Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Early this afternoon Elbert, Annewieke and I returned from our holiday in the Netherlands. The first five days of the holiday were spent in Hoeven, at a conference organized by the Association for Reformational Philosophy. The Association is Dooyeweerdian in its approach. My prior exposure to thinkers like Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven came about primarily as a result of my reading and appreciation of Cornelius Van Til. I later read Spier's An Introduction to Christian Philosophy and Wolfe's A Key to Dooyeweerd. I have only been able to read a very little of Dooyeweerd himself. I have also read some shorter books critical of Dooyeweerd's approach (I can't remember their names off the top of my head; it was some time ago). My feelings arising from my limited reading of Dooyeweerd and his interpreters are quite mixed. I want to explore a lot more, but my early impressions are that Dooyeweerdian thought could gain much from a deeper engagement with theology. In particular, the eschatology of many 'sphere sovereignty' approaches can leave much to be desired. On the other hand, Dooyeweerd and others within this strain of thought have a lot to bring to many contemporary discussions. It is a great shame that they are not more widely read. It is encouraging to see writers like James K.A. Smith (in Introducing Radical Orthodoxy) using Dooyeweerd. I have read a number of Dutch theologians — à Brakel, Berkouwer, Bavinck, Schilder, Kersten, Ridderbos, Kuyper, etc. (and many more Dutch-American theologians) — and forms of Dutch Christian thought greatly interest me. I imagine that I would feel far more at home in such a theological setting than I do in that which exists among Reformed people in the UK. It was great to be able to learn a bit more from people who live in the Reformed situation in the Netherlands and are more knowledgable of its history. The conference speakers may not be the ones that you would expect, given the fact that the conference was organized by the Association for Reformational Philosophy. Richard Mouw spoke on 'Virtue Ethics and the Public Calling of Reformational Thought', relating the thought of writers such as Hauerwas and Yoder to the thought of reformational thought. He presented some helpful criticisms of Hauerwas (not dissimilar from those of Peter Leithart in Against Christianity) and pointed out some areas in which Reformed thinkers can learn from Hauerwas and others. John Hare presented a paper in which he tried to argue for the manner in which believers and non-believers can agree in their identification of 'the good', even when they disagree concerning what constitutes 'the good'. Joan Lockwood O'Donovan presented a paper entitled 'A Reformation Ethics: Proclamation and Jurisdiction as Determinants of Moral Agency and Action', studying the position of the English Reformers and some of the implications for political ethics and the understanding of the relationship between the Church and the State. This was probably my favourite paper of the conference. In addition to these papers there were also numerous panels and workshops and much time in which to discuss and debate. I made a number of new friends and had some very stimulating conversations. After the conference, Annewieke picked us up and drove us back to Barneveld, where Elbert's family live. I spent the next few days there. On Sunday I attended a Vrijgemaakt church and witnessed my first two infant baptisms (believe it or not!). We then enjoyed a long walk, during which time I was initiated into the study of mushrooms. Yesterday we explored the beautiful city of Kampen.