Vollenhoven's Second Letter to
Translated and annotated for study purposes only
Vollenhoven also sent an earlier note dated April 30, 1937. I have not yet seen a copy.
This translation is from a copy in the Dooyeweerd Archives, Amsterdam. I have not compared this with the copy in the Curators Archive. Endnotes in arabic numerals are by Vollenhoven. My own comments are included as additional Endnotes with lower case roman numerals. These additional Endnotes clearly show my initials, JGF. For further clarification of some of the issues discussed here, see my Introduction.
Amsterdam, October 15, 1937
In response to your request dated July 13 of this year for me to possibly respond to the note from colleague Hepp dated June 11 of this year. In order to advise you, I have the honour to bring the following to your attention :
Concerning the Introduction to the note of colleague Hepp note, may I make a couple of annotations.
The first is this, that since the time that he raised a few objections at a gathering of professors at my house –probably at least six years ago–colleague Hepp has never spoken to me about our conception! After the said gathering I then requested him to more precisely formulate his critical views. During the few times that we have spoken to each other since that time, this subject has never come up. That my colleague had come to a formulation was something that I first became aware of when an advertisement in De Standaard announced the appearance of the series of brochures known to us. I had to temporariliy deduce the main points of these brochures from the newspaper review of the sitting of the last General Synod of the Gereformeerde churches in the Netherlands, dated September 9, 1936. In view of this background information, the question whether this way of acting “corresponds with the attitude that should exist among colleagues” is in my opinion difficult to answer affirmatively.
I will come back again directly to the content of these brochures. But first just a few words here about the intent and tone of the critique contained in them. Even here I intend to hold myself back from a straightforward qualification; I will only, in answer to the relevant part of the introduction of the Hepp note, state that my colleague evidently holds a wholly personal view of “loyal,” and that the criticism that has been delivered by a wide circle regarding these brochures demonstrates to my joy that our Gereformeerde people, although it also knows how to value courteous manners, yet clearly places more value on chivalrousness and a sense of brotherhood.
A second remark concerns what colleague Hepp says about the “popularizing” of our ideas.
In this connection I state that I am thankful that my colleague here, too distinguishes our work from that of others. [i]
Now concerning the popularization of our conception by ourselves–we have indeed always regarded this as one part of our task, albeit a modest one. Even in general, university professors of a university like ours neither may nor can separate themselves off from our people as if they were “Chinese mandarins.” And in particular relation to the areas that we have the pleasure to teach, it must be stated that these have drawn attention even outside the Calvinistic circle for, I would say, the past thirty years. Now we have repeatedly warned against the overestimation of philosophy which has in this way come to light; we have always emphasized our premiss, that it is not science, nor philosophy, but rather religion that must rule the whole of life. Yet we could certainly value that the men of the special sciences were becoming more conscious than before of the presuppositions which are found at the basis of their research, and we have tried to use this change in their circle in order to focus their attention on how Kuyper’s idea is
being confirmed by the course of things–that the antithesis also appears in these presuppositions. A new factor, which had be taken into account, was the already long observed turning that became rather suddenly evident in a wider circle, a turning from individualism, idealism, democracy and independence towards universalism, irrationalism, aristocratic politics and hierarchical tendencies. They especially made necessary a speedy and popular enlightenment. Moreover, from our side, the popularization did not take such a course; at least, it is apparent that we have not succeeded in speaking about these difficult matters in language that is clear for everyone. Colleague Hepp at least complains about “great obscurity of expression” (p. 2), and he even found it desirable here and there to translate into German some passages from the publications of my ally [Dooyeweerd] in order to better understand them (p. 1), although I really must doubt whether it will in this way be possible to reconstruct an Ur-Dooyeweerd [ii], and I ask myself whether it might not have been better to replace such a difficult method with a few strolls through town shorter than a Sabbath’s journey, in order to ask for clarification from the author himself. Meanwhile, the circle of those who have understood the deepest motives of our work is, God be praised, quite large. Of course there is some danger in this: our people now expect much at once from their university and this attitude has also sometimes in the past regarded as a definitive gain what was only a provisionally formulated result. But in many ways we were careful against this danger. In the first place we worked in a strongly positive manner, we underlined again and again the provisional character of our expositions, we continually sought further, and we demonstrated in each following publication that we were adverse to the haughty view, “What I have written I have written.” Furthermore, we inculcated in our students the need to continually ask outspoken questions, to fill in the gaps, and not to agree with us before their own conviction had matured–so for example, students could not become members of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy.
It is then also peculiar, that when now and then a complaint arose about the popularization by others, further investigation often brought to light that we either had to do with the tendentious giving of news, or else with someone who was not our student. If there were really no grounds for complaint, then we have always shown our disapproval. Since there was a public disqualification of these views, we did not have to be sparing in our use of our own journal for such purposes, as colleague Hepp assumes. Furthermore it appeared that even without this disqualification, our people knew how to make these distinctions.
With that I have come to the note itself. For purposes of clarity, this time I will also follow the headings of colleague Hepp.
1. Our supposed one-sided opposition against neo-Kantianism
Joining with Dooyeweerd’s note, may I make only the following remarks. The fact that colleague Hepp made a remark about this in 1922 does not entail that this remark was necessary. It is true that our conception was at that time less worked out than today, and that it made more sense at that time to fight neo-Kantianism, but it is evident that even then our critique was already not isolated [to being against neo-Kantianism]. At that time already I warned against Scheler, and two years earlier I had criticized Bergson’s vitalist philosophy.
2. Concerning the connection to tradition, may I refer
to what is said below (in section II) for certain special points, relating
both to principal matters as well as to matters of secondary importance.
Joining with Dooyeweerd’s note, I can thereby proceed from the proposition that all study of a tradition needs a criterion, which in the final analysis can only be provided by the Holy Scriptures. It is from this that we speak of Scriptural and non-Scriptural philosophy, and these two also need to be distinguished in the tradition.
Of course the past is not unified in the least in this respect. So it is true that in determining the relative worth of a conception it must be taken into account that a thinker in the pagan milieu could not then be fully aware of Word revelation that had already been provided to Israel. A person’s thought in “the time of unknowing” may not be measured with the same standard as what is thought during the period of synthesis. Furthermore, we need to thankfully record each relative gain that a school, whichever and wherever, knew how to obtain in comparison with other schools, and through which it had a better view of the structure of the cosmos. I have already referred to the things mentioned in my Calvinism. In regard to what particularly concerns the time of synthesis, may I point out that I do not in the least follow Harnack cum suis [and those with him]. Now apart from the peculiar fact that in this my supposed dependency on Seeberg will come into question, our whole conception argues against this interpretation; Christendom is in our view certainly not without culture. A “forming” from elsewhere is therefore not necessary, and furthermore, even where one believes that such forming cannot be omitted, the ruling theme has for a long time no longer been Hellenistic, as I have already pointed out in my article in De Standaard, apparently one of the articles that my colleague “now and again” has “missed.” What is more important is that the synthesis frequently displays the character of Christianization, and therefore appears to be ruled by an exactly contrary tendency. This is sufficient for you to make you see that I have not started out from a unified and borrowed schema, and therefore a fortiori not the schema of Harnack.
