and bodies of thought that neocalvinism has discarded. In this discarding process a deeply parochial anti-intellectualism is ironically built into the foundations of a movement ostensibly aiming at a cultural and intellectual renaissance. From Herman Dooyeweerd to Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey, a confessionally partisan, self-legitimating history is told, apparently in total ignorance of and complete contradiction to established historical and theological scholarship of at least the past three decades. "Humanism," pretty much from the Renaissance on is labelled a groundswell of autonomist individualism. "Greek thought" is deemed to be fatally flawed with pernicious "dualisms." Catholic thought is dispatched with antiquated generalizations about particular thomistic ideas which are then projected on all Catholic doctrine and belief for the past eight centuries. The real history of monasticism and late medieval/early modern ideas about vocation, and the spiritual and secular domains go untold in favour of a leveling "white hats v. black hats" narrative. Out with all of the above goes natural theology and any serious credit to reason untouched by right Christian (that is, Reformed) faith and doctrine. I have too much C.S. Lewis in me, among other things, to tolerate this Reformed chronological snobbery and "killing of the fathers" that undervalues those who have come before, or those in other folds, in order to overvalue its own elect, attributing to them a presumptive intellectual superiority. Never one to hide from a paradoxical reality, Martin Luther said it is better to be ruled by a smart pagan than an ignorant Christian, and a lot of Christians who have bought into some version of Dooyeweerd's "Whig" view of history strike me as willfully ignorant to the extent that they adhere to the myopic, rejectionist, backslapping groupthink of Dooyeweerd's identity-forming narrative. [NOTE knauss33]

Note that although Francis Schaeffer is on Knauss's list of sinners, even he gets disparaged in reformational circles as not conforming closely enough to reformational expectations. (Footnotes and references are important, and reformationals generally give one another substantial recognition via such avenues.) Richard Russell, a British reformational who used to teach philosophy at Trinity Christian College in Chicago, wrote a review of Schaeffer's book The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century in which we read the following lament:

Reading Francis A. Schaeffer's latest book, The Church at the End of the 20th Century, I found myself oscillating between joyful excitement and deep disappointment. Intertwined with genuinely Biblical insight were ideas ultimately derived from classical and modern humanism. Schaeffer's scholastic reformed-evangelical traditionalism drastically limits his vision of the Kingdom of God, because that tradition is infiltrated with rationalism and individualism, derived from the secular philosophies of the 17th and 18th centuries. ... I have pointed out mostly the weaknesses of Schaeffer's new book. Many of his better ideas are derived, I suspect, directly or indirectly from Dooyeweerd whom he has never mentioned in any of his six books, although there have been two passing references to Kuyper. In many ways I have the greatest admiration for Schaeffer -- he speaks radically, and yet within certain cramping limits. I'm sure evangelical students will be "challenged" by this latest book -- but I fear that many of them will sink back into their comfortable middle-class tradition, feeling that now that they've read Schaeffer they are really "with it", and can now undertake some radical action like planning a pilgrimage to L'Abri. Yet there will certainly be others who are moved in the direction of a fully reformational Christianity. Buy this new book -- weep and rejoice over it as I did. And then move beyond it. NOTE russell33]

Was this markedly uncharitable attitude toward other efforts at Christian scholarship and philosophy confined to Dooyeweerd's followers? Ronald Jager, a Calvin College graduate who taught philosophy at Yale, pointed directly at the master as having set a bad example in this regard:

He has paid particular theoretical attention to the problems of philosophical communication; yet his resulting philosophy both in theory and in practice is to block off discussion at every point. He has constructed an elaborate proof that his philosophy alone establishes a true basis of philosophical communication and then turned an unhearing ear to myriad critical comments on his encyclical mode of philosophizing. He has tried desperately to philosophize in a Christian manner, let there be no doubt about this; yet he does not acknowledge or even sympathetically communicate with other current attempts at Christian philosophizing (Kierkegaard and the Christian existentialists touch him not at all; the Oxbridge Anglicans are repudiated unread; Thevenaz, Ricoeur, Duméry -- French non-Catholic phenomenologists -- are quite ignored). [NOTE jager33]

H.G. Geertsema, speaking as a Dooyeweerd admirer and not primarily as a critic, admits:

Compared with its significance for Christians, Dooyeweerd's philosophy seems to have produced little for the dialogue with the outside world. Where it has been appreciated in non-Christian circles, it has been disconnected from its Christian inspiration.

And whereas Dooyeweerd felt strongly about the religious -- and specifically Christian -- heart of his philosophy, apart from which it could not be properly understood, some of the people who came to appreciate him as a philosopher felt they could pick and choose, detaching what they liked in his thought from its religious basis. Geertsema explains:

Dooyeweerd has gained renown for his modal theory, but only after it is first taken out of the context which Dooyeweerd considered essential: the transcendental critique both in its broad and narrow sense. This is to deny its radical religious character. The modal theory does not seem to have given much cause for the real dialogue about the Gospel. [NOTE geertsema33]

What about Jellema?

Jager hurled a strong accusation at Dooyeweerd. Was it really true that Dooyeweerd did not "acknowledge or even sympathetically communicate with other current attempts at Christian philosophizing"? Abraham Kuyper, ever the politician, sought allies and was known to be generous in his praise of what might turn out to be kindred spirits. What about Dooyeweerd? Could he find it in his heart to utter some kind words about efforts at Christian philosophizing at the Free University's sister institution in western Michigan?

In Grand Rapids Dooyeweerd would certainly have met his match in terms of a dialogue partner. It seems that the Dutch Reformed world had produced two intellectual giants at about the same time: they were born only nineteen months apart. William Harry Jellema came into this world in Chicago on March 10, 1893, whereas Dooyeweerd was born in Amsterdam on October 7, 1894.

What was their relationship? Sad to say, the historical record does not give us much indication of how they related to one another, or even how much they knew of one another's work. And while Dooyeweerd's career has been fairly well documented, Jellema's has not. [NOTE timmerman22] Ironically, Jellema had a son who was a professional historian and was one of my profs in college, but this son (named Dirk) died in the same year as his father and does not seem to have done much about making his father's legacy and papers available to posterity. [NOTE dirkjellema33]

There is another interesting parallel between Dooyeweerd and Jellema: both were under deep suspicion by the theologians in the vicinity. Jellema was more or less banished from his Calvin College teaching position for some years. Henry Stob (1908-96), a close observer and a man known to choose his words carefully, wrote that Jellema was "... induced in 1935 to leave Calvin College and to accept a position in the department of philosophy at the University of Indiana." NOTE stob33] Jellema returned after the second world war, when the college was undergoing a major expansion. His readmission to the Calvin faculty was a rather delicate matter. Stob supported the decision to allow Jellema back and renders his own judgment on him in the following words:

There were those who retained a memory of his alleged humanistic tendencies and his supposed bent toward Anglo-Hegelianism. Although I shared with those people a concern for a philosophy consonant with biblical verities, and although I was aware of Jellema's earlier inclination toward a brand of Christian Idealism, I did not doubt that at bottom his views were shaped by Reformed principles and that his strong desire was to bring all thought in subjection to Christ. [NOTE stob38]

As for Dooyeweerd, he got into hot water because of Valentijn Hepp (1879-1950) and certain other theologians who grew suspicious of him once they began reading his magnum opus in theological terms (I have dealt with this matter in Essay 2 in this series). Also coming under fire were Schilder and Vollenhoven. And while Dooyeweerd was never dismissed from his teaching post, he did have to endure a good deal of unpleasantness.

A third parallel is that both had roots in idealism. Jellema even wrote his doctoral dissertation on Josiah Royce (1855-1916). As for Dooyeweerd, his intellectual antecedents reach deep into German philosophical soil, where idealism of one sort of another has been a powerful force ever since the days of Kant. Jellema and Dooyeweerd, then, would have had things to talk about.

The authorities at Calvin College seem to have realized this; indeed, they once engaged Dooyeweerd to lecture to the Calvin faculty at a retreat held at a resort named Castle Lake. Such a setting would surely have been a fine occasion for profound interchange and debate between these two intellectual giants. But it seems that Jellema was not interested. John J. Timmerman reveals that while Dooyeweerd was holding forth to the Calvin professors, Jellema was in his room reading a novel! [NOTE timmerman33]

Jellema is a somewhat mysterious figure because of the disparity between his written output (he published almost nothing) [NOTE jellema33] and his influence. Like Socrates, he lives on especially through his better-known students, such as Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. And while Wolterstorff has written about Jellema on occasion and outlined some of his ideas, [NOTE wolterstorff33] it is not easy to trace the line that runs from Jellema to the impressive series of books that Wolterstorff has written during his Yale professorship. Wolterstorff's account of the pedagogical prowess of his undergraduate mentor even has Jellema pulling from students at final examination time more than I could ever hope or imagine:

Jellema would walk into the classroom, pull a little sheet out of his pocket, and write one question on the blackboard, maybe two, but usually just one. They were always very broad and comprehensive questions. We would sit and write and write for five hours or so, and then he would come in, it was getting late and he wanted dinner, I suppose -- and say, "That's enough, now, that's enough." [NOTE wolterstorff44]

A student who can write for five hours on one question is rare indeed; I find that I have to give my students a number of questions on a single examination if I want to get enough output from them to judge them fairly! Perhaps Jellema had better students than I have had opportunity to teach. He once taught a Kant class in which Wolterstorff and Plantinga were the only students enrolled!

When I put some questions concerning Jellema to Alvin Plantinga, he responded with the following account of his relationship to his esteemed teacher:

As for my own philosophical relation to Jellema, I've always considered myself as his follower. What I take to be the essence of what he stood for isn't a whole lot different from what I take to be the essence of what Dooyeweerd stood for. Jellema was above all concerned to try to figure out how to be a Christian in philosophy. He, like Dooyeweerd (and Tertullian and Augustine), thought that philosophy involves and arises out of a fundamentally religious commitment. He thought there were three such basic commitments to be found in western philosophy: the ancient mind, which was basically Plato and Aristotle, the medieval/Christian mind, and the modern mind. He also thought that the main task for Christian philosophers (and Christians in other areas of academic endeavor) is to figure out how Christianity bears on the discipline in question. He didn't think it was enough just to figure this out, however; the important thing was then to go ahead and develop the discipline in question in a Christian way.
I have always agreed with him, although I have also always thought that there are some areas in philosophy -- logic, e.g., -- which are like mathematics in that it is at best extremely difficult to see just what difference Christianity makes. Even there, of course, Christianity will make a difference with respect to the ontology of the subject -- properties, propositions, possible worlds, and the like. Here I think Augustine was certainly on the right track.

I had asked especially about the "method" to be followed in doing and teaching philosophy, for it was my impression that Plantinga certainly differed from Jellema in this respect. The young Professor Plantinga under whom I had studied was a proponent of "analytic philosophy," whereas Jellema was not. His response:

As to method, I can't say I'm very clear about what sort of method Jellema used -- or what the possibilities are for method. He simply tried to explore, in as clear a way as possible, these issues of pretheoretical commitment, the nature of these minds, how the difference comes out with respect to some of the questions philosophers ask and answer, and the like. I don't see any great gulf between his method and the way I do philosophy, although of course he didn't engage in as much by way of formal argumentation as I do (or used to). But that's mainly a detail -- he certainly did engage in argumentation. I've also always thought clarity is important; and here too I'm doing little more than agreeing with him -- and, indeed, with much of the rest of the western philosophical tradition -- Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, etc. [NOTE plantinga22]

Was Dooyeweerd ignored in Grand Rapids?

