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Remembering Milosz on Marx’s 200th

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rescued from my defunct blog ( 9/1/2004):

czesaw-miosz-prezentacja-1-638One Eastern European poet whose work I fancy a lot has just died. In his memory, I am posting an obituary which appeared in the New York Times. Milosz is also a great essayist and in my small library I have a copy of his most recent book, an anthology of his essays, where the running theme is that of the recovery of faith at a time when the great ideologies of his youth have all died :



Czeslaw Milosz, Poet and Nobelist Who Wrote of Modern Cruelties, Dies    

August 15, 2004 By RAYMOND H. ANDERSON

Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish émigré writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, in part for a powerful pre-mortem dissection of Communism, in part for tragic, ironic poetry that set a standard for the world, died Saturday at his home in Krakow, his assistant, Agnieszka Kosinska, told The Associated Press. He was 93

An artist of extraordinary intellectual energy, Mr. Milosz was also an essayist, literary translator and scholar of the first rank.

Many of his fellow poets were in awe of his skills. When another Nobel poet and exile from totalitarianism, the Russian Joseph Brodsky, presented Mr. Milosz with the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1978, he said, ”I have no hesitation whatsoever in stating that Czeslaw Milosz in one of the greatest poets of our time, perhaps the greatest.”

Mr. Milosz was often described as a poet of memory and a poet of witness.

Terrence Des Pres, writing in The Nation, said of him: ”In exile from a world which no longer exists, a witness to the Nazi devastation of Poland and the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, Milosz deals in his poetry with the central issues of our time: the impact of history upon moral being, the search for ways to survive spiritual ruin in a ruined world.”

In 1951, he was in Paris, on duty there as a Polish cultural attaché following elite assignments in the United States at the consulate in New York and the embassy in Washington. An urbane man fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French, Mr. Milosz had established close associations with leading left-wing intellectuals in Paris.
These diplomatic contacts were important to the Warsaw authorities, but Mr. Milosz, a skeptic about Marxist rule, was tipped off that he faced arrest and trial in the Stalinist purges then under way if he returned to Poland. So he denounced the Moscow-dominated system that was tightening its grip on his homeland and took political asylum in France.

Formulating a New ‘New Faith’

In his youth, Mr. Milosz had been drawn to some of the idealized aspects of Marxism but he rejected dictatorship. In large measure, he defected, he explained later, because of damage he saw inflicted on spiritual values and intellect by Communist dogma, which he scorned as the ”New Faith.” For Mr. Milosz, faith was something else, as he made clear in a 1985 poem under that title:

Faith is in you whenever you look

At a dewdrop or a floating leaf

And know that they are because they have to be.

Even if you close your eyes and dream up things

The world will remain as it has always been

And the leaf will be carried by the waters of the river.

Mr. Milosz detested Socialist Realism, the Soviet-contrived literary doctrine that distorted truth into propaganda to promote the political and ideological goals of the Communist Party.

Two years after defecting, Czeslaw Milosz, (pronounced CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh) published ”The Captive Mind,” a searing analysis of Stalinist tactics and their numbing effect on intellectuals. ”The Captive Mind” was translated and published in many countries, becoming itself a historical document.

In it, Mr. Milosz wrote:

”The philosophy of history emanating from Moscow is not just an abstract theory; it is a material force that uses guns, tanks, planes and all the machines of war and oppression. All the crushing might of an armed state is hurled against any man who refuses to accept the New Faith.

”At the same time, Stalinism attacks him from within, saying his opposition is caused by his ‘class consciousness,’ just as psychoanalysts accuse their foes of wanting to preserve their complexes.”

”Still,” he added, prophetically, ”it is not hard to imagine the day when millions of obedient followers of the New Faith may suddenly turn against it.”

”The Captive Mind” was among a powerful group of books in the early 1950’s that condemned Communist ideology and foreshadowed the downfall of Communist power. A similar book was ”The New Class” by Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav dissident, which deplored self-aggrandizement and moral rot in the Communist leadership.

