Herman Dooyeweerd -- By: Cornelius Van Til

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 39:2 (Spring 1977)
Article: Herman Dooyeweerd
Author: Cornelius Van Til


Herman Dooyeweerd

Cornelius Van Til

(A Personal Tribute)

On February 12 of this year, Dr. Herman Dooyeweerd, Professor Emeritus of jurisprudence at the Free University of Amsterdam, passed away. For years we have set forth Dr. Dooyeweerd’s philosophy and its significance for Reformed apologetics. Permit me now to write a personal tribute to him.

A. A Tribute by Indirection

In 1951 I wrote an article, “Professor Vollenhoven’s Significance for Reformed Apologetics.” In it I said: “With the help of the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, the Reformed apologete is gradually beginning to see more of the resources that are at his disposal …. The God of Scripture, accepted exclusively upon the authority of Scripture, is the foundation of the meaning of any aspect of human experience. Without the presupposition of this God, human experience operates in a void.

“The Reformed apologete is therefore better able than ever before to cut himself loose from every form of Scholasticism and Arminianism. As he cannot follow a policy of appeasement with the ‘wisdom of the world’, he cannot cooperate with Christians who follow such a policy. On the contrary, he will plead with those who with him name the name of Christ to brand as an aggressor every system built on ‘reason’ as being destructive of reason in every one of its legitimate functions. The Reformed Apologete will seek for a head-on collision with all those who interpret reality with man himself as a final point of reference. Thus only can he make a real point of contact. He knows that every man is in contact with truth. Every man knows that he is a creature of God (Romans 1). But every man also seeks to suppress this truth about himself. He does so by making plau-

sible systems of interpretation. These systems serve the sinner as masks which are cemented to his face. The sinner, therefore, never sees himself, his own face, till these masks are torn away from him. This precisely the Reformed apologete seeks to do. The natural man must not be told that his systems are probably untrue, that they need redecorating, modification, and addition. He must rather be told that his systems are certainly false and certainly false in their every basic element. The natural man must not be told that Christianity is probably true. He must rather be told that it is certainly true and certainly true in its every basic aspect. Then, and then only, is apologetics itself really subject to the sovereign disposition of the Spirit of truth.”1

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