Abraham Kuyper.

Encyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... online

. (page 32 of 64)
Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 32 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

be traced, which has gone out from this revelation ; and that
the relation must be traced between revelation and our

Chap. I] § 66. SACRED THEOLOGY 333

psychic data, in order to make action from our side possible
with that revelation. He who is to make a scientific ex-
amination of a mineral spring, is not permitted to rest con-
tent with an analysis of its ferruginous quality, but is bound
to inquire into the history of this spring, to watch the action
of its waters, and to experiment as to how its content is best
applied. Apply this to the revealed knowledge of God, and
you perceive at once, that the theological science cannot deem
its task completed, when it has analyzed the content of reve-
lation, but the revelation itself and the action that went out
from it, together with the method demanded by its applica-
tion, must be studied in their relation to each other. With
the strictest maintenance, therefore, of the tlieologic character
of our science, nothing prevents a view of the relations
of the several departments of study. For instance, what is
church history but the broad narrative of the effects Avliich
the ectypal knowledge of God has exerted in the life of
nations? Meanwhile we content ourselves with the simple
indication of it here. This relation can only fully be
explained in the closing sections of this volume.

§ 6(3. Sacred Theology

Before we enter upon the study of the principium of
Theology, we insert here a brief explanation of the ancient
epithet of Sacred before Theology. Not that ive should insist
on this title, or that to our idea this title implies any special
merit, but because the purpose of its omission is the secular-
izatio7i of theology, and for this reason it has an essential
significance as an effort to destroy the distinguishing char-
acter of theology. The habit of speaking of Sacred The-
ology has the indorsement of the ages. At the Reformation
the churches found it in this form, and they felt themselves
bound to reverence and maintain it. The first mention of
the omission of this title appears, after the conflict had
begun against a principium proprium for theology ; and
the dislike which the effort to restore this ancient title to
theology creates in many people, is identical with the dis-
like which is shown by those same people for every


representation of a special revelation. As the omission of
Sancta was no accident, our effort is equally intentional, to
renew the use of that name in our Reformed circles. By in-
serting Sancta before Tlieologia we desire it to be clearly
understood, that we take no part in the secularization of
Theology, but maintain that it has a sphere of its own.

The Church of Christ has borrowed from the Holy Script-
ures this word sacred as a prefix to whatever stands in imme-
diate relation to the special revelatioji. This prefix is con-
stantly used in the Old, as well as in the New, Testament.
The spot of ground at the burning bush is called lioly ground,
because there the holiness of the Lord revealed itself to
]\Ioses. The TTIp in Israel, or the congregation of the people,
is called holy. In Exod. xvi. 23 it speaks of "the holy
sabbath unto the Lord." The people itself is called an
"holy people," and its members are called "holy men"
(Exod. xxii. 31). In a still more pregnant sense the altar
is called " holy " and " whatsoever touches the altar " (Exod.
xxix. 37), which refers to places and buildings, as well as to
persons, their garments, tools and acts. Jerusalem itself is
called the "holy city" (Neh. xi. 1). Holy, therefore, is the
definite epithet not only for what is in heaven, with all the
hosts of angels, but equally for that which on earth is chosen
of God for His service. Thus the Psalmist speaks of " the
saints that are in the earth." " God's faithfulness is in the
assembly of the holy ones." Thus the Proverbs speak of
the knowledge the people of God received by higher light, as
" the knowledge of the holy" (A. V. ix. 10 and xxx. 3); and,
in short, without a closer study of the idea of t^Hi'p, it may
be said that in the Old Testament this title of "holy" is
attached to everything that transmits the special revelation,
flows forth from it, or stands in immediate relation to it.