After his defection, Mr. Milosz explained in a speech: ”I have rejected the New Faith because the practice of the lie is one of its principal commandments, and Socialist Realism is nothing more than a different name for a lie.”

In the same year ”The Captive Mind” appeared, Mr. Milosz also published ”The Seizure of Power,” a fictionalized scrutiny of the relationship between Communism and intellectuals.

By 1960, Mr. Milosz had tired of his life amid leftist intellectual squabbling in France. Years later he would speak with acerbity of those in Western Europe who continued to regard the Soviet Union as the hope of the future, particularly those ”French intellectuals who considered that only a man who was insane could abandon his position of a writer in a people’s democracy in order to choose the capitalistic, decadent West.” He accepted a professorship in the Slavic Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

He became an American citizen and lived in the Berkeley hills in a modest house with a stunning view of San Francisco Bay. He celebrated that vista in his poetry (”Views From San Francisco Bay” in 1972), but he also spoke of the alien remoteness of the California landscape.

Mr. Milosz, with his bushy eyebrows, herringbone tweed jacket, wry humor and brilliant lectures was soon a popular figure on campus, especially in his seminars and lectures on Dostoyevsky. He continued to write verse, translated literary masterpieces into Polish and compiled a large volume, ”History of Polish Literature,” published in 1969.

The hardships and dangers in Mr. Milosz’s life, first under Nazi military terror and then under Communist oppression, followed by long years as an émigré in the West, clearly marked his writing.

”In both an outward and inward sense he is an exile writer, a stranger for whom physical exile is really a reflection of a metaphysical — or even religious — spiritual exile applying to humanity in general,” the Nobel Committee observed in 1980. ”The world that Milosz depicts in his poetry, prose and essays is the world in which man lives after having been driven out of Paradise.”

A Multilingual Boyhood

Czeslaw Milosz was born June 30, 1911, to a Polish-speaking family in Szetejnie, Lithuania, which together with Poland, Latvia and Estonia was part of the Russian empire at the time. The complex, multiethnic Baltic region was inhabited by communities of Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, Russians and others, all speaking their separate languages and living their own cultures.

His family was not rich but it was distinguished and intellectual. He was only 3 when World War I broke out, and his father, a civil engineer, served in the czar’s army, while his family was kept on the run from advancing German armies.

From his childhood on, Mr. Milosz had a rich inner life, reading widely. He also had a challenging array of talents, interests and skills. As a schoolboy, he was fascinated by the scientific world of animals.

But in the end, he enrolled in law school at the University of Vilnius, graduating at the age of 23. He worked several years in radio, and sometimes remarked in interviews that he felt guilty for having abandoned science.

Mr. Milosz traced the distinctive imagery of his poetry to his boyhood experiences in the rural countryside of Lithuania; his childhood is evoked in an autobiographical novel published in the United States as ”The Issa Valley” (1981) and in ”Native Realm,” an autobiography. In one of his essays he wrote: ”If I were asked to say where my poetry comes from I would say that its roots are in my childhood in Christmas carols, in the liturgy of Marian and vesper offices, and in the Bible.”

The author Eva Hoffman, a native of Poland, said of him: ”He has never been a provincial artist. His writing may bear the marks of his particular Lithuanian-Polish past, but the material of his own life is filtered through a fully cultivated intelligence and probed to those depths at which individual experience becomes universal.”

He attended high school in the city of Vilnius, which by then had been transferred from Lithuania to Poland, and later restored to Lithuania, and published his first poem at the age of 15, He studied Latin for seven years in school, and in his Nobel acceptance speech credited that underlying linguistic discipline and classroom translations of poems with helping him to develop his mastery. He also learned Hebrew and Greek well enough to later translate the Bible into Polish.

Poetic Vision Born of War

At the age of 22, while attending law school, Mr. Milosz published his first experimental verse, ”Poem on Time Frozen.” Favorable reaction helped him win a state scholarship to study literature in Paris after he was awarded a law degree in 1934. A relative there, Oscar Milosz, who worked in the Lithuanian legation and wrote poetry in French, helped broaden his world outlook and shape his poetic style.

