mardi 2 mai 2017

Dooyeweerd: Scripture, Philosophy, Scientific Dogmatism

Scripture, Philosophy, 
Scientific Dogmatism 
by Herman Dooyeweerd 

(Some quotes from pages 5 to 50 of Herman Dooyeweerd's 
Paideia Press 2013, paperback £9.00) 

[pp 3-4] The Scriptural ground-motive tolerates no compromise with a religious [ie “ultimate”] ground-motive that is unscriptural. It is integral, and it demands the whole person in body and soul. It lays claim to all of life. In mankind and its religious [“ultimate”] root, the biblical ground-motive directs, in concentric fashion, the entire cosmos with all its forces and potencies toward the service of God, who has revealed Himself in His Word.
[p 4] What area of our temporal existence could withdraw from such spiritual workings? The Apostle Paul, by faith, dared to involve even the most "trivial" things of life, such as eating and drinking, in the glorification of God. How then could such an important area as the domain of science shut its doors to the spiritual force of this ground-motive?
[pp 5-6] The demand for a fundamental reformation of all of life, scientific activity included, is contained in the central commandment of love. Christ Himself understood this central commandment as the basic unity of all the laws that God gave His creatures: to serve God in love with all our heart and powers. Among the latter, the mind is mentioned with special emphasis. It is impossible to accept this central commandment in its radical and integral meaning and at the same time to reject the demand for a reformation of our attitude to life and thought.

But Scripture, as norm of faith, is not just a system of religious truths, accessible to all, from which science could deduce its ultimate foundations along logical lines. If that were the case, even the devil, in the guise of an orthodox scholar, could carry on Christian science. Scripture is only accessible through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is spirit and power unto life or unto death. That is the antithesis it poses. This antithesis is not theoretical in nature; it does not oppose one theoretical system to another. Rather, it reaches to the religious [“ultimate”] root of human existence.
[pp 6-7] The reformational Scriptural principle poses a task of ongoing reformation, also for science, a never-ending task while the present dispensation lasts. It means that we can never rest from ridding our science of concepts which have their source, not in the ground-motives of the Divine Word-revelation, but in idolatrous motives. It guards against the canonization of all human ideas or pronouncements and always submits these to the crucial test -- the radical critique of the Word of God. This is the anti-scholastic principle in the spirit of the reformation.
[pp 7-8] Scripture is a coherent and unified whole. It cannot be approached from a temporal historical or moral perspective, but only from its own religious ground-motive. In this ground-motive it manifests itself to the human heart as the truly divine revelation through the Holy Spirit; and it places itself in radical opposition to all religious conceptions that originate in the apostate heart of humankind.

What happens when we try to approach the basic theme of creation, fall into sin, and redemption through Christ Jesus from the apostate human point of view? In revolutionary fashion, the basic religious relation between God and the human person is immediately turned upside down. Whereas "God created man in His own image," apostate humankind creates its God after its own image. In Adam man fell away from God and thus came under God's judgement. The apostate human heart, however, summons his God before the bar of human reason. There it seeks for a theodicy, a justification of the divine order that would cancel the consequences of the Fall in temporal life by means of the "harmony of a rational system."

The great trial between God and apostate humanity, however, is not conducted before the tribunal of human reason. It takes place before the judgement seat of God. God has revealed His love and justice in their divine original unity in Christ Jesus, the Word incarnate. This Word has earned for us radical salvation from sin through His cross and restored true fellowship between God and mankind.
[p 8] This ground-motive is the heart of Scripture. Primarily it is not a theoretical, theological doctrine, but a divine dunamis that transforms all theory at its root. And this dunamis [“power”] operates in this manner only in palingenesis, in the rebirth of the heart.

If anyone approaches Scripture from another religious [“ultimate”] ground-motive, not even the most extensive theological knowledge of Scripture will protect him from using Scripture in an unscriptural manner. For this simple reason, no intrinsically Reformed philosophy can ever take its starting point in the science of theology. Indeed a genuinely Scriptural theology can only arise from the ground-motive of Scripture itself.
[p 13] The reformation of scientific thought that Calvin and Luther began in the field of theology did not begin to spread through science as a whole until the Calvinist revival led by Kuyper toward the end of the nineteenth century. What was the reason for this delay? From the very start, Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) had guided the reformational movement in science down the scholastic path of synthesis with the spirit of antiquity and Humanism.
[p 15] The golden opportunity to develop a Christian philosophy animated by the spirit of the Reformation was thereby suppressed for centuries. Melanchthon's enormous influence continued to dominate philosophical instruction and research at Protestant universities. Soon it allied itself there with the restoration of Aristotelian scholasticism, until finally the humanistic Enlightenment appeared on the scene and Protestant theology itself fell victim to synthesis.
[p 15] Humanism, on the other hand, posited the dogma of the autonomy of science as a theoretical axiom. The logic of this dogma demanded that every attempt to arrive at an inner reformation of scientific thought be nipped in the bud by simply banishing it from scientific discussion.
[p 21] Dynamics, movement is everything today. Misconstruing the ground-motive of Greek thought, some people think that the pronouncement of the Greek thinker Heraclitus, “all is in flux, nothing abides”, can be used once again to describe the current spiritual-intellectual situation. Humanism thus has fallen into decline precisely in its dogmatic attitude.
[pp 21-22] Like a tidal wave, historicism, pragmatism, vitalism and existentialism have inundated the riverbed of modern philosophical thought. They are all characterized by an irrationalistic, anti-systematic spirit that regards every “system” as suspect from the start.

