Friday, October 28, 2005

Notes On Several Readings

The following notes on ten different readings reflect not only the texts, but in some cases, issues raised in class lecture or discussion. If you would like more context for some of the key ideas being discussed, I recommend this summary and this introduction. Many of the sidebar links here (on the mainpage) should also be helpful.

Science and Philosophy

In his essay The Secularization of Science Dooyeweerd addresses the general secularization of modern life in terms of the secularization of modern science and its basis in a general philosophical view of reality rooted in a religious groundmotive. This secularization in science is related to the dogma of the autonomy of theoretical thought; that is a pretended autonomy from religious commitment. Because of the dominance of science in modern society, an understanding of the inner connection between science and religion, and accordingly an inner reformation of the sciences, is necessary for addressing secularization of life in general.

Dooyeweerd develops two lines of argument, one may be called a historical (de facto) argument, and the other a systematic (structural, de jure) argument. Both of these are important because he demonstrates not only that science, historically, has never been neutral with regard to religious startingpoints, but also that according to both the nature of biblical religion and the nature of science itself such neutrality is not possible.

Historically, Dooyeweerd shows how ancient Greek thought developed in terms of a dialectical religious groundmotive of Form and Matter, related to cultural powers and natural forces. This resulted in a dualistic anthropology and a positing of autonomous reason. However, this dialectic proved irreconcilable due to its ultimate religious nature. In the medieval period there was a Scholastic attempt at synthesis between the Greek religious motive and Christian religion. This resulted in a dialectical groundmotive of Nature and Grace. Here too reason was conceived of in religiously autonomous terms, anthropology was dualistic, and the dialectic was as equally irreconcilable. The Thomistic conception disintegrated in Nominalism.

At this point, two historical movements diverged. With the Reformation there was a return (albeit somewhat temporary and limited in relation to philosophy and science) to the radically integral biblical groundmotive (creation, fall, redemption). With so-called Enlightenment “Humanism” there was a secularization of the biblical motives of creation and redemption. Creation became an ideal of nature in scientific control. Reality was viewed deterministically, explainable in terms of a rational construction of cause and effect. The grace of redemption, as liberty in Christ, became an ideal of the autonomous freedom of personality. Although originally tied to control over nature, it’s later view rejected all normative order not based on the autonomous individual. This freedom ideal also had a collectivist interpretation.

The religious dialectic between an absolute science ideal, epitomized in Descartes, and an absolute personality ideal, epitomized in Rousseau, was also irreconcilable. Human freedom can not exist in the face of a deterministic universe, and order in the universe must be illusory if autonomy is ultimate. The attempt at synthesis made by Kant dissolved into positivistic historicism, undermining its own foundation for scientific truth. This led to the spiritual crisis of the twentieth century in Western civilization. In “Foolishness to the Greeks” Leslie Newbigin analyzed secularization and this disintegration in Western culture as a rejection of teleology. There arose a separation of objective, public, scientific fact from subjective, private, religious value and meaning.

However, according to Dooyeweerd, the biblical religion is characterized by the groundmotive of creation-fall-redemption. In this view no dualism arises in the understanding of reality or in anthropology. No part of creation is made absolute or opposed to any other part, but rather, creation is entirely dependent on God. Likewise, man is understood integrally as the image of God; his self-knowledge necessarily connected to the knowledge of God.

Dooyeweerd opposes the supposed autonomy of theoretical thought also upon the nature of science itself. In any particular science, given its selective theoretical outlook, it must assume (at least implicitly) a conception of the limits of that field and therefore a conception of some relation to other special theoretical fields. This, in turn, presupposes a general theoretical conception of reality which is necessarily dependent on a view of what is ultimate; that is a religious conviction. In this way we understand that theoretical thought is in no way autonomous from religion. We see here the inner point of contact between religion and science. That is not to say, however, that science and philosophy are dependent upon the discipline of theology. The distinction between various fields is given in their distinct criteria for theoretical inquiry.