He returned to Vilnius after the publication of a second book of poems called ”Three Winters” but was fired from his job at a local Polish radio station for being too liberal. Mr. Milosz was working in Warsaw for Polish Radio when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939.

During the Nazi occupation, he worked in the Warsaw University Library, wrote for the anti-Nazi underground, heard the screams and gunfire in 1943 as Germans killed or captured the remaining Jews in the walled Ghetto and witnessed the razing of nearly all Warsaw after the uprising in 1944.

One of his most moving poems, ”A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto” (1943), described the assault on the Jews:

Bees build around red liver,

Ants around black bone.

It has begun: the tearing, the trampling on silks,

It has begun: the breaking of glass, wood, copper, nickel,

silver, foam

Of gypsum, iron sheets, violin strings, trumpets, leaves, balls,


Poof! Phosphorescent fire from yellow walls

Engulfs animal and human hair.

Bees build around the honeycomb of lungs,

Ants build around white bone.

Torn is paper, rubber, linen, leather, flax,

Fiber, fabrics, cellulose, snakeskin, wire.

The roof and the wall collapse in flame and heat seizes the


Now there is only the earth, sandy, trodden down,

With one leafless tree.

Slowly, boring a tunnel, a guardian mole makes his way,

With a small red lamp fastened to his forehead.

He touches buried bodies, counts them, pushes on,

He distinguishes human ashes by their luminous vapor,

The ashes of each man by a different part of the spectrum.

Bees build around a red trace.

Ants build around the place left by my body.

I am afraid, so afraid of the guardian mole.

He has swollen eyelids, like a Patriarch

Who has sat much in the light of candles

Reading the great book of the species.

What will I tell him, I, a Jew of the New Testament,

Waiting two thousand years for the second coming of Jesus?

My broken body will deliver me to his sight

And he will count me among the helpers of death:

The uncircumcised.

After the war, a collection of poems called ”Rescue,” which showed the influence of T.S. Eliot, established him among Poland’s pre-eminent writers. Although he was not a member of the Communist Party he was accepted into the diplomatic corps in 1946 and began the journey that ended with his defection in 1951 in Paris.

Mr. Milosz chose throughout his life to compose his poetry in the complex but rich Polish language, even after he mastered French and English. Poetry can be true, he said, only if created in one’s mother tongue.

As his work won increasing attention and respect, Mr. Milosz developed close ties to many leading world intellectuals, writers, and political and religious leaders, especially to Pope John Paul II, his countryman and leader of his faith.

When he consulted on his plan to break with Communism, it was with no less a figure than Albert Einstein, who advised him during a talk at Princeton University that he should go home to Poland, not defect to the West to join the sad fate of exiles.

‘A Poet Remembers’

Mr. Milosz also knew Lech Walesa, the electrician who led the anti-Communist Solidarity movement and went on to become president of Poland. Lines from a verse by Mr. Milosz were put on a memorial in Gdansk to honor Mr. Walesa’s fellow shipyard workers who were shot by the police in the early 1970’s:

”You who harmed a simple man, do not feel secure: for a poet remembers.”

When Communism was smashed in Poland, Mr. Milosz returned to what he called ”the country of my first immigration.” Arriving in Warsaw after an absence of three decades, he received a hero’s welcome. Mr. Milosz was regarded as one of the world’s literary immortals. When he chose, he walked and talked with the great men of his time, but he remained humble.

He also had a remarkable memory and could readily recall the names of his early teachers, companions and friends, and he remembered in vivid detail the first books he read, his adventures and mishaps. He demonstrated that acute memory in his 1968 book ”Native Realm, A Search for Self-Definition,” a compelling and mildly ironic account of his life, work and thoughts in the illuminating context of Baltic and family history.

Mr. Milosz enjoyed pleasures of the body as well as of the mind, as he acknowledged in his 1985 poem, ”A Confession,” translated by himself and Robert Hass:

My Lord, I loved strawberry jam

And the dark sweetness of a woman’s body.

