DOOYEWEERD: True self-knowledge and the primary lie.

“True self-knowledge opens our eyes to the radical corruption of fallen man, to the radical lie which has caused his spiritual death. It therefore leads to a complete surrender to Him Who is the new root of mankind, and Who overcame death through his sufferings and death on the cross.

In Christ’s human nature our heavenly Father has revealed the fulness of meaning of all creation (Ephes 1:10), and through Him according to His Divine nature, God created all things as through the Word of his power (Heb 1:2, 3).

The primary lie obfuscating the horizon of human experience is the rebellious thought that man could do without this knowledge of God and of himself in any field of knowledge, and could find the ultimate criterion of truth in ‘autonomous’, i.e. absolutized theoretical thought.”

(Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol 2, pp 563)

DOOYEWEERD: “Kuyper had died…”

Abraham Kuyper 1837-1920

The following extract is from “Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world” (1964 Lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd, translated by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen) –

“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 accomodation. But then the conflict occurred with the theological faculty of the Free University, which at that time was still wholly in the grip of the scholastic way of thinking. It related in particular to the attack that the Philosophy of the Law-Idea had made against the traditional scholastic view of man, the view that man is a composite, something put together out of two substances, two independent entities [zelfstandigheden] as they were called: a material body that is mortal, and a soul that is immortal because it is spiritual, an anima rationalis, a rational soul that is characterized by reason, by its ability to think. In this picture of man there was no room for

the core [kern] of human existence, as it has been revealed to us by the light of the Bible, namely the religious center of man’s existence, the concentration point of his whole existence. It is what the Bible concisely names “the heart, out of which are the issues of life.”

Extract from “Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world” 1964 Lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd. Translated by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen.

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Glenn Friesen’s Dooyeweerd SITE.

DOOYEWEERD: Radical Historicism of ‘The Decline of the West’ by Oswald Spengler.


(Excerpt from 1964 lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd, entitled ‘Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world’ – translated by Dr J. Glenn Friesen.)

“Oswald Spengler’s important book was published in Germany: Der Untergang des Abendlandes [The Decline of the West]. This book was not written with the First World War in mind, for according to his own testimony, [the decline] was already there in principle before the outbreak of that war.

In its catastrophic and impressive background there could already be seen a prophecy of its (ie the West’s) downfall. This book set out the logical consequences of a way of thinking about history that had become absolutized by a radical historicism, which reduced the whole human horizon of experience into its cultural-historical aspect.

According to Spengler, man has no vantage point from which he can direct his view to that which is found outside the stream of historical development in which he is placed. If man has no view outside of the stream of historical development, then he also can no longer obtain any distance or perspective, no final goal that world history is to serve. And that was exactly what Spengler meant.

[…] And in this view, Western civilization, which previously had been regarded as central, and as giving direction, and in which all classical values – including those for other cultures – had been united, was wholly forced from out of its central position. Western culture was viewed as one culture alongside of others.

[…] He said that Western culture has for a long time been past the period of manhood; it is in its last phase of old age. And now as an irrevocable fatum, a “Schicksal” [destiny] as Spengler called it, the decline of the West would follow.

In this view of history, there was missing a true idea of historical development.

That is to say, it lacked a guideline to direct the cultural-historical for us in a process of unfolding and deepening, a process that is directed to a final goal, a final perspective. This final goal is something that itself transcends the historical aspect of our experiential world.

[…] Yes, this was historicism at its most logically consistent. A consistency that ends in nothing, in decline.

And it is not often noticed that Spengler already made use of all kinds of terms and categories of modern existential thought. For example, he used terms like ‘Sorge’ [concern], ‘Geschick’ [fate], and ’Schicksal’ [destiny], which today have been worked out by Martin Heidegger in an extensive, systematic whole.”

(“Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world” by Herman Dooyeweerd. Lecture given on Thursday, January 2, 1964). TRANSLATED BY DR J. GLENN FRIESEN

DIRECT DOWNLOAD PDF (70 pages) of the above important lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd.

Herman Dooyeweerd: Humanism’s historicist swing from classical fixed values to a radical relativism.