Dooyeweerd’s Transcendental Critique

The fundamental aims of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental criticism are first, to engage in a self-critique for the sake of an inner reformation of a Christian approach to philosophy and the sciences; second, to then defend the legitimacy of a distinctly calvinistic philosophy and science; and third, to open a way for genuine communication between opposing philosophical schools.

The predominant barrier to these aims, against which the transcendental critique is proposed, is the pretended autonomy of theoretical thought. That is, theoretical thought was uncritically assumed to be independent of extratheoretical or religious commitments. This not only called into question the legitimacy of a religiously motivated philosophy, but because within each different philosophical school the nature of this autonomy was conceived differently, it prevented genuine philosophical dialog.

The transcendental critique is not merely immanent (or “inside”) criticism which examines theories in terms of logical consistency, and perhaps in terms of explanatory power. Nor is it merely transcendent (or “outside”) criticism which examines theories with respect to another theory, or perhaps from a faith-stance. Although these are not entirely alien to transcendental criticism, a transcendental (or “beneath”) critique makes an inquiry into the conditions required by the inner structure of theoretical thinking as such which alone make this thought possible.

This implies a fundamental distinction between thought in its special “theoretical” character, and non-theoretical (or so-called “naive”) thinking and experience. Dooyeweerd describes naive experience as related to things and events as individual wholes. In non-theoretical thought the logical mode of distinction is entirely embedded in concrete, integral experience.

In the first two chapters of Dooyeweerd’s book In The Twilight of Western Thought he structures his transcendental critique around three critical problems or questions, which in their basic concerns taken together form a three-fold transcendental idea. The first question is, what do we abstract in theorizing and how is it possible? Dooyeweerd answers that question in reference to temporal reality; that is, we abstract from the diversity of modalities unbreakably and mutually cohering in temporal order, which is possible by intentional (cognitive) opposition of the logical and the non-logical modalities of thought in abstraction, and may be called a “theoretical antithesis”. The second question is, how do we form a logical concept of the abstracted modality and upon what basis does this occur? Dooyeweerd answers that question in reference to the self; that is, we form a concept of the abstracted modality in a theoretical synthesis only upon a diversity-transcending unified reference, which is the unabstracted selfhood, through self-reflection. The third question is, what is the self and how is this critical, concentric self-reflection possible? Dooyeweerd answers that question in reference to absolute origin; that is, the self is an image of God, a religious consciousness of divinity (the absolute) in dependency on transcendence, and critical reflection upon ones self is possible by innate impulse expressed in historical, communal groundmotives.

The three basic concerns of the transcendental critical problems are time, self, and the absolute. These relate to what may be called the three-fold transcendental idea of diversity-unity-origin. This basic idea serves as the ground for an inner point of contact between theoretical thought and religious stance. This idea is necessary for all philosophical conceptions, and it’s particular content is always determined by a given religious commitment to something as the absolute origin.

Dooyeweerd’s Modality Theory

In his chapter Theory of Modes of Being van Woudenberg begins by asking how one might account for the variety of experience. He offers Dooyeweerd’s modality theory as a good way to do this without resorting to reductionistic explanations that deny the varied character of experience, and without imposing an axiomatically deduced system upon experience (such as Kant’s apriori categories). Modality theory seeks to account for the diversity of concrete experience, and not to explain away this diversity. It seeks to do this in terms of theoretical reflection upon concrete experiences.

Modalities are understood not as things, but ways things exist and are experienced. Hart says that they are “functions,” not “functors.” In other terms they are said to be “hows” not “whats.” Moreover, an understanding of modality helps give account, not only of concrete experience, but also of the distinctions between various theoretical fields, the special sense in their respective use of concepts, and of the differing criteria applied in distinct fields of scientific inquiry.

Modalities are aspects of reality as a whole. They are aspects of what Dooyeweerd calls “cosmic time,” that is, of temporal reality. They are also aspects of concrete phenomena, such as of things, processes, events, and behaviors. For instance, things exist numerically. There are a certain number of things.