Also, well-chilled vodka, herring in olive oil,

Scents, of cinnamon, of cloves.

So what kind of prophet am I? Why should the spirit

Have visited such a man? Many others

Were justly called, and trustworthy.

Who would have trusted me? For they saw

How I empty glasses, throw myself on food,

And glance greedily at the waitress’s neck.

Flawed and aware of it. Desiring greatness,

Able to recognize greatness wherever it is,

And yet not quite, only in part, clairvoyant,

I know what was left for smaller men like me:

A feast of brief hopes, a rally of the proud.

A tournament of hunchbacks, literature.

At times, Mr. Milosz fell into melancholy, but he firmly fended off any would-be therapists. His early poetry was in what was called the ”Catastrophist” school of the 1930’s, which foresaw the annihilation of the principal values of modern culture and a devastating war. His wartime ordeals tended in ways to bear out the forebodings.

Mr. Milosz was a man of quiet manner but strong opinions and he expressed them, sometimes to the distress of his admirers. For example, in a PEN congress talk he reminded his fellow writers, ”Innumerable millions of human beings were killed in this century in the name of utopia — either progressive or reactionary, and always there were writers who provided convincing justifications for massacre.”

Reacting to the atrocities in the struggle between Christians and Muslims in Bosnia in the 1990’s, Mr. Milosz blamed intellectuals more than politicians and generals.

”These people who had liberated themselves from Marxist doctrine very quickly became nationalists,” he said in 1996. ”And we see what happens now in Yugoslavia. In my opinion, intellectuals are responsible for the horrors in Bosnia, for they initiated the new nationalist tendencies there.”

Mr. Milosz was married twice. His first wife, Janina Dluska, shared his ordeals in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation and went into exile with him. She died in 1986. They had two sons, Anthony and John Peter, who survive him. In 1992, Mr. Milosz married Carol Thigpen, a historian. Ms. Thigpen died in 2003, The Associated Press said.

After Mr. Milosz was awarded the Nobel, many of his books were translated into English and published in the United States. Ecco Press gathered a half-century of his work in ”The Collected Poems 1931-1987.” In it is a 1986 poem called ”And Yet the Books,” which contained these lines:

I imagine the earth when I am no more:

Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,

Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.

Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,

Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

Spiritual Voice in a Ruined World

These selections are from ”Czeslaw Milosz: The Collected Poems, 1931-1987,” The Ecco Press, New York. 1988.


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.

I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder. Vilnius, 1936

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Lillian Vallee


On the day the world ends

A bee circles a clover,

A fisherman mends a glimmering net.

Happy porpoises jump in the sea,

By the rainspout young sparrows are playing,

And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends

Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,

A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,

Vegetable peddlers shout in the street

And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,

The voice of a violin lasts in the air

And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder

Are disappointed.

And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps

Do not believe it is happening now.

As long as the sun and moon are above,

As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,

As long as rosy infants are born

No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, would be a prophet

Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,

Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:

There will be no other end of the world,

There will be no other end of the world. Warsaw, 1944

Translated by Anthony Milosz


Before Mary Magdalene, albescent in the dusk,

A skull. The candle flickers. Which of her lovers

Is this dried-up bone, she does not try to guess.

She remains like that, for an age or two

In meditation, while sand in the hourglass

Has fallen asleep — because once she saw,

And felt on her shoulder the touch of His hand,

Then, at daybreak, when she exclaimed: ”Rabboni!”

I gather dreams of the skull for I am it,

Impetuous, enamored, suffering in the gardens

Under a dark window, uncertain whether it’s mine

And for no one else, the secret of her pleasure.

Raptures, solemn oaths. She does not quite remember.

And only that moment persists, unrevoked,

When she was almost on the other side.