Groen Clubbers of the 1960s had the impression that Dooyeweerd's promising philosophy had never drawn much attention in Grand Rapids. It had been written off almost before the master was finished composing it in Amsterdam. We felt embattled. What we did not sufficiently realize is that a good deal of water had flowed under the bridge before we arrived on the scene. There is more to the story.

Just what Jellema's relationship to Dooyeweerd was and what reason he had for staying away from Dooyeweerd's lecture to the Calvin faculty will remain a mystery since Jellema is no longer with us. In an effort to uncover what knowledge might still exist, I asked Alvin Plantinga about his recollections of his student days under Jellema. He told me that he remembers a time when Jellema would make favorable references to Dooyeweerd both inside and outside the classroom. [NOTE plantinga33] Perhaps this was only politeness on Jellema's part. In the early days on the Calvin faculty there were others who expressed an interest in the philosophy of the law-idea that was developing in Amsterdam. Among them was Professor Henry J.G. Van Andel (1882-1968), who taught Dutch language, literature and culture at Calvin from 1915 to 1950; when Van Andel was in his twilight years, he told Harry der Nederlanden that he had even turned his hand to translating some of Dooyeweerd into English. [NOTE nederlanden33] Henry Stob also reports on early efforts by Calvin professors to get a handle on the new Amsterdam philosophy.

Yet Stob himself was considerably less inclined to take an active interest in developments in Amsterdam, even though Calvin Seerveld recalls him putting the modal scale on the board during a logic class. [NOTE seerveld33] Stob articulated his position in relation to the Amsterdam philosophers in his volume of published memoirs. Moreover, it should be remembered that Stob had been officially mandated by the Calvin College Board to investigate developments in Amsterdam to see what could be brought back to Grand Rapids. [NOTE stob43] And so it is not the case that Dooyeweerd was written off without a hearing.

Plantinga on Dooyeweerd

Many students of Dooyeweerd will be aware that Alvin Plantinga published an article on Dooyeweerd in the Reformed Journal back in 1958; indeed, this paper is the first item in his bibliography! It happens that the article originated as a paper presented at a small academic gathering at which Dooyeweerd himself was present.

How did the master react to the analysis and critique of his work presented by this promising young philosopher, who was still a graduate student at the time? Plantinga reports: "Although Dooyeweerd never responded in print to that piece, he did respond at the meeting where I gave it -- what he said (as I remember) was that Stoker had made the same objection in 1936, since he had replied then, he didn't think it was necessary to reply now!" [NOTE plantinga44]

Do Dooyeweerdians answer their critics and respond to objections? Complaints are sometimes made on this score. But it should be noted that when Jochem Douma formulated a set of criticisms of the "cosmonomic philosophy" (which turned into a small book in English), André Troost wrote a response to rival Douma's original disquisition in length; it eventually became a book as well. [NOTE troost33]

What about Runner?

When we were students, we tended to look to Evan Runner as the local expert on everything that had to do with Dooyeweerd. And it is true that Runner was brought to Calvin in part to inject some of the Amsterdam intellectual tradition into the Grand Rapids bloodstream. But in the first essay in this series we already saw that Runner was not quite the Dooyeweerd representative that many people had taken him to be. In virtue of the training he had received at the Free University, Runner was much closer to Vollenhoven. Moreover, if one studies the content of Runner's Introduction to Philosophy course, it becomes apparent that many strong Dooyeweerdian themes were not taken up at all. The course has more the flavor of Vollenhoven; it reflects Runner's strong interest in the history of philosophy and the ancient world. Runner also taught a celebrated (and controversial) course on the history of Greek philosophy, in which his textbook was his own translation of Vollenhoven's work in this area.

The role Runner played in the reception of Dooyeweerd in Grand Rapids is not an easy matter to untangle. I will have a bit more to say about it later in this essay, and I will also comment on it in a later essay or two.

Apologetics contra dialogue

The determination to engage in apologetics often gets in the way of a commitment to dialogue: it is difficult to switch back and forth between the two. Hence some of the thinkers and professors we admire most for their prowess in apologetics have no great accomplishments to boast of when it comes to dialogue. Think of J. Gresham Machen, of whom Runner spoke well -- but guardedly.

Machen is a somewhat unsettling figure for many people because he recognized that the apologete defends orthodoxy against forms of Christianity that are not really Christian. Machen attacked Modernism in particular, and in a celebrated book bearing the provocative title Christianity and Liberalism he even dared to proclaim that what was called Modernism is a religion that needs to be distinguished from what has historically been called Christianity. The one religion is redemptive in character, while the other is not. [NOTE machen33]

Other Reformed apologetes, who were also associated with the reformationals, even though they did not form part of the inner circle, were known to set their sights on Karl Barth -- not exactly a Modernist by Machen's definition but certainly a thinker to be looked at askance, according to old-fashioned Reformed believers. But those apologetes sometimes assailed Barth in such a way as to do more harm than good. In a letter to G.C. Berkouwer, Barth declared that once Mozart began to be tarred with the some brush that certain "neo-Calvinists" in the Netherlands and "America" were using against him (i.e. Barth), it was time to say something. "Everything has its limits," he explained. The "neo-Calvinists" who caused him such grief were Van Til and Schilder. [NOTE keulen33]

Barth had discovered, then, that reformationals (or "neo-Calvinists," in his parlance) are often fierce opponents. What about Dooyeweerd himself? The memorable characterization of Dooyeweerd offered by Karel Kuypers (a Vollenhoven student) and published after Dooyeweerd's death suggests that he certainly was. Wrote Kuypers:

Reading the writings of Dooyeweerd is tiring work. Many are deterred by the very heavy style, the unique terminology, and the unrelentingly dogmatic form that his thinking takes, but they are impressed at the same time by his erudition, his wide reading, and his unusually many-sided orientation when it comes to critical analysis. He is not to be compared with little David, who, with one elegant motion of his slingshot, felled the giant Goliath. Much more does Dooyeweerd makes us think of a man of war who prefers to appear before us in full battle dress, as he discusses, polemicizes, criticizes, attacks or defends, on almost every page, always busy slaying his thousands. [NOTE karelkuypers33]

Diluted Dooyeweerd

Dooyeweerdian philosophy is a rather potent brew and can sometimes lead to the exaggerated behavior that we associate with drunkenness; it is conceivable that it might even result in a hangover. Most Groen Clubbers will recognize these metaphors as apt. Does Dooyeweerdian philosophy therefore need to be watered down? In effect, that's what was done in recent decades; indeed, diluted or dumbed-down Dooyeweerd is part of what I take the worldview phenomenon to mean (more on this in a later essay). Now that everybody has a worldview -- or so we are told -- and can therefore be expected to own up to something or other by way of what we might choose to call religious roots that inevitably play a role in theoretical thought, we are in a position to be much more kind and gentle than we used to be during the grand days of the Groen Club. We don't show our teeth as often as we used to.

The notion that Dooyeweerd's potent brew needs to be watered down if we are to persuade others to sample it was brought home to me yet again a number of years ago when William V. Rowe (not to be confused with the philosopher William R. Rowe) visited Redeemer. A number of us talked with him, and one question we asked him had to do with his interaction with other philosophers at the University of Scranton, the Jesuit institution where he was teaching. We knew that Rowe, with his strong commitment to Christian philosophy, would not remain silent on Scranton's campus when it came to Dooyeweerd. But he told us that he was not as vocal as some might expect in terms of recommending to colleagues and students that they actually read Dooyeweerd. The difficulty was that the denunciations of the Roman Catholic and Thomistic philosophical tradition in Dooyeweerd are so stern that they would tend to put people off. It seems that the insights contained within Dooyeweerd's writings can better be presented orally. One catches more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Apostate opponents

One reason for Rowe's caution, I suppose, is Dooyeweerd's use of the term "apostate." I don't believe I have ever met a thinker who relished being called an apostate. Now, Glenn Friesen offers us qualifications of this term and reminds us that Dooyeweerd's use of it must be balanced by his use of some etymologically related terms, [NOTE friesen33] but the fact remains that even to the well-educated ear of a person willing to consider etymology, the term "apostate" comes across as harsh.

Vincent Brümmer, in an early book on Dooyeweerd's thought, makes it clear that apostasy is serious philosophical business indeed:

Participation in the religious fulness of Truth affects the root of our existence, says Dooyeweerd. ... The selfhood can either stand in the Truth, in which case it finds its true content in Christ; or it can stand in untruth, in which case the spirit of apostasy directs it to seek its content within the temporal cosmic meaning-horizon. Since the antithesis between Truth and apostasy from Truth applies to the root of human existence, it determines all temporal expressions of man; it determines his a priori philosophical insight, and hence all his theoretical and pre-theoretical knowledge. [NOTE brummer33]

Dooyeweerd himself seemed to take some of the sting out of this term by distinguishing between the person and the ground-motive within which that person's thought is embedded. Using Aristotle and Kant as examples, he explained: "In the light of God's Word, I maintain that the starting-points of the religious ground-motives of, for example, Kantian or Aristotelian thinking are radically apostate (afvallig), but I do not say that Kant or Aristotle was totally apostate and wrong." [NOTE dooyeweerd46] We also find him using the term "partial apostasy." [NOTE dooyeweerd48]

Yet Dooyeweerd does not wish the notion of apostasy to be understood in individualistic terms, as though it were a matter of a "decision for Christ" that an individual human being might make at a specifiable point in time. The creation itself is fallen. He explains:

... there are two central main springs operative in the heart of human existence. The first is the dynamis of the Holy Ghost, which by the moving power of God's Word, incarnated in Jesus Christ, re-directs to its Creator the creation that had apostatized in the fall from its true Origin. This dynamis brings man into the relationship of sonship to the Divine Father. ... The second central main spring is that of the spirit of apostasy from the true God. As religious dynamis (power), it leads the human heart in an apostate direction, and is the source of all deification of the creature. It is the source of all absolutizing of the relative even in the theoretical attitude of thought. By virtue of its idolatrous character, this religious ground-motive can receive very diverse contents. [NOTE dooyeweerd51]

In the writings of many reformationals, however, the term "apostate" is used in quite a personal way, that is to say, in direct application to persons. Even so gentle a thinker as James Olthuis was known to use it, although he applied it to a "total view of reality" held by certain thinkers. [NOTE olthuis33] Runner used it freely -- sometimes in application to persons, and sometimes more broadly. Indeed, some strange sentences and phrases are attached to the reformational use of this term in Runner's writings. [NOTE runner38]

The fierceness that used to enter into much reformational criticism cannot be understood apart from the rhetorical force that this strong term lent to our denunciations of those who just didn't "see" it. Please note that I am using the pronoun "we" (or "our") loosely here; I don't believe that I myself made much use of the term "apostate" in debates and discussions in which I was involved back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Popper and the poker

In acting fierce and using emotionally charged language for what was supposed to be theoretical discussion, the reformationals stood in a broader tradition. Among the great philosophers are a few agreeable gentlemen like H.G. Gadamer (1900-2002), whose hermeneutical commitments impelled him to seek out the good and the true in virtually any text or discussion partner, but there is also the line of thought that imported the struggle-for-life and survival-of-the-fittest mentality that we associate with Darwinism right into the heart of epistemology. Here I am thinking of Karl Popper (1902-94), whose proclivity to engage his discussion partner in battle makes a a good deal of sense within the context of his philosophy.