Modalities may also be said to be the given conditions for these concrete phenomena, and to express the order of reality. This relates to modalities as law-spheres. That is, there is a “law-side” of reality to which things (in a broad sense) are subject. In this regard, there are two basic kinds of modalities, the “natural,” in which laws hold as such, for instance, the physical law of gravitation, and the “normative” in which laws must be “positivized” and can be violated, for instance, the economic norm of stewardship. Laws govern things (that is, God governs all creation by law) in both their ontic natures and in how they are experienced. So modalities are also modes of experience. For instance, language presupposes a sense of the meaning of words. We have an experience of linguistic meaning in speech and writing, and in hearing and reading words.

Modalities are also dimensions or sides of meaning. There is a rich qualitative diversity of meaning given in created reality. In this way reality is understood not to “have” meaning, but rather is meaning. Reality as meaning is both an expression of meaning, and a referring to both God as the absolute origin of all meaning, and of one meaning to other related meanings in creation.

Modalities have at least three basic characteristics: irreducibility, coherence, and universality. The core original sense of each modality is proper to itself and cannot be explained exclusively in terms of (that is, cannot be reduced to) any other modal sense. For instance, the central modal sense of the psychic (that is, sensitive or feeling) cannot be properly reduced to the kinetic (that is, movement). When the irreducibility of each is ignored, there arise antinomies. And so the exclusion of antinomies can serve as a criterion for discerning modal irreducibility.

However, in relation to the respective senses of the psychic and kinetic, we do speak of “emotion” which may be understood as a movement of feeling. We may also speak of mood swings and also of a sense of motion. In concrete phenomena, the modalities hold in an unbreakable mutual coherence. However, there is an order to this coherence. This is partially expressed in what may be called modal analogies and analogical concepts. These analogies may be understood in terms of either anticipations where an “earlier” core modal sense refers to a “later” one, or retrocipations where a later core modal sense refers to an earlier one.

Moreover, every particular thing has all the modalities. This is what we may call modal universality. However, some things function subjectively or actively in certain modalities, and objectively or passively in other modalities. For instance, a stone has all the modalities, but it only actively functions in the numerical, spacial, kinetic, and physical. It functions in the biotic, psychic, analytical, historical, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, and pistic only passively. In this regard we can also speak of founding and qualifying modalities which play a special role in the structure of any given thing.

Dooyeweerd’s Entity Theory

In his chapter Theory of Thing-Structures van Woudenberg begins by asking how is it, despite the fact that individual things are constantly changing, we are able to recognize that any given thing is that same thing from day to day. How might one account for the experience of something’s identity? Similar to modality theory, he offers Dooyeweerd’s entity theory as a good way to do this without resorting to either reductionistic explanations that deny either the constancy or the changeableness of things, or to dualistic explanations that deny the basic unity of particular things. Dooyeweerd’s entity theory significantly presupposes his modality theory, and it similarly seeks to account for our concrete experience, not to explain it away.

Two sorts of identities of things may be distinguished. The first is what may be called the specific “structural” identity of some kind of thing. That is, something’s “structural” identity distinguishes what kind of thing something is, for instance, a Norway Spruce tree, in distinction from another kind of tree, or from something that is not a tree at all, such as an interstate highway. The second sort of identity is what may be called “unique” identity. That is, something’s “unique” identity distinguishes particular things from other particular things, for instance, the Norway Spruce tree that stands on the corner of exit 4 in Ogunquit, Maine off of route 95, in distinction from any other particular Norway Spruce.

Structural identities may be determined by three basic considerations: qualifying function, structural type, and enkaptic relation. Some thing’s qualifying function is its most characteristic modality. This qualifying function specially characterizes the way some thing functions in all the other modalities, and determines its internal or intrinsic purpose.

The most general classification of structural type is radical type, which is determined by qualifying function. For instance, all animals are included in one radical type since they all have the same qualifying function in the psychic modality. There are more specific classifications within each radical type, such as genotypes. For instance, all fish belong to a single genotype in distinction from other genotypes such as amphibians, mammals, and birds.