Berkeley, 1985, Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass




Written by Romel

May 4, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Between theology and philosophy

with one comment

ImageThere’s been some interesting discussion recently on ThinkNet on the age-old debate on the relationship between theology and philosophy. For the uninitiated, ThinkNet is a mailing list of people from various disciplines interested in the reformational school of Christian philosophy (often identified by the shorthand — for good or ill — as the “NeoCalvinist” movement. But for insiders, it is a philosophical movement inspired by Abraham Kuyper but brought to fruition by the legal philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd and his brother-in-law, D.H.TH. Vollenhoven).

On this point I have found useful Dooyeweerd’s introduction to his philosophy, In the Twilight of Western Thought, which has a chapter on theology and its relation to philosophy. One of his students, Johan P.A. Mekkes, also has a nifty volume on the topic, recently translated into English as Creation, Revelation and Philosophy

I present below snippets of the discussion, with some editing on my part:


James W. Skillen ( author, most recently of  The Good of Politics):

One, is it not possible when we write or speak and we know that those reading/listening will think that any reference to a Christian, biblical perspective means “theology,” that we can simply explain that in one respect we are simply talking about finding our place in the ongoing biblical drama of life in Christ–finding our place in the history of God’s work in Jesus Christ that continues by his Spirit today?  When we are reading or referring to the Bible or the Christian life in that way we are not doing what specialized theologians do in turning parts of that story into particular “problems for thought” or “topics for systematic attention.” In this sense, I still can’t see why many Christian thinkers, such as N.T. Wright, insist that Paul is doing “theology,” a word that began to be used ambiguously/equivocally only with the adoption of Greek questions and terminology by early and later Christian fathers. It seems to me that Paul, for example, is working to explain how God’s covenant drama with Israel is now being fulfilled in the revelation of Jesus Christ and how Paul himself was caught up into that drama by a calling from the Lord and how, for example, it is the case now that the divide between Jews and Gentiles has been overcome in Christ. Paul didn’t arrive at any of this by doing “theology” and it is not “theology” that he is passing on, proclaiming, teaching to his audiences. To different groups of disciples in different settings he is, in his letters, following up on (or anticipating) his times of preaching and teaching in their midst, sending pointed summaries, extensions of what he already told them, and opening new vistas that they might now need. He is communicating by living letters about the life they share in Christ by the ongoing work of the Spirit.

Two:  isn’t there some help even from Dooyeweerd in his essays on theology and philosophy in “In the Twilight” where he explains that Augustine used the word “theology” in two different ways? And those two different ways represent essentially the distinction many of us are trying to make. So rather than fight the word “theology”, why can’t we in many situations simply acknowledge at the outset of a conversation or an article that the word is equivocal and has been for centuries. In doing so, we might simply offer a preliminary explanation, when relevant, we are going to use the word “life of faith” instead of the word “theology” when meaning one thing, and using the word “theology” when referring to the other thing. I find myself preferring, increasingly, to use the phrase “the Christian way of life” when referring to Christian discipleship in all of life and to state that Christianity is a way of life and not only a way of worship. When relevant I then may speak of the work of Christians who take up the intellectual task of doing “theology.” That work, in contrast to the work that other Christians may pursue as special vocations does not generate Christian faith or way of life, but rather arises from the faithful way of life in Christ.
…. I tried to keep my book on “the good of politics” at a single level of telling the story of political responsibility from inside the viewpoint of those who confess that they are followers of Jesus Christ. That story is highly complex because of so many confusions, syntheses, and divides among Christians about what that responsibility means, so it takes quite a bit of telling. But I’m trying to explain and interpret the Christian struggle with this matter rather than turning every aspect of political life and history into an object of theoretical analysis. The multiple issues of political philosophy and “science” in in this regard I hope to take up in another volume, and that’s where I plan to engage in the theoretical enterprise that includes multiple“-ologies”  It may well be the case…. that many readers will think that the first part of my book is biblical theology and the second “secular” history mixed with “church” history, and that the third part is practical politics with too much “theology” and “philosophy” thrown in here and there. But if those are their categories of prejudgment they will miss much of the meaning of the book or get it wrong (wrong, that is, from my point of view).
Admitting to the fact that the word theology is used in all kinds of ways, which constantly need qualification or explanation, is not unlike the equivocal use of a word like “politics,” which can mean/refer to “political life as a whole” “dirty dealing,” “actions of government” (but not citizens), or the “actions of citizens and interest groups outside government.” In the political arena we simply need to find ways of explaining and making distinctions, which I do in my book to some extent. Almost all of the words we use about political life today derive from either Greek or Roman languages and culture and that makes it difficult to put before citizens who may read a picture of the biblical drama as it pertains to political life. Such a picture at first must seem like a fantasy, but I am simply unable to write like C.S. Lewis and other good story tellers. Thank goodness the word “justice” has a long biblical history and use and is not only a Greek and Roman history. 

