Archive for January 2007

Lecture 18 (contd)

27 January, 2007

Third illustration
Before I move onto the third illustration of the way that philosophy has become a substitute for religion I want to make a point about theory and praxis.

This is characteristic of western philosophy – man is on his own, he has to discover the nature of things. His way of living depends on his theorising – it is necessary to have a properly guided theory of life.

I was given a festschrift about five years ago Hearing and Doing . Hearing the word of God – all doing must proceed from that. There are two levels of doing, the pre-scientific and the scientific the second presupposes the first.

Both belong to our covenant doing – which must emerge from hearing the word of God.

The third illustration: contemporary existentialism: Heidegger and Jean-Paul Satre.

A quote from a lecture of S. U. Zuidema:

When Heidegger and Satre in their existentialist philosophy teach that “every man is by nature philosophical” …then with this dogma they have not only failed basically to appreciate the place and task of faith, religion and philosophy, but at the same time they have concealed from themselves the religious background of their own philosophising. Anyone who attaches to this dogma by that very fact flees from his own deepest responsibility and conceals his irreligiousness under the guise of an attitude or self-knowledge that pretends to be philosophically neutral. This flight to an autonomous philosophy is an effort to avoid one’s individual religious responsibility, no it in no way removes this it is in itself an example of Sartre’s bad faith.

Three observations of how philosophy becomes a substitute for religion.

If philosophy has been a substitute for others, it can’t fill that role for Christians. Our faith is determinated upon the sure covenanting word of God who has revealed himself to us as the faithful one

Philosophy is not to be our refuge and consolation, a source of certainty.

Does this mean that there is to be no place for philosophy for the Christian? If there is, what place? What is the task it has to perform?

Unfortunately, many have argued there should be no place in man’s life for it. We should not overlook the historical conditions in the early sub-apostolic church which bought some Christians to such a position. The philosophy they knew was Greek in its Hellenistic form.

Gnosticism was a grave threat to the church in the late first and early second century.

Take a look at Colossians 2:8, before next time:

See that no one take you in or carry you off as booty (plunder) through his philosophysing which is vain deceit.


Lecture 18

20 January, 2007

There is an origin of our thinking which transcends the cosmic order. We know by revelation that there is more than the cosmos itself – to know that is not philosophy. We know things doesn’t come from our philosophising. There is a knowledge we have – some people call it intuition.

Herman Dooyeweerd uses the term immanentistic to describe philosophy that the scientific work of philosophy is all there is. All we can philosophise about is creational order – but we do it in the light of revelational given. In the light of that revelation we understand the meaning of cosmic order itself.

Others have to fill in that revelational given, they do it by philosophical effort – it is restricted to the cosmic order. The effort to establish the existence of God, soul, mind or law etc is by philosophical reasoning itself. Philosophical reasoning that uses the data supplied by philosophical order itself.

What is being replaced?

For example, is there a God? Is there a human soul? Is there a cosmos? Do these all constitute one cosmic history? Revelation: God created heaven and earth, God from the beginning has a purpose, to guard and develop the garden, God intends to bring reconciliation. Metaphysics can only answer these by data from the cosmos.

God gives us such answers we can’t get on philosophical reasoning alone.

Substitutes include:

  • Carefully planned state – the state comes to the equivalent to the order of human society (they are not identical the state is more)
  • Glorification of physical strength (Nimrod)
  • Acquisition of fame – to be remembered in subsequent generations
  • Determined pursuit of wealth
  • Cultivation of sexual power
  • Pursuit of philosophy – it seems to offer a penetrative means of insight and power of individuals, pleasure of understanding, superior role in arguing.

William James

I the beginning of the century he was connected with Harvard (d. 1910), he bought Freud over to us. The worship of Freud has diminished since the second world war. After the second world war we began to look at other psychological possibilities.

