Archive for August 2006

Zylstra on Runner

25 August, 2006

The following is taken from Bernard Zylstra ‘Preface to Runner’ in The Relation of the Bible to Learning (Paideia: Jordan Station, Ontario, 1982, 5th edn.) pp. 10-13

Runner was born in 1916, in Oxford, Pennsylvania, the only child in a solidly evangelical Presbyterian family. His life was divided between the intense piety of home and church and the neutralizing impact of “the American way of life” evident in the public schools and in the maelstrom of a mixed Irish Catholic, Jewish and Protestant working-class neighborhood. The local Presbyterian congregation of which his parents were active members was deeply involved in the conflict between liberalism and orthodoxy that divided the Presbyterian church and led to the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1929 and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936 under the leadership of J. Gresham Machen. The piety of his father and mother did not make him question the penetrating influence of liberal humanism on the American way of life. Instead, it nurtured his desire to become a missionary in foreign lands-Korea or China. His parents sacrificed much in the heart of the depression to send him to Wheaton College, the major center of evangelical liberal arts learning in the thirties. He was there from 1932-1936-about the same time as Billy Graham and Carl F.H. Henry-except for his junior year, which he spent at the University of Pennsylvania to learn more Greek than Wheaton offered. That is important to note. From the moment Runner entered college, his desire to be a missionary was constrained by his love for philosophy and a classical education. Here we detect the tension created in the life of a young student by the clash between the Gospel as interpreted in the evangelical-fundamentalist setting and the world of scholarship in its classical humanist interpretation. A growing· awareness of that clash led Runner gradually to the realization that there are two fundamentally conflicting religious spirits at work in modern culture-faith in Jesus Christ and faith in human personality. Runner’s development from 1936 to 1951 can be described in terms of his growing awareness of the range and depth of that conflict. At first he viewed it primarily in terms of theology; he realized that the battle for the direction of the theological schools in the mainline churches concerned an accommodation of theology to the spirit of modern, secular thought. For this reason he went to Westminster Theological Seminary in 1936 to study with Cornelius Van Till. And for the same reason, in 1939, he went to study with Klaas Schilder at the Theological School in Kampen, the Netherlands. Then he began to sense that the spiritual conflict in our culture is not one of theology but that it is much broader, that it encompasses the whole of philosophy and science. This awareness greatly increased during his stay at Harvard University from 1940 to 1943, where he studied with George LaPiana and Werner Jaeger. And because of this awareness he returned to Holland immediately after the war to study with D.H.T. Vollenhoven of the Free University.
The period from 1946 to 1951 was decisive. During that time Runner learned that the conflict between the Christian faith and the humanist faith is not in the first place a theoretical conflict whether theological or philosophical-but of life in its concrete practice, in politics, economics, culture, schooling, etc.
This explains Runner’s interest in reformed Protestantism in Holland. This is how he recently described this interest.

I began to realize that there was a broad spectrum of Reformed life, and that I had never experienced anything like this before. And I began to ask myself: Where did all this come from? There was the theology that I was used to, there was the philosophy that I was busy studying, but now I learned there was also a practical life. How were they related? I don’t remember how I first got steered to Groen van Prinsterer – probably through talks with Leo [Oranje] at some meal or so at the girls’ home – but I bought myself a copy of Ongeloof en Revolutie (Unbelief and Revolution) and read it … And then the problem that I originally had between philosophy and theology as two forms of scientific life got broadened out to also include prescientific life – what lies behind all this? And I began to see the importance of the religious dimension of the heart and the covenant of God, and that all the various aspects of our life are embraced in that, and how that openness or closedness of the heart to His revelation which impinges upon us and to which we must respond gives direction to all the various expressions of our life, whether they are scientific or pre-scientific. That began to take on some shape, but only gradually, and I don’t think that I got that all worked out until I had begun to teach at Calvin, really.

Runner began to grasp that the work of Christians in politics, in labor, in journalism, in social work, and in scholarship presupposed “the revival of Biblical religion that occurred during the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Netherlands. ”

In the Netherlands the appearance on the scene of Oroen van Prinsterer, Kuyper, the philosophy of the Law-idea … , etc. signalled a desire for a radical break with long-established patterns of synthesis-thinking in favour of a radically scriptural outlook upon and approach to life. That is what has made Dutch Calvinism distinctive; that has been the strength of the revival of Christian life and scholarship in the Netherlands.