DFM Strauss (South African philosopher and author most recently of Philosophy: the Discipline of Disciplines):

1) The question what theology is, is not a theological question since it belongs to the domain of philosophy (of ). The  discipline “Encyclopaedia of Theology” does not mention itself as a theological subdiscipline – thus illustrating the  fact that it is philosophical in nature. This applies to all the special sciences. For example, saying: “mathematics studies algebra and topology” produces a statement which is not a part of algebra or topology – it talks about mathematics without becoming mathematics. The statement “botany studies plants” is not itself a plant that can be investigated by botanists.

 2) Dooyeweerd does not hold that a special science studies one or another aspect – and therefore also does not defend the view that theology studies the faith aspect of creation. Theology merely studies concrete reality as it functions within the faith aspect. Looking through the glasses of an aspect at reality does not entail observing the glasses themselves. Dooyeweerd writes: “But in this investigation it [the special sciences] does not focus its theoretical attention upon the modal structure of such an aspect itself; rather, it focuses on the coherence of the actual phenomena which function within that structure” (Collected Works, B Series, Volume 13, “Christian philosophy and the meaning of history”, page 11).

3)   Calvinism/ Calvinistic. On page 1 of the just quoted Volume Dooyeweerd explains: “The term can only be explained historically by the fact that this movement originated in the calvinistic revival which toward the end of the previous century, led to renewed reflection on the relation of the Christian religion to science, culture, and society. Abraham Kuyper, under whose inspiring leadership this new reflection took place, pointed out that the great movement of the Reformation could not continue to be restricted to the reformation of the church and theology. Its biblical point of departure touched the religious root of the whole of temporal life and had to assert its validity in all of its sectors. Kuyper found that insight into these implications had been best expressed by Calvin, and so for lack of a better term began to speak of “Calvinism” as an all-embracing world view which was clearly distinguishable from both Roman Catholicism and Humanism.” However, subsequently Dooyeweerd rejected the use of this term. Close to the end of NC-I one finds a heading explaining why he rejects the phrase Calvinistic philosophy.

4)    Thomas Aquinas “hijacked” Christian intellectual endeavours for theology by assuming that whenever something is considered in respectu Dei (in relation to God) such an activity is theological in nature. Philosophy aims at an account of the totality of creation. Stoker employed this view to distinguish between theology, philosophy and the special sciences. Discovering and analyzing numerical laws for arithmetic, spaitial laws for spatial configurations, kinematic laws of motion, physical laws for material things, and so on, while acknowledging then as God-given laws, then will immediately turn maths and physics into theology. The same implication is valid regarding whatever is subject to God-given creational laws, because the moment they are related to and understood as conforming to God-given laws (consider their law-conformity), the will equally turn the special sciences involved into theology. [Compare the words used by Jim Skillen: “So everything we do as Christians should breathe the spirit of our relation to God.”]

Calvin Jongsma (professor emeritus of mathematics):

Developing a theology of X is rampant among scholars who desire to advance a Christian perspective of X – even when X is mathematics or logic.  So where have reformational thinkers explicitly countered this trend by distinguishing between foundational pre-theoretical religious beliefs/commitments and the basic insights of Christian theology?  Many will say it’s just a matter of terminology – reformational thinkers talk about a philosophy of X based on certain religious doctrines, whereas most Christians talk more directly about a theology of X; but both are seeking the same thing.