He was born in 1842?, the brother of Henry James, the father of William James a theologian. He had three successive occupations: neurologist, psychologist and philosopher. He was a psychologist at Harvard. He was the second American to give the Gifford Lectures at Scottish Universities: Varieties of Religious Experience (c. 1902). (The first was a close friend of James: Joyce)

The book of the lectures was filled with data about religious experience. He also wrote a 2 volume work Principles of Psychology which is still regarded as very important. It contains an important chapter on streams of consciousness).

As a philosopher he started a new school: Pragmatism comes from a Greek word (what doesn’t!?); pragama – a thing. A philosophy that doesn’t go off on abstractions, but hard solids…

The book is available as a paperback in the meridian series Pragmatism and The Meaning of truth .

[Runner reads a long section from James’s book]

rationalistic systems by which your serious believer in facts is so apt to feel repelledFor a hundred and fifty years past the progress of science has seemed to mean the enlargement of the material universe and the diminution of man’s importance. The result is what one may call the growth of naturalistic or positivistic feeling. Man is no lawgiver to nature, he is an absorber. She it is who stands firm; he it is who must accommodate himself Let him record truth, inhuman tho it be, and submit to it! The romantic spontaneity and courage are gone, the vision is materialistic and depressing. Ideals appear as inert by-products of physiology; what is higher is explained by what is lower and treated forever as a case of I nothing but’- nothing but something else of a quite inferior sort. You get, in short, a materialistic universe, in which only the tough-minded find themselves congenially at home.

If now, on the other hand, you turn to the religious quarter for consolation, and take counsel of the tender-minded philosophies, what do you find?

Religious philosophy in our day and generation is, among us Englishreading people, of two main types. One of these is more radical and aggressive, the other has more the air of fighting a slow retreat. By the more radical wing of religious philosophy I mean the so-called transcendental idealism of the Anglo-Hegelian school, the philosophy of

(7) such men as Green, the Cairds, Bosanquet and Royce. This philosophy has greatly influenced the more studious members of our protestant ministry. It pantheistic, and undoubtedly it has already blunted the edge of the traditional theism in protestantism at large.

That theism remains, however. It is the lineal descendant, through one stage of concession after another, of the dogmatic scholastic theism still taught rigorously in the seminaries of the catholic church. For a long time it used to be called among us the philosophy of the Scottish school. It is what I meant by the philosophy that has the air of fighting a slow retreat. Between the encroachments of the hegelians and other philosophers of the ‘Absolute,’ on the one hand, and those of the scientific evolutionists and agnostics, on the other, the men that give us this kind of a philosophy, James Martineau, Professor Bowne, Professor Ladd and others, must feel themselves rather tightly squeezed. Fairminded and candid as you like, this philosophy is not radical in temper. It is eclectic, a thing of compromises, that seeks a modus vivendi above all things. It accepts the facts of darwinism, the facts of cerebral physiology, but it does nothing active or enthusiastic with them. It lacks the victorious and aggressive note. It lacks prestige in consequence; whereas absolutism has a certain prestige due to the more radical style of it.

These two systems are what you have to choose between if you turn to the tender-minded school. And if you are the lovers of facts I have supposed you to be, you find the trail of the serpent of rationalism, of intellectualism, over everything that lies on that side of the line.

‘rationalistic system’ – he is proposing something new.

Traditional philosophy has no explanation – a substitute, remedy, a way of escape

How sickening – James identified this philosophy with the Protestant world.

Tough – nature exists and we are the victims of it.

2 main types radical (Hegelian, transcendental) and slow retreat (theism)

So much for Wiliam James – one of the reasons the church is – because of philosophy the church has weakened herself.

Attempting to find answers – it says we have no answers – God hasn’t said anything to us.

James saw what was going on ‘slow retrat of Christians’ before rationalism and Marxism.

Second illustration of how philosophy has taken the place of religion (= all life in covenant with God).

In 390 Plato founded a school – the academy (the academics were the followers of Plato). Aristotle at age 17 came to school in 367 and joined the academy.

In 348/7 Plato died – so who should take over from him?

A number, including Aristotle, left the academy. Aristotle went to Asia Minor at first. A number of people enamoured of Plato had come from Asia Minor and so now returned.

