Abraham Kuyper.

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i.e. the Sacred Scripture is the Principium of Theology, —
has nothing in common with the representation of a few
remaining supranaturalists, who still grant that the Script-
ure spreads light upon much that otherwise would be dark
to us. The very word princiiyium indeed, wliich may never
be mistaken for fons or phenomenon, claims, that by
nature this principium stands in organic connection with
the real nature of theolog}'. But, as was observed above,
the peculiar character of theology, and therefore also the
special nature of its principium, is accentuated still more
by sin. Under its power it continued not merely a fact
that the thinking subject stood passively over against God
as object; but in addition to this, the normal means, for
receiving in the passive sense this knowledge of God, could
no longer operate accurately, and therefore failed of the
desired effect, l^y nature man could not taJxe knowledge
of God actively^ and as sinner he could no longer let him-
self even passively be given this knowledge of God by God.
This modification in man and in his relation to God could
issue only in one or the other result, viz. that either the sinner
should live on without "knowledge of God," or that from


the side of God there should proceed an activity to iuiijart
this knowledge to smful man, in keeping- with his need as
sinner. The latter then, however, took place outside of
the life that sprang of itself from the creation principium
and the knowledge connected with it ; it was a special prin-
ciple (proprium quid), which only stepped in between pro-
visionally, and was destined to disappear again, as soon as
the normal development of our race had reached its final end.
In this way this self-revelation of God to the sinner was
also materialiter an action from a special principium in
God ; from this principium in God this action went out to
the world and to the sinner ; and as soon as man thus
operated upon began to give an account to himself of the
common phenomena of, and of this abnormal process in, his
life, from the nature of the case the principium of all the
rest would lie in creation, while the principium of this
entirely special action is found in a re-creative act of God.
It made no difference that, along with this action, existino-
elements froni creation were employed. Such elements were
then assimilated by the active principium and rendered ser-
viceable to it, just like the chisel in the hands of the sculptor,
or as a board sawn from a tree, which serves for the hull
of a ship. If in theology, therefore, as such formaliter.
there lay the claim that it springs out of a principium of
knowing of its own, this principium of Theology is distin-
guished, by and in consequence of sin, from the principium
of knowing in the domain of the other sciences materialiter
also, and hence concerns both the formal and the material

In part it may even be maintained, that the principium
of being (essendi) is also included here. That self -re viola-
tion of God to the sinner is possible even without a pre-
ceding regeneration, is shown in the case of Balaam ; but
this exception does not make the rule ; the general rule is,
that regeneration precedes spiritual illumination. The "en-
lightened " of Heb. vi. 4 do not stand in the same line with
the "enlightened" of Eph. i. 18. The latter only are "spirit-
ual " and "have received the things of the Spirit of God." This


regeneration is not an element in knowing (cognoscere), but
in being (esse), and if account is taken of the fact that the
whole revelation of God, though directed by the Logos,
nevertheless proceeds through an entire series of events and
wonders, and finally culminates in the essential incarnation
and all it carries with it, then it is evident that the dis-
tinction between theology and the other sciences not only
formally touches the principium of faith, and materially the
" good word of God " (^KaXbv Oeov prj^a), but also penetrates
into our real being (esse). This explains the fact that the
Theosophists, and in part the Mystics in the tracks of the
former, have sought to obtain the knowledge of God along
this way of being (via essendi). And this difference in the
real being (esse) must indeed be taken into account, at
least so far as it concerns its modality. He who neglects
to do this, annuls regeneration, and thereby undermines all
faith in miracles. Meanwhile it must not be lost from sight
that the distinction in the essential forms no fundamental
antithesis. Sin is no essence (esse), but a modality of it
(to esse) ; and consequently regeneration, whicli annuls and
conquers sin, can create no other essence, but can merely
reestablish from its perverted modality the original real
being (esse) into its ideal modality. He who deems that
this touches the essentia itself, and not its modus simply,
becomes a Manichrean. And if it be said that we must
take account of "the powers of the world to come," etc.,
we answer, that from the beginning there has been an
organic connection between the creature in his present and
eternal condition. Even with the most radical metamor-
phosis there could never be a change of the essence. If,
then, it is beyond doubt, that, on account of regeneration
and miracles, real being (esse) must also be considered, no
two principles of being stand over against each other ; in
the realm of nature, as well as in the realm of grace, it is
and remains the original principium of being, even though
this principium operates in the two in different ways. Very
properly, therefore, T\\QOSophy has been dismissed, and the
full emphasis has been put on TheoZo^^ as such.


