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Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Professor Dr. Klaas Schilder (19 December 1890 – 23 March 1952). During his life, he was a biblical, Reformed, Calvinist pastor, theologian, and churchman.  As a controversial polemicist, he was (and is) as maligned and misunderstood by his despisers as he was (and is) appreciated by his beneficiaries. Especially today in North America, people could profit significantly from his cultural, ecclesiastical, and theological insights.

There is enough information available online to supply a rudimentary portrait of his life and work, a reliable entrée into his heart and mind.

So today we wish instead to introduce our readers to the sagacious side, the provocative persona, of Klaas Schilder.

For that, we draw from a little paperback collection of Schilderian aphorisms that was published in the early 1980s, entitled Aforismen (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1983). In 1952 and 1954, two volumes had appeared, entitled Tolle Lege (Take and Read), containing a number of Schilder’s pithy sayings on such topics as Prayer, Culture, Covenant, Preaching, Satan, and the like. In his preface to the first volume, Schilder wrote:

The author is aware that ‘aphorisms’ of the kind collected here, if they are not to cause injury, can be set only before ‘friends’; for only friends are so familiar with the surroundings and context of someone’s selected sentences that they will be able to sense the husterēma, that which is lacking.

To enhance our remembering, on this anniversary date, of one of the most significant Reformed theologians of the twentieth century, we offer in English translation some of our favorites among the publisher’s choices from KS’s own selection. (Numbers in parentheses indicate page numbers in the 1983 paperback. The enumeration of the aphorisms is mine.)

Each of these chosen on purpose, for your munching pleasure!

1. “The human person is not reducible to a blob of nature, but is an office-bearer, whose natural gifts are supposed to function according to an official mandate” (17).

2. “A Paradise lost and a Paradise regained, and the path lying between the two, are not a matter of ‘favor’ [Dutch: gunst] as much as they are a matter of mandate, order [Dutch: bevel], and commandment” (17).

3. “In the notion of office, people encounter God’s primeval claim on human beings” (17).

4. “Politics and church are two, aren’t they? Yes, of course, indeed they are. But life is one” (24).

5. “Nowhere can the church avoid political issues, because they touch upon the deepest principles. The question is simply whether the church is willing to prophesy in terms of these issues and dares to employ the power of the keys. Yes, dares—because she must” (24).

6. “The absence of vice is not the presence of virtue” (29).

7. “We must continually keep in view that a church is a gathering of believers, not a gathering of people who think alike on scientific issues” (32).

8. “When people took the ‘covenant of grace‘ as their starting point for the doctrine of the covenant, things went awry; only when people took hold of the issue at the beginning, with the ‘covenant of works,’ did the business get back on track” (36).

9. “Let us never forget that ever since the beginning, the sum total of humanity was placed in a covenant with God” (36).

10. “A covenant never lives by ‘give and take,’ it does not live by ‘yes and no.’ ‘Covenant’ means: everything or nothing. It is never a contract” (37).

11. “Anyone who construes the promise as the basis of the demand rises up once more to weary us with his pet little notion of a covenant made only with the elect that comes into existence through and after the renewal of the heart” (38).

12. “Religion in a human being cannot be equivalent simply to being raised up passively and receptively into a state of peace; for the covenant posits a person’s activity as condition for covenant concourse. A person’s entire existence participates in this activity, including one’s thinking and willing” (38).

13. “The method is wrong that applies a statistical measure of so much percent ‘law’ and so much percent gospel, so much percent threat in contrast to so much percent ‘comfort.’ For wherever the law is proclaimed purely, the final tally is: one hundred percent law, since there we have one hundred percent gospel” (40).

14. “Irony is the strength of the weak, sarcasm is the weakness of the strong” (92).

15. “Irony is always a certain victory. But sarcasm is the certain defeat, except it imitates the gesture of the victor” (92).

16. “Faith is indeed a gift of our covenant God, but it is simultaneously a condition that he establishes. A condition established for us in order to arouse in us a sense of responsibility, to stimulate and even to preach that awareness. Not an Arminian condition, but rather a Reformed condition” (94).