To ground philosophic thought in an eternal truth, whether this be the divine Word-revelation or a realm of rational ideas or values, has become unzeitgemäß, out of step with the times, in the full sense of the word.
[p 26] The Philosophy of the Law-Idea has broken radically with traditional notions of a “Christian Philosophy”. Its demand for a reformation of philosophical thought entails the precise opposite of scholastic attempts at accommodation. Although it is rooted in the Scriptural starting point of the Calvinist reformation, it does not try to base itself on scientific-theological dogmatics. While openly confessing that it is bound to the ground-motive of the divine Word-revelation, it simultaneously wages a relentless battle against every form of philosophical dogmatism that puts all its confidence in philosophical thought and pretends that its religious presuppositions are theoretical axioms.
[pp 26-27] By virtue of its reformational ground-motive it has begun in its philosophical system a principled battle against the scholastic tradition, even where this comes to expression in Reformed thought. Nevertheless, it recognizes the scientific value of classic scholasticism, found in its often profound philosophical insights. In the same manner it also wishes to do full justice to ancient Greek and modern humanistic philosophy. It steadfastly opposes, however, every attempt at synthesis between the Christian ground-motive and the ground-motives of unscriptural philosophy.
[pp 44-46] On the other hand, humanists have no right to deny the scientific character of dogmatic reformational theology on the ground that its practitioners, by faith, are materially bound to Scripture as the positive, creaturely form of the divine Word-revelation. They assume that a truly scientific study of Scripture is only possible if it is regarded as a purely historical and literary document.

Such a view of the matter is intrinsically unscientific, however; for one of the primary requirements for scientific insight is recognition of the peculiar nature of one's field of inquiry. Scripture, in its creaturely temporal form, only allows itself to be approached as divine Word-revelation, regardless of the aspect from which one considers it scientifically. As such, it demands faith in its divine Origin. Anyone who attempts to approach Scripture on the basis of humanistic faith in the autonomy of human reason fundamentally distorts its nature and therefore can never gain access to it by means of science.

Scripture is God’s Word-revelation in the creaturely form of written documents. These have been composed by human authors who, while inspired by the Holy Spirit, still completely retained their individual human character, their style of writing, and their cultural development. It would not be a revelation of God if it did not enter into this human, creaturely form, but instead remained pure and at rest in the perfect being of God.

This creaturely form of Scripture, however, also necessarily exposes it to misunderstanding and rejection on the part of apostate humanity. Just as, in its incarnation in Christ Jesus, the divine Word became a sign that had to be spoken against (Luke 2:34 ['Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against']), so from the start, when it entered the creaturely realm of humankind, the divine Word-revelation was subjected to the gainsaying of human hubris. This hubris becomes manifest both in the deification of the human form of Scriptural revelation and in the humanization of its divine character.

Scripture does not reveal its divine character through a miraculous sign from heaven, visible or audible to everyone. Indeed, even such a sign would be spoken against. Only God's Spirit can reveal God to us in His Word, and not through visible signs, but through its silent work of regeneration in the human heart. Human hubris wants no true communion with God. That is why it rejects His Word. This human hubris must first be broken, and the human heart must first be made receptive, if the Word of God is to make its home there. Only then, moreover, is the soil prepared for scientific inquiry that bases itself on God's Word and is transformed by that Word at its root. But in every dimension of this inquiry, the Word of God demands that its ground-motive be accepted completely.

It is a universally valid scientific requirement that one must always be prepared to abandon one's theoretical views, however dearly one holds them, if closer examination reveals that they find no support in one's field of study or are even contradicted by fundamental states of affairs that obtain there. Scientific dogmatism is always unscientific. This is equally true even for systematic theology, to the extent that it holds fast to the scholastic philosophical tradition. Theology openly displays such an unscientific dogmatism when it tries to find support for unscriptural philosophical concepts [such as “substance,” 'human nature," "rational soul," "immortal soul," etc (p29)] in the terminology of certain foreign confessional documents such as the Westminster Confession or the Second Helvetic Confession. In this case the threat to the purity of the Reformed confession comes from theology, not from the direction of a philosophy [eg The Philosophy of the Law-Idea] that wishes to take the ground-motive of Scripture seriously, even in the domain of science, by undertaking an inner reformation of philosophic thought.