But the main issue is that we cannot do without a sorting out of tradition, if that tradition is not to be the last word to a historical reason (whether or not it is a Christian one), with its zigzag line of action and reaction. That already appears from the inner contradictions into which tradition fell many times whenever it took up or held fast to elements that conflicted with its own fundamental ideas, or also when, without sufficient critical reflection, it tried to unite two older mutually contradictory lines. It is for me a puzzle how in such cases one can try to unite with the result without a careful analysis of the conceptions running together through it. In addition to this sorting out on the basis of an immanent critique, we can also not do without the application of the Scriptural criterion. It speaks for itself that this criterion also does not exclude a relative valuing, something that I have always practiced; thus in the period of synthesis, I have drawn attention everywhere to the elements building up the church, even when they had a mistaken tendency, e.g. Roman [Catholic]. But only the person who does not give the last word to tradition can understand its relation to the Word of God and in this way also understand itself. And only in this way can our critical use of what we share in thanks with our ancestors be paired with a struggle against the mixing [of traditions] in our own time.
3. The division among our Gereformeerde people
This certainly saddens us no less than it does colleague Hepp. Yet I believe that his attempt to explain it by the influence of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea is not merely too simplistic but may also really be challenged as unhistorical.
Now the difficulties of the last years are the consequence of a long ongoing process. If we search for the deepest philosophical cause, then we find it in the fact that the quiet trust in God, Who has revealed Himself in His Word, has in our land for many centuries been undermined by subjectivism. The anti-papistry of this movement caused its supporters during the time of the reformers to break with the medieval Church wherever they saw the chance. One of the consequences, even in these places, was that subjectivism threatened the force of the Reformation, and then its vigiliance was slackened, and for the greater part was even broken. Now much good has undoubtedly come about here through the Afscheiding and especially through the Doleantie [iii]. And Kuyper has also searched
deeply into this danger [of subjectivism]. The Vrije Universiteit also then intended to be a bulwark against the turbulence of this wide-ranging movement. Yet it has succeeded in this only in part. It must even be stated that there can also be found among its alumni those who did not perceive this danger. This was then not without its consequences. Already before I entered the pastorate I became aware of several dangers that threatened here. And my all too early experience in the Netelenbos-question [iv] confirmed my previous impression, that the psychological explanations that were then in fashion did not bring these [dangers] to light. But these things did not drive me towards objectivism, as is evident from an oral exposition, which I already gave in 1919, in which I rejected the idea that subjectivism and objectivism needed each other in the church in order to preserve or to restore a balance. Meanwhile, subjectivism continued to be rampant in Gereformeerde life, both within and outside of the church. I remember here only the most well known, the Geelkerken question [v], the conflict with Zevenbergen [vi], the influence of Barthianism and (later and more isolated), the spiritualism of Dr. Ubbink[vii]. But other symptoms were also not missing. Now this was certainly not always intended as a deviation from the line that was required by the foundation of the Vrije Universiteit. But it was still clear enough that the danger for this was present. It was therefore to be expected that where the flood gradually rose, all hands would work together in order to help our people. But that did not really happen. On the contrary, many a man spent a good part of his strength in various personal conflicts both in and outside of the press. As the disastrous effects of individualism gradually became clearer, some sought to partially save themsleves in a more universalistic direction, but even in this way the subjectivistic danger was not averted.
Given this background, it completely amazes me whenever the supporters of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea are accused of trying to drive a wedge among our Gereformeerde people! We have always refrained from getting involved in personal conflicts. And because of its point of departure, our conception had no part or share even with regard to the objective tensions within subjectivism. For a large part of our people, it did bring about the opening of their eyes to the background of the increasing division. But instead of thefore becoming more careful, some people sought their salvation in the formation of a new negative front. Initially, they also tried to win us over to such plans. But they turned against us when we feared that a negative intention would only make the situation worse (we also had serious objections against some ideas and actions). One destructive criticism after the other came from this circle. And although colleague Hepp may in the beginning have been able to hold himself apart from them, in recent years he himself stands in their front ranks. I won’t now go into the history of the recent past; in order to avoid further estrangement, we have until now remained publicly silent, and for the same reason I also consider that further details are now neither necessary nor required.
But if one wants to see improvements, then it will be necessary to subject to close analysis the formulation of the old problems that have led to this division. First, if possible, one must determine which conceptual elements produced the danger here, and how it was possible that they sooner or later were imported into the circle of Calvinists. Whoever rather wants to continue to work in the traditional line, closing his eyes to this import, cannot overcome this division; even without intending to, he will in fact sharpen the division.
Therefore although the following of the other path [of analysis of the old problems] will bring about unity, first in smaller and in time also in broader circles, a critique like the one that is in vogue amongst some today will, even if they win the day, bring nothing more than a continuation of the old formulation of problems. And in that case they will leave to our Calvinistic people not much other than the following dilemma: either a defeatism concerning the possibility of solving the differences or allowing the old disintegrating influence to quietly work its way through.
4. The accuracy of this view can already be directly demonstrated with respect to the question of common grace.
Concerning this point I have allowed myself to say very little up to now. In the foreground there is the fact that the Gereformeerde practice of life needs help from the side of theory. For although Kuyper, with his doctrine of “common grace,” called our people to the admiration of God’s grace even there where men do not acknowledge Him, and to the furtherance of His honour in all areas of life, we sometimes find this term used today in an argument in almost the exact opposite sense, which includes within it the danger of a questionable dualistic split [tweedeling] within life.
It was this division in the Christian life that Kuyper opposed so powerfully, but which now is being defended with the same terms. This made many ask whether further reflection was no also required for this terminology. And with this one runs up against various difficulties.
The first problem concerns even the term “common grace.” If it is to bear fruit in the present debate, then we must first answer the question, what does one understand by “common grace?” In this question there are implied at least two other questions: (1) Is “common grace” [gratie] the same as “general grace” [genade]?[viii] and (2) In connection with the answer to the first question, what is meant by “common”? If for example one does not understand “common grace” as being the same as “general grace” then one will necessarily hold these ideas apart, and then the question rises as to the relation of grace as general grace to the work of the Mediator [Christ]. We are therefore concerned first of all with the making of clear distinctions, which is done most easily far from all rumours of strife. If it is thereby possible to maintain the old terms without perpetuating the dangerous confusion that has arisen, and which is so dangerous for the practice of our Gereformeerde life, then we do not have the least need to change these terms.
Yet we must not forget that the issue becomes very complicated by the question of the relation between nature and grace. For whenever it is made clear what one means by ‘grace,’ the question as to the meaning of ‘nature’ remains before one can describe the relation between the two. And there is also a great difference here [in the meaning of ‘nature’]. This is not strange if we think about it. Already in antiquity, the term ‘nature’ had about sixty meanings. Given the already early harboured accommodation ideals, which have still not been given up, it is to be expected a priori that even with respect to the relation of nature and grace we would be able to notice quite a large divergence of opinion. If we then also bring into account the fact that the terms ‘communis’ [common] and ‘particularis’ [particular] also have varying meanings, then it is clear why this terminology now just cannot make a claim to the predicate “unambiguous.”
