DOOYEWEERD: Calvin and self-knowledge

“In an unsurpassed manner Calvin expounded in his Institutio the authentic Christian conception of Augustine which made all knowledge of the cosmos dependent upon self­-knowledge, and made our self-knowledge dependent upon our knowledge of God.” (Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol 1, p 196)


“OUR wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain. […] On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” (Opening of Chapter 1 of Jean Calvin’s Institutes.)

QUOTES: The State and The Family

Käthe Kollwitz: The Mothers (1919)

“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state”. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16:3 and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 23:1)

“There is an inextricable link between the protection of the family and the protection of fundamental freedoms in liberal democracies…The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.” (UK Supreme Court Judgement contra Scottish Gov ‘Named Person Scheme’, 28 July 2016, Para 73, pages 32, 33)

“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Justice McReynolds, delivering the Opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States: Pierce v Society of Sisters 268 US 510, 1925, 534-535)

“So long as organized communities are a necessary factor in the inner vitality of a nation, the state has indeed the… juridical task… to take measures that support, restore and stimulate the life of non-political communities. Primarily this applies to the natural organized communal life of the nuclear family…” (“The Crisis in Humanist Political Theory” by Herman Dooyeweerd, 1931, Paideia Press, 2010, p 178)

DOOYEWEERD: The victims of an illusion

René Magritte: ‘The Human Condition’ (1933)

“All temporal knowledge rests on a religious or pseudo-religious foundation, and is restricted and made relative by the temporal dimensions of the horizon of experience and of reality. For this reason we are the victims of an illusion, if we hypostatize [absolutize] the structure of human knowledge, or  proclaim the human cognitive apparatus self-sufficient. For the transcendent horizon of the selfhood, radiating through all human experience perspectively, has no rest in itself, but only exists in the creaturely mode of meaning, which is nothing in it­self, i.e. nothing apart from its reference to the Origin.

The religious [ultimate] meaning of the created world binds the true knowledge of the cosmos to true self-knowledge, and the latter to the true knowledge of God. This view has  been  explained in an unsurpassable and pregnant way in the first chapter of the first book of Calvin’s Institutio. It is the only purely Biblical view and the alpha and omega of any truly Christian epistemology. Theoretical truth, limited and relativized by the temporal hori­zon, is in every respect dependent on the full super-temporal Truth. If we hypostatize [absolutize] theoretical truth, it is turned into a lie. For there does not exist a self-sufficient partial truth. We cannot truthfully know the cosmos outside of the true knowledge of God. But like all human experience in this earthly dispensation, our knowledge of God, although directed to the absolute Truth, is also restricted and relativized by (but not at all to) our temporal cosmic existence.”

(New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Volume 2: 60,61)

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