I sometimes think that Popper would have made a fine reformational, despite his naturalistic inclinations. It is noteworthy that the combative Margaret Thatcher also admired him. Popper certainly knew how to turn an exchange of opinions into a battle in which deep feelings are engaged. Cerebral he was not. Bryan Magee has given us a fascinating account of his friendship with Popper in which we read:

Usually, as soon as I entered the house, Popper would grab me by the arm and plunge with almost fearsome energy, but also bubbling enthusiasm, into whatever problem he was currently struggling with. Unless it was raining he would head straight out into the garden without the slightest pause in his flow of words, and there we would pace around slowly, he frequently pulling the two of us to a dead stop as he tightened his grip on my arm and stood there gazing fiercely into my eyes while he vehemently urged some point on me. His emotional input into these disquisitions was something of a phenomenon: "blazing intensity" would not be an excessive term for it. ... Although he turned every discussion into the verbal equivalent of a fight, and appeared to become almost uncontrollable with rage, and would tremble with anger, there is no doubt that he found a deep satisfaction in it all. He was always keen for us to meet again for more. [NOTE magee33]

But even Popper had his limits. I think of the celebrated occasion in 1946 when he read a paper at the Moral Sciences Club at Cambridge University, with Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) on hand to hear the paper and participate in the discussion, and began to feel distinctly uncomfortable when it seemed to him that Wittgenstein was in effect threatening him with a poker whose duties should be confined to the fireplace! [NOTE wittgenstein33]

Back to the Greeks

Runner was no Popper. Although his emotional involvement in a discussion could not be hidden from view, he was not a debater at heart. In this regard he shared something of the intellectual temperament of his mentor Vollenhoven, who was not known for offering formal arguments either. Perhaps we must think of Runner as a reluctant philosopher, a man who could have been happy spending a lifetime in the details of philology and classical studies, following up on the work of Werner Jaeger (1888-1961), with whom he collaborated at Harvard University in the Society of Fellows during the second world war.

But there is more than one mode of argument. When Runner was making the case for some thesis or other, he tended to use historical terms: if you had a proper grasp of the historical background to the issue at hand, you would realize that such-and-such is the case. And because Runner was so obviously learned himself, he could practice what amounted to a form of one-upmanship on those who dared to take issue with him. This rhetorical strategy, I believe, is the key to his "back to the Greeks" approach in responding to questions.

One might question whether going back to the Greeks time and again was not a way to avoid dialogue on his part -- at least, if we consider dialogue to be a discussion between two parties on an approximate footing of equality. (Who could claim to equal Runner in knowledge of the ancient world and of the languages needed to understand it in depth?) And so you were never quite ready to take issue with him. I am reminded of what Alan Dershowitz reports about what it was like to argue with his teacher in a Jewish high school. The teacher was an expert in what Dershowitz calls "religious one-upmanship":

I recall proudly announcing to a high school teacher that I had become an apikoros. In the Hebrew-Yiddish idiom, apikoros -- a Hebrew variant of the Greek term for a follower of Epicurus -- means "disbeliever" or "heretic." My teacher immediately put me down by responding, "You're not educated enough to be an apikoros; you're just an ignoramus. Only after you learn enough of the Talmud to be considered a Talmud chachem [a brilliant student] can you know enough to choose to become an apikoros -- and by then you'll know enough not to choose that path of unrighteousness." [NOTE dershowitz33]

In the reformational one-upmanship that we sometimes saw at work among Groen Clubbers, "apikoros" did not seem to be an available option either; we would more quickly have branded someone an ignoramus. And so an inquirer who raised critical questions would be sent "back to the Greeks," just as the young Dershowitz was summarily ordered back to his books! There was so much more to be learned before one would ever dare challenge the master!

There are so few of us ....

At Groen Club meetings Runner could occasionally put down a student for some remark or question in a manner that made us cringe. In class we did not generally see this sort of behavior from the master, for there he was dealing with a "mixed multitude" -- not just his own people. But as a man of considerable sensitivity -- easily hurt and inclined to be suspicious -- he made it his practice to tread softly when criticizing his Calvin College colleagues in public. [NOTE runner68]

In this regard he manifested something of the spirit of his mentor Vollenhoven, whose conduct in the Schilder affair and the upheaval of 1944 is worthy of praise (I dealt with this matter in Essay 2 in this series). Vollenhoven was a philosophy professor by trade, and philosophers are usually quite willing to engage in criticism, but Dooyeweerd (a law professor by trade) had more of the personality and temperament that we generally associate with such a role. Vollenhoven was more of a scholar, a classifier, an analyzer, by nature.

Calvin Seerveld tells a story that illustrates this side of Vollenhoven. When Seerveld was a student at the Free University, he wrote a paper in which he strongly criticized Henry Van Til (1906-61) of Calvin College. When it came time to discuss the paper with Vollenhoven as his professor, Vollenhoven took him to task for the strong criticism. The reason he gave was: There are so few of us. [NOTE seerveld44] Likewise, Anthony Tol reports: "Throughout his career Vollenhoven was very chary to openly criticize people of like mind, mainly because the communal battle against non-Christian thought was so much more serious." [NOTE tol33] The sense on the part of reformationals that they were an embattled minority helps to explain, at least in part, what did not happen in those days. It also sheds some light on the curious relationship between Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven.

Distrust of apologetics

As Groen Clubbers, we did not have much time for apologetics, which was the branch of philosophy in which Alvin Plantinga clearly excelled. Among the figures whom Runner held in high esteem, however, was J. Gresham Machen, who was not only skilled in apologetics but also widely recognized in his own time -- and not just in Calvinistic, or even Christian, circles. When Machen died, H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), a fellow Baltimorean and an outspoken opponent of what Machen had stood for all his life, was moved to write in the Baltimore Evening Sun:

... though I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist .... In his own position there was never the least shadow of inconsistency. [NOTE mencken33]

Perhaps by Runner's time the kind of public attention that Machen received was out of the question for a person of genuine, solid Calvinistic conviction. But it does seem to me that we reformationals were not prepared to try for it either if and when it appeared to be within reach. And the reason for this disinclination was not just fear of failure. I believe another significant factor in our keeping to ourselves was a general disposition rooted in the sense that verzuiling (pillarization -- see Essay 3 in this series) was somehow the proper lot of God's people in this world. And so it can be said that we were infected by a certain disdain for apologetics, a disdain that was rooted in the Dutch Reformed world as such -- and not just in the specifically reformational segment of it.

Now, there was also some high-sounding theological and philosophical rhetoric behind the suspicion of apologetics. Robert Knudsen (1924-2000) explains:

The powerful Dutch Reformed tradition had virtually abandoned apologetics under the influence of the penetrating criticism of Abraham Kuyper. To his mind apologetics meant taking a defensive position against the attacks of unbelief. This was took weak, too passive. [NOTE knudsen33]

Nicholas Wolterstorff, in an open letter addressed to Calvin Seerveld which was written for the Seerveld festschrift, reflects on a social world and tradition in which apologetics was not needed -- or practiced:

At Calvin College you and I and all the rest of us were inducted into a tradition -- into the tradition of Reformed Christianity, especially as that had taken shape at the end of the nineteenth century in the Netherlands at the hands of Abraham Kuyper. It was magical. The tradition, for the most part, was not laid on us as burden but set before us as vision. ... It wasn't an apologetic tradition. I don't remember anybody ever mounting arguments for the existence of God, for the infallibility of Scripture, or anything of the sort. [NOTE wolterstorff55]

Anthony Tol tells us that Vollenhoven also thought along such lines: "... Vollenhoven did not assign to his program specifically apologetic or constructive aims." It is helpful to bear in mind that Vollenhoven also put in some years as a pastor and preacher. Hence he took the church very seriously. Moreover, according to Tol he assigned to the church the task of apologetics: "The defense of the faith is the direct responsibility of ecclesiastical institutions." [NOTE tol44] The professor can then remain undisturbed to pursue his arcane research.

I believe that one reason for the long-standing reformational tendency to discount the significance of Alvin Plantinga's work is that he represents the diametrical opposite of this mentality. Not only does he set a strong example in terms of addressing classical issues in apologetics, but he also urges others to tackle various possible apologetical angles that he has not gotten around to yet himself. His list of such angles is both sobering and exhilarating:

There are really a whole host of good theistic arguments, all patiently waiting to be developed in penetrating and profound detail. This is one area where contemporary Christian philosophers have a great deal of work to do. There are arguments from the existence of good and evil, right and wrong, moral obligation; there is an argument from the existence of horrifying evil, from intentionality and the nature of propositions and properties, from the nature of sets, properties and numbers, from counterfactuals, and from the apparent fine tuning of the universe. There is the ontological argument, but also the more convincing teleological argument, which can be developed in many ways. There is an argument from the existence of contingent beings, and even an argument from colors and flavors. There are arguments from simplicity, from induction, and from the falsehood of general skepticism. There is a general argument from the reliability of intuition, and also one from Kripke's Wittgenstein. There is an argument from the existence of a priori knowledge, and one from the causal requirement in knowledge. There are arguments from love, beauty, and play and enjoyment, and from the perceived meaning of life. There are arguments from the confluence of justification and warrant, from the confluence of proper function and reliability, and from the existence, in nature, of organs and systems that function properly. (So far as I can see, there is no naturalistic account or analysis of proper function). These arguments are not apodictic or certain; nevertheless they all deserve to be developed in loving detail; and each of them will be of value both as a theistic argument, and also as a way of thinking about the relation between God and the specific sort of phenomenon in question. I believe Christian philosophers of the next century (not to mention the remainder of this one) should pay a great deal more attention to theistic argument. [NOTE plantinga55]

Reformational stage presence

What impression did Runner's conduct -- and what he refrained from doing -- make on his students? If the Christian intellectual is neither an apologete nor one who endangers the faith through relativistic dialogue, what options are left? It might seem that dialogue was somewhat more permissible for reformationals than apologetics, but the extremists among us regarded it as a waste of time, and so we tended to talk mainly among ourselves (an "onder onsje"). Apologetics was for rationalists. And if someone were to point to Cornelius Van Til in support of apologetics, he would be told that Van Til wasn't really one of us. True, Runner had been Van Til's student at Westminster before moving on to the Netherlands, but he did not speak of Van Til often and clearly did not look to him as a model, although he certainly respected him.

Terms from the 1960s and 1970s come to mind as I try to indicate to posterity how we regarded Runner in those days. Sometimes we spoke of him as a guru. Some of us admitted guardedly that he was a fine actor (in the best sense of the term). He had great stage presence and was openly theatrical in the classroom -- but not in the sense that his lectures and gestures looked rehearsed. Students delivering Groen Club papers sometimes fell (whether consciously or unconsciously) into imitating the Runner style, to the point that I occasionally wondered whether the person delivering the paper was trying to make fun of Runner. Bernard Zylstra (1934-86) took over something of this theatrical style and even carried it into graduate instruction; I can recall being in his class at ICS with just a handful of students and marveling at how Zylstra seemed to see a sizable audience before him as he struck dramatic postures. Cervantes' Don Quixote sometimes came to mind.

Another buzzword of yesteryear that may be helpful in characterizing Runner is "existential," which we often took to be the opposite of "rationalistic" ("rational" and "rationalistic" were almost synonyms for us). [NOTE rational33] Although he was highly intelligent, Runner was anything but rationalistic. His philosophy had something visceral about it, and one responded to it on a visceral level. Therefore he loved the Old Testament with its recognition of the visceral and its colorful use of body-based metaphors that conflicted with the later Cartesian body/mind split.