That it will not do to explain this prefix, " holy," simply
from the symbolic and typical character of the Old Dispen-
sation, appears from the entirely similar use of " holy " in
the writings of the New Covenant. Here also we find
Jerusalem spoken of as the "holy city" (Math. iv. 5; xxvii.
63 and Rev. xi. 2 ; xxi. 2 and xxii. 19). Christ also

Chap. I] § 66. SACRED THEOLOGY 335

speaks of "the holy angels" (Luke ix. 26). Christ himself
is called "that holy one that shall be born of Mary." The
men of God of the Old Covenant are spoken of as the " holy
prophets." The members of the Church of the New Cove-
nant, from the Jews as well as from the heathen, bear
the almost fixed name of " the saints," so that ol dyioc
was provisionally the technical name for those who subse-
quently were called "the Christians." In an entirely similar
sense the books of the Old Covenant are spoken of as the
" Holy Scriptures." The kiss, with which the partakers of the
ajdirat, greeted each other, receives the name of "holy kiss."
Children born of believing parents receive the same hono-
rary title. Like the prophets of the Old Covenant, the apostles
and prophets of the New Dispensation are called '■^holy apostles
and prophets." Believers on the Lord are called a "holy
people," a "holy priesthood." Their prayers come up before
God as "the prayers of the samts''^ ; the martyr's blood is
" the blood of the saints " ; and the Gospel itself is announced
as "the holy Gospel."

In connection with this use of language the Church of
Christ has introduced this epithet of " holy " into her public
utterances ; and not only the Romish Church, but the churches
of the Reformation as well, spoke of the "holy church," of
the "holy prophets," the "holy apostles," the "holy Script-
ures," the "holy Gospel," the "holy sacraments," "holy
Baptism," " holy Communion," and thus likewise of " sacred
Theology " and the " sacred ministry." This use of language
was constant, and, at least in this limited sense, met with no
opposition. This only manifested itself when the Romish
church applied this epithet of "holy" distinctively to indi-
vidual persons of a higher religious standing. This opposi-
tion, however, was not unanimous nor logical. Even where
the so-called Romish saints were passed by, it remained
invariably the custom to speak of "Saint Augustine," "Saint
Thomas," etc. These were inconsequences, however, to which
men were led by the accustomed sound, and which represented
in the case of no writer in the days of the Reformation any
intentional principle ; in addition to which it is observed

336 § 66. SACRED THEOLOGY [Uiv. Ill

that Reformed theologians offended less m this respect than
many a Lutheran.

This does not mean that by this reformatory correction the
use of the ancient Christian church was restored in all its
purity. Originally, indeed, the name of holy (a7to9) was a
general distinction, to discriminate between what was within
and what without. Everything that had entered holy ground
was considered holy ; everything outside was spoken of as
"lying in wickedness"; but in the Scriptures of the New
Testament no such distinction occurs between a lower and
higher holiness within the bounds of the Church. The error
of the Romish Church lies in the application of this title to this
non-Scriptural distinction. While in the Holy Scriptures all
confessors of Christ are called saints, the Romish Church
deprived the people at large of this title, and reserved it for
a special class of Christians, either for the clergy in general,
or for those under higher vows, or for those who, as church
fathers and teachers, held a special position ; or finally,
in its narrowest sense, for those who were canonized. The
Reformation opposed this non-Scriptural distinction, but
lacked courage to restore the name of sai7it in its original
significance to all believers. Spiritualistic apocalyptic circles
tended toward this ; from the side of Protestantism also,
in addresses, etc., the whole congregation were again called
"a holy communion" (eine heilige Gemeinde); poets fre-
quently followed this use of language ; but the Reforma-
tion has not restored the name of saint as a general term for
every Christian. It preferred rather to abandon the name
in its general sense, than by the use of it to encourage the
Romish misuse.

From this, however, it is evident that there was no super-
ficial work done in the days of the Reformation, and that the
representation that by speaking of "holy Scripture," "holy
Gospel," "holy Baptism," etc., they merely imitated Rome,
rests on a misunderstanding. The reformers did most care-
ful work. There were cases in which the epithet "holy"
was purposely dropped ; but others also in which this prefix
was purposely kept ; and to this last category belongs the

Chap. I] § 60. SACRED THEOLOGY 337

word "■Sacred^'' before Theology. If it is asked what was
meant b}' this qualification of theology, no special reason
seems to have been given. As in the Proverbs " the knowl-
edge of the holy " was spoken of, it was thought proper that
that knowledge and science, whose principium lies in tlie
Holy Scriptures, should be distinguished from all other
knowledge ; and thus it may be said, that in the sixteenth
century Sancta theologia chiefly indicated the antithesis be-
tween that which came to us from profane literature and
from the Holy Scriptures.

