Thursday, December 26, 2013

Should France Have Protected Bangui Against Seleka?

Bernard Lugan thinks that France should have intervened and protected Bangui a year ago. Is this so?

While on the one hand playing the role of regional leader in stabilising the Central African Republic, but on the other hand supporting Seleka to get rid of a Tchad rebel group that tried to topple him in 2008, Tchad's president Idriss Déby was playing a game we all know all to well from the war in Congo.

And France, which has studied it's previous mistakes in Rwada very well, was determined to avoid the 1994 scenario in Rwanda.

Instead of defending Bangui, France decided to play the diplomatic game first. Which reminds of what happened after the fall of Goma in 2012.

A year later we are now seeing a similar scenario, which was tested in Goma (& Kivu), play out in Bangui and the Central African Republic.

Same mandate, same players involved.

It's quite surprising Bernard Lugan, an expert on the French role in Rwanda, would even think of proposing a similar scenario to French politics in Bangui.

What we have in Bangui is no longer the French protecting a dictator, but a Chapter 7 mandated MISCA force, supported by France, taking on all rebel groups.

A strategy tested in Kivu and supported by the United States, South Africa and the United Nations Security Council.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jacob Zuma's Anti-Populist Foreign Policy

The interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and subsequently the Central African Republic both illustrate the emergence of the alignment of the foreign policy of France, South Africa and the United States.

Jacob Zuma's foreign policy is obviously not the result of sudden inspiration, but is built on a long history since his involvement in, at least, the Burundi peace process. 

It's therefore quite surprising to see so many commentators claim that Zuma is focused less on human rights and more on economic interests. Dr Paul-Simon Handy in october:
'Africa’s foreign policy priorities are so weak under President Zuma as to be almost impossible to define.'
  MAMPHELA RAMPHELE in july:
'SOUTH African foreign policy under the ANC government over the past years has not only been characterised by a moral decline, it has also failed to keep pace with the dynamic and rapidly evolving international environment.' 
France 24 journalist Ebba Kalondo makes similar claims in a recent video on South African foreign policy.

Is there a shift in South African foreign policy since Zuma. And if so, what is it? The debates on Zuma's involvement in Central Africa and Congo among South African journalists and opposition parties will not help us much, I'm affraid.

The July 2009 article 'A New Foreign Policy for Jacob Zuma's South Africa' by Xolela Mangcu on the other hand, has a lot of valuable information on what is really going on. For example he quotes Adekeya Adebajo who said this:
'South Africa spent a great deal of its time at the United Nations in “unnecessary spats” with the superpowers over Myanmar, Iran, North Korea etc which were of no direct concern to South Africa. Adebayo counsels that “South Africa can have only influence and respect abroad if its leadership is accepted on its own continent.'
Xolela Mangcu prediction in 2009 of a 're-orientation towards a more modest but focused role' seems confirmed in Zuma's engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

The endgame in the DRC against Rwanda/Uganda backed m23 in which Zuma played a central role should be placed in the context of Obama's Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006

Did Rwanda and Uganda underestimate Jacob Zuma's strategic insight?

October 14th, during Francois Hollande's visit, Jacob Zuma unveiled another cornerstone of  South Africa's modest and focused foreign policy when he said:
'foreign troops need to intervene urgently in the Central African Republic because security is deteriorating and the government isn’t prepared to hold elections on schedule.'

A pragmatic, anti-populist(!), approach aimed at solving problems instead of pointing fingers. This offcourse sends a very strong message towards the anti-French populists (mostly UK and German pundits) and the anti-west 'panafricanists'. The populist opposition against his foreign policy from the Democratic Alliance concerning the Central African intervention might well help Jacob Zuma attract segments of the former National Party vote.

Jacob Zuma's emerging anti-populist foreign policy has sofar been met with little enthousiasm. It's offcourse still in it's early stages, but the consequences of this shift away from populism will obviously have it's impact on countries like Zimbabwe as well. And Zuma seems to hesitate to shout this new anti-populist message from the rooftops as well. At least, that's how I interpret his absence at the summit in Paris.

But Francois Hollande has understood and I expect that it's only a matter of time and European leaders with less affinity with African politics, like Angela Merkel, will come around. Let's hope Germany's journalists will start to see beyond the usual stereotypes of French foreign involvement in Africa.

What surprises me at this point is the fierce hostility towards France among UK journalists, analysts and politicians. The UK has strong affinity with Africa and should know better. Disappointing.

At least the United States of America is picking up the positive signals and showing enthousiasm in working with both Zuma and Hollande in forging a way forward in Africa, away from the stereotypes and populisms of the past.

I wonder if John Kerry's French connection has anything to do with this postive American engagement.

All this puts the 2012 campaign for Dlamini-Zuma 'couched as a crusade against "French imperialism" in a rather akward light. Would she have won against Jean Ping if Jacob Zuma had been working this closely together with France at the time? Hard to say.

Jacob Zuma's 'balancing act' or two-step foreign policy might actually have been so good that it has fooled both his African partners and the West. This could explain his absence in Paris. He prefers to keep his cards close to his chest.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Zuma's Role In Congo & The Central African Republic



Still trying to figure out, as so many others I suppose, why intervention in CAR went into high gear just a few weeks ago. Still believe it has something to do with South Africa & Tanzania's involvement in Congo.

In october Francois Hollande paid a visit to Jacob Zuma and planned the conference that will take place in Paris in a few days.

In the meantime the #m23 has been defeated by the Congolese army with the help of the South African army. Jacob Zuma visited Kinshasa the day the crisis ended to send a clear message to foreign nations that backed #m23.

The role of the Burundian army in Somalia, Mali and now the Central African Republic indicates a strategic alliance is emerging between the South African and the French African blocks inside the African Union.

Burundi indicated it's readiness to send troops to the Central African Republic in july.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Victoire Ingabire on her opposition to the Singapore development model for Rwanda



Last week, as it was widely reported that the Congolese army was close to defeating Rwanda's M23 in eastern Congo's Kivu Provinces,global elite spokesman John Prendergast stepped up to tell the world, on the CNN websites, that the use of Rwanda as an African Singapore, a corporate gateway to the resource riches of the DRC, will bring peace and prosperity to both countries. This is what Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who has now been in prison in Rwanda for three years, told Womens International News Gathering Service (WINGS) about why she opposes the Singapore development model.

 "The rural population in Rwanda has been neglected for the last 16 years and, instead of the Singapore model of development, which gives the lion’s share to a tiny, urban privileged elite, I would invest in agriculture, I would invest in rural roads and health network, I would review the land management and I would give priority to the subsistence food crop, rather than cash crops which benefit mostly to traders from urban areas. For example, ask people to cultivate only maize – if you ask them to cultivate only maize for export – but what they will eat? This is why I will give priority to enough food to my people."

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Norm Ornstein Ignores

Modern day conservatives tend to ignore half of the 'Whig equasion', an example once again in an interview with Norm Ornstein:
'You wrote recently that congressional Republicans are not conservatives, they are radicals. How do you tell the difference? Is there some dividing line?