17. “Anyone craving isolation is sick. Anyone not daring to be isolated when compelled to be so, is more sick” (95).

18. “Christ loved the poor, but not poverty. Making rich—that is God’s work” (96).

19. “The gospel posits no condition of any kind, it asks nothing, it demands nothing, except this: that it be accepted in the obedience of faith” (96).

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If perchance anyone still supposes that Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper held to the modern innovative construal of the so-called “two kingdoms,” consider the following. Kuyper is warning against the error of those who ignore issues involving soteriology in favor of issues involving eschatology, whereby people are less concerned about justification, say, than about the time and duration of the rapture. But there’s an equal danger in restricting and narrowing one’s theological and religious (and homiletical!) focus to soteriology–yes, to justification by faith alone in Christ alone.

We are therefore not in the least blind to the danger that lurks here, and we certainly don’t want to reinforce the evil whereby the soul’s attention is diverted too much from the cross of Golgotha to the resurrection of the flesh. But from this it does not follow in the least that therefore we may understand the image of the Mediator differently from how Scripture presents it to us. And for that reason people go too far and fall into a wrong one-sidedness if, on the other hand, when they think of Christ, they think exclusively of the sprinkling with the blood of reconciliation and refuse to take into account the significance of Christ also for the body, and for visible things, and for the outcome of world history. Consider well that thereby you run the serious risk of receiving Christ exclusively for your soul and of viewing your life in the world and for the world as something standing alongside your Christian religion and not as being governed by it. Then the “Christian” aspect is relevant to you only when it concerns a specific matter of faith, or things directly related to faith, such as your church, your school, missions, and the like, but all other areas of life then fall outside Christ. In the world you do as others do. The world is a less holy, almost unholy area that should take care of itself as best it can. And with but one more small step you arrive imperceptibly at the Anabaptist point of view, which ultimately concentrated everything holy in the soul, and dug an unbridgeable chasm between this inner, spiritual life of the soul and the life around you. Then science becomes unholy, the development of the arts, commerce, and business become unholy, as well as holding office in government—in short, everything becomes unholy that is not directly spiritual and focused on the soul. The result is that you end up living in two spheres of thought. On the one hand the very narrow, reduced line of thought involving your soul’s salvation, and on the other hand the broad, spacious, life-encompassing sphere of thought involving the world. Your Christ then belongs comfortably in that first, reduced sphere of thinking, but not in the broad one. And then from that antithesis and false proportionality proceed all narrow-mindedness, inner untruthfulness, not to mention pious insincerity and impotence.

(Abraham Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, volume 1, pp. 222-223.)

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No one wants to appear flippant in suggesting too soon that some good can come out of the Norway mass killing allegedly perpetrated by Anders Breivik. Yet, it is precisely our ability and impulse to learn good from unspeakable tragedy that distinguishes us human beings among all creatures in this creation cosmos.

As usual, the post-event commentary reveals a lot about the commentators and about our current cultural situation. But such commentary supplies enough to lead all of us to pause for personal reflection.

For someone like me who is committed to advancing a particular worldview, it is more than troubling to hear the word worldview joined loudly with words like ideology, fanatic, paranoia, extremist, along with, in this case, Islamophobe. Such conjoining you’ll find in the rather challenging essay, Breivik’s Warped Worldview, posted yesterday by Stephen M. Walt, the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

It’s easy to let yourself get annoyed by such unflattering associative language. Ironically, at one point, Walt cautions against “guilt by association,” of which he himself has been a victim–and in this essay, a perpetrator.

All of us need to pause for some self-reflection. The talking heads and pundits need to acknowledge and reflect on their own worldview, being honest enough with themselves and the rest of us to admit that nobody lives without one. And those of us who confess to holding a Christian worldview need to ask hard questions about the extent to which grace and compassion season justice and rightness in our speech, our look at the world, our view of others around us, near or far.