Enkaptic relationships consist of an interdependence of things such that at least one thing is somehow influenced in its structural identity by another thing. Enkaptic relationships differ from part–whole relationships in that parts have no independent structural qualification. There are several varieties of enkaptic relationships. For instance, a marble statue constitutes an irreversible foundational enkapsis since the statue cannot exist apart from its material, but the material can exist apart from whatever shape it may be given. Another variety is subject–object enkapsis such as a snail and its shell. The two structures are interdependent such that the snail influences the structural identity of its shell. Some enkaptic interlacements are embodied in single structure or what may be called an enkaptic structural whole. These wholes are qualified by the last qualifying modality of whatever structures are enkaptically bound in the whole.

Zuidervaart’s Criticism of Dooyeweerd’s Entity Theory

In his article Fantastic Things: Critical Notes Toward a Social Ontology of the Arts Zuidervaart offers a critique of Dooyeweerd’s discussion of art which is found primarily in the first part of the third volume of his “New Critique” concerning individuality-structures (entity theory). In particular, Zuidervaart focuses on Dooyeweerd’s analysis of Praxiteles’ sculpture of Hermes. Zuidervaart suggests that Dooyeweerd’s account involves four sets of problematic reductions, and yet that there are elements of his account that can be cultivated into a better “social ontology” of art.

The first problem is the reduction of structure to law. The distinctions between structures-of, that is, factual structures, and structures-for, that is, law structures or structural principles are not clearly articulated. And there is an emphasis on invariant laws, particularly those governing things with a normative object-function qualification. The second problem is the reduction of art to the artwork. Conclusions from the structural analysis of a particular artwork are drawn with reference to art in general, and that without any consideration of the highly significant sociohistorical factors involved. The third problem is the reduction of a “work” to a thing. Not all entities (individuality-structures) are things in the technical sense, and artworks receive improper analysis as things rather than as works. Moreover, there are additional kinds of artistic entities. The fourth problem is the reduction of the artwork (as thing) to artistic conception. In this way artworks are not viewed as mere copies of natural things, and properly so. However, the emphasis on artistic conception involves a misconstrual of the artistic process, and once again ignores the sociohistorical context.

Zuidervaart suggests an outline for reconstructing a full-fledged social ontology of art which accounts for the sociohistorical factors that characterize art in general, and accounts for artist and artwork in terms of those sociohistorical institutions that make art possible. This reconstruction attempts to “provide a more expansive and precise theory of the entire realm of art” in terms of Dooyeweerd’s account of aesthetic qualification, historical foundation, and aesthetic and historical norms.

Clouser’s Dooyeweerdian Theory of Society

In his chapter on a theory of society in his book The Myth of Religious Neutrality Clouser contrasts a biblical view with the two dominant approaches of Western liberalism. Epitomized in Locke’s approach, for instance, is an assumption of the primacy of the autonomous individual. In this conception communities are not givens, but rather dependent upon a contracting of individuals. Communities are viewed as mere means to chosen individual ends. This results in a view of the legitimacy of authority, and civil government in particular, as dependent on consent of the governed.

Epitomized in Rousseau’s view, for instance, is an assumption of the primacy of the collective. Individuals and communities are not givens, but viewed as mere parts of an overarching whole, most commonly of the State or civil community. This results in a view of the legitimacy of the collective authority as unquestionable, or perhaps relative to the collective good or general will.

In contrast to these two views, Clouser presents a view of individuals and communities where both are original, that is, neither depends upon the other for their origin or existence, but rather are equally given. Accordingly, individuals and communities exist in several basic relationships: between persons, between persons and communities, persons within communities, and between communities. In this view civil government or the State is one community next to others. The legitimacy of State authority relates to its responsibility for administration of public justice.

This conception of societal arrangements of non-hierarchical, horizontal relationships between all communities, including the State, may be called sphere sovereignty or differentiated responsibility. In the sphere sovereignty view authority is structurally given within each community and is related to the intrinsic nature of the community. Each community also has its own particular responsibilities, the fulfillment of which depends on the historical positivization of the norms for it. Clouser distinguishes two basic kinds of communities: natural institutions, such as marriage and family, and historical organizations, such as schools and hospitals.

