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one shall ever attain unto a knowledge of God, and with-
out love, or, if you please, a holy sympathy for God, that
knowledge shall never be rich in content. Every effort to
prove the existence of God by so-called evidences must
fail and has failed. By this we do not mean that the
knowledge of God must be mystic ; for as soon as this knowl-
edge of God is to be scientifically unfolded, it must be repro-
duced from our thinking consciousness. But as our science in
no single instance can take one forward step, except a bridge
is built between the subject and the object, it cannot do so
here. If thus in our sense of self there is no sense of the
existence of God, and if in our spiritual existence there is

Chap. II] § 43. SCIENCE AND SIN 113

110 bond which draws us to God, and causes us in love to go
out unto him, all science is here impossible. If, now, experi-
ence shows that this sense has not worn awaj^ entirely^ and that
this impulse has not ceased altogethet-, but that, in virtue of
its own motive, sin has weakened this sense to such an extent
as to render it oftentimes unrecognizable, and has so falsi-
fied this impulse, that all kinds of religious emotions go
hand in hand with hatred of God, it is plain that every
scientific reproduction of the knowledge of God must fail,
as long as this sense remains weakened and this impulse
falsified in its direction. From which it follows at the same
time that the knowledge of the cosmos as a whole, or, if you
jilease, philosophy in a restricted sense, is equally bound to
founder upon this obstruction wrought by sin. Suppose that
you had succeeded in attaining an adequate knowledge of all
the parts of the cosmos, the product of these results would
not yet give you the adequate knowledge of the whole.
The whole is always something different from the combina-
tion of its parts. First because of the organic relation which
holds the parts together ; but much more because of the
entirely new questions which the combination of the whole
presents : questions as to the origin and end of the whole ;
questions as to the categories which govern the object in
its reflection in your consciousness; questions as to absolute
being, and as to what wow-cosmos is. In order to answer
these questions, you must subject the whole cosmos to 3'our-
self, your own self included; in order to do this in your
consciousness you must step out from the cosmos, and you
must have a starting-point (So'9 (mol ttov cnoi) in the non-
cosmos ; and this is altogether impossible as long as sin
confines you with your consciousness to the cosmos.

From which it by no means follows, that you should
sceptically doubt all science, but simply that it will not do ■■■■^
to omit the fact of sin from your theory of knowledge.
This would not be warranted if sin were only a thelematic
conception and therefore purely ethic ; how much less, now,
since immediately as well as mediately, sin modifies so
largely all those data with which you have to deal in the

114 § 44. TRUTH [Div. II

intellectual domain and in the building-up of your scieiice.
Ignorance wrought by sin is the most difficult obstacle in
the way of all true science.

§ 44. Truth

In a preceding section reference has already been made to
the grave significance to scientific investigation of the con-
ception which one forms of "truth." This significance can
now be considered more closely in relation to the fact of sin.
It will not do to say that seeking after truth is directed ex-
clusively against the possibility of mistake. He who in good
faith has made a mistake, has been inaccurate but not untrue.
Falsehood is merely a milder expression for the lie, and the
search after truth has no other end in view than escape from
the fatal power of what Christ called the lie (to -v/^eOSo?).
This does not imply that " the mistake " does not stand
equally related to sin. The former section tried to prove the
contrary. But if the unconscious mistake stands in causal
relation to sin, this relation is entirely different from what it
is with the lie. The Holy Scripture teaches us to recognize
an unholy principle in the lie, from which a caricature
(Zerrbild) of all things is born, and the fatherhood of this
lie is pointed out to us in Satan. In John viii. 44, we
read : "The devil speaketh a lie — for he is a liar and the
father thereof." This theological explanation need not detain
us now, but it cannot be denied that a false representation
of the real has made its way into almost every department
of life ; that with a closer investigation these several false
representations appear to stand in an organic relation ; and
that a hidden impelling power is at work within this entire
domain of the false and the untrue, which arouses our right-
eous indignation and bears a sinful character for our conscious-
ness. The form of this spuriousness is not constant. It often
happens that certain general ideas govern public opinion for
a long time and then become discredited ; that they maintain
themselves a little longer with the less educated masses ;
and finally pass away altogether, so that he who still holds
them is out of date. But with this shedding of its skin the

