Abraham Kuyper.

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the event" (vaticinium ex eventu). The divine character
of the Doctrina Scripturae was cited, as though criticism had
not already then been exercised against it, and, as it was
claimed, its insufficiency been shown. The majestic style
of the Scriptures was referred to, the consensus of its books,
the effectiveness of its entire content, as though even then
the arms were not already being welded by which each of
these attributes of the Scripture would be disputed, or


attributed to it only in common with other writings. And
when outside of the Scripture the blood of the martyrs was
mentioned, the consensus of the Church, and the " natural
and human character (conditio) of the writers themselves,"
arguments were produced which were so easily applied to
other sacred books that all their force evaporated. What-
ever may be the worth of these arguments for those who are
within the walls (intra muros) to combat doubt, outside of
these walls (ad extra) they are of no value. Oar acutest
dialectici, such as Maccovius for instance, have clearly seen
this in their day. His reference to Hagar in the wilderness
shows this. " Hagar," he writes, " at first did not see the
well near by ; but after her eyes were opened, then at last
she saw the well " (antea non vidit puteum in proximo ;
sed postquam oculi ipsi adaperti sunt, turn demum vidit
puteum) (Joh. Maccov. II., Theologic. quaestionimi, p. 4 in
Maco. redivivus, Franeq, 1654), — an analogy by which he
tries to show, that the marks of its divine origin are truly in
the Scripture ; but that no one can see them as long as the
veil still hangs before his eyes. This is only taken away by
the " enlightening " " by which the Holy Spirit discovers to
us those inner relations of the Scripture, which had hitherto
been concealed " (quo ostendit Spiritus Sanctus eas rationes
Scripturae insitas, quae antea ei occultae erant) (^Ibidem').

Hence our conclusion can be no other, than that whosoever
confesses the Holy Scripture to be the principium of theology,
both for himself and his fellow-confessors must certainly be
able to give an account of the way in which this auxiliary
principium is related to the permanent natural princi}>ium,
in order that his confession may remain rational ; but that
this ratiocination can neither for himself be the ground, on
which his confession stands, nor ever compel the opponent
to come to this confession. The witness of the Holy Spirit
is and ever will be the only power which can carry into
our consciousness the certainty concerning the special prin-
cipium. Moreover, in the footsteps of our old theologians,
it must be observed that it is jiLso the witness of _G,Qd_ as
Creator (Testimonium Dei Creatoris) that can i^lone_give_iis


certainty_forJJifi__natuxal principium. When God refrains
from giving this certainty to our self-consciousness, we
lapse into insanity, generally after the course has been run
of the several stadii of scepticism. It is indeed true, that
with respect to this natural principium, as a rule, we make
no mention of the " witness of God as Creator," but this is
explained from the fact, that it coincides with our self-con-
sciousness, and that further account of the origin of this
self-consciousness is rarely taken. It is simply the first truth
from which departure is made. The special principium, on
the other hand, enters into this self -consciousness as a sense
of a different kind, and is thereby of itself reduced to its
deeper origin in God. But however strongly this may
appear with men of higher development, who, after they
have lived for a long time by the natural principium only,
now perceive the light in their consciousness from that other
source as well, this is much less the case, and sometimes not
at all, with common believers, who, regenerated in their
youth, have never experienced this transition in their con-
sciousness. In the case of such, immediate faith has been
given equally naturally and as fully with their self-con-
sciousness, as immediate knoivledge for the natural principium
is given with the awakening of our natural self-consciousness.
For man as creature there can never be any other principium
of knowledge but his Creator, naturaliter, as well as by the
way of grace. What the Psalmist declares, only " in thy
light shall we see light," remains the absolute ground of
explanation for all human knowledge.

§ 72. Universality of this Principium

One who, himself of a sound mind, should have to live on
some isolated island among insane people, would run a great
risk of becoming himself insane ; and in such a condition a
very strong mind only could maintain the reality of its con-
sciousness. Just because we do not exist atomically, but
are bound together with others organically, also in our
consciousness, in order to remain firm our own sense cannot
afford to lose the support of a similar sense in others. The


same applies to tlie special principium. With this also, as a
rule, the communion in our own consciousness can be strong
and permanent only when this communion finds a support
in the similar conviction of others. This rule, however,
does not always hold. As one sane person, because of a
strong mind, might be able in entire isolation to maintain
his self-consciousness, it is possible for one person to experi-
ence the inworking of the special principium, and live by it,
even though in his entire surroundings there should operate
nothing but the natural principium. At first, intleed, this had
to be so, in order that the working of this special principium
might become manifest. It could not begin its work except
in single persons. As a rule those individuals were men of
strong minds, and to support their isolated faith the Lord
gave them signs, mostly in the material world, which kept
them from falling away from the power which had taken
hold of them. Heroism of spirit is here called into play.
When Christ, forsaken of all, even of His disciples, battled
alone in Gethsemane, this struggle in loneliness became so
fearful, that angels came to break His isolation, in order to
support Him. So long, then, as revelation is still in process
of completion, we see again and again the manifestation of
extraordinary powers, by which the maintenance of faith is
rendered possible, and these signs only disappear when Reve-
lation has reached its completion, and the special principium
finds a circle, in which faith can assume such a communal
character, that the conviction of one supports that of the