When Runner returned to the United States in 1951 he was convinced that Christianity in North America was in need of “a revival of Biblical religion,” that is, “a radical break with long established patterns of synthesis-thinking in favor of a radically scriptural outlook upon and approach to life.” His life mission consisted in an effort to contribute to such a revival of Biblical religion in North America. This reformational mission was directed primarily toward three major interrelated concerns. In the first place, he wanted to contribute to a new consciousness of the relation between the revelation of the Scriptures and the civilization of the West, especially in the context of the culture of the United States. In the second place, he pressed for a distinctly new way in which Christians should attempt to help shape the culture which they share with humanists in the modern age. Here Runner was greatly influenced by Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch church reformer and political leader, who had pursued the avenue of organized communal witness and action on the part of Christians outside of the institutional church. In the third place, Runner attempted to develop a new Christian mind which he considered essential for decisive spheres of modern society. The lectures contained in The Relation of the Bible to Learning and in its companion volume, Scriptural Religion and Political Task, are his most significant statements about the foundations and contours of such a Christian mind.


Lecture 8

17 August, 2006

Starts with a review of the previous session.

Leb (heart)
The issue of leb (heart) is unique in Old and New Testaments.

Apologetics- I don’t have too much confidence that there are arguments to make someone believe. I don’t believe it is possible. God’s revelation is overpowering evidence. yet something very striking: no where else is there the us of the word heart that we find consistently in the OT.

The heart is the whole of man in his unity.

Book by F. H. Von Meyenfeldt Het Hart (Leb, Lebab) in het Oude Testament in 1960s lectures in Canada The meaning of ethos Toronto: AACS, 1963.
[Section published in Toward a Biblical View of Man: Some Readings ed A. H. De Graaf and J. Olthuis. Toronto: ICS, 1978.]

[long quote from this paper]

Leb used 854 times in OT
The deepest sense of ‘heart’ is the genuine, authentic man. Here any dualism between a detached body and a separated soul is out of the question. The heart is distinguishable but not separable from the person as a whole.

We therefore call the heart the focus of religion.
When we compare briefly both ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ in the Old Testament, we find (1) that ‘heart’ is man, completely speaking, and (2) ‘soul’ is man concretely speaking.

Man is a religious totality.

[end of tape no 7]

1 Sam 16:7
Job 2:13

The deepest sense of heart is the genuine authentic man.
Heart has a predominantly religious sense

  • it determines direction and origin
  • the pivot of conversion

[Ecclesiastes fear God – this is the whole man (duty is not in original)]

318 times religious use of heart.

Heart is the receiver of the word of the Lord.

Heart is not the sum of my parts – but where I am singly ‘I’.
It seems to refer to the whole man, totality of me.
In his central religious focus, in his root as a religious being.

Have to distinguish between cult (ritual and liturgy) and religion (our situation – not something we do). Religion is the pre-cognition of ritual and liturgy.

Heart = the whole of me, not as the sum of my parts, me as in concentrated unity – where I am singly ‘I’

Heart and soil are more or less the same things – the whole man, but also the body refers to the whole man.

Heart, is the whole man as seen inwardly, in the religious directing, the centre of his life.

Body is the whole ,an – as seen outwardly in the great variety of bodily functions, activities ie playing the piano, run a race, think out geometrical problems, appreciate a sunset, …

There is no such thing as mind – mind does not exist!

Man is a religious being – our created situation, before God, under the covenant with God.

Brunner: ‘man is a relational being’
Religion is a relationship. It is not just man on his own – no such thing as autonomous man in the scripture.

William of Occam Deus ex lex
We are not free from the ordinances of God Jer 31:36 – fixed order of nature.

The word of God sets limits/ bounds.
All God’s law has a covenantal purpose.
One thing that the scripture reiterates: God’s faithfulness, faithfulness to his once given word.

In the past man has been viewed as having faculties. Augustine (AD 354-430) had a pattern – faculty psychology.
Traditionally psychology deals with man’s psyche.
Faculty is a Latin word meaning a ‘power’.
A view of man’s psyche: 3 powers –thinking, feeling and willing.
Will is co-ordinate with the other two.
Three co-ordinate powers in man’s psyche.
Augustine was not consistent. he made the will equal to the heart (kardia)
Benjamin Franklin – reason is used to find a reason for what a man wills to believe.
Willing is more fundamental than reason.

Man is a religious being (covenantal).
The word of God is a word of covenant.
Read my ‘Christianity and Humanism lecture. Homo Respondez – I must respond to the word of God.

[end of side 1 of tape]

The Greeks new no creator – they think of man as autonomous and cosmic having life in itself. The whole cosmos has its explanation within itself.
(Autonomous = self law)

Man has been descrined in this tradition as rational and moral … man is first of all basically rational. How do we get moral following from rational?

rational imples analysisng differences, distinguish conceptually, take it apart see how it hangs together. Distinguish differences.