Island of Sicily at Syracuse – given advice to a tyrant (tyranos = a non-heredity monarch), one near Assos. Hermias, a student of Plato, had returned and Aristotle asked if he could establish an academy there.

When Plato died Aristotle became head lecturer at Assos among the philosopher Hermias had gathered there.

Hermias was caught between Macedonians and Persians. The coast of Asia Minor was a hot spot between Greeks and Persians. Hermias arranged a secret treaty with Philip of Macedonia – gave him a bridgehead – opening a way for the Macedonians to attack the Persians.

However, someone informed the Persians. Hermias was seized by the Persian general and taken prisoner. He was tortured and crucified.

Why include this?

Hermias had been given political advice in return for allowing an academy. Hermias was a committed Platonist. He asked what was his last favour before his death; his answer: tell my friends and companions that I have done nothing weak or unworthy of philosophy.

He meant by that, philosophy was for him a way of life – but a way of life identified with theorising. A theoretical life, what the Greeks called bios el radicos . Theorising was their whole life. This is what James is getting at – dealing with abstractions, rational fantasies, not living in hard realities of the facts – the pragma.

Lecture 17

2 January, 2007

This is now the third round of lectures

Structure and direction
Nothing can be properly discussed philosophically adequately properly without structure and direction. They are interwoven – a cosmic structure and these are two religious directions of human activity.

The Baptists/ Anabaptists talk about ‘saving souls’ out of the world of sin; but remember Jesus came to save sinners and also to save from destructive influences – the creation is being redeemed.

The word of God set bounds to creaturely activity – we find human cultural activity: a cultural activity that is either adverse or in obedience to God’s order. There are elements of covenantal obedience/ disobedience and cultural order that underlies that.

In a footnote – there is no human selfhood except in the relation in dependence on God and his law word. We are created in a religious covenantal situation.

One inescapable condition we are creatures – partners in covenant – before God.

Historical note: something in itself – individual autonomous person – is called a substance (invented to mean something in creation something that exists in its own right – exists for and by itself res cognitans)

(How can Christian college lecturers lecture on Descartes and ays ‘ these are the good bits’? – when it is all based on substance?

Man’s in-built dependence on fellows has been emphasised. Group therapy came from a connection man’s existing is also relative – the way we interact in a group.

Changeover – a growing recognition of the way that man exists here.

Man doesn’t exist as a sovereign.

Liberal theologian Schliermacher (1768-1834) was raised in strict pietistic circles.

We have ‘a complex of mutually implicated moments of reaction toward another and of being determined by another’

Let’s take one moment:

Self A and Self B

Self A out of freedom does something that affects B; B is dependent upon B. B may act in freedom upon A so B affects A.
Free action towards another A to B.
A free action toward another – one moment. There may be a logical moment, an economic moment, an aesthetic moment etc.

The mode (modus = way/ manner) in which we exist in the world involves a complex of mutually implicated moments of all these various moments – they involve one another that’s how we are in this world. Various dimensions action proceeds in freedom towards each other – they mutually involve each other. The whole thing is a complex.

Our horizontal life is this complex of mutually implicated moments. Relative freedom and relative dependence imply each other.

In all this complex of horizontal relations between men we have freedom and dependence of a relative sort. Relative freedom, relative dependence. He initiates actions on A and B is dependent.

So far, it is not much different from horizontalism. Schliermacher sensed something.

What is for a human to sense something like this? If can answer then have it made – is it logical reasoning?

There is something deep in our hearts – why are they sensitive

He clearly distinguishes what he called absolute dependency.
There is something more in our lives: a sense of feeling of absolute dependence!
Pervades total; self-consciousness
Being in relation, in this absolute relation, this appears as the fundamental phenomenon of our self-consciousness.

Schliermacher even though he was a liberal theologian – God leaves no man without a witness himself – observed what men themselves have observed in their inner most lives.

Being in relation – pervades all these relative relations – appears as a fundamental phenomenon of self-consciousness.

I wanted to call these to your attention – because it serves to relate a lot of things that have happened in this modern world about men as religious beings and the meaning of religion.