This has made it customary to seek the proper principium
of theology immediately in the Holy Scripture, by which
was meant of course simply the material principium of
knowing (principium cognoscendi materiale). Tlie knowl-
edge of God, which God Himself had communicated by
numerous facts and revelations, and which under his o-uid-
ance was embodied in the Holy Scripture, was the gold which
theology was to delve from the mine of the Holy Scripture.
:Meanwhile this could not be intended otherwise than as an
abbreviated manner of speech. A principium is a living
agent, hence a principium of knowledge must be an agent
from which of necessity knowledge flows. And this of course
the Bible as such is not. The principium of knowledge
existed before knowledge had emerged from this princi-
pium, and consequently before the first page of Scripture
was written. When, nevertheless, the Sacred Scripture is
called the sole principium of theology (principium unicum
theologiae), then the Scripture here is taken as a plant,
whose germ has sprouted and budded, and has unfolded
those buds. It is not, therefore, the naked principium, but
the principium together with what it has brought forth.
Speaking more accurately, we should say that the material
principium is the self -rev elation of Grod to the sinner, from
which principium the data have come forth in the Holy
Scriptures, from which theology must be built up. Since,
however, theology can only begin when Revelation is com-
pleted, we may readily proceed from the ultimate cause (prin-
cipium remotum) to the proximate (proximum), and say that
theology sprang from the completed revelation, i.e. from the
Scriptures, as the proximate cause, while that revelation
itself originated from the ultimate cause of the self-revela-
tion of God.

It is unfortunate, however, that in olden time so little
attention was paid to the formal principium. For now it
seemed altogether as tliough the still darkened understand-
ing was to investigate the Scripture as its object, in an
entirely similar way to that in which this same under-
standing threw itself on plant and animal as its object.


At tirst this compelled the understanding to adapt and
accommodate itself to the authorit}- of the Holy Scripture,
wliich then still maintained a high position. But, in the
long run, roles were to be exchanged, and the neglect of
the formal principium was to bring about a revision of
the Scripture in the sense of our darkened understanding,
as has noAV actually taken place. For if faith was consid-
ered under Soteriology, and in connection with faith the
" illumination,"' what help was this, as long as theology itself
was abandoned to the rational subject, in which rational
subject, from the hour of his creation, no proper and
separate principium of knowing God had been allowed to
assert itself?

§ 68. Different Mepresentations concerning the Operation of
this Principium

In the first section of this chapter, it has been shown
that the possession of a special principium of knowing is
indispens;il)le to theology, for the reason that God is never
a passive phenomenon, so that all knowledge of God must
ever be the fruit of self-revelation on His side. Hence it
is the distinct nature of the object of theology which ren-
ders a special principium of knowing necessary. This is
essentially agreed upon, without distinction, by all who still
hold fast to theology in its original sense. Not hj those who,
though they have adopted an entirely different object for their
science, still call themselves theologians ; but by the theo-
logians of all churches and tendencies, who, in whatever
else they may differ from each other, are still agreed in this,
that theology is bent upon the knowledge of the living God,
and that from God Himself alone this knowledge can come to
us. Among all these, there is no difference of view concern-
ing this ultimate cause (principium remotum).