I think you’ve got several characteristics here that matter. One is conservatives tend to conserve, they are respectful of institutions and traditions. Radicals just aren’t conserved about those things. You can have very strong views about something but still respect the way the House of Representatives, the three branches of government, the constitutional structure was set up to work. And that involved at its essence, debate and deliberation and finding common ground and compromise.'
A similar focus on institutions in a speech by Dutch MP 'Cabinet Protect Our Institutions Better'. It's the grassroots conservatism that keeps getting ignored. It seems to me that without that, you don't really stand in the 'Common Sense' tradition. People aren't there for the institutions.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

European Culture Older Than American Culture?

In the program VPRO Boeken writer Oek de Jong (rond 29:00) in commenting on a quote from Philip Roth said 'I'm affraid not of the extinction of the novel, but of the extinction of the reader..':
'the European culture is much much much older than the American culture. Therefore culture is, I think, much more anchored'
The more I read about the Scottish enlightenment, the American revolution and Transcendentalism the more I'm convinced that this is nonsense. American and European culture are just as old and closely linked to eachother. America influenced Europe, just think of the French revolution and of the influence of the American revolution on politics in England and Scotland. Think of the influence of American presbyterianism on Abraham Kuyper.

We can therefore discard European culture as a significant parameter in predicting the future of the Novel.

What I did like in the interview is Oek de Jong's short introduction of the history of the novel, especially the realistic novel in the 19th century that described all of society.

Measuring the decline of the novel isn't as easy as Oek suggests, especially considering the decline of the tv and the rise of the internet.

The CINEKID 2013 conference on Creativity & media literacy which according to Androulla Vasiliou is at the heart of modern, democratic societies, points to an increased awareness of the important role of content creation plays in society.

Could it be that, after decades of focus on technology we are moving towards an age of eloquence and content creation? A return to the 18th century of Shaftesbury, the giant of both European (England, Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands) and American culture (Witherspoon, Princeton), might be imminent.




Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Origin of the Teaparty, Liberalism & Original Sin

Daniel Salomon's advertisement 'Flat out: 's history of American racism is the Internet's best commentary on U.S. shutdown politics: .' made me read the article.

In it Zack Beauchamp makes several claims:
'the Constitution likely plays some role in making Americans more hostile towards government than citizens of other liberal democracies, but that does not explain why the South is so much more conservative than the rest of the nation'
'Progressives tend to think that America’s broadly liberal ideology — individual rights, democracy, the whole kit and kaboodle — is fundamentally opposed to a more sinister ideology that also shaped our founding — the black/white racism that sustained slavery'
'More radical leftists, especially those of a Marxist bent like Ackerman, disagree, believing that emphasizing racial exceptionalism obscures the ways in which the broader structure of American society makes the country’s political institutions intrinsically unfair and unequal.'
Offcourse a great way to frame the teaparty, but does this picture correspond to reality. How do we fit Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, a bunch of talkshow hosts, Iowa's Steve Deace, Van der Plaats, Marvin Olasky and others into this blurred picture of a very diverse movement?

I prefer starting out with a comment on the RedState website by a Tea Party supporter who quoted a statement by the Republican Mainstream Partnership in 2006/2007:
'The pro-active extreme agenda of Senator Rick Santorum and his fellow extreme right cohorts such as Falwell and Robertson were responsible for the loss of this key Senate seat, among others.'
This illustrates the fact that debating what the teaparty stands for, or should stand for, is a debate on the link between faith and politics. It should caution us to equate it immediately or intuitively with 'the south'. The influence of catholics and maybe even some Colson admirers indicates a broad coalition of or a perceived consensus among Christians. Marvin Olasky's praise of Ted Cruz in World Magazine years ago points in that same direction. This is not to say that a certain understanding of early American history plays some role in it as well. A good example is perhaps the popularity of David Barton's  instrumentalization of early American history. At the same time Martin Luther King has some good advice for us in this discussion:
'There is one phase of liberalism that I hope to cherish always: its devotion to the search for truth, its refusal to abandon the best light of reason. . . . It was . . . the liberal doctrine of man that I began to question. The more I observed the tragedies of history, and man's shameful inclination to choose the low road, the more I came to see the depths and strength of sin. . . . I came to feel that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism'
Curiously David Brooks claimed some time ago that the tea party is radically anti-conservative:
'Both the New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin — on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty.'
Linking the tea party to the history of the South is counterproductive while it reinforces stereotypes while obscuring the fact that inside the tea party there are major influences of a diverse origin. We could point to the attempt by neoconservative like Bill Kristol, Tom Cotton and Liz Cheney to coopt the the teaparty. The fact that both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are associated with the tea party should caution us against oversimplification.

Counterproductive far-right populism, both in Europe and the United States, seems to me much more an illustration of what's wrong with communitarism as promoted by people like Michael Gerson, associated with the Dooyeweerd promoting Center for Public Justice. An ideology incapable of engaging a meaningfull dialogue with the grassroots, incompatible with the basics of how traditional whigs see politics and a tendency to pander to anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiments by emphasizing 'values'.

However, the leadership demonstrated by Senators Mitch McConnell, Bob Corker, Alexander Lamar and Rand Paul (the Kentucky/Tennessean 'Quartet') on foreign policy, immigration and concerning Obamacare is aimed obviously at sidelining both the far-right and neoconservatives. It makes me optimistic about the future of the Republican party. It brings the party back to it's historic roots and limits the influence of communitarism.

Classic liberalism is closely related to the brand of Whig politics in the United States developed at Princeton during the 18th century. Also relevant in this context:
'According to William J. Novak, however, liberalism in the United States shifted, "between 1877 and 1937...from laissez-faire constitutionalism to New Deal statism, from classical liberalism to democratic social-welfarism"

And when talking about racism progressives should maybe include it's twentieth century anti-immigration and eugenic legacy. 

Equating the tea party with nostalgic longing for the racist South is the easiest way to easily dismiss someon, as David Frum did recently

'Glenn Beck: Rand Paul is the Charles Sumner of our time. Except for the anti-slavery, save-the-Union bit of course.'

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weemoedigheid, die Niemand Kan Verklaren?