Of course it does not follow from this that whoever uses the old terminology without a more precise definition would according to us be eo ipso [by that itself] holding a view that must be challenged. But in the long run it does not work out in theoretical thought. There, in order to reach the necessary unambiguity, we must either very clearly define the meaning of the old terms, setting off their chosen meaning from other possible meanings, or else we must give a new terminology.
It seems to us that neither of these ways can be judged a priori. To follow the first path is really cumbersome and will nevertheless not give practical life the light that it needs. From this it is our view that one would be well advised to follow with interest and to quietly test the results of the attempts that are being undertaken to reach the desired goal in the other manner [a new terminology]. And even if the first beginning stroke is not satisfactory, one should be careful not to regard the choice of this second path as having been itself judged thereby. Even stronger, the critic should be on his guard against trying to reconstruct behind these attempts a world of ideas that are entirely foreign to us. Dr. Steen goes the furthest in this; he interprets this wrestling to come to a clearer formulation of these things as an abandonment of the related concept, which here is thought to amount to the driving back of our Calvinistic cultural life to the level that Kuyper encountered in his time. This is his opinion even though we are only stimulating our people to direct
their attention more than before to an important part of culture, that of philosophy, and to become aware of their own positive task also in that area.
Now colleague Hepp is also more careful with respect to this [than Steen]. But he also sees phantoms here. Evidently he is seeking a harsh view behind behind our work, a view that with one stroke of a pen would judge all of pagan culture and with it a large part of God’s world. Here he should consider that the acknowledgement and positing of the antithesis in the working out of our cultural task is something fundamentally different than an anti-cultural demolition. For what did Kuyper break with in his preaching of the antithesis in politics: routine politics or our state life? The answer cannot be doubted by anyone. Well now, why should the continuation in his line in philosophy suddenly be disastrous? And that we do not really break up, but only sort out, may be apparent from the fact that, in carefully making distinctions even in certain pagan theoretical work, we in fact make a distinction between their objective insight into the structure of creation, which every scientist needs to investigate, and the religious Ground-conception that surrounds these insights. To give one example, at p. 30 my Calvinism, I sharply distinguish the gain that the history of science yielded in the teaching of the functions, and the religious Ground-conception from which these distinctions, splendid in themselves, must be freed.
In this critical sorting, more is achieved for both the admiration for God’s work and bountiful goodness and for the valuing of the positive core, which can be experienced even in each apostate part of cultural life, than is achieved with a Christianizing that not only biblicistically reads into Holy Scripture all kinds of ideas, whether these ideas are its own or traditional ideas, but which frequently blocks the way to understanding of the said unbelieving authors, and which kind of Christianizing therefore spells death not only for Christian faith but also for science.
5. Our relation to the Gereformeerde Confessions of Faith
I will come back later to certain points. Here I can therefore limit myself to the main issue. Let me then say it clearly, that the “ambiguity” that colleague Hepp believes that he meets here, simply does not exist. His impression to the contrary rests on a dogmatic identification of what the Confession says with what the–certainly not unanimous–dogmatological re-working of that Confession reads into it. That is why he finds it so difficult to recognize that one can heartily affirm the Confession without sharing this [re-working] or the implicit philosophical interpretation of certain terms of this Confession. Now this identification is already in conflict with a healthy view of the church… for, if it were correct, then the life of the church would within a short time decay into a listening to and carrying out of theological disputes, and the leading of the Church of Christ would be taken out of the hands of the office-bearers and given to certain worthy academic debaters, until these in turn became divided amongst themselves. And this identification is also not without danger for our university. Only when colleague Hepp gives up [this identification] will he stop seeing as a heresy what are only objections to an explicit or implicit philosophical interpretation. And only in this way will he stop acting against colleagues who, where they saw themselves as called to do so, have both publicly as well privately stepped into the breach to maintain the Confession.
6. There remains under this Part I only one other remark to make about the series of points that have been checked off by colleague Hepp on pages 6-13 of his note. For the most part, they refer to the previous note of my ally [Dooyeweerd]. Furthermore, there is one remark that arises of itself in my answer to Part II of the note of colleague Hepp. Therefore I believe that here I only need to call attention to one point. It concerns the method of citation, which colleague Hepp repeatedly applies. Now and then he places a citation from 1929 immediately next to one from a work from 1933, and draws from this a conclusion without taking account of the difference in dates, and thus also without asking for a moment whether
in 1933 I might not at least in part have formulated the matter from the report somewhat differently than I did four years earlier. Already from a methodological point of view, his manner of acting may be challenged as unhistorical. It seems doubly strange to meet this in an author, who did not escape the danger of the unhistorical tendencies in our time. So much the more where, as in this case, one has to do with easily datable work, and furthermore of a writer, who himself is still alive and from time to time shows further development in his conception. Even more suspect is that this way of acting serves not to clarify the earlier publication by the later, but rather to read the earlier into the terminology of the older, by which the historical line itself is turned around to its contrary. [ix]
It is only because of this double methodoloigcal fault ithat colleague Hepp came to ask himself, whether my ally [Dooyeweerd] perhaps was denying my position. And he asked this even though he had the opportunity every week to turn to colleague Dooyeweerd for further information!
I shall have to deal somewhat more extensively with the second part of colleague Hepp’s note.
(1) At the beginning of this part, my colleague checks off certain points from his third brochure, to which I did not reply in my first note. I left these points because in my opinion, as I have already put forward earlier, by abridgement, we can cast light on the core of the question, and through this my note can only increase its value. Colleague Hepp is of the opposite opinion: “But in any event he could have defended himself against this fundamental part of my critique” (p. 14).
Now I believe that in a debate, one lets the one being criticized to be the one to determine if, and if so, on which points he must defend himself.[x] Silence is in any event not always a proof of lack of arguments.
But this time I will agree to do what colleague Hepp asks, even though it may tire your College with points that relate to the whole more like questions of detail.
a) The rendering of the standpoint of Leontius of Byzantium.
In fact, further study has enlightened me further with respect to this author. But is that of so much importance that I should therefore ask for your attention? Is it not very natural, that a university professor who teaches in a historical area, by his later discoveries comes to see in a clearer way the discoveries he made earlier? It is not yet clear to me what colleague Hepp hopes to win on this point. For first of all, this self-correction already dates back to the winter of 1933/34. When it appeared, this part of my colleague’s critique was therefore already more than three years outdated–due to a lack consultation [with me]. And in the second place, the result of this correction does not in the least flatter colleague Hepp; although on various grounds I now classify this scholastic author [Leontius] lower than before, it is still interesting to see how this renegade under the anti-Nestorians, in his defence of Chalcedon, sharply distinguishes between “not-hypostatic” and “anhypostatic,” and then at the same time supposes that the human nature of the Mediator is “not hypostatic,” and yet that neither of the two natures of the Mediator is “anhypostatic.”
b) I have of course followed with interest the argument of my colleague concerning the point “one hypostasis out” and “in two natures.” Yet do not take it ill of me, when I say that he has not convinced me.