Anyway, the notion that took shape in our heads was that we were somehow to imitate this personal style of Runner's. Hence the reformationals on the Grand Rapids scene were somewhat puzzled by the Johan van der Hoeven phenomenon. Now, Van der Hoeven was a Free University philosopher with strong reformational credentials who came to teach for a brief period at Calvin College shortly after my student days. In personal style he was nothing like Runner; in his classroom one was presented with the fruits of cautious analysis. So what was reformational about Van der Hoeven? [NOTE vanderhoeven33]

But Calvin Seerveld at Trinity Christian College in Chicago -- that was another story. Seerveld had developed his own impassioned style that would leave no one wondering whether or not he was a genuine reformational. Jon Pot, one of his students, tells us:

Cal acted and looked the part of his intellectual passion -- the edge of his lecturing hand cleaving the air before him, the sharp little intake of breath, perhaps as he moved from exposition to critique, and even, let it be affectionately said, the look of his clothes. The bow tie he often wore seemed a natty anomaly against a field of sartorial rumple, and one of his jackets -- a grey corduroy, I believe -- was for months torn open at the shoulder joint, with the stuffing leaking out. Clearly this was a man who wrestled with the angel to gain his wisdom, and we had better pay attention. [NOTE pot33]

And so it appeared that the leading reformationals had found a way between apologetics (too rationalistic) and dialogue (too relativistic). Perhaps being a reformational was mainly a matter of style; Runner had his imitators. But imitating Runner could not just be an act, for he was a man of passion and of deep conviction. Or can even passion and conviction be imitated? A Kierkegaardian question worth pondering.

Unmannerly conduct

When Runner made his Calvin College colleagues and opponents uneasy, it was partly because of unmannerly conduct on the part of some of his disciples. Calvin professors who had the misfortune to tangle with Groen Clubbers looked to Runner as the likely source of many of the accusations hurled -- unfairly, so many of them thought -- at almost any professor who refused to toe the reformational line. In the eyes of the Groen Clubbers, such professors were guilty of "synthesis," of combining Biblical insights with thought-patterns stemming from pagan and secular sources. Presumably Runner was appropriately nuanced in his use of the synthesis charge; the Groen Clubbers often were not.

Indeed, I can recall an occasion when a prominent Groen Clubber, who later went on to distinguish himself at the Free University, so upset Lewis Smedes (1921-2002) in a class on contemporary theology (by making what amounted to a synthesis accusation against him) that Smedes left the room in a huff -- end of class for that day. Another Groen Clubber hurried after him in an effort to calm him down. (Just what does -- and does not -- count as synthesis is a good question, which I will discuss at greater length in the next essay in this series.) There was also an occasion (although I was not present to witness it) when Clifton Orlebeke, a philosophy professor, turned the tables on a well-known Groen Clubber with a clever putdown involving a quotation from Voltaire, which he seemed to have carefully prepared in advance and then used to good effect to bring down the house once an opportunity presented itself.

The Groen Clubbers were a prickly lot and were sometimes so mired in a peculiar jargon that was hard for people outside their own circle to understand that they drove their professors to distraction. John J. Timmerman (1908-2004) says of the Dooyeweerdians among his students:

They had a code of words that nobody at a normal college could have followed. I told them, "Write in English or explain your terms." Later, one of them became a good friend and even gave me a box of cigars. [NOTE timmerman44]

The reformational students loved philosophy (especially the continental kind) and seemed open to learning from at least some of the new developments. When it became fashionable to speak of a "hermeneutics of suspicion" (Nietzsche Marx and Freud were said to be the masters in this regard), a reformational spinoff was not hard to develop, and so our opponents stood condemned even before they had a chance to open their mouths. Of course such rhetorical strategies militated against the development of a dialogical attitude in which one seeks to learn from one's discussion partner. We did not hear much about Gadamer in those days; Groen Clubbers could have benefited from studying Truth and Method, but it was not yet in English. [NOTE gadamer33]

Old-line reformationals reading this essay may feel a bit incensed by this point. Perhaps I have overstated my point about unmannerly conduct on the part of the Groen Clubbers, conduct for which Runner himself must take some share of the credit or blame (depending on how one regards such matters today). This picture which I have painted needs some correction; yet there is truth to it.

I will begin the process of correction by developing a more nuanced version of the case against the reformationals. Then I will offer some qualifications and ponder a significant historical question, namely, what there was for Runner to work with when he arrived in western Michigan in 1951.

Disdain for logic and evidence

There was a closed-system mentality among many of the reformationals, almost as though logic and evidence did not count for much. In time we therefore took a shine to Thomas Kuhn (1922-96) and the incommensurability thesis (Kuhn's famous book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published in 1962). If the holders of conflicting paradigms ultimately cannot understand one another, there is little point in promoting discussion between them. And so the kind of opposition to positivism and empiricism one finds in Kuhn could get reformationals off the hook if they did not feel inclined to argue for the position to which they were committed.

Runner's "back to the Greeks" habit also relates to the closed system theme. One of the implications of the example Runner set for us in this regard was that if you disagreed with something that was being said by someone outside your circle and you did not care to argue the point, you could declare that it would not be possible to explain the issue at hand in simple terms -- you would have to go all the way back to the Greeks to make your point clear, and that would take too long. You would then be off the hook. You could hang on to your cherished view without having to justify it.

Our non-reformational opponents in the Grand Rapids intellectual culture suspected us of harboring a disdain for formal logic, and there was truth to this charge. When we ponder this issue, we need to bear in mind that Vollenhoven advocated "Christian logic," [NOTE vollenhoven33] which seemed to some a quaint -- if not absurd -- notion. Runner taught a logic course and got criticized for the approach he took, following Vollenhoven. (I never took that course but instead studied logic under Alvin Plantinga, who used the second edition of Irving M. Copi's textbook on symbolic logic.) The familiar complaint was that Runner did not get around to the actual subject matter but instead got bogged down in the Greeks -- as usual.

Yet there are reformationals who do offer formal arguments and seem to enjoy logic as ordinarily understood in the Western world. Roy Clouser and Danie Strauss come to mind. It is significant that both have spent many years teaching in non-Christian institutions. Clouser's book The Myth of Religious Neutrality sets a standard in terms of taking conventional argumentation seriously and helps to allay the charge that reformationals only believe in woolly continental-style philosophizing in which there is no need to make a case for one's position -- it suffices to announce the truth or its whereabouts. [NOTE clouser33]

Wickedly in error

Another factor that hindered healthy dialogue and argument and the airing of differences was the tendency to suppose that one's opponent in an argument was not just in error but was wickedly in error. For quite some time I thought this phrase was my own original name for a pattern in reformational thought. Then, one day, I was looking through a book I had read years before, and there was the phrase: it had stuck in my mind, and I came to find it useful. Joe Barnhart, writing about the Pentecostal world, tells us:

Pentecostal preachers like [Jimmy] Swaggart ... pass moral judgment on every person who holds what Pentecostals regard as erroneous religious beliefs. According to [such] Pentecostals, it is impossible to be merely in error. Individuals are judged to be wickedly in error. In short, according to Pentecostal theology, it is a sin to hold to mistaken opinions in the area of religion. Why? Because individuals are believed to have arrived at erroneous religious opinions by submitting to the influence of a deceiving evil spirit. [NOTE barnhart33]

Schilder also had inclinations in this direction. George Puchinger writes: "A growing pessimism in Schilder led him to regard the work of his theological opponents under the aspect of ecclesiastical and religious falling-away." [NOTE puchinger33] In my long association with Al Wolters, I have noticed this tendency in him as well; he is known to take theoretical disagreements within the reformational camp very personally.

Now, I am not saying that it is always wrong to regard one opponent as wickedly in error, nor would I maintain that there was no element of falling-away in the opposition encountered by Schilder during the last fifteen years of his life. On the other hand, I maintain that to let such conclusions -- or even suspicions -- show through in one's dealings with others is to create significant barriers to discussion and dialogue. The tendency to suppose that those who no longer agree with you are by that very fact morally and/or spiritually wayward is part of the reason why the reformational community had considerable difficulty breaking out of the relatively isolated position in which it found itself here in North America some fifty years ago.

The inclination in reformational circles to take theoretical disagreement very personally and even to regard it as evidence of spiritual corruption may also be related to Cornelius Van Til's influence. Now Van Til, despite his long-time membership on the editorial board of Philosophia Reformata, was not a core member of the reformational movement. Nonetheless, his purist tendencies and the radicalism inherent in his approach to apologetics always had an appeal for a certain sector within the reformational camp. His all-or-nothing approach to epistemology seemed to some reformationals (but never to me, just for the record) a fine example of the bravado and daring that makes reformational existence interesting.

There were many in the Reformed world who considered Van Til to have gone off the deep end. Perhaps he contributed to this perception by his own words. In his famous debate with William Masselink (1897-1973) in Grand Rapids in 1952, he declared (according to Henry Stob) that if the common grace position of Bavinck, Kuyper and Hepp being defended by Masselink were to prevail, "... one might as well blow up the science building with an atom bomb." [NOTE stob49] Today, when we are plagued by terrorism and the prospect of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands, such talk sounds just as chilling as during the 1950s when we were all frightened of the Communists.

For Van Til, especially, and more generally for many of the reformationals, there seemed to be little in the way of middle ground. "Choose ye this day ...." I recall attending some sort of reformational gathering years ago at which N.H. Beversluis of the Calvin College education department was also present. Beversluis had always come across to me as a man with too many theoretical leanings [NOTE beversluis33] (the opposite of Henry Stob in that regard, for it would have been quite a feat to put words in Stob's mouth). Beversluis was listening to what was said, and then he began to talk, starting to sound like one of "us." At a certain point Glenn Andreas (1917-93), a dear friend of Evan Runner and a hardline reformational, said (I am inclined to say: blurted out): "You're not far from the kingdom!" Of course this remark was an allusion to an episode in Scripture. [NOTE notfar33] Nervous laughter erupted. We all sensed something inappropriate in Glenn's remark, as though the kingdom was somehow to be equated with adherence to a set of reformational ideas. Yet there was something exceptional -- and therefore striking -- about the inclination being manifested by Beversluis, for he seemed to want to take up a position somewhere between the reformationals and their Reformed opponents. Beversluis was no Van Tillian.

Iron sharpens iron

In what I have written above I have undoubtedly created the impression that there was not much genuine interest in philosophical dialogue and discussion among Runner and the students who followed him most closely. A little later I will try to correct this impression, for I believe it had much to do with local (i.e. western Michigan) circumstances. Runner felt rejected in the institution in which he taught. The senior man in his department did not want him around. The institution made a formal attempt to dismiss him. That he was wary of efforts to draw him into dialogue does not surprise me.

Among the opportunities which he passed up were the discussion meetings of the Calvin College philosophy department held every Tuesday afternoon, a tradition which began in the 1960s. (Runner did attend a few of those meetings at the outset.) Each such meeting would last for about two hours. A little departmental business might be conducted, and there was usually some socializing and joking, but the bulk of the time was devoted to philosophical discussion on the basis of a paper or work in progress presented by a member of the department. And while the atmosphere was friendly, it was still a daunting challenge to have your work being picked apart by the likes of Nick Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Mouw, John Cooper, Lee Hardy, Delvin Ratzsch, Ken Konyndyk (1942-94), Clifton Orlebeke, and Greg Mellema, all of whom served in the department during my time there. Part of my book Learning to Live with Evil (Eerdmans, 1982) went through the Tuesday afternoon meat-grinder. And while I sometimes felt like I was on foreign soil in terms of philosophical method and assumptions, I respected the process and recognized in it a commendable determination by the Calvin philosophers to try to do the best work possible. I was reminded of what the Bible teaches: "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." [Proverbs 27:17]

As I attended those Tuesday afternoon meetings, I sometimes thought back to a lengthy evening conversation during my undergraduate days. My conversation partner for that discussion was Peter De Vos (1939-93) , who was then a junior member of the Calvin College philosophy department and was serving as the College's Provost by the time I returned as a professor. The gist of what De Vos said to me was roughly this. You are thinking of buying stock (my metaphor) in this Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven business, but I wish you would hold off for a while. A new Christian philosophy is in the process of being developed by Nick Wolterstorff and Alvin Plantinga. In the long run it will prove more viable than what Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven have constructed in Amsterdam.