Willem Elsschot's gedicht  Het Huwelijk is populair onder onder politici en beleidsmakers. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan deze tweets:

Hoe moeten we de populariteit van deze weemoedigheid onder politici verklaren? Het is in dat verband leerzaam om Bart de Wever's column 'Sociaal Verkeer' van 8 maart 2011 te vergelijken met Ad de Bruijne's column 'Democratie Zwanger van Dictatuur' deze week. Bart de Wever stelt:
'Het individu dat zich poogde te ontvoogden van een almachtige God, wordt zo onderworpen aan het zachte despotisme van een almachtige bureaucratie. En dan nog schieten de wet en de ratio per definitie hopeloos tekort om een publieke moraal te funderen. Om ons op het rechte pad te houden blijft er die weemoed, feitelijk de levenswijsheid opgebouwd door 2000 jaar joods-christelijke traditie, die moeilijk te verklaren is omdat ze normaal onuitgesproken blijft. Het is niet omdat moraliteit zich ontkoppelde van religie en de Kerk zelfs afstevent op sociale irrelevantie, dat deze wijsheid geen waarde meer heeft voor ons leven. 'God is dood', zei Nietzsche, en wij teren op Zijn geërfd moreel kapitaal. Zolang we geen beter alternatief hebben, moeten we misschien omzichtig omspringen met dat kapitaal.'
Van de regen van een Almachtige God naar de drup van de almachtige bureaucratie, zou je kunnen zeggen. Ad de Bruijne stelt daarentegen deze week:
'De westerse democratie kun je zien als een typisch modern fenomeen waarin tegelijk christelijke invloeden doorwerken. Het democratisch model beschouwt mensen in de eerste plaats als afzonderlijke individuen met eigen belangen. Tegelijk leven mensen samen en kennen ze ook gedeelde belangen of zelfs een gemeenschappelijk goed. Daarvoor weten ze zich samen verantwoordelijk.
Onbewust of bewust gaan ze ervan uit dat waarheid en goedheid bestaan, en in beginsel voor iedereen gelden. Alleen, wat precies waar en goed is, daarover denken ze verschillend en dus gaan ze daarover met elkaar in debat. In dat publieke debat mag ieders stem gehoord worden, zoals in de nieuwtestamentische kerk zelfs slaven mochten profeteren. Je weet je verantwoordelijk om mee te spreken en naar elkaar te luisteren.'
In plaats van een weemoedigheid die niemand verklaren kan valt hier op de verwijzing naar de voor de gereformeerde politiek zo kenmerkende mondigheid, een verwijzing naar de klaarblijkelijkheid van de Schrift welke een centrale rol speelde in het denken van de founding fathers van de Verenigde Staten.

Het teruggrijpen naar de vaderen als vaste grond in de politiek, tegenover abstracte bureaucratie en of de chaotische wirwar van stemmen van het volk, doet denken aan Hugh Blair's visie op de rol van welsprekendheid, Eloquence, in de 17de eeuw. In de visie van Hugh Blair stond het opleiden van een verlichte elite centraal.

Het contrast met John Witherspoon's opvatting over Eloquence is opvallend en brengt tot uiting de steeds terugkerende tegenstelling tussen een 'conservatieve' en een calvinistische opvatting over democratie. Bij Witherspoon is de klaarblijkelijkheid van de Schrift leidend. Onderwijs in eloquence wordt daar dan ook aan ondergeschikt gemaakt, bijvoorbeeld:
'In "Answers to the Reasons of Dissent," Witherspoon and his allies argued against the Moderates on the grounds that individuals have both "a right" and "an indispensable duty" to follow their conscience because it speaks from God, a higher power than any civil authority.'
Een scherpe tegenstelling tussen aan de ene kant weemoedigheid die niemand kan verklaren, en aan de andere kant de Schrift die ieder kan begrijpen door er in te lezen. Of, zoals Samuel Finley ooit zei:

'they who expect divine knowledge without studying Scripture; the Holy Spirit, without Prayer; saving blessings, without attending on gospel ordinances; or Deliverance from temporal enemies, without Fighting against them, discover their deep Ignorance of Scripture, of Reason, and the Whole scheme of divine government''

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Can Communitarians & Libertarians Find Common Ground?

In a way the debate between communitarians and libertarians on both sides of the Atlantic reminds me of the debate between Old Lights and New Lights in 18th century America. The Old Lights emphasized order and institutions while the New Lights emphasized the importance of personal conversion.

David Brooks wrote some time ago:
“Both the New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin — on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty. To remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization — in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings."
Certainly a popular understanding of what conservatism is on both sides of the Atlantic. But it leaves out the other side of this 'original sin coin', the New Light on sin and atonement (Jonathan Edwards)  or the clarity of Scripture as 'origin and guarantee of our religious and political freedoms' (Herman Bavinck).

Just leaning back and trusting institutions clashes with the basic Calvinist understanding as articulated by Princeton President Samuel Finley:
'they who expect divine knowledge without studying Scripture; the Holy Spirit, without Prayer; saving blessings, without attending on gospel ordinances; or Deliverance from temporal enemies, without Fighting against them, discover their deep Ignorance of Scripture, of Reason, and the Whole scheme of divine government'
The idea of original sin does not help us while choosing between institutions and those who oppose them. The history of the great awakening, religious persecution in the 17th and 18th century and the fight of Radical Republicans is sufficient evidence of this fact.

That's precisely the reason Jim DeMint favorite bible verse is 'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free', while this refers to the second half of 'the Whig equasion'.

The challenge of bringing the two sides together is what makes studying the period that preceded the American revolution so immensely interesting.

Balancing both is what makes a succesfull (Republican) politician. So, instead of pointing just to institutions as the solution to all problems, the huge role of citizens in a democracy should not be minimized, as Rand Paul points out at the end of his speech at the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:
'Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mother gives birth to them, life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves'

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Immigration Reform Exposes Rift Among Republicans

Derrick Morgan, who worked for Dick Cheney in the past, is part of a loud segment of the Republican base that claims illegal immigrants are law breakers and giving them 'amnesty' is unfair to those 'standing in line'.

What's interesting about these folks is the fact that they ignore history, as Alexander Norwasteh explains in an excelent article:
Because so many could come legally, unauthorized immigration was rare.
That ended in the early twentieth century with the Progressive Era’s emphasis on protecting labor unions. Beginning temporarily in 1921, and then permanently in 1924, new national origin quotas limited immigration to countries from Northern and Western Europe, whose immigrants were more skilled and less likely to join unions.

Worse, those laws were also inspired by the Progressive eugenics movement at the time.
Derrick Morgan sounds more like a progressive democrat then a principled Republican who knows the history of the party when he writes:
'Congress should pass only immigration reform measures that are good for American workers.'
Similar argument is offcourse made by the neocons at the American Enterprise Institute:
'those hurt by higher immigration may be low-skilled workers who already are having a hard time economically.'
Completely irrelevant to the problem you are trying to solve, if you ask me.

 The anti-immigration segment of the Republican party offcourse ignores history, just like it does concerning the Princeton's thoughtleadership at the founding of our Republic.

Both are signs of a fundamental shift away from neoconservative and communitarian politics to a more traditional Whig approach to Republican politics. The Republican party will either go back to it's radical roots, or it will seize to exist.

People are beginning to see that the David Barton wing of the party (Glenn Beck etc etc) has no idea what it's talking about and has nothing to offer but unpleasant obstructionism and shallow ahistoric nationalism, as illustrated in the piece by Derrick Morgan. It party explains why this segment is ganging up against Mitch McConnel.

Both Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have said:
'they intend to be active either supporting or opposing the legislation that is expected to emerge.'
Amazing. Apparently the fate of millions of immigrants isn't important enough to discuss. It's clear CATO is doing a much better job and much closer to the current center of gravity of the emerging Republican consensus on immigration.