In fact both terms later appear linked together. But originally at the time of the church fathers, it was also the view of the church that the “out” of the monophysites provided welcome protection, whereas the “in” maintained the difference between the Person of the Son and His human nature even after the union of both.
c) In the third place colleague Hepp thought,
On what this expectation [by Hepp] was founded is not yet evident. Hepp does not dispute that what has been referred to in these words does not only find support in Calvin’s writings, but that it also played a role in his life, and thus may not be omitted in the characterization of this great reformer. And concerning “one-sidedness,” no one searches for a complete characterization of a man like Calvin in half of a sentence. Where completeness is not really aimed at, what is asserted can then only with difficulty be challenged as “one-sided.” [xi]
d) Finally the half sentence about Kuyper’s “dichotomism.” When I wrote the words that are challenged here, the quotations that colleague Hepp has brought forward were known to me; I have never asserted that Kuyper definitively broke with this dichotomy. Yet it would be good not to forget that many of these citations are directed against a trichotomy, and in this regard can count on our full agreement. It is really an entirely different question, whether the cardinal distinction in Kuyper’s anthropology always has the same meaning. And that question must be answered in the negative: the citations added to Dooyeweerd’s note, to which could be added, demonstrate that Kuyper also aimed at the all-governing character of the classification heart-life, and it was this new element, and not the traditional element of his conception which corresponded with his Ground-idea, the positing of the antithesis, which in principle cancelled the dichotomy in the functionalistic sense of the word. It is because of this that I carefully spoke of a “hesitation” in Kuyper regarding the latter conception.
(2) The continued existence of the soul after death
a) If I have here in fact transgressed the laws of logic, then the construction of the argument delivered by colleague Hepp has contributed to it [xii]. After having sketched the moreover purely fictional group in our midst that is supposed to have denied the continued existence of the soul, –even “expressly” so! –the author says, “that whoever accepts this standpoint cannot maintain immortality.” And what follows is,
and at the bottom of page 12:
These words, “one of them,” connected to the words “the same idea,” gave rise to an inaccurate impression. Yet I willingly accept the assurances of my colleague in this matter.
b) My complaint remains undiminished, that the second brochure, by sketching a fictitious error, places us very close to those who are supposed to hold this error. Such juxtaposition and comparison must compromise us in the eyes of unsuspecting readers.
c) In this connection I must also, without thereby going off on a tangent, challenge the unfounded critique brought about by my colleague on Mr. Janse. In order to avoid the possibility that friendship [with Janse] should here play a part, I myself referred to the pointed remark by which colleague Ridderbos characterized the interpretation given by colleague Hepp of the statement in question. Now it is interesting that colleague Hepp does enter into the citation from colleague Ridderbos, but not to the core of the issue, “the summit of misunderstanding,” of which
Hepp’s interpretation gave the appearance, and his indirect casting of undeserved blame on some of his colleagues.
Concerning this principal matter, I am waiting for clarificationfrom colleague Hepp. Therefore on my side I will limit myself to the secondary matter.
In it there are two things that have struck me as offensive. In the first place the “whose purport I certainly intend to see through.” This sentence gives the impression it is allowed to doubt concerning the transparency of the tendency even of articles by a man like Ridderbos. And in the second place, my citation of this noble figure is answered by colleague Hepp with the explanation that he could then play out against me “the coarse utterance of a Roman [Catholic] critic.” It causes me inner soorrow that colleague Hepp himself says here that he is ready to play out against us utterances that he himself calls “coarse,” and furthermore that he would dare to make such a remark in the same breath as the words cited by myself [from Ridderbos]. The respect for someone who has done so much for our university in difficult times made me think that such an utterance was not possible.
3) The so-called Scriptural idea of the soul
With respect to the Introduction, I need only remark that colleague Hepp must be acquainted with the fact that, by adding remarks like “if one may hold him to what is reunited,” he is suggesting to many readers that this is not yet so certain, and in this way he casts the citations that he gives in a suspect light.
A. I spoke here of meanings, which come up for consideration in the central ideas of anthropology [xiii]. Therefore I can let rest the remaining meanings. Taking into account the light that Scripture offers regarding central questions is something different than being bound to a Biblicistic use of language. Furthermore these two meanings are still alive in our people.
It may further be mentioned, that I wrote “meanings” and therefore thought of words and not of ideas. I do not look for an idea of the psychical in the Scriptures. But the demand may well be made that our ideas, also the psychological ones, may not be in conflict with the revelation concerning man as a unity and as a religious creature.
B. I am completely in agreement that in science we may not operate with two different ideas of the soul. And yet are not a couple of meanings of words different than two ideas, and is no idea possible of “the soul” in the sense of “heart?”
C. Which of the two meanings dominates depends on the context. Now over against the general inclination to give preference to speaking of the “soul” in distinction to “body,” it is necessary to think back on the first of the said meanings, especially for those who value the fact that our people continues to understand its Bible, and does not think of science as passing by the Bible. Yet I have never set aside the second meaning. Not even in my Eerste Vragen. The citation by Hepp of the sentence from out of this report–this time complete–
seems to say the opposite. But it does not in the least play the role that Hepp assigns to it. First of all, the report lacks the underlining that colleague Hepp added without mentioning this. And besides, this citation comes from a paragraph that deals exclusively with a question of Dutch language usage–searching for the grounds for the undecidability in the answer to an established cry for help [hulpvraag]! If colleague Hepp had paid more attention to the whole, then he would have seen that only later do I refer to the use of language in the Holy Scriptures, only on p. 6, and then it is true that I distinguish more meanings. On p. 9, in the summary of the answer, I describe the function of the soul in the sense of humans and animals, and in the present context in a more important place–near the end of the conclusion of the first chapter–I also distinguish this psychical function “from the soul,” “which the enemies of Christ could not kill,” (p. 18). So also here [Hepp has] accentuated one sentence, which, given the structure of the report says very little. Or has he here abandoned the accepted way of excerpting? In any event, a critic who values the predicates “scientific” and “objective” would go to work in a different way.
D. The force of this argument escapes me. The Scriptures refer to both man and animals as “living souls,” but never speak of soul in an animal in the sense of a religious center. There is therefore only mention of two different meanings for man.
E. For the further description of “soul” as “ part of man,” and for the objection against speaking in a theoretical sense of “substance,” I refer here to the extensive note of colleague Dooyeweerd.
(1). The question regarding the number of parts may be regarded as superfluous. I never accepted anything other than a bipartite soul-body (in the sense of heart-life).
(2). There are no grounds for the complaint that I took no notice of what colleague Hepp brought forward. I regarded his view that only the Christian can speak of the “inward man” to be especially worthy of further consideration in every respect. But I also leave this point aside in order to concentrate attention on the main issues. For suppose that I would in time agree with colleague Hepp on this point. Even in that case we would lose only one of the synonyms for ‘soul’ in the meaning of ‘heart,’ which does not touch the core of the issue.