Chap. II] § 44. TRUTH 115

serpent does not die. And Proteus-like, the false and untrue
reappear in a new form, and the battle of life and death
between truth and falsehood begins anew. Obviously, there- i
fore, the lie is no mistake, nor a temporary dominating i
untruth, but a power, which affects injuriously the conscious-
ness of man, and not merely puts into his hands phantasy
for reality, and fiction for history, but intentionally brings
into our mind a representation of existing things which
proscribes reality, with the avowed aim of estranging us
from it. "*^

In this condition of affairs a holy interest is at stake in
this struggle for tlie truth. This conflict does not aim at
the correction of simple mistakes in the representation,
neither does it combat prejudice, nor rectify inaccuracies ;
but it arrays itself against a power, which ever in a new form
entangles our human consciousness in that which is false,
makes us servants to falsehood, and blinds us to reality.
Thus the saying of Christ, " I am the truth," has a deep
significance ; since he alone possessed such spiritual power
of resistance that he was able to withdraw himself abso-
lutely from the dominion of the false. The word "lie" it-
self confirms this interpretation. In our daily life this evil
word is almost never used in circles where the lie is contra-
band ; while on the other hand, in circles which, alas, admit
the lie as a common weapon of defence, the contention for
true or untrue is constantly in order with the reproachful
epithet of " you lie." If you think of life in heaven, you
perceive at once that every effort to establish truth falls
away. Who would enter the arena in behalf of truth, in a
place where the lie is not conceivable? Neither can truth have
had a place among the conceptions which were original!}^
common to man in the state of his innocence. As long as
sin had not entered the heart, there could be no impulse
to defend truth against the lie which had as yet no exist-
ence. In entire accordance with this the Scriptural narra- |
tive of the fall presents Satan as the first to whisper the lie,
that what God had said was not true, and that moment
marks the beginning of the conflict for the truth.

116 § 44. TRUTH [Div. II

Hence it is none too strongly said, that the struggle for
" truth " is legitimately only a result of sin. Science is
entirely different from truth. If you imagine our human
development without sin, the impulse to know and understand
the cosmos, and by this knowledge to govern it, would have
been the same ; but there would have been no search after
truth, simply because there could have been no danger of re-
lying upon falsehood as a result of investigation. In our
sinful condition, however, while the human consciousness is
, constantly ensnared in falsehood, from the very nature of
7^1 the case science has the twofold calling, not only to investi-
gate and understand the object, but also to banish the false
representations of it.

But this is easier said than done, and as soon as you leave
the material domain you see different men, who from their
point of view are honest in their purposes, and whose talents
for investigation are fairly equal, arrive at as many different
and sometimes directly opposite results. This is less to be
feared in the domain of pure matter, at least as long as one
confines himself to the mere statement of what has been ob-
served, and draws no inferences from his observations. As
soon, however, as investigations reach the point where the
reinforced eye and ear are no longer able to observe with abso-
lute certainty, disputes may arise, though this has nothing
to do with falsehood ; and when, after all the applause that
hailed Dr. Koch's preparation for tuberculosis, it was shown
that this preparation not only failed of its purpose, but even
caused injurious effects, he had to acknowledge it. When
facts spoke, illusion was ended. It is entirel}' different, how-
ever, when one comes in contact with the wow-material domain
of life. The science of statistics, on which it was thouglit we
could so safely build, is shown to be largely untrustworthy.
And when we enter the domain of the real spiritual sciences,
the most objective observation, such as the examination of
documents, and the statement of a few tangible facts, are
scarcely ended, but ideas everywhere separate, and there is no
more objective certainty to compel universal homage, which
can bring about a unity of settled result. This is not found

Chap. II] § 44. TRUTH 117

in the domain of psychology; or of philosophy in the narrower
sense ; or of history ; or of law ; or in any spiritual domain
whatever. Because here the subjective factor becomes pre-
ponderant ; and this subjective factor is dependent upon the
antithesis between falsehood and truth ; so that both the
insiofht into the facts and the structure which one builds
upon this insight must differ, and at length become, first
contrary and then contradictory.