There are also different kinds of individual relationships. Between persons there are both accidental or incidental relationships, such as those that may obtain in a commercial transaction, and enduring or non-incidental relationships, such as those that may obtain in a friendship. These relationships have certain structural qualifications of their own which include normativity.

There are several special issues of normativity related to this discussion. One such issue is the relationship between “the rule of law” and “democracy.” Democracy, as a form of civil government, itself requires the rule of law, lest there be a tyranny of the majority. The norm of public justice must serve as the basis for civil authority and the rule of law. Another issue is that of the domination of society, over individuals and/or communities, by either civil government or the market. In either case, the limited natures of each sphere in its differentiated responsibility is violated, and other spheres are hampered in their ability to fulfill their own responsibilities. Such antinormative conditions are destructive to human flourishing. Human flourishing is a norm for all societal spheres, related to the given responsibilities of each and in relationship to each other.

Chaplin’s Criticism of Dooyeweerd’s Social Philosophy

In Chaplin’s article Dooyeweerd’s Notion of Societal Structural Principles he addresses three “ontological problematics” of Dooyeweerd’s notion with specific reference to the State. Perhaps the main theme of Chaplin’s problematics may be put in the following way. Structural principles can be discovered because they “urge themselves” on experience. These principles cannot be altered no matter how they may be historically positivized (or how misdirected the positivization may be) in a particular factual structure because the principles are themselves invariant and make factual existence possible. However, there are not only principles of invariable typicality, but also principles of variability or at least factual variations in unique individual identity. Moreover, there is a great range of historical variation in the process of cultural development. Also, the universality of a phenomenon cannot in itself show that it is rooted in a creationally-given principle since the misdirecting effects of the fall are also universally present.

The first problem, then, is how we can properly discern which features of a factual structure belong to its invariable type, and which to its variable unique identity. The second problem is how we can distinguish the invariant principles from the factual variant forms in which these principles are historically positivized. The third problem is how we can more adequately relate the positivization of principles for social structures to the structure of human persons, that is, to the positivization of the norms for human flourishing.

Chaplin illustrates these problems in relation to Dooyeweerd’s identifying coercive power as the States founding function, and to his not identifying democracy as normative structural principle. In the end, he suggests that we must conceive of the principles governing societal structures as inseparably grounded in and directed to the principles governing the development of human life.

Dooyeweerd’s Theory of Historical Development

In chapters 3 and 4 of his book The Roots of Western Culture Dooyeweerd outlines his theory concerning historical unfolding and the faith-directed opening of culture. He begins with a discussion of the historical modality. This should not be confused with history in the concrete sense of what has happened. Concrete history in that sense displays a coherence of all the modalities. However, events that are typified by the historical are those which act formatively in world history. The historical modality concerns not what has happened, but rather how something occurs. The core modal sense of history, then, is cultural formation or formative power.

Cultural formation is grounded in the creation order, particularly in the God-given task to humanity to subdue and have dominion over the earth. In this way, creation itself is subject to cultural development. Cultural development is also subject to the norm of tradition, or historical continuity. Outstanding features of this development are differentiation and individualization, which in turn are subject to the norm of so-called cultural economy, or limitation of responsibility, and this is normatively accompanied by an intercoherence, integration, or sphere universality. God brings a judgment in history when these norms are violated in the resultant cultural disharmony.

Dooyeweerd goes on to discuss the faith modality. The core modal sense of faith is ultimate certainty. The faith modality expresses a coherence with every other modality. The norm for faith is God’s revelation which refers beyond temporal reality. In faith’s connection to God’s revelation it has a special relationship with cultural opening. All apostate faith is directed toward some modality of creation. Even through apostate faith there may be a disclosure and opening in historical development when this faith is directed toward some modality of human personality and culture. When this occurs through an apostate faith it brings about severe disharmony in a culture accompanied by a judgement of dialectical reaction. And yet this too serves a function in cultural formation.