4. The co-called philosophical soul idea
Concerning the word ‘higher’ it should be noted that we of course have no objection when this word s used for ‘soul’ in the sense of ‘heart’ in order to say that the central value for the whole is also attributed to the soul as the center. The objection put forward therefore only relates, in our opinion, to the functionalistic view, according to which the soul consists of the higher functions in the actualistic or substantialistic view that is rejected by us. With respect to this point, it is of secondary importance where one draws the line between the higher and lower group of functions, which in turn may or may not be interpreted as substance.
5. The “soul” in the language used by (special) sciences
It is typical that my colleague chooses to ignore just this point, where the gain from the distinctions that have made would come out the most clearly. Yet, for the sake of the necessary abridgement, it would perhaps be better that this point does not become involved in the debate, unless by the express wish of your College.
Concerning the reproach of functionalism and the method that is also followed here, may I refer to I, 6 and II, 4 of this note and to the note of Dooyeweerd.
7. Spiritual death
A. My colleague finds the clarification that I gave to this issue to be formulated differently than what I had tried to clarify. Naturally. Otherwise there would have been no clarification offered. That it was so easy for me to give [this clarification] was due to the fact that the difficulty was based only on the omission of the term “spiritual death,” for the usage of which term I have no difficulty at all. If colleague Hepp had then only proceeded from a somewhat different view of collegiality, then he could have spared the effort of dragging out his heavy artillery for this point, too. Now I can understand that it has in some sense shocked him that it was also unnecessary here to preach a holy war against us and to have brought scandal to our university. But now he must admit his already earlier referred to tendency to express the clearer formulation by the old [expression]. See for example, his suggestive way of saying “not so innocent” [niet zo onschuldig] and “if he is changed, that he should then rather explain it frankly” [is hij veranderd, dat hij het dan liever ronduit verklare] [xiv]. Especially in questions of formulation, will he not recommend the “ipse-dixi” [because I say so]? And concerning our Gereformeerde people, colleague Hepp does not need to upset himself; they have understood our fight against spiritual death in philosophy and elsewhere so well, that they did not for one moment move in uncertainty.
An explanation to satisfy [this assertion against the people] can then only be offered by colleague Hepp.
B. I also had left unanswered the question of death as “punishment” even for the children of God. The manner in which my colleague has handled this issue has in broader circles aroused surprise and more than surprise. I therefore thought that my silence concerning it would be welcome to him. Since he evidently did not understand my attitude, and since my silence even came across to him as “oppressive,” I will now deal further with this point.
In his commentary on Peter, etc., colleague Greidanus has written among
other things the following:
Concerning I Peter 4:6:
I have certainly not intended anything other than what is stated here. Now undoubtedly it would have been better if I had handled this material in a less compact way, and that if after stating that death is a punishment–a proposition that in modern thought is usually rejected or completely forgotten–I had included in the text just a sentence or two about the difference between punishment and judgment. If colleague Hepp had then also drawn my attention to this point, I would have then immediately conceded it to him. And colleague Hepp himself knew that very well. Why then should he have thought of a “threatening deformation,” and why did he even reach for the weapon of publication and statements of suspicion?
8. The immortality of the soul
A. Since I have extensively dealt with this point in my previous note, I may here limit myself to a refutation of the counterarguments that colleague Hepp has brought forward.
1. “Abusus non tollit usum” [Wrong use does not preclude proper use]. In general, I am in complete agreement with this proposition. But yet here it seems to be a cliché. For in this case we are not arguing for the abolition of a term, but only for the removal of the ambiguity which is expressed by the careless use of this word.
2. In his argument derived from the practice of office, my colleague falls again into his tone of ridicule. But first, he has received wrong information here. And second, it is evident that the peace of theology is more important for him than the education of young men and women, who have become confused by the representatives of conditional immortality, which error indeed appears to be confirmed by certain eagerly cited texts, at least as long as one has not understood Scripture’s use of language. Now colleague Hepp can rest assured that it is very well known to me that study requires a restful attitude, and nothing is further from our purpose than to throw upside down everything from one of our sciences. For that matter, various prominent Gereformeerde theologians both within and outside of our churches have seen nothing upsetting in this proposition. Could it perhaps be that the nervousness that colleague Hepp ascribes to theology can only be found in a small circle of practitioners [of theology]?
3. The part that begins with the word, “thirdly,” contains, after a resumption of my argument, a communication from colleague Hepp. Of course I took this from his note, although I attribute it to a misunderstanding of the term ‘radical.’ Furthermore, even colleague Hepp will not be able to discover an argument in it. The distinction “in sensu medio” and “in sensu stricto’ is also available to be used here. Now the use of this distinction does not infrequently bring a benefit. So one can say, “All men live, but only Christians ‘live’ in the deepest sense of the word.” But then in both cases,
one has to do with the same kind of subject–in this case, men–and the distinction here then only concerns the extent of the group. That is really only the case when one speaks of ‘immortality’ if one then limits the term to the meaning that it has in articles 19 and 37 of the Ned. G.B.–limited therefore to the existence of the reunification of body and soul. Supposing that it could be carried out, a fixed understanding of the language usage in this sense would at least have to do justice both to the terminology of our Confession and to the distinction of the sensu medio and stricto, although in this way one would still not be completely reflecting the revelation of the Scriptures, and furthermore one would still stumble on the objection to the contradiction involved in “immortals who eternally die.”
I am furthermore not in the least certain that this is what my colleague means by his proposition. If, for example, he means by ‘anima’ only the soul in distinction from the body, then he does not do justice either to the usage of language in our Confession nor to the riches of the Word revelation concerning the future of the children of God. And if he wants to bind what is unique in the language of our Confession with the confessions of foreign churches, then I fear that ‘soul’ will again come up in differing meanings, and that therefore even the meaning of the subject-word will not be the same.
B. The objection that colleague Hepp puts forward with respect to the term ‘continued existence’ is of a completely different nature. Now he does overestimate the importance of this issue; when one speaks about the continued existence of the soul after death, the retention of its individuality is not for one moment in discussion. But if my colleague knows of a term that does away with this objection, without the return of the other and larger objections, then the representatives of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea will also be grateful.
C. Of the citations I intended to refer to here, I can name:
D. The force of the following paragraph escapes me. Until now it was not seen as an “attack” on the confession whenever quiet exegesis led to the discovery that a text could no longer serve as the basis for a certain dogma. Now it seems that here, too, colleague Hepp takes a singular standpoint. For the sake of the peace of our Calvinistic people and for their university, it would really be worth recommending that he would here seriously consider whether his standpoint is even correct. Otherwise I am afraid that our exegetes will soon find many an unpleasant surprise, which will probably bring again to our university damages of a wholly non-financial nature.
E. With respect to the last paragraph of p. 17, will colleague Hepp be so kind as to refer to the places where the Dutch Confession of Faith refers to “immortality of the soul?” Or does this merely concern a “confessing?”