The fatality of the antithesis between falsehood and truth
consists in this, that every man from his point of view claims
the truth for himself, and applies the epithet of "untrue" to
everything that opposes this. Satan began by making God
the liar and by presenting himself as the speaker of truth.
And for our demonstration this applies more emphatically
still to the custom among men ; especially since in this section
we speak exclusively of those persons who devote themselves
to scientific research. Though we grant that in science also
wilful mutilation of facts is not altogether wanting, it must be
accepted, as a rule, that he who announces himself as a man
of science is disposed to take things as they are, and to deal
with them accordingly. Nobody writes a scientific thesis
with the purpose of propagating falsehood; the purpose of
all scientific labor is to champion the truth. And from this
very fact it follows that where two scientific men arrive at
directly opposite results, each will see the truth in his own
result, and falsehood in the result of his opponent, and botli
will deem it their duty to fight in the defence of what
seems to them the truth, and to struggle against what seems
to them the lie. If this concerns a mere point of detail, it
has no further results; but if this antithesis assumes a more
universal and radical character, school will form itself against
school, system against system, world-view against world-
view, and two entirely different and mutually exclusive
representations of the object, each in organic relation, will
come at length to dominate whole series of subjects. From
both sides it is said: "Truth is with us, and falsehood with,'
you." And the notion that science can settle this dispute is/
of course entirely vain, for we speak of two all-embracing

118 § 44. TRUTH [Div. II

representations of the object, both of which have been ob-
tained as the result of very serious scientific study.

If the objection be raised that science has cleared away
whole series of fallacious representations, we repeat that
this concerned the forms only in which the lie for a time
lay concealed, but that that same lie, and therefore the same
antithesis against truth, is bound to raise its head in new
forms with indestructible power. All sorts of views, which
for centuries have been considered dead, are seen to rise
again resuscitated in our age. As far as principle is con-
cerned and the hidden impulse of these antitheses, there is
nothing new under the sun ; and he who knows history and
men, sees the representatives of long-antiquated world-views
walk our streets to-day, and hears them lecture from the
platform. The older and newer philosophers, the older and
newer heresies, are as like each other, if you will pardon the
homely allusion, as two drops of water. To believe that an
absolute science in the above-given sense can ever decide
the question between truth and falsehood is nothing but a
criminal self-deception. He who affirms this, always takes
science as it proceeds from his own subjective premises and
as it appears to him, and therefore eo ipso stigmatizes every
scientific development which goes out from other premises
as pseudo-science, serviceable to the lie. The antithesis of
principles among Theism, Pantheism, and Atheism domi-
nates all the spiritual sciences in their higher parts, and as
soon as the students of these sciences come to defend what
is true and combat what is false, their struggle and its
result are entirely governed by their subjective starting-
, point.

In connection with the fact of sin, from which the wliole
antithesis between truth and falsehood is born, this phenome-
non presents itself in such a form that one recognizes the
fact of sin, and that the other denies it or does not reckon
with it. Thus what is normal to one is absolutely abnormal
to the other. This establishes for each an entirely different
standard. And where both go to work from such subjective
standards, the science of each must become entirely different,

Chap. II] § 45. WISDOM 119

and the unity of science is gone. The one cannot be forced
to accept what the other holds as truth, and what according
to his view lie has found to be truth.