Evangelical Republicans can easily go back to their traditional Whig roots and still stay Republican. Modern day libertarians will end up in about that same place.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Role of Religion in Birthing the American Revolution

I have repeatedly written on my understanding of Princeton's thoughtleadership and the American revolution. With that in mind I would like to compare my understanding with those of some contemporary and popular historians.  Miles S. Mullin, II helps us limit the scope of this comparison to a few people:
'Albeit with greater quality, effectiveness, and persuasiveness, historian Thomas Kidd offers a similar corrective, while Richard Bushman, Nathan Hatch, and Rhys Isaac and others have demonstrated the crucial role that religion played in birthing the revolution.'
So, let's start with Thomas Kidd who mentioned John Witherspoon in a blogpost on the Top Five Forgotten Founder, claiming:
'The best book on Witherspoon is Jeffry Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic.'
In a review of this book by Bradley J. Longfield in the Journal of Law and Religion we read:
'In his lectures on moral philosophy, Witherspoon became the chief conveyor to America of the moral system of Francis Hutcheson and the Scottish Common Sense Realism of Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart.'
If this is what Bradley J. Longfield learns from Jeffry Morrison's book I would not recommend it to those who want to understand Princeton's thoughtleadership leading up to the American revolution. The claim that Witherspoon introduced Scottish Common Sense Realism to America is misleading to say the least. Reverend Ashbel Green's opposition to Samuel Stanhope Smith's teachings circled precisely around this issue: how should we understand Witherspoon's link to Scottish Common Sense Realism. To just claim, as does Bradford Bow in his article, that reverend Ashbel Green was anti-enlightenment illustrates that there is a whole army of folks who don't understand the direct link between Presbyterianism and Scottish enlightenment.

John Witherspoon was not a simple conveyor of Hutcheson's moral system or Scottish Common Sense realism, but a Presbyterian who used both in his democratization project. At the heart of this democratization project was the Clarity of Scripture, which continued to play a central role in reformed theology during the 19th century. The fact that the Clarity of Scripture had been at the core of Princeton's educational endeavour all along was underlined again by Reverend Abraham Gosman at the inauguration of Geerhardus Vos as professor of biblical theology in 1894:
´the student cannot take with any satisfaction or certainty the books of the Bible as trustworthy or authoritative without an investigation of his own´
Let's see what Thomas Kidd writes in his review of Jeffry Morrison's John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic.

Matt Reynolds links Thomas Kidd's approach to a classification by John Witte, which goes like this:

'religiously and politically, the American founders were a diverse lot. Emory University scholar John Witte has helpfully assembled them into four groups: Puritans, who favored the Godly commonwealth model of colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut; civic republicans, who synthesized non-sectarian Protestant morality with an ethic of public spiritedness redolent of ancient Greece and Rome; evangelicals, who preached the redeeming power of the new birth; and Enlightenment skeptics, who sought the scientific axioms behind a divinely-ordered cosmos.'
It's obvious from this little quote that the reunification of the old and new side presbyterians was a major event in American history.

Without this reunification effort, which was in full swing in 1751 and was succesfully concluded in 1758, the fundraising for Princeton in England and Scotland by Samuel Davies and Gilbert Tennent would probably not have succeeded.

The fundraising tour by Davies and Tennent to Great Brittain 1753 should also be placed in the context of the 18th century London dissenters lobby network.

Appointing John Witherspoon was obviously in line with Princeton's longterm goal and in line with the old side - new side reunification.

Mark Reynolds points to Thomas Kidd's focus on the virtue-generating potential of religion. This seems to me a typical anachronistic reading into the 18th century of views popular in some (evangelical) circles today.

A review of John Witte's book Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment: Essential Rights and Libertie.

A really great book on the origin of the American revolution is Gary Will's Inventing America: Jefferson's declaration of Indepencence:
'Hutcheson’s system of moral philosophy particularly, Wills contends, contains the key to decoding the theory of the nature and proper functions of government embedded in the Declaration.'
This comes very close to my own interpretation which is that Hutcheson and Reid's ideas would have never led to a revolution without the radicalized Calvinist interpretation by Samuel Finley & John Witherspoon.

The fact that Jefferson did his undergraduate work at the College of William and Mary under William Small of Aberdeen who taught moral philosophy, rhetoric, and belles-lettres, underlines how popular Hutcheson's moral philosophy was in America in the period leading up to the American revolution.

Caroline Robbins writes:
'For an explicit statement, thirty years before Lexington of "when it is that colonies may turn independent," one must turn to the work of Francis Hutcheson'
'Hutcheson's debt to Locke and the tradition he represents was shared by all his contemporaries'

However, a strong argument for Hutcheson as major source of the declaration (distinguishing him from John Locke) of indepencence is his argument against slavery.

A comment by Ronald Hamowy which links Locke and Hutcheson together over against other Scottish thinkers:
'Almost all the evidence Wills has marshalled to support his assertion that the Declaration is really a document of Scottish moral philosophy collapses when one recognizes how far the sentiments expressed by Jefferson differ from those of Hume, Smith, and Ferguson, and how closely they accord with Locke. In writing the Declaration, Jefferson had either Locke or Hutcheson in mind, but certainly not the other Scottish writers.'
Telling how John Witherspoon became the champion of the American revolution while Hume, Smith and Ferguson became half-hearted supporters of rebellion against tyranny. If Ronald Hamowy is correct that 'the general drift of Scottish political thought was in the direction of moderation and reform in conflicts with civil authority.' it immediately reminds of Witherspoon's role in the conflict in the Scottish Church before he left to teach at Princeton.

This confirms that when Witherspoon talked about common sense this was much more a reference to Shaftesbury then to Thomas Reid.

Libertarian Ronald Hamowy did his doctoral thesis under F.A. Hayek at the University of Chicago in the 1960s and is obviously out to prove that Hutcheson had limited influence in revolutionary America. It's interesting how Hamowy provides ammunition against his fellow libertarian Rothbard who could not understand how presbyterianism and enlightenment could go together.

This topic is discussed  at American Creation as well, especially the link to Chris Rodda's review of David Barton's book is valuable:
'I expose one of his big anachronisms — that Thomas Jefferson was taught Scottish Common Sense philosophy as part of his own education'
'Either David Barton is wrong that the differing Enlightenment philosophies were a simple matter of religion vs. atheism and secularism or the Rev. John Witherspoon was teaching a philosophy that spawned secularists and deists like Hume and Smith!'
Apparently a big debate raged on this in 2012 among the historians. 

It's crystal clear Chris Rodda is 100% correct on this matter while Mike Huckabee exposes themselves as a fact-free populists by claiming:
“David Barton is maybe the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America’s early days.”
Same holds true for Bachmann and Gingrich and the Republican National Committee who hired him to mobilize Christians for George W. Bush.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lessons From Rwanda 94 Genocide

In a blogpost on the recent elections in Rwanda, Kevin Lees writes:
'All too often, Western good-government types don’t understand how the liberalization of Rwanda’s political sphere and open radio airwaves accelerated the genocide.'
While it's correct that this played a role leading up to the genocide, we should not forget the context in which this liberization took place: The international community forced the Rwandan government to negotiate with an outside rebel force, the RPF.