At present, however, this general indication will not suf-
fice. The significance of this epithet for the object, the
subject, and the method of theology should be more accu-
rately analyzed. And with reference to the object, the pri7i-
cipium proprium of theology stands certainly in the fore-
ground. AVhat we understand by this " proper principle "
of theology, we will endeavor to explain in the following
chapter ; here it is merely remarked that the ectypal knowl-
edge of God, in which the science of theology finds its
object, does not come to us in the same way, from the same
fountain and by the same light, as our other sciences. There
is a difference here, which in its deepest root reduces itself
to a straightforward antithesis, which places two principles
of knowing (principia cognoscendi) over against each other.
The particular principium of theology characterizes itself by
the entrance of an immediate, divine action, which breaks
through what is sinful and false, in order in the midst of
these false and sinful conditions to reveal unto us, by a light
of its own, what is true and holy in antithesis to what is sin-
ful and false. The heathen antithesis between profane and
sacred has no application here. That was simply the pride
of the initiated that expressed itself at the expense of the
uninitiated. The odi profanum vidgus et arceo is refuted
and censured by the character of everything that is holy in
the Scriptures, and we might wish that our theologians
would never have employed the word profane as an antithe-
sis. In Scrij^ture the antithesis is between the special source
and the natural, which is more sharply emphasized by the

338 § 66. SACRED THEOLOGY [Div. Ill

antithesis between Avliat is u'icked, foolish and satanic, and
what is true, hol}^ and divine. But however much this
proper principium of theology, far from underestimating the
natural principium, rather takes it up in itself, as the next
chapter will show, the antithesis between the normal and
abnormal, the general and special, and between that which
is bound by sin and that which surmounts sin, of these " two
sources of knowledge," can never be destroyed. To empha-
size tJiis antithesis, the word " sacred " was used in simple
imitation of the Scripture, and in this entirely Scriptural
sense our science was called Sacred Theology.

If thus the principal motive for the use of this word
" sacred " lies in the peculiar character of the object of the
science of theology, a second motive was added in conse-
quence of the peculiar quality which in the investigation
of this object was claimed as a necessity in the sidject. Tliis
was on the ground of 1 Cor. ii. 14, that " the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness unto him " ; and also because he who stands out-
side of palingenesis "cannot see the kingdom of God."
Hence, there was not simply an antithesis to be considered
between the object of this and of all other sciences ; but a
similar antithesis also presented itself in the subject, that was
to take this theology up into itself and presently to repro-
duce it. Not every one can engage in this work, but only
they who are spiritually minded. No intellectual relation is
possible in the domain of this science, between those to whom
this theology is " foolishness," and the others to whom it is
the "wisdom of God." They only, who by virtue of palin-
genesis are partakers of spiritual illumination, have their ej'es
opened to see the object to be investigated. The others do
not see it, or see it wrongly. By reason of the lack of affin-
ity between subject and object, every deeper penetration into
the object is impossible. The rule that " in thy light we see
light " finds here its special application. No blind man can
be our guide in the domain of optics. Though it is entirely
true, therefore, that in the science of Theology the ego of the
general human consciousness is the general subject, yet this


ego is here incapable of its task, unless the darkening worked
by sin in his consciousness is gradually withdrawn.