Thus, taken by itself, the triumph of Scepticism ought to
result from this, and Pilate's exclamation, "What is truth,"
should be the motto of highest wisdom. But the process of
history is a protest against this. However often Scepticism
has lifted up its head, it has never been able to maintain a
standing for itself, and with unbroken courage and indefati-
gable power of will thinking humanity has ever started out
anew upon the search after truth. And this fact claims an

§ 45. Wisdom

The threatening and of itself almost necessary dominion
of Scepticism, stranded first upon the ever more or less prob-
lematical phenomenon which is called Wisdom. In order to
appreciate the meaning of this phenomenon, the combina-
tion " philo-sophia " should not claim our first attention,
since it identifies " wisdom " too greatly with " science," and
the leading characteristic of " wisdom " is that it is not the
result of discursive thought. An uneducated and even an
illiterate man may convey in large measure the impression of
being a ivise man ; while, on the other hand, scientifically
developed persons often fall short in wisdom of sense. The
etymology of the words, by which the conception of "wis-
dom " is expressed in different languages, makes this dis-
tinction between a scientific disposition and a disposition for
wisdom to be clearly seen. Wisdom (sapientia) and science
(scientia) are not the same. Sapere means to taste, to try,
and in its metaphoric use points to a knowledge of things
which expresses itself not theoretically, but practically, and
works intuitively. The Greek word cro'^o? (wisdom), in con-
nection with aa(f)7]'i, (ra7rp6<?, and perhaps with otto'?, belongs
evidently to the same root, and points also to a radical-word
which indicated the action of smelling or tastmg. The Ger-
manic word " wise " takes no account with the origin of this
peculiar knowledge, but with its outcome. Wisel is the well-
known name of the queen of the bees, who, taking the lead,

120 § 45. WISDOM [Div. II

by this superiority governs the entire swarm. Here also the
practical element of knowledge appears in the foreground.
He is wise who knows and sees how things must go, and
who for this reason is followed by others. With the limited
development of Semitic etymology, the Hebrew expression
DlDH is less clear, but from the description which the Chok-
matic writings give us of this " wisdom," it appears the more
convincingly that the Hebrew understood this wisdom to
be something entirely different from what we call scientific
development, and in this conception thought rather of a
practical-intuitive understanding. The derivation of nSH,
which means to cleave to something, would agree very well
with this, as an indication of the spirit's sympathy with
the object from which this Chokmatic knowledge is born.
Phrases which are in common use with us, also, such as, for
instance : " You have wisely left it alone," " When the wine
is in the man, wisdom is in the can" ; " He is a wise man" ;
or the Bible-text : " If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask
of God"; all agree entirely with this etymological result.
The root-idea always appears to be, that one possesses a
certain natural understanding of the nature and process of
things, and understands the art of accommodating himself
to them in practical life. Wisdom has nothing to do,
therefore, with intellectual abstraction, but clings immedi-
ately to the reality, proceeds from it and works out an effect
upon it. But again, it is not artistic skill, nor what is called
talent, for it is not the action which proceeds from the
insight but the insight itself which stands in the fore-
ground. Wisdom is the quiet possession of insight which
imparts power, and is at the disposal of the subject, even
when this subject is not called to action. Wisdom is also
distinguished from artistic skill and talent, in that it bears
an universal character. He who excels in a certain depart-
ment of science is not wise, neither is he wise who excels
in a certain trade. Such an one-sided development of skill
is rather opposed to the root-idea of wisdom. He who is
wise, is centralis/ wise, i.e. he has a general disposition of
mind which, whatever comes, enables him to have an accu-

