Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bavinck's Organic Motif Confirms Buswell's Dooyeweerd Critique

I did not attend the conference on neo-calvinism and the French revolution in Paris last week. However, I argued in the blogpost Neo-Calvinism & the French Revolution: What is Sphere Sovereignty? that the conference focused on Dooyeweerd's philosophical concepts. Blogger Willem-Jan de Wit, who attended the conference made me aware of James Eglinton and his study of Bavinck's Organic Motif. In a bookreview of James Eglinton's book Trinity and Organism: Towards a New Reading of Herman Bavinck’s Organic Motif  Robert S. Covolo writes:
'It is difficult to overstate the importance of Eglinton’s work for Bavinck studies.' 
James Eglinton contests Jan Veenhof's narrative which is based on the'assumption that Bavinck’s frequent use of the organic motif represents little more than thinly veiled German Idealism foisted onto orthodox theology' (writes Robert S. Covolo). J. Oliver Buswell jr.'s critical bookreview of Herman Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Problems of Philosophic Thought : An Inquiry into the Transcendental Conditions of Philosophy comes to mind 
'the notion that human reason is not autonomous, in the sense that God has created it so, is, in this little book from Amsterdam, quite suggestive of a basically pantheistic attitude. In fact the denial of the autonomy of reason seems to imply that God has not created anything which is not actually a part, or an aspect, or an emanation of His own substance.'
when James Eglinton quotes Herman Bavinck 'writing against the cosmologies of idealist pantheism and Enlightenment mechanism':
'Scripture's worldview is radically different. From the beginning heaven and earth have been distinct. Everything was created with a nature of its own and rests in ordinances established by God.... The foundation of both diversity and unity  [point one, unity in diversity] is in God. It is he who created all things [point two, unity precedes diversity ] ... who continually upholds them in their distinctive natures, who guides and governs them in keeping with their own created energies and laws, and who, as the supreme good and ultimate goal of all things, is pursued and desired by all things in their measure and manner [ point three, the organism's members are driven by a common ideal]. Here is a unity that does not destroy but rather maintains diversity, and a diversity that does not come at the expense of unity, but rather unfolds its riches [point four, the organism's telos]. In virtue of this unity the world can, metaphorically, be called an organism, in which all the parts are connected with each other and influence each other reciprocally.'
When in 1949 J. Oliver Buswell told Herman Dooyeweerd 'that he had failed to build upon the four-square foundations of Bavinck and Kuyper's rugged consecrated scholarship', he was right. I suspect controversy over Dooyeweerd's ideas to be the central cause of much of the tensions in Dutch reformed churches during the twentieth century.We read in the excellent article by Eduardo J. Echeverria:
 "Indeed, as early as 1939, Dooyeweerd had rejected the moderate realism of Bavinck's philosophical thought as being in the "scholastic line" rather than the "reformational line" of Calvinism"
Now that the myths disseminated by the Dooyeweerd clan can be put to bed for good we can focus on interesting questions like for example how Bavinck's contemporary B.B. Warfield, who frequently consulted Bavinck's writings, understood this organic motif.

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