The Third Brochure (=9)
(9) The unio personalis of the two natures of Christ
A. A passage withheld from citation
1. If my colleague had been content with challenging the sentence cited by him and the occasional other manner of saying something, that would have been all right with me. For in fact I have not always been successful in clearly formulating my view with respect to the human nature of the Mediator. Various factors restrained me here. A positive restraint was the richness and diversity of themes that Gereformeerde doctrine includes regarding the Mediator and which have by no means all been philosophically handled. A negative restraint is given by the difficulties that must be overcome by whoever, for the sake of theory and practice ,
dares to attempt by the light of God’s Word to outline the philosophical background of the numerous heresies that the Church has here fought against. And yet this was never more than a wrestling with theoretical difficulties; I have always confessed the “in unity of persons.” If colleague Hepp had just asked me for information about this, it would probably would have been made very much clearer for him. Then he would not have spoken of a “deviation,” which needed to be “revealed,” of “the art of sailing,” etc. And he would then certainly not have tried to deduce the challenged formulations as a consequence from our philosophical conception, as he tries to do under B.
2. It would be better to discuss certain other divisions of this part after the discussion of B.
B. The meaning of hypostasis
1. The deduction that he sought was obviously not immediately possible; my colleague at least puts forward a working hypothesis, i.e. that our conception is ‘Biblicistic.”
a) Now to work with an hypothesis is certainly not disallowed. Except
only that one must eventually verify it. And it is just there that colleague
Hepp has not succeeded, as I hope now to demonstrate.
Really, given the fact that the major premiss can for the time being be no more than a working hypothesis, the force of the conclusion can be no greater. In other words, the conclusion must still be verified, at least if it is to be more than a hypothesis; in fact it is merely a deduced hypothesis.
Well now, in this process of verification, it appears that the conclusions obtained in the said way do not correspond with our conception, which is being approached in this way. Naturally this also does not escape colleague Hepp. For he writes that instead of ascribing to us a chronically recurring error–we have here the choice between a lack of capacity to make conclusions and a shrinking back from the consequences of such conclusions–that he will for a moment raise the question whether his first premiss is in fact accurate.
A clear pattern of this method is given in colleague Hepp’s remark
concerning Heb. 1:3, which speaks of ‘hypostasis’
of God. As my first translation I chose “fixed ground.”
As a secondary translation I agreed with colleague Grosheide, who here
translates it as ‘essence’ instead of ‘person.’
Colleague Hepp argues for “person,” but sees in this difference
nothing more than an exegetical question. The chosen secondary translation
itself he therefore sees as available for discussion. But whenever I
take over this meaning, it then becomes for him something totally different.
For in relation to the unproved major premiss that speaks of Biblicism,
my use of such a phrase must point in the direction of a heresy!
b) And if it had only remained at that! But there is also something wrong with the minor
premiss in my colleague’s syllogism. There is more than sufficient material to also substantiate this proposition. As minor premiss there are given here certain of my remarks about the meaning of ‘hypostasis’ in the Holy Scriptures. Since the Bible uses this word not only for God but also for believers in Christ, I distinguish two meanings: “firm ground” and “the resting that is proper to all trust in God.” For the correctness of this proposition I can, apart from all the referenced citations, refer to the analogy with ‘pistis,’ which is alternately used for the God’s trustworthiness and for the certainty of trust by His children. The dual word usage therefore refers to a correlation; there is therefore no contradiction hidden within it.
How then does my colleague react to this proposition? He first breaks it in two and then uses each of these two members as a minor premiss in a syllogism of the above described structure. Furthermore, he holds fast to the proposition that ‘hypostasis’ means ‘person,’ without asking himself for even a moment whether carrying this meaning over to the texts of the Holy Scriptures does not in most cases lead to Biblicistic nonsense. On this “basis,” my listening to the Scriptures is first disqualified as a “reversal” of the meaning of “person” to that of “rest”! And following that there is a reading back to colleague Hepp’s own translation, “person.” In this way, a minor premiss is obtained that I never asserted. That however does not hinder my colleague “mit gelassem Sinne” [with a sense of resignation] to draw a conclusion from the hypothetical major premiss and a minor premiss put forward by no one, one which is strange even to us, but which is quietly ascribed to us! If we do not accept the conclusion, then the remedy is already prepared: either we have a lack in the ability to reason logically or my colleague is so courteous as to suppose that we step back from accepting these [logical] consequences. My colleague clearly has no suspicion of the petitio principii [begging the question] in the formulation of the minor premiss that he has himself committed! And this is so even though his reasoning, if it were correct, would imply no less than that someone who praises God as the fixed ground of his trust should be Unitarian and that another, who says that the Mediator, according to His human nature, trusted in God, would be branded as a Nestorian!
Further qualification of such a method of working is superfluous in a note like this; the method itself judges itself as in conflict with any logic. A discussion of the difference between formal and material logic would then also have no purpose in these circumstances.
c) The darkness in which one moves round here is certainly very heavy. For even if my colleague did not initially suspect the serious logical error that he committed by reading into my proposition his translation, a mutual confrontation of the conclusions of both syllogisms should nevertheless have brought him, as a historian of dogma, to the conclusion that somewhere in his reasoning process an error must have come in.
What then is the case? What I wrote about both meanings of ‘hypostasis’ in the Holy Scriptures gives as a result a simple correlation, which is so little contradictory that, on the contrary, its meaning is understandable for each reader, and its correctness is confirmed daily in the life of each Christian. For the more that one trusts upon God, the more fixed is his heart in the middle of all concerns. Colleague Hepp breaks this correlation in two, and makes speculative-philosophical propositions of both parts by bringing in his own translation. And he concludes that if we now reason consistently, we must accept two heresies which…are in conflict with each other! For whereas the original proposition did not demonstrate anything of a contradiction between the two parts, these contradictions have now come in due to the [theoretical] “processing” that my colleague made this proposition undergo.
My colleague will not be able to deny that his conclusions speak of two mutually conflicting heresies. His proposition is namely that, if we were only consistent, we would have to end up with both Unitarianism (Doedes) and with Nestorianism. Now although both of the hypostatic views concerning the human nature of the Mediator may be bad, the difference between these two is not any less great. For according to Unitarianism, God is one Person, the Father, and therefore the Son is no more than a power
or quality (poiotès) ; from this it follows that the incarnation of the Word must be understood as the connection of this power with what is here supposed to be a human hypostasis; the Mediator is here therefore nothing other than a hypostatic man provided with divine poiotès. Very different in the case of Nestorius. Although he agrees in his anthropology with Unitarianism, he is orthodox in his doctrine concerning God:. According to him, the Son is a divine Hypostasis and the incarnation poses for him the problem, how can the unity of the Mediator be made to correspond with what it teaches of a duality of H(h)ypostases. The distinction is an important one: both heresies stand over against each other both in their view concerning God and in the doctrine concerning the Mediator. With respect to their view of God they are even contradictory. That Unitarianism and Nestorianism could be combined is also a proposition that cannot be maintained in a dogmatic-historical sense. Colleague Hepp of course also knows that. But this knowledge should have made him aware that the result of his reasoning has nothing to do with my remarks, in which there was never any trace of a contradiction to be discerned.
d) If all of this had remained an internal university matter, then the situation would be different than it is today. For in spite of the hypothetical nature of the major premiss, the commission of a petitio principii in the minor premiss and the appearance of an inner contradiction in the conclusions, which one will look for in vain in my original proposition, my colleague has not stepped back from publication of his argument. Is it then any wonder that others, even without being able to analyze all of this or to take account of each way of saying things, still largely felt that his [Hepp’s] argument hardly touched us, but rather, also to our deep sorrow, only seriously hurt the prestige both of the author [Hepp] and of our university?