If thus, like the natural principium, the working of the
special principium requires a broad circle in which to exert
itself organically, this circle becomes still more indispensable
when a scientific account is given of what this special prin-
cipium is and offers. Science demands universality. Not
in the sense, of course, that nothing is established scientifi-
cally in the natural world until every individual has agreed
to it, but in the sense that all men of sound understanding
can readily be brought to perceive the truth of it. The
same applies to the special principium. The law of univer-


sality must prevail here also, and must always be well
understood by those who live by this principium. These
only are taken into account, just as in natural science we
reckon with those alone who are men of sound sense, i.e.
who live by the natural principium. All these, then, must
be able, if they follow your demonstration, to perceive the
correctness of it. This accounts for the fact that in later
ages only the question arose of a science of theology. Be-
fore that time there was theology as knowledge of God ;
even measurably in a dogmatic sense; but as yet no theologi-
cal science. This could only originate when the Revelation
was completed, and liberated from the restrictions peculiar
to Israel. Then there arose that universal circle among all
nations, that circle of confessors in their general human
character, who live by this special principium.

This communal character, which, along with every other
principium, is common to the special principium, received
no sufficient recognition in the conflict of the Reformation.
From our side, the line of personal faith was ever drawn too
tightly ; while Rome, from her side, substituted the institu-
tional Church too largely for the organic communion. Each
of the two parties defended thereby an element of truth, but
it was done by both in an insufficient and one-sided manner.
Very properly did our Reformers maintain the personal char-
acter of faith, which does not reach its full unfolding, until
it places our inner life in direct communion with the Eternal
Being ; but they lost sight of the fact that this is the fullest
development of the faith, not its beginning, and that in its
maturity it cannot flourish as it should, except in the
communion of saints. Rome, on the other hand, defended
very rightly the common feature, which marks faith, but
committed a double mistake, — first, that it did not allow
the personal character of faith to assert itself, and made it
amount to nothing more than communion with God through
the intermediation of the Church, and secondly, that it sub-
stituted the ecclesiastical institution for organic communion.
This might, perhaps, have been more clearly seen if in their
dogmatic exposition our Reformers had added, at once,


to their distinction between the Church as a visible body
and at the same time invisible, the more careful distinction
between the visible Church as composed of believers (eccle-
sia visibilis in fidelibus) and the visible church as an insti-
tution (ecclesia visibilis in instituto). They did this, indeed,
in their ecclesiastical law ; observing thereby that the Church
of Christ may be visible in a city or village, because of the
believers who live there, even while no Church organization
is established by these believers, and that the ecclesia instituta
only originates by this organization. But in their dogmatics
they referred almost exclusively to the general antithesis
between visible and invisible, and thereby could not fail to
convey the impression, that by visible Church they merely
understood the Church as an institution. Since Rome out-
did this, and wholly identified the visible Church with the
Church as an institution, the problem could not be solved ;
since the Church as an institution was certainly subjected to
the rule of the Word of God ; and therefore our Reformers
observed correctly, that the institute must borrow its guar-
antee from the Scripture, and not the Scripture its proof
from the institute. Transfer this difference to the life of
the world, and it will at once be understood. In society at
large the natural prijicipium is in force and the institute is
the government, which, to be sure, is in the community, but
is ever sharply distinguished from it. Can the assertion now
be made that the truth of this natural principium is to be
determined by the State ? Of course not ; simply because
the State, so far as it is constituted by man, is an outcome
of the natural principium. Undoubtedly, therefore, this
natural principium can sui3port the State, but not lean upon
the State. On the other hand, by general conceptions, and
public opinion derived from these, this natural principium
finds its point of support in human society. And this is the
case here. The Church is to the special principium what the
State is to the natural principium. The Church as an insti-
tute, founded by man, is built after the rule of the special
principium, as this speaks to us from the Holy Scripture.
Hence the churchly institute can borrow support from the


special principium, but not the special principium from the
churchly institute. But what is true on the other hand —
and this is the position which we defend — is, that faitli in
this special principium is supported and maintained by the
churchly community, i.e. by the wow-instituted but organi-
cally present communion mutual among believers.