At the same time pressure towards democratization helped this rebel group recruit in Eastern Congo.

What we can learn from it is that forcing a government to negotiate with a rebel group while pushing for democracy isn't a good idea.

The efforts to end the m23 rebellion in Congo indicate the international community has learned from it's previous adventure in Rwanda.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Herman Bavinck's Epistemology

'The logos in the creatures corresponds with the logos in man and makes science possible' (Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, Book 1, page 213)
Geerhardus Vos claimed, in his review of the original first volume of Bavinck's Dogmatiek, that Bavinck set forth in his prolegomena as Reformed epistemology "the same theory.. that has been set forth .. by the late Dr. Mc Cosh" (that is Scottish Common Sense Realism as K. Scott Oliphint correctly writes in his article Bavinck's Realism, the Logos Principle and Sola Scriptura).

This might seem surprising while It could easily suggest that Geerhardus Vos did not understand the objective Princeton set itself when creating the chair of biblical theology. This objective was summarized by Reverend Abraham Gosman at the inauguration of Geerhardus Vos as Professor of Biblical Theology:
´the student cannot take with any satisfaction or certainty the books of the Bible as trustworthy or authoritative without an investigation of his own´
Abraham Gosman refers here to the Perspicuitas of Scripture ('one of the firmest strongholds of the Reformation' writes Herman Bavinck in his Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, book 1 page 396). In a clear reference to both Hendrik de Cock and Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck adds on page 397 of the first book of his Reformed Dogmatics:
'the clarity of Scripture is origin and guarantee of religious and political freedoms'
Compare with this: On Perspicuity of the Scriptures: the right of Private Judgment, Charles Hodge. The clarity of Scripture explains how John Witherspoon used Francis Hutcheson and Thomas Reid's work. John Witherspoon did exactedly what Emperor Julianus was affraid of, as Bavinck relates on page 526 of book 1 of his Reformed Dogmatics: 
'Emperor Julianus knew what he was doing when he took the pagan science away from Christians, fearing to be defeated with his own weapons.'
Bavinck's discussion of the Principia in science from page 145 onward (chapter 7) treats rationalism, empirism:
'we should ask ourselves is there not a need to revise this whole of newer philosophy, both in it's Cartesian and in it's Baconian direction.' (157)
He goes on to discuss realism (157). And concludes 'The same Logos, which shines in the world, must let its light shine also in our consciousness...'. However, Bavinck's numerous uses of the word Logos should be placed in the context of his understanding of revelation as 'a historic and organic unity, a mighty world controlling and world renewing system of acts of God' (GD I page 268) and Abraham Kuyper's understanding of preaching (see Predik het Woord [Preach the Word] by C. Veenhof). Page 303 and 304 of book 1 of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics beautifully summarizes the way the Logos functions in his dogmatics & how this links up both with the mentioned clarity of Scripture and the centrality of Preaching the Word in Kuyper's work:
In Christ, in the middle of history God has created an organic center; from there the circles are getting drawn ever wider, on which the light of revelation shines..

While head and heart, the totality of man in his being and consciousness has to be renewed, the revelation in this dispensation continuous through Scripture and church together.
'Scripture is the light of the church, the church is the life of the Scripture. Outside of the church Scripture is a riddle, an annoyance'
'Therefore Scripture does not stand alone. She should not be considered Deistically. She is rooted in a history of ages and is the fruit of the revelation under Israel and in Christ....The H. Scripture is the always living, eternally youthful word, which God sends now in this day and always to his people.'

On page 515 of his Reformed Dogmatics (book I) Bavinck's describes (and approves) the view of the Church fathers which describes the relationship between theology and philosophy as the relationship between the wise from the east that laid down their gifts before the Child Jesus. Schilder further develops this approach in a sermon on Matthew 2 'The Wise From The East And The Word Of God'. The outline of this sermon is: 
  • Lured by the Word of God in nature.
  • Guided by the Word of God in Scripture.
  • Kneeled before the Word of God in the flesh.
As I have said before, Schilder is a Bavinck interpreter, also concerning epistemology. On page 305 of the Reformed Dogmatics Bavinck summarizes how he sees the centrality of the Logos in his epistemology:
'By the Word God once created the world, through the Word he sustains it, through the Word He recreates her and also prepares her as His house. The theopneusty is therefore a permanent feature of the H. Scripture. She was not only theopneust at the moment that she was put to book: she is theopneust.'
When Bavinck says organic, he also means nature (GD I, page 275: De bijzondere openbaring kwam dus geheel op zich zelve te staan, zonder verband met natuur en geschiedenis.) The best way to understand the meaning of the word Logos in John 1 is to study the rest of the New Testament: John 4, Acts, Hebrews Revelations...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Klaarblijkelijkheid van de Schrift & Unalienable Rights

In deel 1 van zijn Gereformeerde Dogmatiek Schrijft Herman Bavinck op bladzijde 397:
'de duidelijkheid der Schrift is oorsprong en waarborg van de religieuse en ook van de politieke vrijheden'
Daarbij wordt verwezen naar Abraham Kuyper's lezing 'Calvinism oorsprong en waarborg van onze constitutionele vrijheden'. Jasper Vree schrijft in zijn boek over de achtergrond van deze lezing:
'Door deze lectuur ( Works of Burke, Collection des mémoires Guizot, works of de Tocqueville and Lamennais) rees bij hem de vraag of er vroeger niet zo iets als een specifiek gereformeerd staatsrecht kon zijn ontwikkeld, met doorwerkingen in later tijd, met name in Amerika. Zou de volkssoevereiniteit zoals die daar bestond niet heel goed antirevolutionair kunnen zijn? Op 23 November 1873 zou deze periode van studie en bezinning uitmonden in de lezing voor Utrechtse studenten.'

Deze klaarblijkelijkheid van de Schrift is het onderwerp van Klaas Schilder's inaugurele rede van 1934:
'In deze klaarblijkelijkheids-aanvaarding ligt de eenheid tussen 1834 en 1934, tussen Hendrik de Cock en ons.'
In de discussie over rechtsstaat en democratie wordt vaak verwezen naar unalienable rights (Francis Hutcheson). Bijvoorbeeld door A J Boekestijn hier:
'Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from inalienable rights which may not be taken by vote'
De klaarblijkelijkheid van de Schrift is de fundering van deze onvervreemdebare rechten:

'Hutcheson elaborated on this idea of unalienable rights in his A System of Moral Philosophy (1755), based on the Reformation principle of the liberty of conscience. One could not in fact give up the capacity for private judgment (e.g., about religious questions) regardless of any external contracts or oaths to religious or secular authorities so that right is "unalienable." Hutcheson wrote: "Thus no man can really change his sentiments, judgments, and inward affections, at the pleasure of another; nor can it tend to any good to make him profess what is contrary to his heart. The right of private judgment is therefore unalienable.'
Hoewel de link met de klaarblijkelijkheid van de Schrift in Hutcheson's moral philosophy latent aanwezig is, is het John Witherspoon (& Princeton) die hieruit de ultieme consequenties getrokken heeft. 