It is different, on the other hand, when it is further
investigated in what way this principium of God's self-
revelation has operated or still operates. The confession
is still almost universal that this self-revelation lies at
our disposal in the Holy Scripture ; but while one group


affirms : In the Holy Scripture and notldny else, another
group asserts that the apocryphal books as well, and tradi-
tion, yea, the papal inspiration also, claim our attention ;
those who are mystically inclined tend to supersede the
Scriptures by personal inspiration ; and minds that wan-
der off yet farther point you to a Word of God in nature,
in history, in the conscience, or in the ideal disposition of
your heart. Two things must be carefully distinguished.
There is, on the one hand, the question whether by sin the
self-revelation of God is compelled to take a temporary
side-road, in order, when sin shall have been entirely over-
come, to resume again its original way, or whether in the
sinner, also, the internal address of God is still heard in
sufficiently clear accents. This touches the relation of nat-
ural theology to specially revealed theology, and can pass
into the question whether natural theology is not sufficient
for the sinner ; a matter which in turn is connected with
the doctrine of sin. If the reality of sin is finally denied,
by dissolving its antithetic character and by viewing it as
a stage in a continuous process of development, then it is
evident that there is no longer any question of the darken-
ing of our knowledge of God by sin. This, however, is not
the point that is in order in this section. Here we assume,
therefore, that the reality of sin is acknowledged, that the
darkening of our knowledge of God by sin is confessed,
so that without a special revelation no sufficient knowledge
of God for the sinner is deemed obtainable. If this is
accepted, then we come to face an entirely different question:
viz. how this special revelation is to be conceived.

The most general conception under wiiich these represen-
tations can be grasped is that of inspiration, i.e. of an inwork-
ing of the Spirit of God upon the mind and heart of the
sinner, by which God makes Himself known to him, and com-
municates His will or His thoughts. For the present we pass
by the quantitive element in this inspiration ; we take it now
only qualitatively; in which case it is clear that fundamentally
it is one and the same conception, whether I speak of theop-
ueusty in the prophets and apostles, of an internal light in


the mysticism of the emotions, or of a papal infallibility.
The prophet, the mystic, and the bishop of Rome are all
sinners, and of each of these three it is affirmed, not that they
conceive or imagine something concerning God of themselves,
but that there has gone out or goes out upon them an opera-
tion of the Holy Spirit, which eo ipso, as wrought by God,
bears the divine mark of genuineness. In the application only
do these inspiration, internal light and infallibility differ.
The most general conception of this inspiration is that of the
mysticus. He is the individualist ; takes, therefore, every
sinner by himself ; and now thinks that God, being desirous to
reveal Himself to sinners, could scarcely do this in any other
way than by communicating Himself separately to every
sinner, and thus make Himself known by each. This repre-
sentation is both the most primitive and simple. Entirely
aphoristically God makes Himself known first to A and then
to B. That they should know of each other is not necessary.
Every one spiritually sick sits as it were in a cell of his own,
and in this separated cell receives the visit of the heavenly
Physician. Thus it goes on from year to year, and from age
to age. This inspiration repeats itself in land upon land.
In the main it is always the same, and can only vary accord-
ing to age, sex, nationality, needs of the soul, etc. With all
these variations the type of this inspiration remains unchange-
able. It is ever God Almighty turning Himself to the indi-
vidual sinner, and making Himself known in His eternal
mercies. The truth of this mysticism lies naturally in the
high estimate of the personal element in religion, and in
preaching that not only every individual person must come
to his God, but also, that G-od must reveal Himself to every
individual, so that the secret walk with Grod may be found by
every one for his own soul. As a fundamental principle of
theology (principium theologicum), on the other hand, this
representation of the internal light (lumen internum) is of
no use whatever, simply because it rests on fiction. If it
were true, if the Lord our God did give to each one personally
not merely a disposition, an emotion, a perception, but a real
knoivledge of God, then he who has been thus mystically in-