2. With this I must close my objections to the argument of colleague Hepp. There remain only a few remarks about the relation of A to B.
a) My colleague wants to view the idea, that the word ‘hypostasis,’ when used by Holy Scripture for men, is applied only to believers, in light of his proposition that my conception is “Nestorian.” But did Nestorius really teach that only the one who builds on God’s grace possesses solidity [vastheid], and did he really proceed from this to his formulation of the problem? That seems somewhat strange to me.
b) Yet this concerns only the past. The present is more important. And I then repeat that, from my remark that the human nature of the Mediator corresponds with our own in that God’s trustworthiness cannot be denied to it, I never concluded that they must be one person. I have never held to the latter proposition and have therefore never deduced it from my remark concerning the second meaning of the term ‘hypostasis’ in the Holy Scriptures. The suspicion held by colleague Hepp rests in part on his making use of the fact, that here and there I was wrestling to find a correct formulation, and it also rests in part on his presupposition of Biblicism and on his own preference for maintaining the traditional irrationalistic terms in the formulation concerning the human nature of the Mediator, which terms I regard just as dangerous in our time as the rationalistic terms (whether or not the latter are Nestorian).
C. The authority of the anhypostatos
a) The comparison in the first paragraph
In my previous note I referred to the fact that the term ‘anhypostatos’ appears neither in Holy Scripture nor in dogma, and thus has merely a dogmatological meaning [xv]. Colleague Hepp now suggests that this proposition is dangerous. As proof he uses the comparison with the reasoning of …Dr. Ubbink with respect to the term ‘theopneustos.’
Now this analogy would mean something if in fact I had asserted that each term that does not appear in Holy Scripture or in the Confession, should be challenged on that basis alone. Then the case of the term ‘theopneustos’ would be a counterexample. But colleague Hepp will search in vain here or anywhere else by me for such a general statement.
Now my colleague would just as little accept for himself that a term is accurate, whenever it appears neither in Holy Scripture nor in the Confession,
but when that term has merely been made for the purpose of the dogmatic tradition. In that case any critique and any seeking of clarification of this terminology would always be impossible a priori. But why then this spinning out of the discussion with arguments that say nothing?
Or is my colleague trying to say something, trying to suggest in passing an analogy, which nevertheless has not once been expressly put forward? In that case, two things may be said. First, will colleague Hepp then advise us, who it was that first perceived an attitude of denial in both Dr. Geelkerken as well as Dr. Ubbink: by those who now stand at his side or by me? And in the second place, he may ask himself whether, whenever one might now seek an analogy with this present time, whether it might not lie closer at hand to think of the sad period in the church’s past, when, very much to its disadvantage, subjectivistic groups falsely accused orthodoxy with Nestorianism. The result of this double investigation shall hopefully be that my colleague will from now on set some more limits in the seeking of historical analogies.
Concerning ‘anhypostatos’ itself, it appears to me that the argument of my colleague still rests on the identification of ‘anhypostatos’ with the orthodox ‘not-hypostatic,’ which on the basis of a still growing number of grounds seems to me to be historically objectionable in every way, and appears to be not without danger for our time. I leave unsaid the unfruitful nature of this topic for our discussion.
My colleague does not for one moment discuss these grounds. And yet even he will have to concede that a conception such as that of Dr. Steen must be called heterodox, and that the term ‘anhypostatos’ thus clearly allows space for doctrines that deny the existence of Christian theoretical thought. Rather than standing next to such people in order to take action against us, he should rather, through quiet but deep historical analysis of the problems, seek to make the life of our Calvinistic people immune from the revival of such errors.
b) For the present, colleague Hepp really gives a preference to this identification, which is not without danger, by an appeal to dogmatists from the sixteenth century and later–therefore from a time in which an insufficient critical tradition already played an important role. His argument would be much stronger if he had demonstrated that the ‘anhypostatos” appears during the time of the fathers in a non-referential sense, and had been able to prove that this formulation fails to appear in the formulation of 553 [Second Council of Constantinople] for the reasons that he has put forward.
c) The third paragraph is not wholly clear to me. If I may begin to read this as saying that my colleague, too wants to express some reserve with respect to the term ‘anhypostatos,’ then I would sincerely rejoice; the manner in which men have used it without a preceding analysis, especially in the last two years, has done a great deal of harm to our people.
Concerning the further explanation, may it be repeated from our side that to argue for a terminology that allows for even a little room for Nestorianism appears to us to be objectionable.
Yet the solution here shall perhaps have to be obtained along another path than that intended by my colleague. For the binding of the Confession to the writings of dogmatists from the date of its existence cannot be properly carried out in practice even for this one point; secondly it is inconsistent and finally it is not normative.
It is in practice already not capable of being carried out with respect to this point. My colleague certainly speaks of “the meaning, which men then gave to it.” But is he really certain that all Gereformeerde theologians were united in thought, for example with respect to the relation of individuality and of what it means to be personal, or [is he certain] even of this, that none of these men came in conflict with himself in this difficult matter? Furthermore, how can the unity and even more the correctness of the interpretation of these writings be guaranteed!
It is inconsistent; on other points, such as that concerning the church, the Confession is not bound to the views of the said writings. This is leaving aside the whole issue of the relation of church and state.
And finally it is not normative. Certainly, “It has occurred.” And from our side, there is nothing to be said to detract from its value. But here, too, one should not break what is a unity into two pieces! In the adage of Groen [van Prinsterer], these words come only in the second place, and they are preceded and ruled by Scriptural faith with its “It is written.” Without the light of Holy Scripture, no judgment of history is possible. Without it, anti-revolutionary Christian historical thought will become petrified in (contra) revolutionary un-Scriptural traditionalism. And where this proposition [the light of Scripture] itself hold good for the judgments of the statements of councils and synods, should it not also hold good with respect to the thoughts of individual scholars set down in books? And should men now, after the fact, seek to burden dogma with constructions flowing forth from accommodation ideals, when in the past, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who always calls and leads one back to obedience to the Scriptures, it was kept protected from them? We still do not see that happening [i.e. such burdening]. But it is sad that such ideas are being harboured, and it is a warning to our university to strengthen the watch over Kuyper’s heritage.
D. Here there is likely a misunderstanding. I intended only to say that individuality (different than personality) belongs to the structure of all creation and that it thus cannot mean any humiliation.
E. It needs no argument that the professors of the V.U. [Vrije Universiteit] cannot read everything that their colleagues write. Even less need it be argued, that anyone should try to have others make an exception for him. But the matter stands somewhat differently whenever somewhat harbours a plan to oppose certain of his colleagues; for if the critique that is undertaken is not to miss its goal, then it seems to me that, apart from continual contact with them, it is a conditio sine qua non that careful acquaintance with their publications be made, and that the neglect of this rule is no excuse for the misunderstandings that flow therefrom.