This leads, in the third place, to the conviction that the
science of theology is not governed by the general human
mind, such as it now operates in our fallen race, but only to
that extent in which this universal human mind has been
animated by the IToIi/ G-host, i.e. also to a difference in
method. Only later on can this point be fully explained.
At present let it be said that tha^t same Holy Spirit, who
offers us the Holy Scriptures and the Church as the result of
His activity, is the real Doctor ecclesiie, who enables us to
grasp the truth from the Scriptures, and from our conscious-
ness to reflect the same in scientific analysis. As it advances
in the course of centuries, there is coherence and steadiness
of progress in the science of theology, and a decided unity
of effort, even though individual theologians are not con-
scious of it or able to determine its course. But while this
unity of effort in the course of centuries is determined in the
other sciences partly by the inherent Logic, and by natural
events keeping pace with it, theology derives this determi-
nation of its process from a Logic which presents itself in
light pneumatically only, in connection with events which
flow from the dealings of Christ with his Church. Hence,
this leading of the Holy Spirit as subject of theology makes
itself felt in a threefold way. First, through the Church,
which has the formulation of dogma in hand, and with it the
choice of the course to be taken, and which effects this formu-
lation of dogma officially, i.e. as the instrument of the Holy
Spirit. That in this the Church is not an infallible organ,
and the reason for it, will be explained later on. We here
content ourselves with pointing to this mingling of ecclesi-
astical power in the development of theology, as one of the
actions of the Holy Ghost. Secondly, this action of the Holy
Spirit presents itself in the logical development of those ten-
dencies opposed to the truth, which, without any fault or
XDurpose of its own, the Church has had to resist successively,
and which only subsequently prove themselves to have been
the means of revealing truth in its logical relation. Not

3^0 § 66. SACKED THEOLOGY [Div. Ill

from the Church, but rather from without comes the frequent
impetus, which stimulates and necessitates spiritual thought,
and yet the thinking born from this is not aphoristic, but
logical and organically coherent. And in the third place
this action of the Holy Spirit is evident from the pro-
ductiveness of theology in times when the operations of the
Spirit in the Churcli are powerful, and from the poverty
and meagreness which are seen in contrast, as soon as those
operations of the Spirit withdraw themselves from the
Church. Subjectively this can be expressed by saying that
theology has flourished only at the times when theologians
have continued in prayer, and in prayer have sought the
communion of the Holy Spirit, and that on the other hand
it loses its leaf and begins its winter sleep when ambition
for learning silences prayer in the breast of theologians.

In this sense, both with reference to its object, and to the
extent in which it concerns its subject, and its method as
well (in virtue of the leading of the Holy Spirit as Doctor
ecclesiae'), the peculiar character of theology demands that
its peculiarity shall be characterized also by its title of Sacred



§ 67. What is here to be understood by Principium

When theology abandoned its proper and original char-
acter, it also ceased to speak of a principium of its own ;
and gradually we have become so estranged from the earlier
theological life, that it is scarcely any longer understood
what our old theologians meant by the principium theolo-
giae. This principium of theolog}^ is not infrequently taken
as synonymous Avith foiis theologiae, i.e. with the fountain
from which the science of theology draws its knowledge.
Why is this wrong ? When I speak of the fountains of a
science, I understand thereby a certain group out of the
sum of phenomena, from which a separate whole of science
is distilled by me. For the Zoologist these fountains lie in
the animal world, for the Botanist in the world of plants,
for the Historian in many-sided tradition, etc. But how-
ever much in each of these domains of science the fountains
may differ, the principium of knowing (cognoscendi), from
which knowledge comes to us with these several groups of
phenomena, is ever one and the same. It is, in a word, the
natural man who by his reason draws this knowledge from his
object, and that object is subjected to him as the thinking
subject. If now I proceed in like manner on theological
ground, formaliter at least, then my principium of knowing
remains here entirely the same that it is for the botanist or
zoologist, and the difference consists only in the difference
of the object. Whether I seek that object in God Himself,
or in the Christian religion, or in religious phenomena makes
no fundamental difference. With all these it is still the
thinking man who subjects these objects to himself, and by



virtue of bis general principium of knowing draws knowl-
edge from them. For, and I speak reverently, even when
I posit God Himself as the object of theology, this God is
then placed on trial by the theologian, and it is the theologian
who does not cast himself down in worship before Him,
saying, " Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," but of his
own right (suo jure) investigates Him. The result, indeed,
has shown that he who has taken tJds attitude, has either
entirely revolutionarily reversed the order of things and
placed himself as critic above his God, or has falsified the
object of theology and substituted for it religious phe-
nomena ; a method which seemed more innocent, but which
actually led to a like result, since from this standpoint
"• knowledge of God " remained wanting, and w^ant of knowl-
edgfe of God is little else than intellectual atheism.