It is unhistorical, therefore, to imagine that every person,
taking the Bible in hand from his own impulse, should for-
mulate the truth from it for himself. This is simply absurd,
for actual experience shows that one either grows up in, or
in later life enters, a circle in which confessions of the truth
already exist ; and that, in vital communion Avith this circle,
clearness is reached in his consciousness of what was poten-
tially given in regeneration, but which only from this com-
munion can draw the life-sap needed for its development.
As one tree of the forest protects another against the vio-
lence of the storm, so in the communion of saints does one
protect the other against the storm-wind of doubt.

This fellowship of believers, carefully distinguished from
instituted Churches, exhibits its universal human character
in the fact that it continues its life in successive generations
and extends itself to all peoples and nations. So far as the
first is concerned, it has a history back of it which extends
across many centuries, and by its confession it ever preserves
communion with the past. Not merely in the sense in which
a nation holds its ancestors in sacred memory, for in national
life the dead are gone. He who dies loses his nationality,
and belongs no more to his people. This fellowship of be-
lievers, on the other hand, knows that its departed ancestors
still live and always stand in organic connection \vith it.
Moreover, while a people changes its public opinion from
age to age, in this ecclesiastical fellowship the same world of
thought remains constant for all time. Hence the tie to the
special principium is not maintained by those alone who are
now alive with us and subscribe to the same confession as
ourselves, but much more by those millions upon millions
who now rejoice before the throne. And so far as the second
is concerned, the outcome shows that the Christian religion.


originating in Asia, j)assed over from the Semitic to tlie
Indo-Germanic race, presently conquered the Northern Coast
of Africa and the entire south of Europe, and never allowed
itself to be nationalized. Christ had humanized his confes-
sion, by breaking down every partition wall (/uecrdrot^j^oz/) ;
and this universal human character stands in immediate con-
nection with the possession of a sj^ecial principium of knowl-
edge. That which is national may give tradition, but cannot
provide a special principium for our consciousness. It is
seen, therefore, that every effort, applied outside of this
principium, has merely led to national forms of religion ;
and even Buddhism — which, by the chameleon character
of its pantheism, lent itself to stealthy invasions among
many nations — remains in principle, nevertheless, an Indian
world of thought. Islam alone — and this is worthy of
notice — still exhibits, to a certain extent, an cecumenic char-
acter, which is attributable to the fact that Mohammedanism
is grafted upon the special principium, such as it flourished,
thanks to the Scripture, in the Christian life-circle. Even
thus Islam has never taken root in the finer branches of the
human tree. Islam is and remains Arabic, and outside of
Arabia has gained an entrance only among those nations,
which either have taken no part in the general human de-
velopment, or have stood at a much lower level. Even the
accession of Persia to Islam is attended with the disappear-
ance of this nation, once so great, from the world stage.

If thus we leave out of account for a moment the working
of this special principium before Golgotha, we face the fact
that for almost twenty centuries a separate human life has
developed itself in our human race; principally in the nobler
branches of the human tree and among the more finely organ-
ized nations; and that the development of this separate life
has not taken place with isolated nations such as China and
India, but even now in five parts of the world, and chiefly
in that current of our human life which has carried the
hegemonjr, and caused the development of our human race
to ascend to its present heights. We see that this separate
life has been characterized everywhere by the action, in


addition to that of the natural principium, of another princip-
ium of knowledge, and that wherever the Christian religion
has withdrawn, as in West-Asia and North-Africa, all human
life has sunk back again to a much lower level. We see
that in this broad life-circle, which has extended itself across
many ages and among many people, there has arisen a special
world of thought ; modified universal conceptions have begun
to prevail ; and in this genuinely human circle the human
consciousness has assumed an entirely peculiar form. In this
way have originated that univei^sal life and that universal
thought, which have certainly clashed with "the other circle,
that rejected the special principium, but which have pos-
sessed, nevertheless, entirely sufficient consistency to invite
and to render possible scientific construction upon the foun-
dation of that principle which, in this circle, is universal.
It will not do, therefore, to represent this special principium
as an idiosyncrasy of a few enthusiasts. The melancholy
decline of all mystic fanaticism shows what the profound
difference is between the parasite, that springs from fanatic
imagination, and the cedar, that has struck its roots in the
fertile soil of this real principle. This special principium
is as universally human as the natural principium, with this
difference only, that it is not given to each individual, but
is organically grafted upon the tree of humanity. The life-
circle, indeed, which finds its centrum in Christ as the bearer
of the new life-principle, is not a branch of our race that
is set apart ; but this body of Christ is the real trunk of our
human race, and Avhat is not incorporated into this body, falls
away from that trunk as a useless branch. He is, and re-
mains, the second Adam.