On the other hand, scholars of humanistic persuasion must never think that the scientific requirement mentioned above ever could entail an abandoning of faith in the absolute Truth of the divine Word-revelation. For this faith is a necessary presupposition of Christian scholarship as such; and in the scientific examination of Scripture it is demanded by the nature of what is investigated.

The guidance of Christian faith provides the most eminent guarantee of the scientific character of scientific inquiry, provided one always remembers that divine revelation and church confession are not themselves scientific in nature, but have to be interpreted in accordance with their own character. When Christian faith does not guide science, then, because of the lack of science's self-sufficient structure, another faith will take over; and by the standard of God's Word such a faith must be labeled as "unbelief," which in this context means a false faith. The control of such a false faith becomes evident when scientific authority is ascribed to religious [“ultimate”] presuppositions, an act that is tantamount to a fundamental violation of the sphere-sovereignty of science.

Why have systematic theologians offered so many misconceptions regarding the idea of a Christian philosophy? In the final analysis, these can all be traced back to their lack of insight into the internal point of contact between philosophy and the Christian religion.

Theologians failed to understand that the religious [“ultimate”] ground-motive, in which philosophical thought is rooted, controls one's entire philosophic view of the intrinsic structure of temporal reality. Instead, they started by accepting philosophical conceptions of reality rooted in unscriptural, dualistic ground-motives; and they then sought, in a merely external theological fashion to accommodate these conceptions to Christian doctrine. They therefore also did not see that the Scriptural ground-motive of the Christian religion has a central significance for the internal progress of philosophical inquiry, since it overturns the whole unscriptural view of the structure of temporal reality at its very root. They did not look for inner reformation, but only for external accommodation; and in so doing they never found the way to a genuinely Christian philosophy.

[p 47] Philosophy will not allow itself to be degraded to the role of a handmaiden of theological science. [...] As soon as one considers the unique character of philosophy, this must immediately become clear.

[p 48] It is only philosophy, moreover, that can give us theoretical insight into the typical structures of individual totalities such as things, concrete events, the temporal form of human existence, and the forms of society. All these, too, lie beyond the scope of the special sciences, and as typical total structures of reality they overarch, on principle, all the aspects of reality. Philosophy can only offer this insight, however, on the basis of a person's integral experience of reality, not on the basis of an a priori metaphysics.

[pp 48, 49] In the light of all this, how could it be possible to adapt to Christian doctrine a philosophic conception of reality that is entirely controlled by the dualistic form-matter motive (for example, the conception of reality offered in Aristotle's Metaphysics, or the philosophical epistemology developed in his Logic)? Such an attempt at accommodation will in reality have consequences that are utterly different from those intended. Although the philosophical conceptions mentioned above may purportedly be incorporated into theology for merely "formal use", they will inevitably have a material influence on the theological understanding of Christian doctrine. Indeed, they will even end up playing a dangerous role in the theological exegesis of Scripture. I will present various examples of this in my critical examination of the scholastic concept of substance.

The road of accommodation thus leads to a dead end. The concern of truly Christian philosophy is not to accommodate "philosophy" to Christian doctrine, which in actual practice rather proves to be an accommodation of Scripture to unscriptural philosophy. On the contrary, its concern is the inner reformation of philosophic thought while preserving its unique, intrinsic nature.

[p 49] Philosophy has a different task, a field of inquiry that differs from that of systematic theology. The Christian religion guarantees that we have an integral point of contact with philosophy, for it reaches to the religious ["ultimate"] root of the whole of temporal reality. Philosophy investigates this structure of reality.

[pp 49-50] One necessary implication of the foregoing is that Biblical texts can no longer be appealed to in intrinsically philosophic inquiry in order to sanction particular scientific views. On the other hand, however, in laying the Christian foundations of philosophy the Scriptures, and subordinated to it the confessions, will now indeed become the only sources. All philosophical problems must be probed down to their religious root, and at that point only the divine Word-revelation can shed light, a light which illumines the whole philosophic view of the structure of reality but which, in the nature of the case, can never itself provide the solution to an intrinsically scientific problem.

This is, therefore, indeed a radical reversal of the standpoint of accommodation taken by Augustinian and Protestant scholasticism. There, after all, the use of Scripture to address intrinsically philosophical questions was an indispensable requirement for the "Christianization" of philosophy. This was necessary because, in adopting Greek or scholastic philosophy, the Augustinians and Protestants also implicitly adopted the religious ground-motives on which they were based. And the more alien the foundations of their philosophy were to the Christian religion, the more copious, on this standpoint of accommodation, became their appeals to Bible texts in order to sanction their philosophic views and concepts. "Profane wisdom", after all, had to be brought into agreement with Scripture; it had to be adapted for "theological use". 

If the divine Word-revelation really is used to "solve" scientific problems, however, then it cannot be the foundation of science. The foundation must lie at a lower level than the building that will rest on it, and it must be of a different nature. [...] Philosophy must either be Scriptural in its foundation - or it will not even exist for the Christian!

(from Herman Dooyeweerd,'Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy' Vol 2, Paideia Press 2013, paperback £9.00)