Abraham Kuyper gaf in 1867 zijn eerste kerkelijke brochure uit,
'Wat moeten wij doen, het stemrecht aan ons zelven behouden of den kerkeraad machtigen? Vraag bij de uitvoering van art. 23 toegelicht, waarin hij voor een democratische kerkregering koos, mits deze niet ontaardde in volkssoevereiniteit, die hij als geestverwant van Groen van Prinsterer afwees.'

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Discovering Seakle Greydanus

The theologian that likely best understood the strengths and weaknesses of both Presbyterian teachings in America and those of Reformed in the Netherlands is Seakle Greydanus.  In a previous post on this same topic I claimed:
'However, showing how the Biblical theology of William Henry Green and Geerhardus Vos is built on Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy could be very helpful.'
I no longer think this is the correct way of looking at the link between Thomas Reid and Old Princeton. My new understanding is that Witherspoon used Hutcheson and Reid's work  and that biblical theology might be the glue that keeps together Edwards idealism and Witherspoon's realism. Biblical theology, as aimed for at Princeton, and redemptive-historical preaching, as aimed for by Dutch Reformed during the thirties, rejects antropocentrism but at the same time enforces the perspicuitas of Scripture.

Understanding how Seakle Greydanus integrated Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed theology helps us put Klaas Schilder and Herman Dooyeweerd's philosophy in perspective.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Edwards's Idealism & Witherspoon's Realism

'Plato's famous idealized Republic required a perfect Philosopher King to rule it, with wisdom and benevolence. He argued that because such a perfect human being could exist, therefore such a king would be possible to find.'
Princeton's thoughtleadership in the 18th century was based on it's approach to solving the tensions between 'moderates' and 'evangelicals', Old Lights and New Lights, fronteer Scots-Irish and New-England puritans, Scottish and non-Scottish segments of US Presbyterianism, as explained in a sermon (1761) by it's president Samuel Finley. So how did Princeton solve the tension between Edwards's idealism and Witherspoon's realism?

Jonathan Edwards's pursuit of happiness ('happiness' was his favorite word) reminds of Francis Hutcheson's moral philosophy. A Owen Aldrigde writes that Jonathan Edwards dissertation on Nature of True Virtue is literally a commentary on Hutcheson's work. This focus on the pursuit of happiness was an essential structuring element during the Scottish Enlightenment. We see Samuel Davies focus on happiness in his sermons. But just as the concept of 'common sense' ('Witherspoon's lectures do not contain the full-orbed common-sense epistemology' Mark A. Noll), the pursuit of happiness means different things to different people. John Witherspoon and Samuel Finley understood this and had no problem integrating the valuable aspects of Francis Hutcheson's and Thomas Reid's work in their educational endeavour.

The next question is offcourse how to reconcile the supposed idealism of Jonathan Edwards with the supposed realism of John Witherspoon. From his ecclesiastical characteristics we can deduct that Witherspoon rejected Edwards aesthetic approach. But at the same time, as Scott Oliphint points out:
'The more Edwards puzzled over these matters, the more he was able to express himself biblically so that his later, most mature expression of ontology grounds the notion of Being squarely in the character of God and not in an abstract principle.'
And:
'It was in this context (of the great awakening) that Edwards wrote what is considered by many to be his greatest work, A Treatise on the Religious Affections. In that work, Edwards had to show not only that such a scholastic psychology was unwarranted, but that his position of the organic unity of man was (1) biblical and (2) explanatory of the nature of revival'

Jonathan Edwards's sermons on redemptive history might hold the key to solving this riddle. An approach that reminds us of Origen , Geerhardus Vos, and Klaas Schilder. Rejecting antropocentrism, while at the same time doing justice to the perspuictas of Scripture, the redemptive historical approach eventually links Princeton's 'Plato and Aristotle' (Matthew J. Milliner). As Robert S. Null's writes in his dissertation:
 'The relationship of history to theology became foundational for Witherspoon not simply as an extension of late Protestant scholasticism, an expression of Christian piety, or an excessive reliance on, or aversion toward, a specific enlightenment philosophy. In his writings, theology itself was undergoing change, and specifically in Witherspoon's case, toward integrating an important awareness of history. This awareness demonstrates the importance of history very early in the rise of Princeton theology.'
Biblical theology and redemptive-historic preaching is the answer to these different questions, as illustrated by a quote from Jonathan Edwards sermon on Ruth's resolution: 
'But men can be happy in no other God, but the God of Israel. He is the only fountain of happiness.'
Once again, as C. Jan Swearingen has argued, we see here the central focus on preaching in Scottish philosophy. Let's hope the Edwards conference february 27/28 2014 in the United Kingdom will enlighten us more on how Jonathan Edwards contributed to Princeton's educational project.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Calvinism & Environmentalism

John Gatta writes:
'Edwards’s notion of “benevolence to Being in general,” as articulated in The Nature of True Virtue, is a theocentric ideal that resists the anthropocentric assumption that nature exists solely to fulfill human needs and desires'
 Belder C. Lane writes in a blogpost 'A Passionate Green Calvinist':
'We're familiar with Reformed theologians like Karl Barth who emphasized a God of majesty who is "wholly other." We don't normally associate Reformed Protestantism, therefore, with a spirituality of desire or an attentiveness to creation. A more careful consideration of the tradition requires our distinguishing two parallel strains of thought in Reformed Christianity. The one begins with a sense of awe at God's majesty, the other with a delight in God's beauty. Both, strangely enough, can be traced through Calvin, the Puritans and Edwards. The more passionate and earthy strain simply hasn't been recognized enough'
Both statements immediately remind of Klaas Schilder's dissertation begriffsgeschichte des Paradoxons and the first chapter of his commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism. The article Jonathan Edwards on Beauty, Desire, and the Sensory World by Belden C. Lane further explores the ecological implications of Jonathan Edwards's approach (by the way, Belden C. Lane is working on a new book, titled: Nature and Spirituality in the Reformed Tradition from John Calvin to Jonathan Edwards.) and quotes Joseph Sittler (some background here):
"environmental ethics should take its cue from the first question of the Westminster Catechism in the Calvinist tradition. What is the chief end of man and woman (and of all creation, for that matter)? The answer: To glorify God and to enjoy God forever."
Belder C. Lane's thesis is:
'For Jonathan Edwards, creation functions as a school of desire, training regenerate human beings in the intimate sensory apprehension of God.'
Avia Zakai is absolutely correct when he states in his article 'Jonathan Edwards and the Language of Nature: The Re-Enchantment of the World in the Age of scientific Reasoning':
'His force of mind is evident in his exposition of the poverty of mechanical philosophy, which radically transformed the traditional Christian dialectic of God's utter transcendence and divine immanence by gradually diminishing divine sovereignty with respect to creation, providence, and redemption, thus leading to the disenchantment of the world.'
Someone who has read Klaas Schilder's sermon will immediately see the resemblance.