spired should be able to speak just like the prophets of old, and
the witness of one should confirm the witness of another.
Such, however, is not the case. You never receive from
these mystics a clear communication of what has been revealed
in this way to enrich our knowledge of God. For the most
part they even avoid clear language, and hide themselves
behind indefinite expressions of feeling and sounds with-
out rational sense. And where they go a little further and
come to the communication of definite representations, you
always notice one of two things : either they borrow the
content of their communications from the Holy Scriptures,
or fall back entirely into natural theology, and treat you to
philosophemes well known from other quarters. From this
it appears that the pretended communication of knowledge
of God, which they claim to receive, is the fruit of self-
deception. The Holy Spirit simply does not work along
this individual Avay, at least not now, after the Scriptures
are completed. What the Holy Spirit personally does, is to
direct faith to the revealed knowledge of God, to explain and
apply this revealed knowledge of God to the heart according
to its particular need, and also to quicken in the soul a lively
sense of truth ; but along this individual way He does not
impart an increase of content.

With a clear understanding of this, the best known mystics
have modified this monotonous-individual conception of inspi-
ration. This conception was not interesting enough, there-
fore they have inclined to perpetuate the prophets' mantle.
Not every child of God has received such an inspiration,
but only a few. As in former times among the twelve
tribes there were no twelve prophets of influence at once,
but generally a single " man of God " appeared in a given
period, so the work of God is carried on now. Hence there
are present-day prophets ; not many, but a few ; now here,
then there. These men of God receive special inspirations,
which do not tend so much to enrich our knowledge of God,
but rather serve to make prophecies concerning coming dis-
asters, to establish the claim that all God's people shall sub-
ject themselves to such a mystical prophet, and to regulate

352 § G8. llErilESENTATIONS COXCEKNING [l):v. Ill

life and religion according to his orders. This, then, is no
longer the theory of an individual, internal light in every
child of God, but the representation that prophetic inspira-
tion, as an extraordinary instrument, was not merely tempo-
ral and local, but is ever continuous. With this conception
the Holy Scriptures are always assumed as existent ; from
those Scriptures material is drawn ; and only the temporal
and local application of what was revealed in those Scriptures
is vindicated for the mystical fanatic. The tendency reveals
itself indeed again and again to soar paracletically above the
revelation of the Scriptures, and Montanistically to wander
off ; but this is almost always the sure sign of approaching
dissolution. As soon as the break with the Scripture is
entire, the spiritual authority of what was mystically in-
spired is ended.

They who seek the proximate cause (principium proximum)
exclusively in the Holy Scriptures, do not deny the mystical
inworkings of the Holy Spirit upon individuals, but maintain
that this mystical inworking as such never leads to knowledge
of God, and therefore can only be added by way of explana-
tion and application to the knowledge of God obtained else-
where. With this they do not deny, that an inspiration
which brings knowledge of God is possible, but they assert
that this is not general but exceptional, and is not primarily
for the benefit of individuals but organically for the good
of the whole. It remains to them therefore an open ques-
tion, whether God the Lord could have followed the mystic
individual way of communicating the knowledge of Him-
self ; but it is certain that God did not take this way, and
that His not taking this atomistic way is in close harmony
with the entire method of knowledge in our human race.
Our race does not know by adding together what is known
hy A + B + C, but knows organically. There is a process in
this knowledge. This knowledge developing itself in pro-
cess is the common property of all, and each one takes part in
this treasure according to the measure of his susceptibility.
This organic conception of our human knowledge lies, there-
fore, in the very creation of our race, and it does not surprise