Man exists in covenant relation with God – out of church cultic activity proceeds

In this relation Brunner ‘Man is relational being’

Most definitions of religion define it in an operational sense (= cultic activity); something must presuppose that activity.

For this reason men are not secure in themselves.
Why? They don’t have their existence in themselves; they cannot be satisfied without reconnecting.

They are not able to find their ultimate ground and comfort in themselves –even before the fall – this has to do with creation because we are created beings. Need assurance of God’s favour – fellowship assured him of himself.

Fall – falling away from fellowship that gave him assurance
(Bible doesn’t declare metaphysical truth.)

God and his covenant word remain – all we have to do is get back to it. IAM THAT I AM
Always the same, covenant keeping God – you can rely on me.

Two Hebrew words in OT that are significant in this connection:

Cheseth (dependable, faithfulness)
Difficult to translate & determine meaning KJV translates it ‘mercy’.
Steadfast love, covenant grace.

God’s faithfulness
Calvin: ‘most notable attribute of God in the Scriptures – covenant faithfulness’.

‘Immanentisation’ of God and covenant – Dooyeweerd

A philosophy that abides within creation

Man is created within a relationship with God; when outside of it then he can only invent something to take the place of God – something within the world.

Totalitarianism – State takes over the whole of human life – arises because of the need for a final authority.

The Catholic’s pope – a personal representative on earth as total authority of Christ. – so he has a secular political.

God’s authority is a delegated authority to the state.
Women – confused gifts and office. Women can utilise all the gifts but not in office.

Men’s need for security – safety, experience of a comprehensive religious need.
Satisfied only by obedience in covenantal obedience.

Meaning of live = to be obediently subject to the word of God
Meaning of die = to fall away from that obedience.

The fall is an act of rebellion, a declaration of independence against the law word of God.

This is particularly evident in the Renaissance – it was more shrill in the eighteenth century Enlightenment. The French Revolution was its political outworking. In 1917, the Russian Revolution – the leaders had read the French Encyclopaedists.
A continuous history of ideas. The American Revolution was an exception in part. There were two ways, side by side: the Jefferson party and the Adamses.

The Jefferson party were the progressive rationalists, they had the same ideas as the French revolutionists. The Adamses fighting for historically religious (?) rights.

The fall was an act of rebellion, fall turned backs on firm foundation; but created situation didn’t change.

God becomes a hostile power and they have to ward off him with sacrifices – they had to hide.

Strong movement to engage in comparative study. They look at all religious sacrifices in cults, and ask what is in common? I deny that Christian religion sacrifices were to placate a hostile deity. Sacrifices were the promise of a yet to be fulfilled promise. Points out the problem of comparative religion – the method is wrong.

Once you proceed along their method – you have already lost.
We don’t love the word enough we don’t let it feed our souls.

Rebellion is a refusal to acknowledge the created position. They had to hide, to deceive, to gain a magical advantage over God. It explains the rapid growth of cult magic.

Substitutes couldn’t take the place of reality. In the course of time, men found no substitutes for the true knowledge and service of the sovereign Lord, which only our standing-right-before-God as creatures in the totality of our existence makes possible, and produces in us that assurance and certainty, for which we feel a need.

There was the carefully planned state and often the absolute monarch; men gave themselves over to a foolish regime which had power to establish a measure of security.

Right down to Greek times to Plato and his Republic, the polis was an ideal, just communal life – by permitting the state to organise society.

The state and society are not identical unless you are a totalitarian. Totalitarianism is an absolutisation of the state.

• Glorification and cultivation of physical strength – a Nimrod figure.
• Acquisition of fame, the love of glory.
• Classic Greek devotion to the formation of the younger generation, paideia.
• The determined pursuit of wealth
• The cultivation of sexual power

Each in its own ay offered a power and a certain pleasure. Among them too was the pursuit of philosophy.
It semed to offer a more penetrating insight or knowledge than the common run of men possessed, and with that a certain power over individuals – it also provided a certain pleasure of understanding.

We need examples – William James Pragmatism we will read a short section next time.