Jonathan Edwards dissertation on Nature of True Virtue is literally a commentary on Hutcheson's work.

It's obvious reading both Francis Hutcheson and Jonathan Edwards is essential to understand 18th century Princeton (Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, John Witherspoon).

Marsden's quote illustrate why John Witherspoon's instrumentalisation of Hutcheson's moral philosophy is unique:
'The grand hope of the modern moral philosophers was that they could discover universally valid moral standards with which they could adjudicate competing absolute claims and in effect stand above them.'

Friday, August 30, 2013

John Witherspoon, The Cicero Of His Time

Some time ago, before I had done my own investigation concerning John Witherspoon's approach, I had read an article by Joseph DiLuzio on the relationship between John Witherspoon, moral philosophy and Scottish common sense realism. DiLuzio claimed:
'Witherspoon had arrived in the colonies promoting Scottish realism and that brand of moral philosophy advocated by Francis Hutcheson and argued against by his predecessor at Princeton, Jonathan Edwards'
 'that In practice, Witherspoon ignored the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity'
I will argue in what follows that there was an inherent conflict between Witherspoon’s Scottish Enlightenment philosophy on the one hand and his Calvinist Presbyterian orthodoxy on the other.'
The evidence points in the opposite direction. John Witherspoon's program represented precisely the direction Samuel Davies and Samuel Finley (and other Princeton trustees) wanted it to take. The claim that Witherspoon 'ignored the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity' is false, just read his sermons. John Witherspoon, as all real Calvinists, took the doctrine of the perspicuitas of Scripture seriously. This means that not just the enlightened, but everybody is able to understand it's message.

Witherspoon's focus on eloquence resolves the tension between the different aspects of his approach.  Shaftesbury is key to understanding how Witherspoon understood his role as the Cicero of his time:

'Those trained in analytic philosophy continue to have trouble reading Shaftesbury, largely because he self-consciously rejects systematic philosophy and focuses more on rhetoric and literary persuasion than providing numbered premises.'
Robert S. Null writes:
'Witherspoon as propagator of Scottish common sense philosophy in America is one of the most common pursuits in scholarly literature. To support and develop this interest, a greater degree of attention has been given to Witherspoon's lectures regarding moral philosophy and criticism (eloquence), relatively less to his lectures expounding divinity, and almost none to his lectures covering history and chronology'
Here a direct link between Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon & Princeton's biblical theology and apologetics in the 19th century emerges. Very interesting. I wish today more reformed theologians would be as pragmatic about the link between philosophy and theology as Witherspoon (and Samuel Finley). Would increase the value and strenght of anyone's education.

Slightly related, this brings me to a discussion of Calvin's famous opening line to his institutions:
'Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.'

Thursday, August 22, 2013

H N Ridderbos & Biblical Theology

Biblical theology and apologetics at Princeton as developed during the time of Geerhardus Vos and B.B. Warfield are linked. This should make us very cautious when comparing Ridderbos to Geerhardus Vos while Ridderbos, during the 1944 split in the reformed churches (gereformeerd) in the Netherlands, sided with Kuyper over against Klaas Schilder:
"Schilder opposed Kuyper’s theory of ‘immediate regeneration.’ There was for him a failure to appreciate the regenerating Word"
As Paul Helm explains very well here that B. B. Warfield rejected Kuyper's theory of 'immediate regeneration' as well:
'But this faith that the prepared heart yields – is it yielded blindly and without reason, or is it yielded rationally, and on the ground of sufficient reason? Does God the Holy Spirit work a blind and ungrounded faith in the heart? What is supplied by the Holy Spirit in working faith in the heart surely is not ready-made faith, rooted in nothing and clinging without reason to its object; nor yet new grounds of belief in the object presented; but just a new power to the heart to respond to the grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, already present to the mind.'
The idea behind creating a chair of biblical theology (held by Geerhardus Vos) was to apply this position. I suspect that inside 'Abraham Kuyper's' church important strands were on the side of Warfield & Vos and not on the side of Abraham Kuyper concerning this issue. The 1905 compromise circled around this same issue. The 1834 (Helenius de Cock's) seceders (of which Geerhardus Vos family was a descendant) did not accept Kuyper's theory. At the same time it's clear Abraham Kuyper's democratization project would not have existed without the covenant theology of the seceders. Those who think otherwise should study history. Geerhardus Voses biblical theology, firmly rooted in Princeton's covenant theology, is directly linked to the perspicuitas of scripture. Perspicuitas of Scripture is at the heart of Calvinism and was the motor of the Scottish Enlightenment. Bogue claims that Berkouwer and Jan Ridderbos thought that Princeton's covenant theology had arminian tendencies:
"Dutch Calvinism (he obviously means the Berkouwer brand) tends to view the Puritan doctrine of the covenant as the hole in the dike through which the Arminian flood poured."

In this context the question rises how H N Ridderbos 'biblical theology' fits into Princeton's philosophical/theological framework. It could well be antithetical to it, completely opposite to the intentions Warfield and Geerhardus Vos had when they created the chair of biblical theology at Princeton.

Let's see if we can find sources that confirm this reading.

To compare what Geerhardus Vos (or Princeton at the time) & H N Ridderbos understood as biblical theology we should offcourse first be clear on what Geerhardus Vos contribution to it actually was. There apparently are at least four different opinions on it. I myself agree with James Dennison's view.

Comparing Gaffin to Dennison's position might be helpful in understanding the difference between Vos and Ridderbos.

Interview with Gaffin on sanctification and justication might shed some light on this same issue.

B. B. Warfield's statement on what biblical theology is, "Scientific theology rests…most directly on the results of exegesis as provided in Biblical theology", is crystal clear, allthough Gaffin pretends it isn't. 

Richard Gaffin seems to dismiss Warfield's crystal clear definition of the purpose of biblical theology and instead emphasizes the catch phrase 'redemptive-historical' and goes on to talk about Kuyper and Bavinck.

Warfield links biblical theology to what every believer can and should do: read the bible. I miss this aspect in Gaffin's focus on the 'redemptive-historical'. I also don't think Gaffin is correct when stating that the approach of biblical theology is 'historical' while that of dogmatics is logical.

John Murray's statement comes close  to Warfield's understanding of the purpose of biblical theology.

Focusing just on history (even redemptive history) won't necessarily help bring out the correct meaning of the text. In fact reading the bible from back to beginning sometimes brings better results.

Biblical theology isn't a history lesson, it's showing how the case for it's truthfulness is much stronger then those socalled enlightened spirits claim. It's coherence transcends cheap shots against it's authority.

Purpose of biblical theology is not to create a new class of supposedly smart professors at Universities who can then subsequently look down on the simple bible believers. Quite to the contrary, the purpose of biblical theology was to give believers the weapons to take down the nonsense and educate the church.