I listened carefully. What De Vos had to say made a deep impression on me. He certainly turned out to have a nose for philosophical talent. Moreover, he related the advice he was giving me to his own philosophical grounding and graduate training under Roderick Chisholm (1916-99) at Brown University. I don't specifically recall, but he may also have pointed to the commitment in "analytic" circles to submit one's work to critical scrutiny on the part of colleagues -- iron sharpens iron.

When I now look back on that conversation with De Vos (and I must admit that I did not expect brothers Wolterstorff and Plantinga to advance quite so far in their professional world as they have actually done), [NOTE groenewoud33] I can see that their success was not due solely to talent and intelligence, although they have talent in abundance. I am convinced that it also had to do with the way they worked together and took time to interact with others in their department. I had seen it with my own eyes during my stint as a Calvin professor. Indeed, so important were those Tuesday afternoon meetings that after Alvin Plantinga left Calvin for Notre Dame in 1982 (which was the same year I joined the initial Redeemer faculty), he used to drive back to Grand Rapids from South Bend, Indiana, just to attend those discussion meetings. Wolterstorff was still at Calvin in those days; he departed for Yale in 1989.

Van der Hoeven's silence

The adage "iron sharpens iron" would also be true for Amsterdam. Did Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven therefore meet regularly to discuss one another's work? And did they draw on a wider circle of philosophical associates for purposes of mutual support and criticism? Of course they had their Association for Calvinistic Philosophy, which held regular meetings, and they published three levels of periodicals to keep people informed and in touch with new developments in reformational philosophy, but it appears that the close working relationship between Plantinga and Wolterstorff was not duplicated in Amsterdam, even though Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven were related by marriage (Vollenhoven was married to Dooyeweerd's sister Hermina) and were said to be close friends.

Why not? I suppose one could point out that they were not analytic philosophers reared in a culture of analysis and criticism, a culture in which people seem to delight in pulling arguments apart. European social patterns surely played a role here. Even the exalted office of professor which they both held (exalted in comparison to North American society) worked to their disadvantage. It is not good for a king to be so highly revered that no one dares to contradict him; professors are also disadvantaged when such reverence is accorded them.

James Olthuis tells an instructive story drawn from his Free University days. He recalls an occasion when a number of the philosophers were in discussion in a formal meeting setting. Among them was Johan van der Hoeven, who, thought Olthuis, had an important contribution to make to the point being discussed. But Van der Hoeven said nothing during the whole meeting. When he was later asked about his silence, he explained: "I'm not a professor." At the time he held the rank of "Wetenschappelijke medewerker" (scientific collaborator). [NOTE olthuis44] In North America an assistant professor would not normally feel that his rank should prevent him from taking issue with an associate professor in a discussion setting, but in Europe people are expected to know their place! [NOTE friesen44]

Although there were no weekly meetings of the reformational philosophers in the Netherlands, there were indeed some formal meeting opportunities. One was the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy, although the size of the gathering, along with the fact that academic people drawn from many disciplines would be present, kept the proceedings from turning into a philosophers' scrum. In addition there used to be formal meetings of a narrower circle of the recognized reformational philosophers (professors and lecturers) drawn from the Free University and also the chairs of Calvinistic philosophy at the state universities. Not much has been written about these gatherings, which at one point used to last for two days and were held twice per year, but eventually shrank and wound up consuming less and less time. Yet we do know that there was some heated debate at those meetings -- within a context of basic agreement and spiritual solidarity. [NOTE schuurman22] But who were the parties to the debate? Often it was J.P.A. Mekkes (1898-1987, a Dooyeweerd man) clashing with K.J. Popma (1903-86, a Vollenhoven follower), or Hendrik Van Riessen (1911-2000, a student of Vollenhoven) disagreeing with André Troost (in the Dooyeweerd camp). Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven themselves did not generally clash; the public airing of their differences began in meetings in the 1960s. [NOTE friesen48]

One philosophy -- or two?

So why did Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven not discuss things as freely and as often as the Calvin College philosophers? Various factors probably played a role in their relative isolation from one another. One of the most important, surely, is that the two of them were actually not all that close in their thinking, which meant that discussion of one another's writings would have entailed a certain amount of dispute over fundamentals.

Yet Runner had created in us the impression that Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven were of one mind -- indeed, that they had created the philosophy of the law-idea as a joint project. He wrote: "The Philosophy of the law idea is, in its specific details, the product of decades of the most heart-searching reflection on the part of two men ...." [NOTE runner41] He also passed on the familiar story about how the two men worked out the outlines of the new philosophy before their appointment as professors at the Free University (they were both appointed in 1926). He wrote:

When, in May 1921, Vollenhoven returned from his studies in Leipzig, and received a call to a pastorate in the Hague, where the Kuyper Foundation was located, the two men had much opportunity to talk together, particularly in the spring of 1922. It was at this time that the first outlines of the subsequent "Wijsbegeerte der Wets-idee", the name that was given to Dooyeweerd's philosophical work, began to take shape in the minds of both men. [NOTE runner45]

Many years after Runner wrote these words, Dooyeweerd offered us a somewhat different account of what went on in those days. We find it in an interview he gave about two years before his death. He declared:

I lived in The Hague, and in summer when the weather was good, I would often take a walk in the evening among the dunes. During one such walk in the dunes, I obtained the inspiration that the various ways that we experience, which are related to various aspects of reality, are modal in character and that there must exist a structure of the modal aspects in which their mutual coherence is reflected. The discovery of what I have called "the modal aspects of our horizon of experience" was my starting point .... [NOTE dooyeweerd55]
It is significant that he made no mention of Vollenhoven here or anywhere else in this interview.

Yet the Vollenhoven fans in reformational circles almost leave us with the impression that it was Vollenhoven who led the way, with Dooyeweerd pitching in as he found time and occasion. Albert Wolters, who places the two "on a par" with one another and also with Stoker, reviews a series of Free University professors in various departments and disciplines who concerned themselves with a Christian approach to philosophy and eventually gets to Vollenhoven. He then adds: "Vollenhoven's brother-in-law, Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), was professor of jurisprudence at the Free University from 1926 to 1965, and worked together with Vollenhoven on the development of a Calvinistic philosophy." And in another publication Wolters speaks of "their common philosophy." [NOTE wolters33

The notion that the ideas of Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven form essentially one body of thought is presupposed in reformational writings spanning a range of seventy-five years. Karel Kuypers, a student of Vollenhoven, declared in his doctoral dissertation that he was working with a "wetenschapstheorie" (theory regarding science) which "... my promotor, Prof. Dr. D.H.T. Vollenhoven has developed, in collaboration with Prof. Dr. H. Dooyeweerd, as the basis and point of departure for his philosophical thinking ...." [NOTE karelkuypers44] About twenty years later we have Van Riessen speaking of "the Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven school of philosophy." [NOTE vanriessen33] When we move ahead a few more decades and consult Egbert Schuurman's dissertation, we find him talking about the "Amsterdam school of reformational philosophy, which has also been called the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea." He then adds by way of explanation: "I refer here to a school of philosophy developed at the Free University in Amsterdam in the 1930s by Professors D.H.T. Vollenhoven and Herman Dooyeweerd." [NOTE schuurman33]

In the second edition of Al Wolters' book Creation Regained (published in 2005, with Michael Goheen listed as having helped with the revision process), we read that the book was intended as an introduction to the philosophy of Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd. [NOTE wolters44] Presupposed in this statement is the thesis that we are dealing here with one entity, one body of thought. Now, reformationals in the know would be aware that Wolters is a thinker standing on the Vollenhoven side of the Dooyeweerd/Vollenhoven divide; even so, when Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey make favorable mention of Creation Regained, they tell us in a footnote: "The following discussion relies heavily on Wolters, who in turn popularized Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd." [NOTE colson33] It seems there is hardly a distinction to be made between Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven, just as though their ideas cannot be disentangled. Sometimes the name "philosophy of the law-idea" (or cosmonomic idea) even refers specifically to Vollenhoven, despite the fact that it was Dooyeweerd who adopted the phrase as the title for a major publication. [NOTE cosmonomic33] Consider the use made of this phrase as a name for Vollenhoven's philosophy on the part of F.H. von Meyenfeldt. [NOTE meyenfeldt33] Yet René van Woudenberg notes that Vollenhoven never used the term "philosophy of the law-idea" to refer to his own philosophy. [NOTE woudenberg33]

If this was all confusion, why didn't Dooyeweerd set the record straight? We will probably never have a satisfactory answer to this question. But as a man who chose his words carefully, Dooyeweerd did give us some distinct indicators. He had a fine opportunity to tell the world how much Vollenhoven had contributed to the development of what is called the philosophy of the law-idea (or cosmonomic idea) when he wrote the Introduction to the Vollenhoven festschrift. In this piece he twice praised Vollenhoven for his "able" and "outstanding" work as chairman of this and that. About his brother-in-law's contribution to the philosophy that is associated with both their names he had little to say. [NOTE dooyeweerd57] Instead he reviewed certain dimensions of what he called "the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea." A question arises: when he used this phrase in an essay intended to honor Vollenhoven, did he have in mind the thought of Vollenhoven as inextricably intertwined with his own philosophical ideas? A careful study of pages 11 through 13 of this Introduction makes it clear that he did not: at one point he referred to what Vollenhoven wrote in one of his books and contrasted it with "the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea." He did not believe that this term should be applied to the thought of both of them taken together. The key sentence begins as follows: "Although these groundmotives were approached and delineated [by Vollenhoven in his book Calvinisme en de Reformatie van de Wijsbegeerte] in a manner differing from that of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea in its transcendental critique of theoretical thought ...." [NOTE dooyeweerd59]

Marcel Verburg's testimony should also be considered here, for he has written the only intellectual biography of Dooyeweerd and has looked into such matters with care. Verburg tells us that in the early years before the two men became Free University professors,

... they talked about the necessity of developing a philosophical vision for Calvinism. These discussions did not yet have any terribly specific content and had mainly to do with neo-Kantianism and other philosophical directions. In 1964, when Dooyeweerd looked back on this period, he said to his eldest daughter and her husband while visiting them in Vancouver, Canada: "In the beginning I had those evenings with Uncle Dirk [Vollenhoven] when we talked together because we both found that such a philosophy was needed. But it was really conversation in a void, so to speak; it was about neo-Kantianism and so forth."

Verburg also points to a lengthy illness as significant for understanding what did -- and did not -- happen in the relationship between the two men: "Because Vollenhoven fell gravely ill around 1923, there was a lengthy period in which Dooyeweerd was not in a position to talk with his brother-in-law about his latest findings in the philosophical domain ...." Summing up, Verburg writes: "In the light of these considerations, it is not correct to speak of Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven together as the fathers of Calvinistic philosophy." [NOTE verburg 33]

Of late it has become fashionable to stress the differences between Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven. [NOTE differences33] Perhaps they were allies rather than partners. But if there were indeed some deep differences between their respective sets of philosophical categories, terms and definitions, it is understandable that their collaboration was not as close and intensive as we might have expected and hoped.

Runner in Toronto

As for Runner, his situation had little in common with the circumstances in which Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven worked in Amsterdam. For one thing, he had no colleague close to him philosophically and spiritually to whom he could relate on a level of equality. True, in later years a series of his former students and Groen Clubbers assumed positions on the Calvin faculty; I was among them. But it can hardly be said that we related to Runner as his equals, criticizing his work in draft form, advising him gently when he was off base about this or that, and so forth. Runner continued to operate like someone who did not freely seek opportunities for dialogue considered as a conversation among equals.