Moreover, the peoples and nations that have stood or still
stand outside of this life-circle, involuntarily bear witness
to the insufficiency of the natural principium in its present
working. When in Deut. xviii. inspiration is announced
by God as the peculiar working of the special principium.
He says: "I will raise them up a prophet from among their
brethren, like unto thee ; and I will put my words in his
mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall com-


mand him/' An important thought, however, precedes the
announcement of this rich inspiration, which in all its full-
ness is given in Christ as "Prophet." In the tenth verse,
reference is made to divination and necromancy, which were
common among the nations, and toward which Israel be-
trayed strong tendencies ; and now they are told that the
satisfaction of the need which spoke in this desire was not
to be sought in the way of this enchantment, but that God
alone is able to grant them the aspirations of their hearts.
This impulse after necromancy, taken in its deepest signifi-
cance, can be no other than the desire to find, in addition to
the natural principium, another principium of knowledge for
all those profound questions of life upon which the natural
principium can cast no light. From this it appears, that the
insufficiency of the natural principium declares itself in the
universal human sense, so long as this still expresses itself in
an unconstrained and natural way. The appearance, there-
fore, of another principium of knowledge in the Christian
religion does not enter the present state of things as some-
thing foreign, but fits on it as a new spire uj^on a steeple, the
former spire of which has fallen into ruin. We grant that
afterwards, in philosophy, the natural principium has tried to
show the superfluousness of such an auxiliary-principium.
However, we must not fail to observe that these efforts of
the philosophic spirit, so long as they were religiously colored,
never occasioned in the religious world anything but endless
confusion of speech; that they have never resulted in the
founding of a religious life-circle of universal significance;
and that these systems, drawn from the natural principium,
have more and more abandoned eternal concerns in order in
materialism to deny their existence, or in agnosticism to
postulate the special principium. It is noteworthy, there-
fore, that since the apostasy, which began in the latter part
of the last century, a broad life-circle has been formed in
Europe and America, which has abandoned the special prin-
cipium, in order, in Spiritualism, to revive the ancient effort
after necromancy. This Sj)iritualism now counts its fol-
lowers by the millions, and its main desire is to obtain an


answer to tlie questions which force themselves upon our
human mind, in another way than that which comes from
the natural principium. While in other circles, where this
Spiritualism has gained no entrance, the effort is certainly
manifest, to obtain knowledge from the mysticism of the
emotions, of what "common sense" has left uncertain. ^^^X
Every philosqphicaljendency, which, for the sake of defend-
ing itselTagainst intellectualism, seeks another source of
knowledge, pleads at heart for the necessity of a special
principium. Pure intellectualists alone maintain to this
day the sufficiency of the principium of rational knowledge;
and this is even in opposition to Kant, who, in his "prac-^
tische Vernunft," placed a second something dualistically
over against the "reine Vernunft." But the barrenness of
such intellectualism is sufficiently evident.

We refuse, therefore, to allow the charge, that the special
principium, as an invention of fanaticism, floats like a drop
of oil upon the waters of our human life, and we maintain,
on the contrary, that the need of such an auxiliary principium
is univermlly human ; that in its organic working this prin-
cipium bears an universally human character ; and that in the
final result towards which it directs itself, it has an universally
human significance.

§ 73. This Principium and the Holy Scripture
That the sphere of the special principium is wider than
the compass of the Holy Scripture, needs no separate dem-
onstration. Even though you firmly maintain that here you
deal with a principium of knowing, it is here as impossible
as elsewhere to ignore the principium of being (essendi).
It is for this reason that in special revelation also fact and
word run parallel and stand in connection with each other.
There is not simply an inspiration that kindles light in our
consciousness, but there is also a manifestation in miracles
which operates upon the reality of being ; and both flow
naturally from that same principium in God, by which He
works re-creatively in His deranged creation. The repre-
sentation as though a way of life could have been disclosed

398 § 73. THIS PRIXCIPIUM [Div. Ul

for us by a book descended from heaven or by a Bible
dictated from heaven, rests upon an intellectualistic abstrac-
tion, which interprets altogether incorrectly the relation
between being and thought, between fact and word. If it is
entirely true, that God created by speaking, so that the
creatural being originated by the word, it must not be for-
gotten that this word went out from Him who carries the
TO esse in Himself. In the creation therefore there is no
question of an abstract word, but of a word that carries in
itself the full reality of life ; and that the Scripture-word
does not meet this requirement, appears from the fact, that
without concomitants it is inert, even as the most glittering
diamond without inshining light and admiring eyes differs
in no particular from a dull piece of carbon. Protest there-
fore has ever been entered from the side of the Reformed
against Luther's effort to place Word and Sacrament on a
line, as though an active power lay concealed in the Script-
ure as such. Even though Luther's representation of an
" eingepredigter " Christ allows defence to a certain extent,
the Bible, as book, may never be accredited with a kind of

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 37 of 64)