If man is able to distinguish differences, then he should be able to distinguish between what is god and what is evil. then he I responsible to choose good.
He derives his moral being from his rational being. To be moral is one way of being rational.
A lot of people call moral and ethical religious.

Man is subject to law. Law reveals the structure of creation.

Truth (doesn’t mean knowledge)

In modern philosophy, truth has become equivalent to knowledge.
Truth is propositions, judgments.
Truth in modern philosophy is an epistemological concept. In the scriptures this is not the case, it is ontic.

ontology = theory about what is
ontic = what is

Truth refers to what is.
Truth means that which you can count on, that which abides that which is reliable, trustworthy. It will remain what it was created to be.
Ps 89: 49

Read ‘Introduction’ the Relation of the Bible to Learning pp 9-34
There will be an exam/quiz

There is a great disparity between the philosophical tradition and biblical revelation.
Christians who have worked in the philosophical tradition have accommodated to Greek thought patterns. It has become so embedded in Christian thinking.

Lecture 7

10 August, 2006

[on end of tape 6]
Starts with summary of previous lecture.

Structure and direction
There is a radical opposition between this 2600 year -old tradition and biblical revelation.
Man is a being who exists in relation to God, a revelation of covenant. Every human is a covenantal being.
Used in a directional sense – obedient or disobedient to the covenant.

[beginning of tape 7]

There is no way for a human to be except in covenant.

There are two directions – obedient or disobedient – but behind the two directions there is the structure of cosmic creation.

Technology is it good or bad? Jacques Ellul has a bad view of technology, a too one-sided view. Technology depends on who does it and the direction – in obedience or rebellion against God.

Man is placed under God’s word – that is the human condition, the structure of our life.

Revelational/ biblical pattern of sound words
1 Tim 6:20
2 Tim 1: 13-14
2 Tim 4: 2-5
2 Tim 3: 14-17

If you want to know where I’m coming from become acquainted with De Graaf’s Promise and Deliverance. I wrote a brief into to the English edition in vol 1 and a longer introduction to vol 3.

Also the 10 paperback volumes C. Vanderwaal [Search the Scriptures?]

1. The revelation of creation – and therewith the sovereign God whose word called into being, establishes, preserves and directs to the End.

The whole cosmos is directed to an end.

A lot of people fail to see what I’m talking about – not saying creation is revelation. The revelation of creation – it has been revealed that there is a creation.

The Greeks had no creation. They talked about a former, a demiurge, an artificer.
Creating, calling into being is not the same as forming.

The integer character of creation – there is no second source – reflects the God who called it into being, there is oneness.

In dualism – kingdom of light and kingdom of darkness – they do not mingle – there is no real mixture – they are in close juxtaposition, they don’t fuse – this dualism is alien to the scriptures.

Revelation that there is a creation, is a revelation of a sovereign God who created all things.

JHWH Jehovah – the Lord of hosts.
Host is a very interesting word, not just the whole starry heaven; whole hosts of angelic crowds. He command all the forces.
His word is law, who orders everything. There is often a wrong attitude to law – God is not a tyrant trying to foist his will. God as creator is letting us in on how he made things and how we should then live to be safe, to have shalom. Law is his mercifulness letting us in.

There are two senses of order: bringing order, structuring and arranging; and commanding. Both of these senses are involved.

For the Greeks, Zeus was the father of the gods – he looked to the scales, the ananke (necessity), he couldn’t so what he wanted. They didn’t know what determines the course of events. It may be ananke is some tribal memory that their gods are not the ultimate determiner of events.

All created forces are under the command of the Lord of hosts. (Jer 31:35)

2. Revelation of leb (heart)
This talk about man as heart, some have supposed it is the invention of a few Dutch philosophers (ie Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven). But this is not some private interpretation. The trend has been to interpret it in the same way.

Emil Brunner ‘ the talk of man as a body and soul or body, soul and spirit is for the birds – instead of that scriptures talks of heart’.

What heart does not mean is an ‘affective side’ as opposed to a ratinocinative side, as it is used in Indo-European literature.

In the scriptures the heart is not one side as opposed to another side, it is used to refer to the whole man in his entirety – in this sense it doesn’t appear in any other literature.

[end of side one]

[Side two starts lecture 8 – which starts with a recap of some of the points above.]