I have tried above to give my remarks to the response note of my colleague to summarize as succinctly as possible.
May your College require further information, then I am willing and ready to extend the same.
With the highest respect,
To the Curators of the Vrije Universiteit
Vollenhoven's Own Footnotes
 In preparing this note I have made grateful use
of the fact that my ally [medestander] Dooyeweerd found an
earlier opportunity than I did to draft his answer to you, and in it
he addressed various points that relate to both of us. In order to spare
your College from as much repetition as possible, I therefore may refer
to the said missive with respect to these points.
[i] JGF: Vollenhoven seems to be referring to the popularization of his ideas by A. Janse. Vollenhoven tried to dissaude Janse from publishing his ideas. See Johan Stellingwerf: D.H.Th.Vollenhoven (1892-1978) Reformator der Wijsbegeerte (Baarn: Ten Have, 1992), 62.
[iii] JGF: The Afscheiding was a split from the Dutch churches in 1834, influenced in part by English and Scottish Puritanism, and had a strong element of pietism. Dutch immigrants to the U.S. who founded the Christian Reformed Church were influenced by it. The Doleantie was the reformation associated with Kuyper. Churches under his leadership were merged with those of the Afscheiding to form the Gereformeerde Church. See Herman C. Hanko: The History of the Free Offer (Michigan: Grandville, 1989), ch. 9, “Later Dutch Thinkers.” [http://www.prca.org/current/Free%20Offer/cover.htm].
[iv] JGF: Netelenbos wanted to combine the direction of ethical theology with Gereformeerde thought. As editor of the journal Opbouw, Vollenhoven opposed this idea in 1916. Netelenbos continued to influence young people. Later, on the advice of Vollenhoven, the church council sent a letter to Netelenbos. It is interesting that Netelenbos had also been the teacher of A. Janse, who was to influence Vollenhoven. Janse said he had overcome the influence of Netelenbos. See Johan Stellingwerff: D.H.Th.Vollenhoven (1892-1978) Reformator der Wijsbegeerte (Baarn: Ten Have, 1992), 21, 35, 40.
[v] JGF: Chr. Zevenbergen was one of four lecturers from the Vrije Universiteit who ranged themselves alongside Geelkerken. Zevenbergen taught Roman law. The other three were P.A. Diepenhorst (1879-1953), and R.H. Woltjer (1878-1955), and H.J. Pos (1898-1955). Diepenhorst is known for his research on Groen van Prinsterer. Woltjer became a member of the Dutch Parliament, representing the Antirevolutionary Party, although he continued to teach classical languages at the Vrije Unviersiteit. Pos, who taught philosophy and linguistics, continued to teach at the Vrije Universiteit until 1932. He later moved to the Gemeente Universiteit. See P. van der Kooi, “Ware Betekenis van de Calvinisme,” Die Kerkpad 4 (2000), at [http://www.kerkpad.co.za/sept2000/calvinisme.html]. Vollenhoven refers to R.H. Woltjer as his “fatherly friend.” See “Plato’s Realism,” [http://home.planet.nl/~srw/nwe/vollenhoven/63a.htm].
[vi] JGF: J.G. Geelkerken (1879-1960) denied that the snake literally spoke to Eve, and said that this concerned the fact of the fall into sin. In 1926, the Synod of Assen turned Geelkerken out of office. Stellingwerff (p. 70) says that Vollenhoven did not become involved in this issue, and that this lack of involvement helped Vollenhoven obtain his position teaching philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit. Geelkerken and some 7,000 followers then organized the Gereformeerde Kerken in Hersteld Verband, (known as “HV”). They came under the influence of Barth’s dialectical theology. Buskes was their most prominent representative. In 1946 they united with the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk.
[vii] JGF: J.G. Ubbink was the son-in-law of J. Woltjer (1849-1917). Ubbink’s dissertation was on William James (Stellingwerff, 17).. Ubbink strongly opposed A.H. de Hartog in the student journal Opbouw, accusing de Hartog of pantheism. De Hartog gave a strong response, denying pantheism, but affirming panenetheism, saying that creation is “out, from and to” God. One of the editors of Opbouw wrote an editorial, deploring Ubbink’s attacks on de Hartog. In my view, Dooyeweerd’s philosophy follows many ideas of de Hartog, who expressly referred to Baader, and who translated selections from Jacob Boehme in his book Uren met Jacob Boehme. See Dooyeweerd’s New Critique I, 9 where he says “All meaning is from, through and to an origin…” See also NC I, 102.
[viii] JGF: The text here just uses the words ‘gratie’ and ‘genade’ but a history of the schisms in the Dutch reformed churches shows that the distinction is one between a common grace (gemeene gratie) and a general grace (algemeene genade). Not everyone made this distinction. Hanko says that those who did make the distinction understood common grace as given to those outside of the church, outside election, and independent of the cross. General grace was understood as given to everyone, including those in the church, and included the idea of God’s good gifts to us. It also tended to include the idea of a “natural” good that the unregenerate were able to do. For those outside the church, it was also associated with the doctrine of God’s free or well-meant offer of salvation to all. This doctrine of God’s free offer is found more in those of the Afscheidung, who also influenced the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Other churches split off again in the belief that this was too Arminian a notion in that it made God’s sovereign election conditional. The issue also related to the interpretation of infant baptism, and whether or not God’s promise to the child at baptism was conditional. See Hanko, op. cit. Herman C. Hanko: The History of the Free Offer (Michigan: Grandville, 1989), especially ch. 9, “Later Dutch Thinkers.” [http://www.prca.org/current/Free%20Offer/chapter9.htm].
[ix] JGF: Why does Vollenhoven just not say that he changed his mind? It seems to me that the reason is he did not want to raise his differences with Dooyeweerd. Even here, he does not state whether he agrees or disagrees, but says that Hepp should ask Dooyeweerd. Dooyeweerd’s own response does not answer the question, except to say that they agree “in principle.”
[x] JGF: Where did Vollenhoven obtain this idea, that he could choose which questions to answer? It sounds like the practice of many spin-doctors today! But to acknowledge this practice in the course of an argument seems especially naïve…
[xii] JGF: Why doesn’t Vollenhoven answer the question instead of going into the logic of his opponent? I suggest it is because he (unlike Dooyeweerd), does in fact believe that the soul, which for him is fully temporal and pre-functional, does not survive death. In Vollenhoven’s view, the whole man needs to be resurrected. So although the soul may live again, it is not a “continued” existence of the soul.
[xiv] JGF: This is the low point of his rhetoric. Vollenhoven’s own language is not very clear. And it should make no difference to the argument if the words that Hepp uses are old-fashioned. Vollenhoven evades giving his view regarding spiritual death.
[xv] JGF: Vollenhoven uses ‘dogma’ to refer to the confessions of faith, and ‘dogmatological’ to refer to the ideas of cogmatic theology. In his 1940 article “Anyhpostatis?”, Vollenhoven distinguishes between dogma, which is the concern of the church, and dogmatics, which is a quesiton of science [wetenschap].
Revised Dec. 8/05