Unlike your genetic makeup, which is given to you and belongs to nature, your worldview is received and nurtured throughout a lifetime. And your worldview leads to building either orphanages, shopping malls, or terrorist bombs. A worldview always sprouts hands that build, feet that walk, and cultures that live. Or die.

To seize this opportunity for self-analysis, we need harbor no illusion that others will “get it” with respect to our worldview. That is not the first order of business right now. Rather, with a view to those hands, and feet, and cultures, we need—all of us—to continue to think deeply about what is good and worthy of praise, what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. And then do what we learn.

That, my friends, is what Sunday’s worship should be good for.

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Yesterday I received from a friend a copy of the recently published volume, The Kuyper Center Review. Vol. 2: Revelation and Common Grace, ed. by John Bowlin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). It’s a volume of 334 pages, which are divided into two sections: I. Philosophy and Revelation, and II. Common Grace and Common Word. These sections together contain seventeen essays (conference papers), including contributions by luminous authors such as Jan Veenhof, Gordon Graham, George Harinck, Henk van den Belt, James Eglinton, Brian Mattson, and Dirk van Keulen. A large number of essays were contributed by doctoral students.

This post is not a review of the book. My reading of it has been far too cursory for that task. Actually, I spent most of my time reading the footnotes and bibliographies accompanying each essay. So on that basis I’ll limit myself to two brief observations, one to puff a particular essay, the other to puzzle over several others.

Here’s the puff: James Eglinton has written a persuasive essay entitled “How Many Herman Bavincks? De Gemeene Genade and the ‘Two Bavincks’ Hypothesis” (279-301). This essay corrects the mistaken yet oft-publicized portrait of an allegedly incoherent Bavinck whose theology contained irreconcilable tensions, forcing us to choose between the “orthodox” Bavinck or the “modernist” Bavinck. This essay will convince you that it just ain’t so.

Here’s the puzzle: I recognize that these essays were conference papers, delivered as part of an ongoing historical-theological conversation. My puzzle is this: how can scholars (in this case, doctoral students) pretend to offer Bavinck’s or Kuyper’s thoughts on “X” without having access to all of Bavinck’s or Kuyper’s writings that deal with “X”?

This phenomenon is appearing more and more in the practice of historical theology today, when it comes to making historical-theological judgments about Bavinck or Kuyper.

Here’s how it works.

A writer makes an assertion about Bavinck’s or Kuyper’s thoughts on “X,” and supports it in one of two ways. (1) By citing only secondary sources (in the form of: so-and-so wrote “P” about Bavinck’s or Kuyper’s thoughts on “X,” so now “X” = “P”). This is equivalent to a highly refined form of academic gossip.

Alternatively, a writer claims support (2) by reporting the limited discussion of “X” available in extant fragmentary English translations of Bavinck or Kuyper. One clever writer even listed in his bibliography numerous fully documented Dutch sources whose English translation he had harvested from secondary literature−leaving the impression that he had either read or cited the original! Seriously, folks, at this point in history, unless one is making a translation correction or an original language comparison, why should an English-languagae bibliography contain an entry for Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek? It’s now available as Reformed Dogmatics.

Anyway, for now let’s chalk it up to the eager enthusiasm of scholars newly acquainted with the treasure we’ve inherited from Bavinck and Kuyper. As more of this legacy becomes available in English, these primary sources will, D.V., spawn fertile and fruitful scholarship capable of engaging Bavinck and Kuyper on their terms, in the broader context of all their writings.

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Welcome to Cosmic Eye, the premier blog sponsored by Worldview Resources International!

We hope to provide a number of resources on this blog, some of them unique, others similar to what’s out there already.

Part of the uniqueness involves the perspective on the world that comes with being a Reformed Protestant Christian disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bear with us as we learn the ropes, finding our blogosphere voice and learning what makes for good cyber style.

There’s no shortage of stuff out there to read and process, so we’ll try not to waste your time, and instead give you something to munch on for a moment, a month, or more.

Your suggestions are most welcome!

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