Lecture 6

4 August, 2006

The ancient period
Phillip of Macedonia’s son Alexander the Great d. 323 BC; Aristotle dies 322 BC marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period.
The Greek way of life was a superior way of life. A unified empire for the first time in the western world, it extended to Indus valley in India.
Four different Greek schools by the end of the fourth century BC.
Plato – Academy
Aristotle – Lyceum
Hellenistic period: Stoic and Epicurean
In the next ten years the student population of these schools expanded rapidly as Alex’s empire grew.

When he died his empire was divided up between his generals. Superimposition of the Greek way of life. Non-Greek students came into these schools.
According to textbooks the Hellenistic age was characterised by a sceptical attitude.
It is not true that it was a common attitude in Hellenism. Each school had a specific form of scepticism, s to what the school had declared to be the law or the basis for ontic constancy (‘how do you remain you?’), a sense of abidingness.
How do you find some knowledge that abides (opinion changes)?

The task of Hellenistic philosophy was to overcome a scepticism with regard to what each school deemed as cosmic law, the ground of cosmic constancy and therefore certain knowledge.

Metaphysics – some initial feeling for why I don’t like the term
The term had been used since the Hellenistic times to describe the philosophical tradition with respect to being.
• Is there something that is – not just becomes
• the search for an abiding being
• is it of one kind (monism) or two (dualism)?
• Static structure (eg atomism) or dynamic developmental aspect (genetic) (eg evolutionism)

Aristotle had a work Metaphysics (13 books – a collection by his disciples his essays) – he didn’t give it that name.
In book 1 of Metaphysics Aristotle uses the term ‘first philosophy or theology’; this is what he thought he was writing about.

What are the centres of Hellenistic learning? Alexander (Ptolemy) and Pergamum (not quite as important) – both had large libraries.
In 320/290 there was a real shift from Athens to Alexandra.

Creativity suddenly dies way. They saw their task as an attempt to save the works of earlier periods. That’s why library building was important in the Hellenistic age.
Aristotle’s work came to the library. The Head librarian had his Physics (8 books) (motion associated with a growth process eg seed to oak), not just a contemporary view of physics – it included an organic side. The librarian wanted to put the books in order – Metaphysics had not title at the top. In Metaphysics the discussions presuppose the discussions of Physics, so he figures it has to come after Physics, hence Meta Physics after Physics.
From then on everything before that time became know as metaphysics. The term was applied retrospectively.

In what ways do the discussions follow upon Physics?

What do we know about metaphysics – what topics does it cover? There is an argument for God.
Discussion: is there a divine being?
How does Aristotle go about it? He starts with the notion of motion.
There is a fundamental difference between the Greek and contemporary views of motion. In ancient times it was assumed that to be at rest was the original state of affairs. If something was in motion it will have been set into motion by something.
[end of side 1]
In the contemporary view, motion is the original – being ‘at rest’ is a balancing of motions.

For Aristotle if in motion then that is not the original condition or state; something has to set it in motion.
If something, say z, is in motion, then it has to be set in motion by, say, y; but, y is in motion, so it must have been set in motion by something, x; but x is in motion, so … we get an infinite regression, going back infinitely – we never come to an end.

For Aristotle a choice: give up science – there is no scientific explanation or there has to be a starting point. There must be a prime mover.

z → y → x → prime mover

There is either an infinite regress, which implies science is impossible (no Greek would accept that) or postulate something that can set in motion, but hasn’t been set in motion.

Because of the demands of thought – it is a logical necessity to postulate a first movement to save the scientific explanation and to explain the motion of z.

For Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) all this proves there is a first moving something in the ‘physical universe’ – but how do you get out of the ‘physical universe’ to a Christian God?

This is an example of the problem that s dealt with in metaphysics.

The three most important subjects of metaphysics:
• god (Theology)
• (human) soul (What Kant termed Psychology)
• the cosmos (cosmology)

Everyone of these questions have to do with what God has revealed to us in His word:

• that God is
• he created man in his own image – he is more than a body, a created analogue of the Godhead
• there is creation – heavens and earth.

We know these things! What the Greeks began – we don’t know anything and we have to establish knowledge by our own rational efforts.
Instead of by faith accepting them – a gift of God’s grace to us.
These are guidelines so we know how to direct our lives.

Traditional metaphysics is an attempt by autonomous man to achieve a knowledge which he claims not to have answers to questions that God ahs revealed. Metaphysics is a pagan exercise!

Metaphysics starts from the notion that we know nothing! And yet God has revealed these things – in a sense it is blasphemy.

We may be able to save ‘ontology’ sooner or later I will indicate what belongs to ontology – relations among created beings.
Observable relations among created beings – it has to be done in a framework of belief.