People like Klaas Schilder understood this.

Bill Dennison's interpretation of Van Til's apologetics confirms the link between Warfield's idea of Biblical Theology and apologetics. He sees "Scripture interprets Scripture." at the heart of Vos biblical theology and adds 'Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. has stressed that the analogy of Scripture is implicitly Biblical-theological'. Bill Dennison states:
'this hermeneutical principle depicts the essence of the discipline of Biblical Theology.'
I suspect comparing Herman Ridderbos to Geerhardus Vos will reveal that they represent completely different and incompatible approaches. Some might call Ridderbosses approach redemptive-historical but that in itself isn't the heart of Biblical Theology, as Dennison explains in his article.

H N Ridderbos, just as Barth in a letter to Berkouwer, aimed to give fundamentalism a bad name by creating a false contradiction with 'his'(?) redemptive-historic theology.

This instrumentalisation of biblical theology  might explain some of the suspicion against redemptive-historic hermeneutic and preaching.

To understand the aim of biblical theology, a question James Dennison attempts to answer here, the comments by Rev Gosman at the inauguration of Geerhardus Vos are instructive. 

Hoe zijn de ontwikkeling van bijbelse theologie aan Princeton en heilshistorische prediking in Nederland verbonden?


Welke betekenis heeft Geerhardus Vos gehad in de ontwikkeling van bijbelse theologie in Nederland.

Arie Noordtzij theologie. 

 This is also an interesting quote:

It is reported that Herman Ridderbos, during his 1975 tour of the United States, when meeting Vos’ daughter, “seized her hand warmly when introduced and confessed a great deal of dependence upon her father in his own thinking. 

Beginning with moses 

Seakle Greydanus, his family lived in New Jersey, was very interested in American theology. It seems logical that he was the missing link between Geerhardus Vos and redemptive-historical preaching in the Netherlands.

One of his students was Herman Ridderbos who has acknowledge he has been deeply influenced by Geerhardus Vos. 

Ook zijn opvattingen aangaande kerkrecht wijzen op Presbyteriaanse invloed bij Greydanus. 

In 1946 Seakle Greydanus published his most important work, Scripture Principles for Scripture Interpretation

Riemer Roukema on greydanus.

In this book the direct link between Hodge on the one hand, and Kuyper/Bavinck on the other is clear. 

Bavinck's criticism of Hodge: 

inerrancy : the dutch 

Paul Helm on Hodge, Geerhardus Vos , Bavinck & Kuyper.

over opbouw van VU en kontakten met Princeton, interessant artikel.  

Biblical theology, as understood by Warfield and Vos, can easily be understood in the framework of Witherspoon's opposition to Hutcheson & Hugh's elitism concerning Rhetoric.

The framework in which we should understand Princeton's biblical theology is John Knox educational project.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Geerhardus Voses Democratization of Theology

James Dennison argues that Geerhardus Voses inaugural adress is dominated by the supernatural character of revelation. But it also seems dominated by two other important aspects of Presbyterian covenant theology: democratization and mission.

Both aspects are clearly visible in Jonathan Edwards & Samuel Davies sermons and work during the great awakening. Geerhardus Voses Biblical theology becomes incomprehensible without this context. Inerrancy debate can become very abstract outside of this framework.

An comment  that links biblical theology to the early years of Princeton (and Jonathan Edwards):

'Why not just follow the tried and true Historic/Redemptive (Covenantal) out line, sometimes called Biblical Theology? It is a staple for reformed churches and has been for many years. Early proponents were Jonathan Edwards and Geerhardus Vos. More recent is James Dennison and Michael Horton. I am personally not enthralled with this type of study but I do see the value. BTW the preaching style from this is called Christocentric and is the predominate style in the PCA and OPC.

But then again, it is reformed and Calvinist so often discounted and ignored as not relevant. Besides, we don't have any really cool graphics, or picture books, or charts or power points. Just the Bible and Christ.'

Monday, August 12, 2013

Third Earl of Shaftesbury's Rhetoric, Education & Politics

From the two quotes below it becomes obvious that Shaftesbury's influence on the Scots-Irish in general and Witherspoon in particular was immense. The emphasis on eloquence could mean that Witherspoon's understanding of Scottish philosophy was actually the closest to Shaftesbury's. It

On Shaftesbury's emphasis on Rhetoric and literary persuasion:
'Those trained in analytic philosophy continue to have trouble reading Shaftesbury, largely because he self-consciously rejects systematic philosophy and focuses more on rhetoric and literary persuasion than providing numbered premises.'
 On education (new link) in a blogpost by James Harriman-Smith:
“His work aimed at nothing other than returning philosophy to the world”: thus Lawrence Klein describes Shaftesbury’s Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, before going on to identify three aspects of this “philosophical worldliness”. These are: that philosophy should make people effective participants in the world, that philosophy was embedded in culture and history, and that this worldliness should have a political resonance.'

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Witherspoon Used Hutcheson & Reid's Work

From my previous post it should now be clear that the debate on rhetoric and moral philosophy in Scottish philosophy is directly linked to preaching and theological questions. In 'The Selected Writings of John Witherspoon' Thomas Miller writes:
'Hutcheson helped create an intellectual environment where secular inquiry could be defended against orthodox Calvinists, who were appalled that ministers would attend the theater...Hutcheson's moral philosophy did serve to empower the politely educated as the voice of enlightened harmony while his moral-aesthetic assumptions tended to depict opposing political groups as self-serving and unreasonable factions.'
Witherspoon wrote his Ecclesiastical Characteristics in 1753 as a direct response to Hutcheson. In it he 'ridicules the idea that aesthetics can provide a model for morality', he rejects the idea 'that an enlightened individual can understand what is best for society' and he also rejects the 'common good' idea. John Witherspoon rejected the Jim Wallises & Michael Gersons of his day.

Which brings us to Thomas Reid, who offers an alternative to the moral-sense theories of both Francis Hutcheson and David Hume. What did John Witherspoon think of Thomas Reid's alternative?

In answering that question we should keep in mind that community intellectual John Witherspoon was, as Thomas Miller insists, first of all a practioner of the art of rhetoric. It's not hard to imagine how, at Princeton, Hutcheson's moral philosophy was converted into a potent revolutionary weapon through John Witherspoon's Calvinist heuristic. We could argue that the same thing happened to Reid's 'common sense'. Shouldn't we also keep in mind the fact that 'common sense', through Paine's pamphlet, took on a life of it's own in revolutionary America.

As with the declaration of independence, Stoics and Calvinist presbyterians will attach different meaning to the word happiness while reading Hutcheson on the intention of moral philosophy:
'The intention of moral philosophy is to direct men to that course of action which tends most effectually to promote their greatest happiness.'
Whatever Thomas Reid meant by common sense became secondary to the strategic purpose it served in America. Taken together Hutcheson's moral philosophy and Reid's common sense became the ideal vehicle for Witherspoon's Calvinist democratization project.