Dooyeweerd’s Idea of “Historical Development”: Christian Respect for Cultural Diversity -- By: Calvin Seerveld

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 58:1 (Spring 1996)
Article: Dooyeweerd’s Idea of “Historical Development”: Christian Respect for Cultural Diversity
Author: Calvin Seerveld


Dooyeweerd’s Idea of “Historical Development”:
Christian Respect for Cultural Diversity

Calvin Seerveld

Since he identified apologetics by and large with defensiveness, Kuyper had little place for it, and he became a major source of whatever distrust of apologetics there is within the Reformed community.
Within Kuyperian circles, Christian apologetics has been replaced, in great measure, by Christian philosophy.1

It is indeed the defensiveness of apologetics as a theological discipline which has always made me feel more at home with the positive task of contributing to a Christian philosophical systematics. I think I am grateful for those who would argue that the historical Christian faith is reasonable, but I would prefer to give an account of the hope I have in Christ’s Rule acoming (1 Pet 3:15) not by argument that shows the disbeliever does not have a rational leg to stand on, but by making the secularist jealous of what Christ’s body knows is true for right-doing culturally in God’s ongoing world (cf. Rom 11:13–14).

Because Robert Knudsen has consistently supported the Christian philosophical endeavor stemming from the vision of Abraham Kuyper in the Netherlands, upon this occasion of honoring him as the retiring professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, I should like critically to examine Herman Dooyeweerd’s important, complex conception of “historical development” (historische ontwikkeling) and “the opening process of temporal meaning” (ontsluitingsprocess).2 My intent is to exposit supportively Dooyeweerd’s contribution begun in the 1930s, and also begin to update the concern to be historically obedient to Jesus Christ’s Rule in cultural development and the allocation of institutional powers in society faced by Christian believers in the Western world today.

We who educate at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto need a honed, biblically directed analysis of historical change so that the many two-thirds-world students who come to us, suffering from a secularized Western educative neocolonialism, may find a conceptual place in the present generation to breathe fresh air.

I. Individual Creatures are Primed to Mature

Creatural entities like mountains, trees, and animals have a panoply of object-functional possibilities given with their existence, which lie waiting for, ontically anticipating, the disclosure of such potential properties. Min...

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