There is a significant biblical background to this approach. Besides what has already been mentioned in terms of the cultural task given to humanity, there is also a biblical understanding of redemption in terms of a redemption of time and in time. This is opposed to a negative conception of redemption from time.

The ancient Greek conception of time and history was largely negative. Unity, the absolute, eternity, and changelessness, were considered to have more reality and to be in opposition to the qualities of time. History was merely cyclical and of minor importance. This ancient Greek attitude later negatively influenced early Christian thought. By contrast, the Reformational understanding of time and history returns to the biblical appreciation of them as good creations of God. Dooyeweerd did have a view of supratemporality which is related to a central unity of temporal diversity. However, supratemporality is equally created and no more real or important than temporal creation.

The modern “humanistic” understanding of history absolutizes it. This is historicism. Rather than historical development being subject to norms, all reality becomes relative to and determined by its supposed arbitrary contingencies. See Clouser's critique of historicism [pdf].

--Two Readings In Alternatives To A Reformational Approach--

Alvin Plantinga’s Approach

In his essay On Christian Scholarship Plantinga asks the question of how a university can be a proper Christian university. More particularly he asks, “how should a Christian university and how should the Christian intellectual community think about scholarship and science?”

Plantinga begins by outlining the two main contemporary alternatives to Christian thought in western society. These are what he calls “perennial naturalism” and “creative anti-realism,” and he includes in the latter its “progeny” of relativism and anti-commitment. He characterizes the first as a basic rejection of God (and by extension the supernatural altogether), and a restriction of humanity to a mere natural phenomenon. He characterizes the second as a rejection of objective order in the world, and a restriction of all fact to mere subjective human construction.

In his final analysis, Plantinga asserts that these are not simply neutral alternatives to a Christian perspective, but rather they are explicitly anti-Christian positions. These viewpoints are not only deeply ingrained in our culture, but they are deeply antagonistic to a Christian understanding of things. And from a Christian perspective, these views are utterly unacceptable. However, these ways of thinking have an upper hand in universities and the general intellectual community.

Plantinga suggests that there are at least two particular responses needed from Christian academics. He says that first we need consciousness raising by way of Christian cultural criticism. Christian thinkers must help make the broader Christian community aware of and sensitive to the profound incompatibility of these two predominant viewpoints with Christianity. And second, Plantinga says, Christian scholars must do their scholarship from an explicitly theistic position. In each particular discipline Christians must take as granted the Christian understanding of God and creation and then address all the particular issues within that field upon those assumptions.

I am in general agreement with Plantinga’s assessment of the situation, the problem it poses, and what the Christian intellectual community can do about it. However, I believe there are several intellectual communities that go by the name Christian, and each has a different understanding of what such scholarship as Plantinga calls for would specifically involve. Unfortunately, I believe these different “Christian” scholarships are also incompatible with the Reformational view. I do not believe, for instance, that a “scholastic” approach in any form –be it Catholic Thomism, or one of its Protestant incarnations– is compatible with Reformational scholarship. One significant reason for this incompatibility is that, so far, only the Reformational approach has perceived the necessity of an inner connection between science and religion. All other approaches relate Christianity to scholarship in a merely external, and therefore inadequate, fashion.

Nevertheless, I agree that equal to the need for genuine Reformational scholarship is the need to relate this scholarship to the socio-cultural context and to communicate the implications of this scholarship for non-academic issues and life to the broader community. Perhaps this task is not the calling of every Reformational scholar, but the need should be unanimously acknowledged, and a Reformational response to that need should be widely supported.

Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Approach

In his essay On Christian Learning Wolterstorff begins by saying that one of the most provocative claims of neocalvinism is that scholarship cannot be religiously neutral. This is so provocative because it is directly opposed to the fundamental assumption of the predominant modern view of scholarship which largely assumes what he calls the “Leibnizian ideal.” This ideal posits that disputes about matters of fact can be impartially resolved on the basis of neutral rules of evidence.