I think more than terminology is at issue, and practice often shows this, but where has this matter been explicitly addressed from a reformational viewpoint and in a way that communicates cogently to those who think they’re essentially the same thing?


Ponti Venter (another South African philosopher):

We now have a neo-liberal New Scholasticism. This expansion of Theology to include all of human life has a number of contemporary sources:
1. The initial reintroduction of ‘theology’ after Calvin – and reading Calvin as a ‘theologian’ which he himself said he wasn’t.
2. The two world wars. A few natural scientists became aware of the ‘ethical’ implications of their work, and in stead of rethinking their bases, they ran to a few theologians to ask for discussion. The most prominent of these ‘theologians’ became pantheists.
3. The marginalising of theology and religion in a secular society. In my own environment theology has been using this secular natural science-theology debate to annihilate reformational philosophy for the sake of their own financial survival. We now have a huge faculty of theology, catering for every possible discipline and church, while the quality of ministers that is produced is weak, and every year fewer Reformed students report to study for the ministry. There are as many vacant pulpits in the Church as professors of theology who do weak research for the University, there and there are less students in the pipeline than professors.
4. The style of today: today’s lifestyle is Hobbesian: one’s lives for power, honour and glory. Theologians are not happy anymore to do what is necessary for the chiurch.
5. Neo-pragmatist scientism – or new old Scholasticism. The intellectual with his scientific techniques has to enlighten and govern. Only they can tell you what the connection between Genesis and DNA ought to be. The Bible is not a scientific textbook anymore; natural science is a hermeneutic for the Bible. But only theologians understand this, and only theologians can do execute it. If they tell you Genesis 1-10 is myth, then please be quiet … they know what is good for everybody … Neo-pragmatism is one of the worst forms of authoritarian elitisms I have ever come across. Theologians do not explicitly adhere to it; they internalise it via management styles.
Rudi Hayward ( doctorate student):

You are probably aware of Calvin Seerveld’s attempt to dissuade people of the “theology of arts” approach.  At one point (see Normative Aesthetics p.277fn.22)  he writes: “I am at a loss at how to argue that promotion of a general spiritualization of art, or a liturgical cast to art, or an evangelizing requirement for art, as the most Christian task misses, I think, the grounding biblical insight that art as normal creatural service can be a restored and redemptive, holy act, so artistry does not need an “extra,” theologically explicit insignia to be truly full-fledged service by Christ’s body-at-large.”  Nevertheless he does give it a go in other places (see Cultural Education & History Writing pp.14-20 esp.17ff on Jeremy Begbie & van der Leeuw and pp.44-45 see below)


Kerry John Hollingsworth (Director, the Reformation Publishing Project):

Much of this discussion devolves on the treatment of terms and expressions as things that are then applied to this that or whatever. The Philosophy of The Cosmonomic Idea has provided us with a way to see that theoretical analysis (including theological analysis) does not give structural form to human experience within the creation, but rather unpacks the structural order of and for the creation that is part of God’s “Let there be . . ”    Demanding that theological analysis is the ground from which all truth is to derived is simply another form of scientistic modernity, or if you wish, just another form of reductionism. Until we get used to the idea that ALL forms of analysis simply represent points of entry into the wholeness of concrete experience we will continue to play these reductionistic games of whose the baddest of them all, philosophy, theology, numericality, physics, biology etc. etc. Surely after a hundred years of these games it is time to move on to something a bit more productive.

Written by Romel

May 29, 2014 at 3:25 am

James W. Skillen on the Two-Kingdoms Theory

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ImageIn the light of […]biblical testimony, the two-kingdom idea is misleading. God’s one kingdom, the one house, the one people, is  built during and throughout this age. Good government in this age does not belong to a kingdom separate from God’s kingdom but is part of the building material God is using to construct the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (The Good of Politics, p. 39)

Written by Romel

May 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

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