Still, it would be a mistake to base one's assessment of Runner on what did not happen in Grand Rapids. Although he seemed not to have much time for dialogue with Calvin College and Seminary colleagues who might have differed with him substantially, he did relish opportunities outside the western Michigan orbit. I got the chance to see this for myself when a change in my own relationship to Runner took place during the days when I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto and Runner was teaching on a part-time basis at the Institute for Christian Studies. Of course I sat in on his Toronto lectures, and I would sometimes drive him around in Toronto as he looked tentatively for housing, anticipating the day when he would be appointed to the full-time faculty of the ICS and therefore would need to move to Toronto. I even dared to give him real-estate advice (Runner was famous for being impractical).

In those days I also made contact between Runner and the ICS folks, on the one hand, and the Catholic intellectual community at the University of Toronto, on the other. I was doing some of my coursework at St. Michael's College, which was the headquarters of the Roman Catholic segment of the university, and so I had come to know some of the Catholic professors fairly well. I felt an intellectual and spiritual affinity with them. Among my professors at St. Michael's was Lawrence E. Lynch (1915-2001), who later became Principal. [NOTE lynch33] I was convinced that Runner would appreciate these deeply committed Roman Catholic intellectuals as well.

In particular I recall an evening at the ICS building at 141 Lyndhurst Avenue when Runner met Thomas D. Langan, who was my dissertation supervisor. Langan is the author of the first English-language book on Heidegger and was a younger associate of Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), with whom he co-authored a pair of brilliant volumes on the history of philosophy. [NOTE langan33] Langan turned out to be a fine discussion partner for Runner, and as the two talked (Bernard Zylstra was also present that evening), I saw a side of Runner which had not been much in evidence during my earlier days of interaction with him in western Michigan.

It cannot be said that Runner approached intellectual interchange with a closed mind, with no thought of learning something from someone rooted in another tradition. His friendship with Tunis Prins (1905-79), a member of the Calvin philosophy department who was clearly not cut from the same philosophical cloth as any of the others (he was not a reformational), was also evidence of the broader side of Runner that came out somewhat after the initial push during the early Grand Rapids years. It was out of that initial push that the Groen Club and the North American reformational movement were launched.

Kuyperian foundations already in place?

But was that push really necessary? Were there not some Kuyperian foundations in western Michigan on which Runner could have built? Did he fundamentally misjudge the situation in 1951 when he arrived? Was he bringing coals to Newcastle?

If Runner made an error in the early 1950s, it was surely not a thoughtless one. He was quite self-conscious and deliberate in what he was attempting. [NOTE runner51]

In exploring this set of questions, we need to distinguish between "Kuyperian foundations" and a Christian philosophy built on those foundations. The existence of the former does not yet entail the existence of the latter. And that the latter was not yet in evidence in western Michigan in the early 1950s was clearly Runner's conviction. In a review of a book by J.M. Spier (1902-71) entitled What Is Calvinistic Philosophy? Runner posed the question: "Just when and where, before Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd, has Calvinism had a philosophy?" [NOTE runner58] When he wrote these words, what message was he communicating regarding his colleagues Jellema and Stob? Was he not indicating that any effort to construct such a philosophy apart from the concepts and insights that had been developed by Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven would not -- and probably could not -- come to much? And since this remark appeared in the official denominational periodical, it could hardly have been overlooked by them.

Stob, in any event, did not need an article in The Banner in 1954 to discover that Runner found him wanting. In his memoirs he explains:

My first impression of Runner was not as favorable as I hoped it would be. To welcome him to the college, and to lay out to him what courses we would like him to teach, I visited him at his home in midsummer [of 1951] and was treated to a lengthy discourse on what constitutes a truly Calvinistic philosophy and how he, a junior associate fresh out of graduate school, was disposed to articulate it. I left wondering what sort of person this might be who at a first meeting would undertake with such freedom and animation to instruct me in philosophy, while attending only minimally to the proposals I had made for his insinuation into our fellowship. [NOTE stob56]

What reformationals thought about the early Kuyperian foundations in western Michigan is also apparent from what Hendrik Hart wrote in the 1970s, which was the era in which Nicholas Wolterstorff stimulated some valuable discussion concerning the AACS (the name of the organization then being taken to more or less cover the North American wing of the reformational movement). In responding to Wolterstorff, Hart took up the question whether Runner had been laboring to plant a seed that was already growing, namely, Kuyperianism. Hart clearly presupposed that traditional Kuyperianism had more or less faded from the scene. And this was indeed what Groen Clubbers also felt, having received such an impression from Runner himself. Hart observed: "The revival of Kuyperianism in the fifties was given a significant boost by a body of Calvin students under the dynamic and much appreciated leadership of H. Evan Runner." Hart's piece, written in somewhat cumbersome language, needs to be read carefully, for it then reveals a certain historical understanding of how things stood at the point in time when Runner arrived on the Grand Rapids scene. Wrote Hart:

The AACS was from the beginning a key organization in the revival of the Kuyperian movement, and it gave that movement a revised outlook. But the situation we misjudged, in terms of pedagogy and pastoral concern, was that any form of Kuyperianism had ceased to play a role of importance in the CRC, and that the dominant doctrinal and pietist wings were busy coping with the threat of fundamentalism in various ways.

Continuing in somewhat convoluted fashion Hart declared: "The cultural, historical, pastoral, and pedagogical significance of reviving a tradition that was busy disappearing, in the context of rival traditions that have other concerns, escaped us, at times almost completely." His article gives us a sense of what it felt like to be an embattled Groen Clubber:

What did we think was called for when it was not Evangelicals or Fundamentalists or other traditions in the church but Reformed folk who acted hostile and alien toward a Reformed tradition? What was, for example, our response to having to argue and defend a biblical approach to science on a Reformed campus? We came on strong with dismayed disbelief. This sort of thing lay so far beyond our experience that we often felt called upon to raise a protest, to present a religiously prophetic and judgmental posture. [NOTE hart33]

Five Henrys

As the years went by, Hart managed to find more good in the western Michigan intellectuals than the Groen Clubbers of the 1950s and 1960s had been able to spot. Over time I also changed my estimate of what had already been accomplished in terms of the development of scholarship and philosophy within a Calvinistic framework of reference. Part of what prompted me to move in this direction was the work of five Henrys -- or rather, my growing awareness of the value of their work. All of them were associated with Calvin College and Seminary. They are worth reviewing one by one.

I begin with Henry Stob, the only one of the five who was my own teacher. John Cooper has long propounded the thesis that Runner had misjudged Stob: the two were actually closer in their thinking than Runner realized. I recall that during my graduate school days, when I would see old friends who were enrolled in Calvin Seminary, I would sometimes hear that Stob was not so bad after all. [NOTE sacredseven33] Clearly these friends of mine had gone off to seminary (where Stob had been teaching since 1952) with a rather negative impression of Stob.

Although Stob had not been greatly impressed with the Amsterdam philosophers during his days of sitting in on their lectures and seminars, his own position was not that far removed from theirs -- especially if one subtracts the business of the "transcendental critique" (more on that subject later), as many reformationals do, [NOTE knudsen44] and develops philosophy with something of a theological cast of mind. Indeed, in philosophizing like a theologian, Stob is somewhat reminiscent of Vollenhoven (Dooyeweerd thought Vollenhoven's free use of Scripture in a philosophical setting was a mistake). [NOTE scripture33] Note what Stob says about philosophy in a piece written long before Runner appeared on the Calvin campus:

... all philosophy is based upon a non-theoretical, a priori, religious commitment. It may be said that all philosophy rests on a fundamental non-rational loyalty; that it is founded on a radical pre-scientific choice; that it has a "religious" root. No philosophy maintains a purely theoretical standpoint. All thinking is based on assumptions that transcend thought. [NOTE stob62]

Complicating the assessment of Stob was Runner's suspicion of the Reformed Journal, which was the mouthpiece of the common grace crowd -- such, at least, was the Groen Clubber's assessment of it. When Christian Vanguard (the successor to Vanguard and once the popular voice of the reformational movement) went out of business and turned its subscription list over to the Reformed Journal, various Groen Clubbers of yesteryear were stunned: it seemed a betrayal. Yet Joel Carpenter has assured us that the Reformed Journal was "thoroughly Kuyperian." [NOTE carpenter33] Now, the Reformed Journal had a competitor which was founded in the same year, namely, Torch and Trumpet (which later changed its name to The Outlook). Runnerites knew that while the Torch and Trumpet was too conservative and too much oriented to church affairs (to the neglect of the rest of the kingdom of God), it was to be preferred to the Reformed Journal. I shared this sentiment in those days. I subscribed to the Reformed Journal but never published anything in it, even though Nicholas Wolterstorff did once pass on something of mine with a recommendation that it be published. Eventually I became a contributing editor to The Outlook. [NOTE outlook 33]

A second Henry who merits mention here is Henry Zylstra (1909-56), an English professor and the author of a collection of shorter writings entitled Testament of Vision. In this book we read:

... the liberal's effort at evading dogma is as futile as it is ill-disguised. He too is a man committed to religious decision, and he makes this decision. A dogma underneath the reason, a faith that informs it, is active in Pagan, liberal, Catholic, and fundamental Protestant alike. There is no such thing as irreligion. There is false religion, and retired religion. But irreligion? No! The liberal has his basic allegiance. It is as absolute as the Communist's, as active as the Catholic's. His refusal to say by what dogma he professes what he professes is a ruse. His crusade against dogma emerges from dogma. His neutrality is a pose. [NOTE zylstra33]

This small book was required reading in the freshman orientation process in which I participated in the fall of 1964. Zylstra deserves honor in reformational circles not just because of his own views as articulated in his writings but also because of his highly-regarded translation of Schilder's trilogy on the suffering and death of Christ. [NOTE zylstra44]

While Zylstra could handle ideas, he was first and foremost a literary man. And reformationals are not entirely at home with the literary emphasis and cast of mind which such a professor represented, despite the fact that both Kuyper and Schilder had a strong poetic and metaphorical streak running through their writings (which is partly why they are so hard to translate well). In other words, Zylstra excelled in a delightful dimension in the life of the mind in which many of the reformationals were somewhat lacking, or at least underdeveloped (which is why C.S. Lewis sometimes gets privately dismissed as a lightweight without much to say).

I believe it was our failure as reformationals to properly appreciate Zylstra and others of his literary sensibility that is responsible in good measure for our allowing ourselves to get bogged down in a history of preparing inadequate translations of major reformational works. We have not paid much attention to those in our ranks with literary gifts (they do not count for nearly as much as the heavy-duty philosophers among us). The result is that we have created the impression that the reformational grasp of the English language is tenuous at best.

A third Henry who deserves mention here is Henry Zwaanstra, a church historian at Calvin Seminary who has never seemed eager for inclusion on any list of recognized reformationals. When Zwaanstra published his dissertation, [NOTE zwaanstra33] which was something of a foreunner to James Bratt's book on western Michigan Calvinism, [NOTE bratt33] I obtained it at once and began to read it, for it addressed the question of what Kuyperian and reformational efforts might have been undertaken in western Michigan long before the days of Runner. I was pleasantly surprised by what I read. And while Zwaanstra never quite got out of dissertation mode and seemed to have little interest in entering the fray in terms of debates for and against the AACS, his extensive discussion of how Kuyperian ideals had been pondered and adopted (by some, but not by all) left me convinced that the story of the intellectual developments in western Michigan was rather more complicated than some eager Groen Clubbers had realized.