Abraham Kuyper, the broadly recognized founder of the neocalvinist movement, elaborated his opposition to the Leibnizian ideal in terms of the notion of two kinds of science. This notion was rooted in Kuyper’s theological understanding of regeneration. Regeneration is that spiritual transformation whereby some men are radically changed in their being, renewed and enlightened in their consciousness. The regeneration of some people and not of others results in two kinds of people. And Kuyper believed that the idea of the unity of science necessarily implied a denial of the fact of regeneration.

Nonetheless, Kuyper maintained that while regeneration was thoroughly comprehensive in scope, effecting as it did the basic conscious constitution of a person, it did not alter the working of the senses or the formal processes of cognition. Yet Kuyper affirms the notion of two kinds of science precisely because these capacities (sensing and reasoning) are not sufficient for the construction of the sciences. Kuyper acknowledges that in a merely formal sense the effort and activity of the two sciences bear the same character. But the results of these efforts are entirely different and contrary to each other.

Wolterstorff’s main objection to Kuyper’s approach is that he doesn’t believe Kuyper is clear on how the religious divergence brought about by regeneration works itself out concretely in science. Kuyper is clear that the Christians and nonChristians (regenerate and unregenerate) have different startingpoints, and that this difference governs their scientific investigations. But Wolterstorff does not see how this actually happens. Kuyper admits that people may not be faithful to their startingpoints, and that this may result in their otherwise respective sciences being quite similar. The Kuyperian solution to this problem was for the Christians to do science that is more thoroughly consistent with their startingpoint.

However, Wolterstorff believes that this approach is mistaken. While we are to obey all of God’s commands, and not to serve anyone other than God, Wolterstorff suggests it is a profound mistake to say that all of life consists in obedience and service to God. He pejoratively calls this “religious totalism.”

Wolterstorff notices that the neocalvinist religious-totalist view has sought to articulate how religious divergence works itself out scientifically in two main ways. The first way this is shown is in terms of worldview. The worldview with which a scholar engages a discipline shapes his practice of it. However, Wolterstorff does not find this approach compelling because he isn’t sure what actual beliefs would constitute a worldview. The second way neocalvinist religious-totalists have sought to demonstrate a difference in the sciences is in terms of idolatry. Since persons inevitably view something as ultimate, it will either be the true Creator-God or some substitute in creation. The latter is idolatry and this idolatry inevitably results in reductive scientific accounts. However, Wolterstorff does not find this approach compelling either. It appears to him that there are plenty of instances where nonChristians in both their scientific practice and results (theorizing and theories) never fall into any sort of reductionism. He doesn’t think anyone has ever shown otherwise.

As an alternative to these neocalvinist religious-totalist approaches Wolterstorff suggests that Christians stop worrying about trying to be different. Besides, Wolterstorff asserts, all Christian scholars agree with nonChristian scholars on a vast number of things. Wolterstorff says we should be thankful for all the genuine agreement, and be content with doing our work faithfully. Additionally, he says, Jews and Muslims don’t worship a different god or an idol, they’re merely worshiping the same God in a different way. In his conclusion Wolterstorff argues that while Kuyper had a one-directional view in that he believed our faith should influence science, Wolterstorff recommends that we allow science to influence our faith too.

I cannot express my disagreement with Wolterstorff’s approach strongly enough. I understand how Geertsema related the basic notions of Wolterstorff to those of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, but I think such a relating requires the significant denuding of Wolterstorff’s actual claims. In brief, my response (as a religious-totalist) to Wolterstorff is that I will happily show him how it has been demonstrated that all reductive theoretical accounts are idolatrous, and that idolatry's consistent implications for theoretical accounts are all reductionist.

Monday, October 10, 2005

your reading assignment

Here is a wonderful and utterly readable introduction to the Reformational approach to philosophy. When you have some time, give it a read. It's not too long, and it will be amazingly helpful in giving you a better understanding of what I am doing.