DOOYEWEERD: Holy Spirit is ‘Dunamis’ of Scripture.

Book of Kells

NOTE: This brief post regarding the term “dunamis” exemplifies terminal misunderstandings of Dooyeweerd’s thought by influential Reformed thinkers such as Cornelius Van Til and John M. Frame.

Cornelius Van Til writes:

“Dooyeweerd speaks of the ‘central dunamis’ of the Divine ‘Word’ as taking hold of us in the depth of our being. If this idea of dunamis is not to lead us into a Kantian sort of noumenal, then it must be based upon the spoken Word, full of thought-content.… Dooyeweerd’s discussion of the dunamis of the divine revelation as over against the simple thought-content of Scripture adds still further to the ambiguity.…The whole attempt at reforming philosophical thought in terms of the modalities of thought as set forth by Dooyeweerd breaks down unless he reforms the concept of dunamis.” (Context online HERE)

John Frame writes:

“Dooyeweerd is fond of speaking of “the central ground-motive of the biblical revelation or dunamis…” [Context online HERE]. This language raises the question of the extent to which this “Word” resembles other words. Is there any sense in which this Word, in its central meaning, is appropriated by hearing, understanding, believing, obeying?  Or is the Word a kind of blind force which “grips” a person and changes him, without giving him any information, commands, questions, promises, etc.? […] The Amsterdam philosophers…are indeed fond of saying that Scripture addresses the heart, that it bears on all aspects of life, etc. It appears, however, that when they use this sort of language, they are thinking of Scripture, not as a book with words and sentences, but as a vehicle of that dunamis, that “power” which Dooyeweerd describes as the Word of God.” (PDF: The Amsterdam Philosophy: A Preliminary Critique by John M. Frame)


”God’s self-revelation in Holy Scripture as Creator and Redeemer concerns the central religious [deepest selfhood] relation of man to his absolute Origin.

Its true meaning is to be understood by man only if his heart has been opened up to it through the moving power of the Holy Spirit, who is the dunamis of the biblical Word-revelation.

“What is said here about the dunamis of the biblical Word-revelation and the central role of the heart in the understanding of its meaning is in complete accordance with the biblical testimony, cf. Isa. 6:10-13…

‘And he said, “Go, and tell this people, ‘In hearing you hear, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not perceive.’ The heart of this people has grown dull, and their ears sluggish, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn back, and I would heal them.’ (New Heart English Version)

And Acts 16:14…

‘One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.’ (NIV)

and with the opinion of Calvin:

‘And it will not have been sufficient that the mind is illuminated by the Spirit of God, unless also by its virtue the heart is made firm and is strengthened’. (Institutes III, ii, 33)”

(Excerpt from the chapter ‘Herman Dooyeweerd: II. CORNELIUS VAN TIL AND THE TRANSCENDENTAL CRITIQUE OF THEORETICAL THOUGHT, in the book Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, Edited by E.R. Geehan, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974, pp 81-84)

See following extensive post for wider context:
‘Jerusalem & Athens’: Dooyeweerd to Van Til (4): “Supra-rational should by no means be confused with irrational.”