The fourth Henry who deserves mention here has a rather ominous last name. I am thinking of Henry Van Til, who was a nephew of Cornelius Van Til, which in turn makes him a cousin of Nick Van Til (1916-1989) of Dordt College. Like Zylstra, Henry Van Til died too soon. His book on the Calvinistic concept of culture was on my radar screen when I was an undergraduate, but I never worked through it. I read bits of it now and then over many years [NOTE vantil33] and gradually came to realize that here was a man who took the intellectual developments in the Netherlands very seriously, and who, moreover, did not fall off the wagon (as far as I was concerned) through the error of loose common-grace talk. I wondered what relationship there was between Runner and Henry Van Til; the fact that Calvin was a comparatively small institution in those days means they must have had considerable opportunity for contact. I think I would have appreciated Van Til greatly if I had known him in person.

The final Henry I wish to mention here is Henry Meeter (1886-1963), whose book The Basic Ideas of Calvinism has come back into favor in recent years. This book contains an expansive account of the concept of revelation and also takes up common grace and the Christian view of "culture," although it has little to say about philosophy (Dooyeweerd makes it into the bibliography, but not the index). Quite some time ago I was contacted about "updating" this book; I declined the invitation but was pleased when Paul Marshall picked up the challenge. [NOTE meeter33] Meeter turned 65 the year Runner arrived at Calvin as a new faculty member; I don't recall him mentioning Meeter. It is noteworthy that there is a Calvinism research collection and center named after Meeter at Calvin College.

Nicholas Wolterstorff has also expressed his appreciation for the Henrys who used to abound on Calvin's campus. In the dedication to his book Reason Within the Bounds of Religion we read: "To one Harry and two Henrys -- Jellema, Stob, Zylstra -- who twenty-five years ago first gave me a vision of what it is to be a Christian scholar." [NOTE wolterstorff66] Wolterstorff, as a lover of aesthetics and the arts, would naturally gravitate to someone like Henry Zylstra.

When it comes to old-fashioned names for solid people, Nicholas also ranks right up there. In addition to Wolterstorff, I think of Nicholas Monsma (1892-1973), who served as a Christian Reformed pastor and also took a lively interest in intellectual matters. His short publication A Christian Approach to Facts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1957) fell into my hands many years ago, [NOTE monsma33] and I have gone through it more than once, noting how much parallel there is between what it says and what I try to drill into the heads of students who take the Introduction to Philosophy course with me.

That still leaves a major Harry to be dealt with. Harry is a fine name too, and I have had valuable help and encouragement from a couple of Harrys as I worked on this series. I am thinking of Harry Van Dyke, who knows more about these things than I do and is better qualified to write this series than I am, and of Harry der Nederlanden, a rare reformational in that he has intellectual roots deep in the literary tradition. But what about Harry Jellema? Was he also a Kuyperian? Both Nicholas Wolterstorff and Alvin Plantinga report that he certainly thought of himself as one.

Jellema and Runner

There is a distinct danger of painting too rosy a picture as I express appreciation for worthy leaders and professors who have passed from the scene. There is of course much good to be said about William Harry Jellema, but his relationship to his colleague Evan Runner is not the brightest point in his record. Why the antipathy between the two of them? Presumably it had something to do with what Jellema taught, which was not correct or adequate in Runner's eyes, but there was more to it. Those who knew Runner fairly intimately in the Groen Club days will remember that the Jellema problem sat deep with him. Runner told me (and some others as well, I suspect) that Jellema had not wanted him at Calvin in the first place and that he had even told this to Runner in no uncertain terms before he ever taught a single class at Calvin. Moreover, when there was official opposition to what Runner taught and how he went about things, [NOTE stob69] Jellema, as the senior man in the department, must have had a good deal to do with it.

Although I am writing this history in a charitable frame of mind, I cannot resist the judgment that both these men were to blame, and that their personal difficulties were a hindrance to the unfolding of the reformational movement and adversely affected the spiritual and intellectual climate at Calvin College. I myself experienced the tensions that emanated from the conflict between the two men, even though Jellema had retired a year before I arrived on the scene. When I returned to Calvin College some years later as a professor, I was pleased to note that the climate within the philosophy department had improved markedly. Lambert Zuidervaart joined the department after my time and stayed for a decade and a half; he has reported that he had a fine time indeed among the philosophers he calls "the Jellemanians." [NOTE zuidervaart33] So what was all the fuss about?

In every marriage breakdown, both parties are to blame, but this is not to say that both are equally at fault. What about Runner and Jellema -- does one deserve a greater share of the blame than the other? I asked Alvin Plantinga about this, for he was a student in the department during the 1950s. After consultation with Nick Wolterstorff, he replied that both were at fault, though not necessarily in the same way. (It should be borne in mind that Jellema was 23 years older than Runner.) Plantinga remembers that there was a "genuinely sad situation at Calvin" and speaks of "deep division between two groups of Christians, and vitriol and misrepresentation on both sides." [NOTE plantinga66]

Was the issue between Jellema and Runner (and their respective followers) only personal? Was it ultimately petty? Could it have been avoided altogether? I don't believe so. It is worth remembering that Kuyper, according to James Bratt, "spawned two schools," namely, one that was antithetical and one that was positive. [NOTE bratt44] Runner and Jellema fell on opposite sides of this divide. (Stob was also "positive.")

To this day such a divide gets used on occasion to classify philosophers with a Calvin College connection. James K.A. Smith of Calvin's philosophy department has placed Richard Mouw on the antithetical or Runner side. (Although Mouw taught in Calvin's philosophy department for many years, he was never a Jellema student and did not attend Calvin as an undergraduate student himself.) [NOTE smith33] I asked Mouw about this classification, and he wrote back that Smith's assessment was about right: "... I am more in the antithetical strand of Kuyperianism." He added: "You might be interested in this regard in the talk I gave at Dordt several years ago (with a lot of Protestant Reformed in the audience)." [NOTE mouw33]

Among Jellema's former students who went on to distinguish themselves in philosophy is Peter Kreeft. Of Jellema he writes: "William Harry Jellema, the greatest teacher I ever knew, though a Calvinist, showed me what I can only call the Catholic vision of the history of philosophy, embracing the Greek and medieval tradition and the view of reason it assumed, a thick rather than a thin one." [NOTE kreeft33] Kreeft is himself a Protestant-turned-Catholic. Perhaps the stance one should take toward Roman Catholicism and its main philosophical tradition (that of Aquinas) will need to be explored as we seek an answer to these riddles. Therefore the next essay in this series will investigate what reformationals meant by "scholasticism" and will try to spell out just what the rule against "synthesis" thinking really amounts to. But before launching that essay, I must say a few words about Dooyeweerd's celebrated notion of a "transcendental critique" of theoretical thought as such, for in his mind such a critique was essential to explaining just what it is that genuinely reformational philosophy objects to in mainline Roman Catholic thinking.

Transcendental criticism

Some reformationals pull a face when you talk about transcendental criticism. Others hardly know what it is. Yet the topic cannot be ignored. Part of my thesis in this essay is that the insistence on such criticism on the part of various of the leading reformationals is in part responsible for the relative lack of achievement in reformational circles when it comes to apologetics and dialogue. Transcendental criticism is supposed to open up dialogue and mutual understanding; all too often, it has the opposite effect and leaves people in their isolation.

I am tempted to bypass it, but the simple fact is that Dooyeweerd featured it prominently in his publications and even brought it to the fore by changing the title of his magnum opus between its first and second editions: he went from "The Philosophy of the Law-Idea" (in Dutch) to "A New Critique of Theoretical Thought." Moreover, some version of the transcendental critique seems to occur in a great many Dooyeweerd publications. One almost gets the impression that this matter of transcendental criticism is something that must be gotten out of the way quickly so that more interesting subjects can be explored. When the reader encounters a written version of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique, he finds himself facing a compressed argument and may well be tempted to give up in the effort to unpack it -- after all, there are many other tantalizing notions in Dooyeweerd. Runner noted the problem many years ago in his review of Dooyeweerd's book Transcendental Problems of Philosophical Thought. He observed:

The same easy mastery of even the most difficult moments of the history of philosophy which readers of his three-volume work [TP: his magnum opus referred to above] have noted, is again apparent in this highly compressed argument. As to the argument itself, its nature is suggested by the subtitle, "An inquiry into the transcendental conditions of philosophy." In the introduction to his "Critique of Pure Reason," Kant had applied the term "transcendental" "to all knowledge which is not so much occupied with objects as with the mode of our cognition of these objects, so far as this mode of cognition is possible a priori." Dooyeweerd attaches himself to this usage and offers us an examination, in the spirit of Kant's inquiry, of the a priori conditions, not only of philosophy but of all scientific thought whatsoever. In very plain language, he asks about the sine qua non of the very possibility of philosophizing. [NOTE runner63]

Runner makes it sound very important -- something not to be missed. That it is central to an understanding of Dooyeweerd is also the conviction of Dooyeweerd's official successor, H.J. van Eikema Hommes (1930-84), who took over Dooyeweerd's chair at the Free University and tried to remain faithful to what his illustrious predecessor had taught. Hommes insisted: "... Dooyeweerd's philosophical method stands or falls with his transcendental critique. His philosophical method is a transcendental-critical method." It is no accident, according to Hommes, that Dooyeweerd kept returning to this matter:

Just how essential this transcendental critique is becomes apparent from all of Dooyeweerd's publications since 1939 in which he takes up the subject -- and he does so in most of them. It is apparent especially from the fact that when it came to the English translation and revision of his magnum opus, he did not entitle it "Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea" but chose the title A New Critique of Theoretical Thought (1954-57). All of his philosophical work, including the theory of the modal or typical or individuality structures, is rooted in this transcendental critique. [NOTE hommes33]

Transcendent versus transcendental

There are many writings about reformational philosophy in which there is some mention of the transcendental critique, exploring just what Dooyeweerd was trying to do, distinguishing different phases and presentations, and asking the all-important question whether such a critique can work, whether it can accomplish its purpose. Vincent Brümmer addressed such questions many years ago in his book Transcendental Criticism and Christian Philosophy (1961) and used strong language in taking issue with Dooyeweerd. For example, we read: "Dooyeweerd's argument that apostate philosophy is really immanence philosophy since it chooses its Archimedean point within the immanent diversity of cosmic meaning, is completely fallacious ...." Also: "... Dooyeweerd's conception of immanence philosophy is completely contradictory ...." [NOTE brummer44] Brümmer returned to the transcendental dimension of Dooyeweerd's philosophy a decade later in his contribution to the Stoker festschrift, which he concluded with the following words aimed at undermining Dooyeweerd's beloved distinction between a transcendent critique and a transcendental critique:

Can Dooyeweerd maintain that philosophy is religiously determined if for him this counts as transcendental criticism? If the transcendental critique is conceived of as philosophy (or worse: if philosophy is conceived of as transcendental critique), then philosophy (or transcendental critique as a part of philosophy) cannot be religiously determined. But in that case it will not be possible in this respect to speak of a Christian philosophy -- a Christian philosophy in the sense of a philosophy in which all the findings are dependent on, and determined by, the Christian starting-point of the philosopher. If, on the other hand, we permit ourselves to speak of a Christian philosophy, then the transcendental critique, because of its necessary neutrality, cannot be a part of it. [NOTE brummer55]

Lambert Zuidervaart is among those who have questioned whether the transcendental critique does work or can work -- at least, in its initial form. He maintains:

Fully worked out, however, an argument along these lines [TP: Dooyeweerd's initial version of his transcendental critique] seems to presuppose what it wishes to conclude. In addition, it neither explains nor promotes the possibility of philosophical dialogue across religious boundaries. Strictly speaking, it is more a transcendent critique than a transcendental one. Although Dooyeweerd had responses to such criticisms, dissatisfaction with his argument led him to develop what the New Critique labels as a "second way." [NOTE zuidervaart44]

Other commentators seem to regard the transcendental critique as historically conditioned, as not written for all time but for philosophical challenges faced in Dooyeweerd's time. Johan van der Hoeven observes: "If a `transcendental critique of theoretical thought' is still called for, then it must certainly no longer be attuned to Neokantianism, but to what sets the tone today." [NOTE vanderhoeven44]

There are also thinkers in the reformational camp who have taken strong issue with Dooyeweerd's conception of theory as grounded in transcendental analysis. H.G. Geertsema informs us: "... Dooyeweerd's view of the nature of theoretical thought -- which was supposed to provide the undisputed principle -- was severely criticized, also by Dooyeweerd's pupils like Van Riessen (1970), Strauss (1973), (1984), and Hart (1985)." [NOTE geertsema44]

Hugo A. Meynell, investigating the transcendental side of Dooyeweerd's thought, also expresses dissatisfaction and winds up comparing Dooyeweerd to someone who is usually cast as far from reformational -- Karl Barth. Writes Meynell:

I have found some unfavourable references to Karl Barth in Dooyeweerd's work. And yet, to Catholic eyes at least, the flavour of his fundamental position is very Barthian. In effect, for Dooyeweerd as for Barth, belief cannot argue with unbelief, but only preach to it; and the basic doctrines of the faith are premises, never conclusions, to arguments. [NOTE meynell33]

Hart versus Nielsen

On the one hand, one should not give up too quickly on the notion of a transcendental critique. [NOTE kuipers33] On the other hand, this historical series is not the place to explore the possibilities Dooyeweerd may have managed to uncover in such a line of argument. In trying to get down to the bare essentials and ultimate intent of a transcendental critique -- especially as it pertains to communication -- it is helpful to note what Dooyeweerd himself said about his work: "My method of approach was therefore to always try to understand the other on the basis of his own deepest starting-point." [NOTE dooyeweerd63]

Perhaps the kind of analysis Dooyeweerd had in mind needs to be pursued without the rigorous formal demands that Dooyeweerd seemed to be making when he insisted that every philosophy, whether it acknowledges it explicitly or not, has at its core a "cosmonomic Idea" (or law-idea -- hence the name of Dooyeweerd's magnum opus in its original edition). In the kind of philosophical interchange at which he aimed, Dooyeweerd wanted to bring out the cosmonomic Idea connected with the philosophical position being discussed, for when that was once accomplished, all the cards would be on the table, so to speak, and a genuine discussion could begin. Hence he wrote:

... the term "cosmonomic Idea," because of its critical focusing of the preliminary questions concerning meaning (in its origin, totality, and modal diversity) toward the relation of the cosmic order (nomos) and its subject, really designates the central criterion for the fundamental discrimination of the different starting-points and trends in philosophy. In the transcendental basic Idea of cosmic order there runs the boundary line between the immanence philosophy in all its nuances and the Christian-transcendence position in philosophy. It is here that the criterion for truly transcendental philosophy resides, which recognizes its immanent cosmonomic boundaries, and speculative metaphysics, which supposes it can transgress the latter. [NOTE dooyeweerd65]

In theory it sounds grand, but I have not witnessed much effective implementation of this method for achieving depth-level communication with one's philosophical opponent. Because of the "onder onsje" tendency in the reformational world (the love of holding a discussion just amongst ourselves), reformationals do not have a strong record in terms of talking effectively with people who are far removed from their own tradition and its set of presuppositions. Not to be forgotten, of course, is the tendency to relish the coziness of verzuiling (pillarization -- see the previous essay in this series).

There is a noteworthy exception to this tendency to stick close to home, and he needs to be mentioned here -- Hendrik Hart. I am thinking especially of his public dialogue with the Marxist and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen. Yet what Hart is after does not count as an old-fashioned transcendental critique. Indeed, Hart's work in the second half of his career is considered wobbly by many in the reformational camp: they see certain implications of his philosophical claims being carried into theology and Biblical studies. Especially controversial is his book Setting Our Sights by the Morning Star (1989), which will be discussed later in this series.

The agenda for Hart's discussion with Nielsen is very impressive and leaves the reader holding his breath -- how will it all turn out? Hart's debate with Nielsen has the flavor of transcendental criticism, but without the formal rigidity. Hart explains:

Three points, really, are placed on the agenda by me. One is whether we all do or do not use (either personally or in communities and traditions) final or ultimate points of reference (unarguable absolutes for some, historical and provisional stances for others) to which we appeal in our debates, in making our decisions, in settling our lives. A second is whether at heart our relation to such a finality or ultimacy requires trust or faith and can appropriately be called religious. And a third is whether in our culture reason or rationality has played or still does play a role as final arbiter to such an extent that even in freeing ourselves from it, we still do appeal to it. Nielsen and I disagree on all three points. [NOTE hart44]

I find Glenn Friesen more elusive when it comes to these matters, and less inclined to carry the debate to our foes, although it should be noted that he does draw Dooyeweerd's work to the attention of people in non-reformational and non-Christian circles who have probably never heard of him. It is significant that he regards Dooyeweerd's philosophy (which, for him, is the heart of reformational thought) as a vision. [NOTE friesen55] One does not argue for it like an old-fashioned foundationalist.

Three hindrances

On the other hand, Friesen deserves considerable credit for urging us to return to the text of Dooyeweerd and see what he actually said. But we are frail human beings, all too prone to be led astray by Francis Bacon's idols of the mind. Various factors and hindrances stand in the way of our efforts -- often half-hearted efforts, sad to say, and I make no exception for myself here -- to read Dooyeweerd afresh. I will touch briefly on three of them.

The first is what I would call the peg factor. We have all seen such a thing in operation in the way the Bible is sometimes used -- or misused. Many a conviction is proclaimed to be Biblical when it is not. For countless Christians, the Bible functions as a sturdy peg on which we hang our beloved opinions. During my teaching career there were many occasions when I asked a student who had just proclaimed such-and-such a thesis to be "the Biblical view" just where in the Bible it says any such thing. On some of those occasions I was fruitfully instructed, but in most cases the student drew a blank -- indeed, was rather surprised to be challenged in this way. Anyway, Dooyeweerd has also become a peg, one on which we hang our reformational opinions -- until someone asks: Just where is that written in Dooyeweerd? [NOTE edwardhesserl33] The peg gambit also extends to how Runner's name and reputation are used. One reformational complains that when the Institute for Christian Studies established a Runner chair, it was in effect using him as a "hood ornament."

Dooyeweerd himself was well aware of the peg factor and expressed impatience with it. In an interview two years before his death he referred to the controversies that surrounded the Institute for Christian Studies in the 1960s and 1970s and the many publications alleged to oppose his ideas and complained:

I have been dragged into it unwillingly: everything published by people who claim to be my disciples, but who are completely unknown to me, is charged to my account as if "I am behind it." And they have discovered in this way all kinds of things in me that are totally wrong. And this is still going on; in a recent article in Outlook -- that is one of these publications -- they have made a summary of all the writings that have appeared that are opposed to the Philosophy of the Law-Idea. ... In this way popular feeling is aroused, and popular feeling continues to be aroused in the United States; I also find that to be deplorable. [NOTE dooyeweerd69]

Related to the first factor or hindrance is what I would call the Vollenhoven factor. At the risk of sounding repetitious, I must point out that a great many students of reformational thought have received their most substantial reformational instruction from Vollenhoven or one of his students or from a student of a student of Vollenhoven. Therefore it should not surprise anyone that when people pick up Dooyeweerd, they often read him through Vollenhovian lenses. Here we see that the "intertextuality" thesis of which we hear much in our postmodern cultural setting also has a bearing on how we read and think in the reformational world. I don't believe intertextuality is always something to be deplored or that it can simply be banned, but I do think there is wisdom in Glenn Friesen's suggestion that we should try blocking Vollenhovian ideas from our minds for a while and then see what happens when we read Dooyeweerd.

Thirdly, there is the bumper-sticker factor, which is a constant pressure in our busy world. "Whatever you have to say, it should fit on a bumper-sticker." Such is the advice many speakers and authors are given -- it is what our culture dictates. Politicians must operate under the tyranny of the sound-bite. Dooyeweerd was an old-fashioned thinker who does not let himself get stampeded into doling out bumper-sticker-sized bits of philosophical wisdom. And he gave very few interviews.

Now, one might be tempted to say: At least all reformationals can agree on this one point -- Dooyeweerd does not fit on a bumper sticker. I'm not so sure. The popularity of worldview courses and books which will give you Dooyeweerd-in-a-nutshell without requiring you to ponder such forbidding terms as "transcendental" and "pistical" and "kinematic" and "enkapsis" indicates to me that there is a hunger in the land for a bumper-sticker version of Dooyeweerd. On the other hand, I do not mean to condemn this hunger altogether. All significant thought needs to be summarized and condensed to some degree so that it can make its way into textbooks and reference works. But in the case of Dooyeweerd, I believe much of the condensation is premature. We have not done our homework properly; we need to devote more attention to figuring out what Dooyeweerd was actually saying. And we need to pay careful attention to what he does not say about thus and such -- always a tricky matter.

Resorting to psychology

I must confess that I am among those reformationals who have never put the transcendental critique into practice. Perhaps my intensive encounter with Dilthey (I wrote my doctoral dissertation on him) has inclined me too heavily in the dialogical direction. As I consider these matters once more in the historical context in which I am now writing, it does occur to me to suggest that a comparison with psychological explanation may be helpful. (Here I am drawing on my own experience.) Perhaps insisting on a Dooyeweerd-like transcendental dimension to philosophical interchange and communication is somewhat like resorting to a psychological explanation in an effort to understand the behavior of someone with whom you are having difficulties. The psychological theory and application you are working with may well be valid, but it does little good to confront the person who is opposing you with your theory and application (unless, of course, you are a psychological or psychiatric professional offering treatment).

In similar fashion it may be true that one's opponent in a debate is in the grip of what Dooyeweerd calls the pretended autonomy of theoretical thought. It may also be wise to teach such reasoning and analysis to students -- that is, to teach them that this "pretended autonomy" is at the very heart of what we call humanism. But such claims generally do not get you far in conversations with humanists. The likely effect will be that your opponent in turn tries to undercut you with some meta-philosophical claim.

Today, when we enter into some form of dialogue or interchange with non-Christian thinkers, we put on more of a friendly face than is to be found in photographs of revered professors of yesteryear (both Dooyeweerd and Schilder knew how to look stern when confronted with the camera). Now we talk more in hermeneutical terms, recognizing the vast historical conditioning that enters into anyone's interpretation of just about anything. Refomationals have gotten into the swing of it too.

Perhaps, in so doing, we have been surrendering too much territory right at the outset. But at least we are talking. There is quite a difference in this regard between the ICS of the twenty-first century, which is located directly across the street from the University of Toronto, and the somewhat isolated ICS (located at 141 Lyndhurst Avenue) in which I participated in courses as a part-time student more than three decades ago.

A lesser form of transcendental analysis and debate will have to concentrate on material factors and not come across as quite so formal. If we have strong objections to humanist thinkers and also to thinkers in other parts of the broader Christian tradition, what are our non-formal reasons for raising objections? This is not a question to which a quick answer can be given. Therefore I will turn next to scholasticism and synthesis, each of which functions as what Germans call a Schimpfwort. TO BE CONTINUED .....

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