Monday, February 04, 2008

Philosophy as point of departure

It's a bit late, I know, to mention that The Reformational Publishing Project has made available S.U Zuidema's important essay concerning Kuyper's view on common grace, follow this link: Common Grace and Christian Action in Abraham Kuyper However it does give me an excuse to quote an extract from another article by Zuidema which also appeared in the volume Communication and Confrontation. This brief piece is entitled "philosophy as point of departure", it is still relevant in its self-critical comment concerning reformational philosophy (here referred to as the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee).

It is out of the question that any creature behaves at root philosophi­cally in his totality or in his concentrating selfhood. This is certainly beyond dispute with respect to the plant and animal kingdoms. How­ever, man also is not a "philosophical being," and also the man of philos­ophy, qua man, is more than philosopher, and qua philosopher, does not find his point of departure in his philosophical activity, let alone in its results. Neither the point of departure nor the driving force of man are philosophical in nature–nor are they theological or sociological.

This is not to deny that in Western culture there have not lacked at­tempts and do not lack attempts to elevate philosophy, theology or soci­ology to a point of departure. Even certain special sciences aspire to this all-controlling position. Wherever this occurs, an overestimation of sci­ence has taken place, which as an overestimation is of a profoundly reli­gious nature, and man has doomed himself to slavery. He has thus be­trayed and sold out his freedom, and with his freedom his responsibility, his task, and his calling. He has subjected himself to the sway of his phi­losophy, his theology or his special science and, as a result, can no longer find himself or his God.

Wherever the autonomy of thought–which is allegedly grounded in itself and grounds man in his thinking–is made an article of faith, phi­losophy claims to be the only Absolute, the only Unconditional, the only Non-contingency and Inviolate, and attempts to efface as much as possi­ble the supra-philosophical character of the belief in the autonomy of thought. Wherever this type of philosophy comes to historical power, "Philosophy" in fact becomes the point of departure, also for the prac­tice of life, which is then daily subjected to this indignity. Wholly con­trary to its deepest intention, the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee can also be misconstrued as the point of departure for the practice of life. This is a very antinomical misconception but one for which we must constantly be on our guard because it is characteristic of a temptation which has un­dermined and threatened Christendom for centuries. Is this not one of the many ways whereby man, or in this case the Christian, seeks his se­curity and point of departure in "the works of his hands"–as has been the case for centuries in Christian theology, and no less in the depending on a "strong" personal faith, an experience of faith, and works of faith.

Communication and Confrontation pages 124-125

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