Theo Plantinga has posted his article on Runner from Life is Religion: Essays in Honor of H. Evan Runner ed H Vander Goot (Paideia Press, St Catherine’s Ontario, 1981): The Christian philosophy of H. Evan Runner pp 15- 28.
Archive for the ‘On Runner’ category
Kerry Hollingsworth has posted a number of images of Runner and the Unionville conferences on the Reformational Publishing Project site.
1. General view of the “Barn” Unionville Conference 1960
2. Unionville Conference 1961
3. Vollenhoven and wife at 1961 Unionville Conference
4. Evan Runner, Henk Van Riessen, Hans Rookmaaker, J. J. Duyvene De Wit, Unionville 1961
5. In Evan Runner’s back yard, Grand Rapids, 1961. From left, Bernard Zylstra, Cal Seerveld, Glen Andreas, Vollenhoven, Runner.
6. Vollenhoven and wife in Runner’s back yard, Grand Rapids, 1961.
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.
The Development of Aristotle Illustrated from the Earliest Books of the Physics Kampen: Kok, 1951 (PhD Free University of Amsterdam)
The Relation of the Bible to Learning (Unionville Lectures for 1959 and 1960) Toronto: Wedge, 1974
Scriptural Religion and Political Task (Unionville Lectures for 1961) Toronto : Wedge, 1974
‘ARSS and its reorganisation’ Calvinist Contact 26 Jan 1962: 5-7
‘Place and task of an Institute of Reformed Scientific studies’ Hamilton: Association for Reformed Scientific Studies , 1965
‘Some observations on the condition of Calvin College at the celebration of its centennial’ Prism 1976: 30-39
‘Dooyewerd’s passing: an appreciation‘ The Banner 22 April, 1977: 20-23
[Tape starts part way in]
The word of God is God himself speaking. The word of God is lively and penetrates to the inner most being. God actively takes the meaning of his word and enlightens our hearts in the truth – they are not some objective words there and I have to make the best sense of them. The word of God gets us out of the relativity of historicism (every thing is historically dated). Historicism means that the second century truth will not be valid in the twentieth century.
An –ism means that we have absolutised something; in historicism we have absolutised historical change. It is one of the greatest errors and dangers of our times. Many twentieth century theologians and philosophers are historicists. They don’t believe that there is truth that remains valid for all centuries.
Historicism is a denial that the Holy Spirit is the authority of scripture and that God brings his word to man at all times.
There are two distinct meanings to the word theology. (i) Guided by the scripures, the word of God, ‘theologically guided’ (ii) the other meaning theo logos = science of God (I won’t argue if it’s a good definition or not).
Those who do scientific research – systematic themes, schools of theology (Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist etc.), theology is the scientific expression of theologians who have worked with the word of God, they may be bound by traditions of which they are not aware. Remember there is a 2600 year long tradition of accommodation of the scripture to philosophy.
There are different schools of mathematics and they interpret mathematics differently – there is a war of schools of mathematics going on. It is the same for other disciplines, the same is true in theology.
From the middle of the second century Justin Martyr – shows how much biblical thinking had manoeuvred into the form of Greek philosophy.
Read Diemer Nature and Miracle – get the feel of it.
Since modern times (end of the sixteenth century) the realm of the ‘physical universe’ (single quotes indicate that I think it’s an abstraction of a mental construction’) with Francis Bacon, Newton etc in 1750 it became a mature expression.
They thought in terms of a causal (not casual!) determinism. The view that is taken of this ‘physical universe’. Methodological determinism – the search for all the causes.
Many Christian theologians simply accepted this concept of the ‘physical universe’. (It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a physical side to things.) It is not the same as what the scriptures call creation.
1. The ‘physical universe’ excludes man (apart from his body).
2. Creation includes heaven (and this doesn’t mean the starry heavens) and earth.
ISBE – a good place to consult; look up heavens.
The notion of a ‘physical universe’ that is casually determined is thoroughly pagan – it has nothing to do with scripture. Modern physics has developed so rapidly since Copernicus, that Christians were overwhelmed by it. Many Christian theologians accepted this ‘physical universe’.
Newton had a deistic attitude – God must simply intervene, miracle had to be an interruption. if interruption then there can be no causal determinism! If you interrupt the chain how can it be determined? There is no chain anymore! Therefore miracle is impossible.
The Christian who has fallen for that idea of miracle as an interruption because thay had fallen for the idea of the ‘physical universe’ can’t believe in miracle anymore. That’s how liberalism grew.
Another assignment: read Bernard Zysla’s preface to Relation of the Bible to Learning (5th edn)
Subdivisions of philosophy
• Is truth and knowledge the same?
• Do our minds possess only opinions or knowledge? [end of tape]
• If there is no certainty
knowledge is something that abides, it is not subject to change, opinion changes
The religious drive behind the whole epistemological enterprise – we need to know what abides as the basis for action.
• If there is knowledge how can we recognise it?
• By what criterion does knowledge announce itself?
• How may kinds of knowledge are there?
• What are the limits to human knowledge?
Axiology – we will come back to that later.
Most twentieth century people hear the word cosmology and think of astronomy. I’m not using it in that sense.
Cosmos = beautifully ordered whole (cf cosmetic). It is not just the ‘physical universe’, but the structure of the created world/ universe (at least as far as the earth goes).
Where does it belong? In someways an subdivision of metaphysics.
Since the nineteenth century there has been a rapid rise in the social sciences – anthropology, physical and cultural, not talking about that side.
anthropos = man, a theory of man
going to consider it under metaphysics.
I will argue later against the use of the term metaphysics in favour of ontology.
Being – created being, cosmology and anthropology.
For the Greeks human beings and divine beings had one thing in common being. A general ontology is a theory of being.