US that God the Lord has also revealed His divine knowledge
for the sinner in an organic way. Hence inspiration is no in-
shining of God's Spirit in the human spirit that endlessly
repeats itself, but an action from the side of God which
is limited to a definite period and bound to definite condi-
tions. That which is revealed of the knowledge of God
within this given period of time and in connection with
those conditions forms one ivhole ; not by the addition of one
revelation to the other, but in virtue of the fact that the
one rich thought of God develops itself ever more richly
from one germ. And since now this process has been ended,
so that this revealed knowledge of God has been brought
within the reach of our race, there can of course be no more
real inspiration, and the individual and organic working of
the Holy Spirit which follows after, can have no other ten-
dency than to lead and to enlighten the Church in the spir-
itual labor which it must expend upon this revelation. This
organic interpretation, then, brings with it that whatever you
confess concerning the Holy Scriptures is only valid when
they are completed, so that during the ages which intervened
between Paradise and Patmos, the self-revelation of God
to His people bore in part a different character. From
this point of view distinction is made between the first
period in which the tree begins its growth, and that other
period, when year by year the tree casts its fruit into your
lap. Thus inspiration appears as a temporal activity, which
effects a result, organic in nature, and of an organic signifi-
cance for our entire race. It has had a beginning, and also
an ending ; and the benefit we derive is no longer a con-
tinuous inspiration, but the fruit of the finished inspiration.
Not as though this fruit is simply cast at the sinner's feet,
for him to do with as he pleases. On the contrary, there
are operations of the Holy Spirit, by which He renders the
use of this fruit possible for the sinner. Illumination, the
witness of the Holy Spirit, the sacred office, the leadership
of the Chureli, etc., all exert an influence on this. In the
sphere of the new life all these operations of the Holy Spirit
are no longer abnormal, but normal., and therefore may never


be placed in a line with the ever abnormal inspiration. In-
spiration, therefore, is here taken in connection with all sorts
of otlier operations of the Holy Spirit, as an abnormal, tem-
poral, organic process, the fruit of which lies before us in
the Holy Scripture. The desire to draw the boundary lines
sharply here between the normal and the abnormal, ex-
pressed itself most clearly in the rejection of the apocrypha.
The third point of view, that of the Romish Church, does
not differ essentially from this. Rome also rejects the
mystic-atomistic character of inspiration, and interprets it
organically. Rome also affirms a difference, though in a
weaker form, between the first growth and the later life of
this plant. The abnormal character of inspiration is equally
certain to Rome as to us. About the authority, therefore,
of the Holy Scripture, you will not readily come in contro-
versy with Rome. But the point of view held by Rome
differs entirely from ours, when Rome does not bring special
inspiration to a close with Patmos, but continues it till the
present day in the Church, even in the bishop of Rome e ca-
thedra loquente. This exerts a twofold influence. First, as
far as it adds to the content of the Holy Scriptures, and
again, in so much as the Church absolutely interprets the
Scripture. Since the prophets and apostles are no more
among the living, but the Church always is, it is evident
that neither prophets nor apostles can exercise any com-
pulsory authority in the Church, while by its official inter-
pretation the Church has it always in her power to interpret
the utterances of prophets and apostles as she likes. It
should be observed, not only that from this view-point ins]3i-
ration is always continuous, but also that the inspiration of
the past becomes of secondary significance, compared to the
inspiration of later times. And this is what Rome has come
to, by weakening the difference between the normal and the
abnormal. The operations of the Holy Spirit in the sphere
of the new life through the ordained ministry and the coun-
cils of ecclesiastics are placed on one line with the inspira-
tion of Moses, David or Isaiah ; the apocrypha share the
authority of the canonical books; and on the other side, the


applying and expository operations of the Holy Spirit are
withdrawn from the individual life and concentrated in that
which is official.

We pass by the small differences from each of these three
pomts of view which occur in Greek, Lutheran, and Baptist
Theology. In this section it was our only purpose, where
the ultimate cause (principium remotum) is fixed, to distin-
guish the conceptions which had been formed of the manner
in which the Divine energy, in revealing itself to sinners,
had reached its result. This process has been represented
either as mystic-atomistic or as organic. The first has been
done by all fanatics, the latter by all churches. But though

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 33 of 64)