Science in Christian Perspective



Robert D. Knudsen

From: JASA 5 (June 1953): 20-21.

Philosophical Miscellanea

With this issue we are beginning a new section, in which we shall report on important developments and publications in the field of philosophy. We are interested especially in noting material that will be of help to those who are working as Christians in the special sciences. We wish to direct them to literature and ideas that will aid them in analyzing the theoretical foundations of their respective fields. This column will not be devoted mainly to philosophy in general but to the philosophy of physics, jurisprudence, sociology, etc. To this end reports will be made on vital books, pamphlets, and articles, accompanied by brief comments. From time to time specialists in their fields will be requested to comment on important events and publications. Both old and new material will be reported, but the aim will be to concentrate on the latest significant movements. Special attention will be given to the work of Christian thinkers, whenever something of sufficient merit appears. There will also be reports on interesting foreign publications as these come to our attention. There is much vital work being done in philosophy and science by Christians abroad.

This is a new column. It is in the experimental stage. It will therefore be very flexible, and any suggestions from the readers would be appreciated, as to how the column should be written and as to books and articles that should be mentioned. The editor in charge of this section would be pleased to receive any material the reader would like to send in for consideration, though there can be no guarantee that such material will be mentioned. This column will appear regularly every three months, and it is hoped that it will be of aid in acquainting the reader with important material that may have escaped his attention.

As a beginning we wish to point out some significant material that has appeared in the Netherlands from the pens of Christian thinkers. America is becoming more and more acquainted with the work of Dr. Herman Dooyeweerd, professor of law at the Free University of Amsterdam. Dooyeweerd is a strong thinker who has followed and expanded the thought of Abraham Kuyper, especially with reference to his own field of jurisprudence. A deep study of his field led him to seek its theoretical foundation. This study resulted in

the publication of a large, three-volume work, De Wiisbegeerte der wetsidee (The Philosophy of the idea of Law). Amsterdam: H. J. Paris, 1935. Here he sought the theoretical foundations of law in a specifically Christian cosmology and epistemology. Those unable to cope with the Dutch will be interested to read the English translation of this work, of which the first volume is now in preparation. Until this volume appears we have access to an historical sketch of the development of this philosophy in the work of Dr. Young of Butler University: Toward a Reformed Philosophy. Grand Rapids: Piet Hein Publishers, 1952, 155 pp. This volume contains an extensive bibliography of pertinent books.

Dr. Dooyeweerd's field is that of law, though he is also at home in the fields of philosophy and sociology, and he is making a deep study of classical times. His early reflections on the field of jurisprudence are typified in his inaugural address delivered when he assumed his professorship at the Free University in 1926: De betekenis der wetsidee voor Rechtswetenschap en Rechtsphilosophie (The Meaning of the Idea of IAw for the Science and Philosophy of Jurisprudence). Kampen: Kok, 112 pp. A later work is an analysis of the crisis in the modern idea of the state: De crisis in de Humanistische Staatsleer in bet licht eener calvinistische kosmologle en kennistheorle (The Crisis in the Humanistic Idea of the State in the l[Aght of a Calvinistic Cosmology and Epistemology). Amsterdam: Ten Have, 1931, 209 pp. In a recent work Dooyeweerd again takes up one of the themes of his work of 1931: De strijd oin ~het souvereiniteitsbergrip in de moderne rechts- en staatsleer (The Struggle concerning the Concept of Sovereignty in Modern Jurisprudence and Politics). Amsterdam: H. J. Paris, 1950, 62 pp. This important study is of interest especially because of the present contest between internationalism and the recognition of national sovereignty. The last work of this author we shall mention appears in the Communications of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences: Division of Letters, new series, vol. XIII, No. 5: De modale structuur van het juridisch oorzakelijkheldsverband (The Modal Structure of Juridical Causality). Amsterdam: Noordhollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1950, 49 pp. Here Dooyeweerd treats the well-worn subject of causality, but from the novel viewpoint of his Christian cosmology. The depth and incisiveness of these works invite the study of the Christian scholar, despite the hurdle he must pass because of the language.

As we have said, Dooyeweerd accepts and develops fundamental thoughts in the work of Abraham Kuyper. One of the most influential ideas that Kuyper developed was that of sphere-sovereignty. One meets this idea, e.g., in his work, Calvinism. An extension of this principle lies at the basis of Dooyeweerd's ontology and sociology, An extensive discussion of spheresovereignty comprises the doctoral thesis of Dr. J. Dengerink: Critisch-Historisch onderzoek naar de sociologische ontwikkeling van het beginsel der "Souvereiniteit in eigen kring" in de 19e en 20e eeuw (A Critical, Historical Investigation of the Sociological Development of the Principle of Sphere-Soverignty in the 19th and 20 Centuries). Kampen: Kok, 1948, 285 pp.

In the same spirit as this philosophy there is the extensive doctoral thesis of Dr. Ir H. Van Riessen: Filosofie en technick (Philosophy and Technology). Kampen: Kok, 1949, 715 pp. This is a discussion from the pen of a Christian, professor at the institute of technology at Delft, of the important subject of the Christian faith and technical development. The problems of technology and objectification have been pinpointed by recent philosophical and theological work. For instance, in its broad scope the problem of objectification is fundamental in theologians of a Barthian stamp; it assumes great proportions in the philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev; it is a source of tragedy in the thought of Sartre; and it is the subject of passionate treatment in novels such as the tragic Le vingt-einquieme heure. Wherever existentialist philosophy has made itself felt these problems are central. Dr. Van Riessen's study, covering as it does such a great number of pages, is the most extensive treatment of the problem of technology from the Christian point of view.

The movement we have been discussing is one of the major schools of contemporary philosophy. As such it is worthy of the attention of Christian scholars. Its writings are being translated into English.