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)
DOOYEWEERD WRITES (1):
”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:
DOOYEWEERD WRITES (2):
“Since the fall and the promise of the coming Redeemer, there are two central mainsprings operative in the heart of human existence.
The first is the dynamis of the Holy Spirit,
which by the moving power of God’s Word, incarnated in Jesus Christ, re-directs to its Creator the creation that had apostatized in the fall from its true Origin.
This dynamis brings man into the relationship of sonship to the Divine Father. Its religious ground-motive is that of the Divine Word-Revelation, which is the key to the understanding of Holy Scripture: the motive of creation, fall, and redemption by Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit.”
(Herman Dooyeweerd: A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol 1, pp 60-64)
See following extensive post for wider context:
DOOYEWEERD SAYS IN 1964 LECTURE (3):
[…] Kuyper had died, and as could have been predicted, after his death there was a battle with respect to his spiritual heritage. In which line should reformational thought further develop? For it was clear that two lines could be observed. And not only in Kuyper but also in Herman Bavinck — one of the other leading members of the older generation — and also in Jan Woltjer.
There was a truly reformational line, which sought an inner reformation, an inner re-forming of the whole attitude towards life and thought, which came from out of the driving force, the dunamis of the divine Word.
And the other direction, which merely proceeded in the old scholastic line and that did not want to know about reformation, inner formation of thought. But as Voetius had named it, they wanted accommodation, adaptation, an external adaptation of thought to traditional theology, which itself appeared in every respect to be infected by Greek philosophy, which cannot be reconciled with the Biblical basic principle [grondgedachte].
The Philosophy of the Law-Idea immediately chose the reformational line, in this radical sense. It concerns reformation, inner reformation of our attitude of thought, through God’s Word – and, as was always added, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. That’s what it’s about. It was against the scholastic accommodation.
[…] From the very beginning I have said that, as philosophy, the Philosophy of the Law-Idea is human work, fallible. I have said that it requires no privileged position with respect to other philosophical systems. That is something that could easily happen, to hide oneself behind the name ‘Christian,’ or ‘reformational,’ and to say, “Yes, but this is a philosophy that is a better guarantee against error than the others.” No. Every time I have warned against that and with great emphasis. That is not the way it is. Philosophy itself remains human work.
But it is human work that is directed from out of a spiritual driving force that does not come from man, but which comes forth from out of the Word of God, and which works in the community, de communio, Spiritus sanctus, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, whenever these Ground-motives – I am convinced that there still is much misunderstanding about them, also in our circle, also in the circle of our own Association. Some have become afraid when they have heard this and they have thought, “Here a selection is being made.” For the Ground-motive is described as that of creation, fall into sin, and redemption through Jesus Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And then it is said, “And after this the Bible can remain closed. If that alone is the Ground-motive that leads this philosophy, then the Bible can remain closed.” Now, it was so difficult to remove this misunderstanding.
For I have said that the Ground-motive is the key of knowledge of Holy Scripture, and a key serves in order to open something up. And what must be opened up, that is Holy Scripture. Thus the key belongs to Holy Scripture, and it is itself only to be understood from out of Holy Scripture. It is not something that is imposed upon it,
but it is certainly something, this motive in its completely central, in its radical, character, that completely fits with the revelation given by God in the beginning, in the first chapter of Genesis, of the creation of man according to the image of God. If you read that further in relation to everything that the Bible also teaches us about the religious center of human existence, then it must become clear that the divine revelation, the revelation of the Word, which became flesh, must be adapted to human existence as it was created by God. Otherwise there would be no revelation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ became man. Jesus Christ, and lived among us.
And God’s Word has spoken in our human language and in our human world and has thereby also entered our human horizon of experience.
And just as man, who was created by God, with a great diversity of functions and structures with respect to his bodily existence, but with one central unity. The heart of his existence, that religious center, out of which are the issues of life, and which according to the order of creation was destined to concentrically direct all the powers that God had placed in the temporal world. These were to be directed in the service of love to God and to our neighbour as the bearer of the image of God. For our neighbour, too, is created according to the image of God.
When you see that, then it is no longer strange that Holy Scripture also has a center, a religious center and a periphery, which belong to each other in an unbreakable way. That center is the spiritual dunamis, the spiritual driving force that proceeds from God’s Word in this central, all-inclusive motive of creation, revelation of the fall into sin, redemption through Jesus Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
And naturally, we can also speak about creation as an article of faith, a doctrine, and that is also clear. Naturally. And one can theologize about that. Of course that can occur. It is also necessary. But when it concerns true knowledge of God and true knowledge of self, then we must say, “There is no theology in the world and no philosophy in the world that can achieve that for man. It is the immediate fruit of the working, the central working of God’s Word itself in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in the heart, the radix, the root unity of human existence. […]
Oh, you can make that foundation as good and as excellent as you want, but if the Spirit of God does not breathe into it, then it is nothing. It is then less then nothing, chaff and not wheat. And no foundation, no basis that we ourselves may lay down and that we ourselves may formulate can really give the reformational, Christian, Biblical direction to our thought. That is the work of God’s Word by the working of the Holy Spirit, Who is always at work in fellowship.”
(Extracts from: “Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world”. A 1964 lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd. Translation by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen.)( PDF 70 pages.)