The propounding of a special principium in the theologi-
cal sphere (even though we grant that this was not always
done correctly), viewed in itself, was little else than the
necessary result of the peculiar character of theology. If
the object of theology had stood coordinate with the objects
of the other sciences, then together with those sciences
theology would have been obliged to employ a common
principium of knowing. Since, on the other hand, the object
of theolog}^ excluded every idea of coordination, and think-
ing man, who asked after the knowledge of God, stood in a
radically different relation to that God than to the several
kingdoms of created things, there had to be a difference in
the principium of knov.dng. With every other object it was
the thinking subject that took knowledge ; here it was the
object itself that gave knoivledge. And this antithesis is
least of all set aside by the remark, that the flower also pro-
vides the botanist with knowledge concerning itself. This
replaces a real manner of speech by a metaphorical one.
The flower indeed does nothing, and the whole plant, on
which the flower blooms, is passive. Even though it is
maintained that the flower exhibits color and form, this is
by no means yet the knowledge of the flower, but merely
so many data, from which this knowledge is gathered by the


botanist. Hence our speaking, with reference to theology,
of a special principium of knowing of its own, is the result
of the entirely peculiar position, in which here the knowing
subject stands over against God as the object to be known.
Theology, taken in its original and only real meaning, as
" knowledge of God," or as " the science of the knowledge of
God," cannot go to work like the other sciences, but must
take a way of its own; which not merely in its bends and
turns, but in its entire extent, is to be distinguished from
the ordinary way of obtaining knowledge (via cognitionis),
and therefore assumes a principium of knowing of its own
as its point of departure.

Even if the fact of sin were left out of account, and the
special revelation were not considered, formaliter a princi-
pium of its OAvn must still be claimed for theology. This
claim may be more sharply accentuated by these two facts,
but it may never be represented as though the necessity of
a source of its own were only born formaliter from sin.
This necessity does not merely lie in the abnormal, but in
the normal as well, and must ever find its ground in this
fact, that God is God^ and that consequently the Eternal
Being cannot become the object of creaturely knowledge,
as coordinate with the creature. Let it be supposed that
the development of our race had taken place without sin ;
man would nevertheless have known the things that may
be known of God, from the world of his heart and the world
round about him, but yiot as the fruit of empiricism and the
conclusions based thereon. From the finite no conclusion
can be drawn to the infinite, neither can a Divine reality
be known from external or internal phenomena, unless that
real God reveals Himself in my consciousness to my ego ;
reveals Himself as Crod ; and thereby moves and impels me
to see in these finite phenomena a brightness of His glory.
Formaliter, neither observation nor reasoning would ever
have rendered service here as the principium of knowing.
Without sin, this self-revelation of the Divine Ego to my
personal ego would never have been, even in part, the fruit
of Theopliany, or of incarnation, but would have taken

344 § 07. WHAT IS here to be UNDEKST(J0D [Div. Ill

place iiomially in my personal being, and in such a way
that even then the way by which knowledge is obtained
would have divided itself into two, one leading to the
knowledge of those objects which, being passive, I subject
to myself, the other leading to the knowledge of that one
Object, to which I myself am passively subjected. That
'' faith " assumes its peculiar office here, and that, as belong-
ing to our human nature, it may turn into unfaith, but can
never fall away, has been remarked before. In this place
it is enough to note the distinction, that formaliter the
thinking subject can obtain his knowledge from a twofold
principium : either from himself, by going to work actively^
or, if lie must remain passive, not from himself but from a
principium, the impulse of which proceeds from the object,
in casu from God, and only thus operates in him.

From this it already appears that the proposition of the
old theology, — Principium theologiae est Sacra Scriptura,

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 32 of 64)