Chap. II] § 45. WISDOM 121

rate view of things, in conformity with which to choose and
act with tact and with discretion. As the result, therefore,
it may be stated that entirely apart from the development
of science, there is in certain persons an aprioristic, not
acquired, general insight, which in its efficient, practical
excellence shows itself in harmony with the reality of things.
But if among your acquaintances you meet with but few
persons who have this insight to such an extent as to entitle
them to the epithet of "wise folk," all the others are not
fools ; and yet only this antithetical conception of foolish-
ness elucidates sufficiently the exact conception of wisdom.
A fool and a lunatic are not the same. An insane man is he
whose consciousness works in the wrong way, so that all
normal insight has become impossible for him. A fool, on
the other hand, is he whose consciousness wor^ks normally,
but who himself stands so crookedly over against the reality
of things, that he makes mistake upon mistake and con-
stantly makes the wrong move on the chess-board of life.
He acts foolishly who makes an evident mistake in his
representation of reality, and who in consequence of his
noticeable lack of accurate insight, chooses the very thing
that will serve him a wrong end. He lacks the proper
relation to the reality, and this accounts for his mistakes.
Between these " wise folk " and these " fools " stands the
great mass of humanity, who in all possible gradations
form the transition from the wise to the foolish ; while
among these general masses is found what used to be called
a sound mind, common sense, le sens commun. This implies
something that does not scale the heights of wisdom, but
which, nevertheless, maintains a relation to it and offers a gen-
eral basis for it. We grant that, more especially since the close
of the last century, this expression " common sense " has
been used synonymously with that analogous " public opin-
ion " in which the weakened form of Rationalism reflected
itself, and that this spectre has repeatedly been evoked to
banish idealism, to mock the faith, and to hush every nobler
feeling; but this was simjDle abuse. Originally, "common
sense " meant by no means the iteration of the program of

122 § 45. WISDOM [Div. II

a particular school, but, on the contrary, a certain accuracy
of tact, by which, in utter disregard of the pretensions of
the schools, public opinion followed a track which turned
neither too far to the right nor to the left. This weakened
wisdom, which generally directs the course of life, occasion-
ally forsook public opinion, and this gave foolishness the
upper hand, and mad counsels free courses ; but, in the long-
run, common sense almost always gained the day. And in
individual persons it is found, that if the particular " wise
folk " be excluded, one class is inclined to foolishness, while
another class remains subject to the influence of a weakened
wisdom, and the latter are said to be the people of common
sense; a term which does not so much express a personal
gift (chai'isma)^ as the fact that they sail in safe channels.
If the phenomenon itself be thus sufficiently established,
the question arises, how, culminating in ivisclom and finding
its antithesis in folly, this phenomenon of '•common sense"
is to be psychologically interpreted. It is not the fruit of
early training, it is not the result of study, neither is it
the effect of constant practice. Though it is granted that
these three factors facilitate and strengthen the clear opera-
tions of this common sense and of this wisdom, the phenome-
non itself does not find its origin in them. Two young men,
brought up in the same social circle, of like educational
advantages and of similar experience, will differ widely
in point of wisdom ; one will become a wise man, while
with the other life will be a constant struggle. Thus we
have to do with a certain capacity of the human mind,
which is not introduced into it from without, but which is
present in that mind as such, and abides there. The Dutch
language has the beautiful word " be-s^/-fen " (to sense),
which etymologically is connected with the root of sa7>ientia,
and indicates a certain immediate affinity to that which
exists outside of us. In this sense prudence and Avisdom are
innate ; not an innate conception, but an insight which pro-
ceeds immediately from the affinity in which by nature we
stand to the world about us, and to the world of higher
things. Both point to a condition in which, if we may so

Chap. II] § 45. WISDOM 123

express it, man felt Nature's pulse beat ; in which he shared
the life of every animate thing, and so joerceived and un-
derstood it ; and in which, moreover, he also apprehended
the higher life not as something foreign to himself, but as
" sensing " it in his own sense of existence. Or if we look
ahead, both phenomena lie in the line, at whose end the
seeing (deaypelv) is reached, "the knowing as we are known."
The energy of this intuition is now broken. With some it
seems entirely lost, and these are called "fools." With
some others it still Avorks comparatively with great effect,
for which reason they are called, preeminently, the wise folk.
And between these extremes range the people of common
sense ; so called because in them something is still found
of the old, sound, primitive force (Urkraft) of the human

Now it is readily seen what a formidable dam wisdom and
common sense prove against the destructive floods of Scepti-
cism. If there were no other way open to knowledge than that
which discursive thought provides, the subjective character
which is inseparable from all higher science, the uncer-
tainty which is the penalty of sin, and the impossibility be-
tween truth and falsehood to decide what shall be objectively
compulsory would encourage Scepticism to strike ever deeper

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 12 of 64)