Archive for the ‘On Runner’ category

Plantinga on Runner

17 April, 2008

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.

Unionville Conferences images

29 July, 2007

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. o_runner_vollenhoven_1961.jpgIn 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.

Runner from Christian Perspectives

25 October, 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.

A list of some books and articles by Runner

25 July, 2006

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 appreciationThe Banner 22 April, 1977: 20-23

Lecture 4

24 July, 2006

[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.

Rudder Hard Over

22 July, 2006

Andrew Vis ‘Rudder hard overThe Crown 21 (11) March 2004

“Rudder Hard Over!” was the title of a speech that the late H. Evan Runner gave in 1953, at the inception of the Calvinistic Cultural Association. In this speech, Runner advocated a radically different approach for Christian engagement with culture, an approach that called for Christians to network together to create organizations that could effectively shape society. Runner’s vision, which started the movement that has made institutions like Redeemer possible, is deeply rooted in the conviction that Christ is Lord of all of life. So, who was this Runner? Why is he important to us?

Born in 1916 in Pennsylvania, H. Evan Runner grew up as the only child of Howard and Sarah Watterson-Runner. After graduating with honours from high school, he began studying at the University of Pennsylvania in 1935. It was here that Runner came across Henry Bradford Smith, a professor who advised his students to leave their various faith commitments at home and to accept rationality as a common starting point. Though faced with this attractive proposition, Runner decided that he could not let go of his faith – a decision which profoundly affected the course of his life. He later went on to study at Wheaton College, Westminster Theological Seminary, and the Free University of Amsterdam, where he was taught by both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven. After receiving his doctorate in 1951, Runner got a job teaching philosophy at Calvin College, where he taught until his retirement thirty years later. After a two-year bout with cancer, H. Evan Runner passed away in 2002.

Remembering Runner

22 July, 2006

Calvin News ‘Runner dies at 86

Phil deHaan ‘Remembering the late H. Evan Runner

Theodore Plantinga ‘H. Evan Runner: man of passion, man of conviction

Calvin Seerveld ‘Biblical reflection at a conference celebrating the life-service of H. Evan Runner

Keith Sewell ‘Give thanks for H. Evan Runner

Robert Sweetman ‘H. Evan Runner: in memoriam‘ [pdf]

Harry Van Dyke ‘H. Evan Runner and the Groen club

Al Wolters ‘The importance of H. Evan Runner

Al Wolters ‘Runner’s impact on the academy and beyond: personal reflections

H. Evan Runner, ’39, on March 14, 2002, of cancer. Professor of philosophy at Calvin College from 1951 – 1981, in 1993 he was given the prestigious “Faith and Learning Award” by the Calvin Alumni Association for successfully and consistently integrating faith and learning in the classroom. He helped establish the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS), a Christian graduate school in Toronto where faculty and students explore Runner’s vision of an integral, interdisciplinary philosophy as a key component to a thorough Christian contribution to education and culture. In April 2001, the ICS created the H. Evan Runner Chair in the History of Philosophy. Calvin’s president, Gaylen Byker, honored Runner’s vision for a thoroughly Christian approach to philosophy and stated that Calvin College is still shaped by his influence. He was 86.

Westminster Theological Seminary Bulletin

Rushdoony on Runner et al.

22 July, 2006

Westminster Theological Journal 24 (1) (Nov 1961): 106-109
H. Van Riessen, A. L. Farris, H. E. Runner: Christian Perspectives 1960. Pella, Iowa: Pella Publishing, Inc. 1960. viii, 159. $1.50.

Christian Perspectives 1960, published by the Association for Reformed Scientific Studies in Canada, is a series of lectures given to an audience drawn mainly from students of various universities, colleges and high schools. They are therefore popular lectures, but, in the main, profound and stimulating. Van Riessen and Runner, in particular, as representatives of epistemologically self-conscious Calvinism, are especially telling in their critique of non-Christian thought and culture, and able in their development of the Christian perspective.

Van Riessen, dealing with “The Christian Approach to Science”, concerns himself immediately with the problem of neutrality. If science were neutral, a Christian approach would be unnecessary, and science beyond the need of biblical thought or God’s grace. It “would be beyond the effects of sin, a sector of life not in need of God’s grace. It would be a kingdom by itself, self-existing and separate from the kingdom of Christ.” If neutrality is a false premise, “then science will always be determined by faith. In that case the Christian approach to science will not only be useful but obligatory” (p. 5). But the neutrality, autonomy and superiority of theoretical thought with regard to religion is one of the premises of our culture, of scientific thought, and of extensive areas of religious thinking.

The Thomistic division of faith and reason into two independent spheres has its counterpart in Protestant circles. Science, however, has not been able to assert its objectivity and neutrality without attacks and uncertainties within its own camp, all heightened by Einstein’s physics. The Christian, unlike the unbeliever, is able to deny the concept of neutrality without falling into relativism, and indeed preserves scientific truth by his very denial of neutrality, in that God, rather than autonomous man or the principle of relativism, becomes the source of interpretation.

Neutralism, by positing an area of life unaffected by the fall, accordingly offers a redemption apart from Christ. Neutral science, it is believed by neutralists, provides hope of redemption in a planned society. “Christ or this science: that is the choice thrust upon us” (p. 34). In America, the community, served by neutral science, and calling for neutrality on the part of diverse groups with reference to itself, has become an idol of major dimensions, a redeeming community. The central idol, however, is neutrality itself, which “has never existed in science” (p. 42), and which is guided by extensive pre-philosophical presuppositions which are a false faith. Christian faith alone can ensure valid science in the long run, in that it restores God to his proper place as Creator and the source of interpretation. A faith, however, like Tillich’s which “short circuits the Christ of the Scriptures and the Scriptures of Christ” becomes only “a new form of an old idol” and “an expression of autonomy” (p. 47). Only truly biblical faith “offers us real escape from the secularization of science…guarantees the sacredness of man’s vocation in the field of science…(and) sees in the sphere of science the signs of the Kingdom of God” (p. 54).

Farris’ briefer lectures are concerned with “The Christian Approach to History”. The Greek, Marxist, humanist and Christian interpretations are analyzed briefly and contrasted, as are the divergent approaches to historical necessity, freedom and the eternal decree. Farris lays a welcome and strong stress on the significance of the resurrection to the philosophy of history, as the declaration of the triumphant sovereignty of God and the assurance of victory in time as well as eternity. He lacks, however, the sharp epistemological awareness of Van Riessen and Runner. Nonetheless, noteworthy emphases appear throughout his study. Of especial interest, as an illustration of “Christ’s victory over evil” and the conquering aspect of Christ’s work, is his comment on an observance of the sacrament of the Lord’s Table in Scotland:

Many years ago I conducted a communion service in an old parish church in…Scotland. As I walked into the Church that morning twothings startled me. In the first place there was a fine white linen over the back of every pew. One had the feeling that one had walked into a banquet hall and that was precisely the feeling that was meant to be engendered. In the second place, there were no communion vessels or elements on the communion table. I began the service and preached the sermon. Then I announced the metrical psalm based on Psalm 24. While we were singing the elders retired to the vestry and when we reached the word “Who is the Lord, the Lord mighty in battle?” they returned bearing the plates of bread and the flagons of wine. I realized then that I was participating in a victory celebration and that the elders were carrying in not only the symbols of Christ broken body and shed blood offered as an atonement for sin, but they were bearing aloft the spoils of victory. From that day to this the communion service has had no funereal overtones for me (p. 69).

Runner’s study of “The Relation of the Bible to Learning” returns to the basic problem of epistemological self-conciousness. The crux of the problem, as Runner states it, is, “What, after all, is the Word of God?” (p. 95). The Scriptures cannot be known or understood if alien categories of thought, or moralizations, are imported into the preaching thereof. Similarly, God and his Word remain alien to us if the divine order is not understood, if God, man, and “the law-order of God” are not seen as related rather than independent “pieces of knowledge”. In the Greek conception of Law, for example, one still decisive in contemporary culture, Law is abstract and a necessity above all duties. The medieval inheritance of Hellenic categories of thought led to abstract Laws (the Law of Reason, and Natural Law) which were in effect independent of God. For Occam, God and Law became irreconcilables, Law implying universals, so that “God is ex-lex: Deus Exlex” (p. 101). Calvin, by rejecting Augustine’s theory of ideas with their abstract and Hellenic realism, and also “the Occamist view of the Deus Exlex”, related the Law to God. (Van Til has stated it succinctly: “God does not have a law; He is law”, Intro. to Theol., 1947,II, 214). To know Law, one must therefore know God, and, similarly, to know the self, we must know God, in whose image man was created. God’s Law is “the very condition of our existence as selves…the Law is the condition of man’s freedom” (p. 104). Scripture, the Word of God, is the power by which God opens our hearts to see and know reality. In the world of learning, however, those holding apostate principles have not only failed to see the “inner connection that exists between the Word of God and our life in this world, more particularly just now the intrinsic connection between that Word and the world of learning” (p. 109), but have deepened and widened the disunity of the Fall by those developing apostate principles. Unhappily, many Christian thinkers, from early days to the present, as Runner points out in an able and concentrated survey, have sought common ground with apostate principles and thereby in effect surrendered the faith. A rejection of all synthesis is requisite to truly Christian thinking.

To understand Synthesis perfectly, and its consequences, just imagine what would have happened if our second representative or Office-bearing man, Christ Jesus, when, like Adam, he was tempted of Satan in the wilderness, had taken each of the devil’s tempting words and looked for, even expressed a measure of agreement with, the ‘moments’ of truth in them (without which the Lie cannot even exist since it is only a Distortion of the Truth)! That is precisely what our first parent did, and fell from his place. But the heart of the man Christ was held in the grip of the Truth, and he gave to each of Satan’s tempting words the integral answer of the Truth. Because of what He did it is possible for the apostle to enjoin us to ‘stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage’ (Gal 5:1) (pp. 156f).

Christian Perspectives 1960 is a delight to read and is deserving of wide circulation and use.

Rousas John Rushdoony
Santa Cruz, California