Abraham Kuyper.

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race, even as it was created of one blood, shall sometime
shine in the realm of glory as one body under Christ as
its head, then it needs no further proof that this catholic
characteristic of writing agrees entirely with the catholic
character of the Avhole Revelation and the catholic character
of the Church. As writing sets thought free from every
local restriction, special Revelation in like manner, released
from all local and national restrictions, seeks the human
race in the whole world as one organic whole. God has
loved not individuals nor nations, but the ivorld. Only
by writing, therefore, can special Revelation attain its end ;
and in proportion as the development of human conscious-
ness has made higher demands, printing and afterward more
rapid communication have augmented this dispersing power
of writing. Writing, therefore, is the means of perpetuating
thought and at the same time of dispersing it, i.e. of making
it universal in the highest sense, and of bringing it within the
reach of all. Writing lends wings to thought. It neutralizes
distance of time and place, and thereby puts upon thought
the stamp of the eternity and of omnipresence. So far as
human thought can formally approach the divine, it owes to
writing alone this higher nobility. For this reason, there-


fore, when divine thoughts take pleasure in the garment of
human words, the Scripture is the only form in which they
can rest.

But this does not exhibit in full the excellency of the
Scripture as such, and therefore we mentioned the two other
characteristics of fixedness and purity, which protect the
word of thought against the dangers that threaten from the
results of sin. With respect to tradition we have to con-
tend not merely with the limitation of the human memory,
by which so much becomes lost, broken, and impaired, but
almost more still with its multiformity/ and untrusttvorthiness ;
and it is against these two dangers that the spoken word is
shielded in the fixedness and accuracy of the written or
printed word.

Every religious sense from its very nature is in need of
fixedness. As long as the divine reflects itself only in the
changing stream of the human, it fails to take hold of us,
simply because this trait of changeableness and movability is
in conflict with the idea of the divinely majestic. The quod
uhique, quod semper may have been pushed too far by Rome,
on the ground of hierarchical bj-views, but in the realm of
religion antiquity is of so much more value than the 7ieiv and
constantly changing idea, simply because the old makes the
impression of fixedness and of being grounded in itself. So
far now as the sinful mind of man chafes against the divine
revelation, he will always be bound to break this fixedness.
Hence the injurious multiformity in tradition. A little lib-
erty, which each successive transmitter allows himself, brings
it to pass that in the course of two or three centuries tradi-
tion is wrenched entirely away from the grooves of its fixed-
ness. This may occur unconsciously or without ill intent,
but in every case it breaks the working power of the trans-
mitted revelation. This is seen in the unwritten tradition,
which from paradise spread among all nations, becoming
almost irrecognizable ; this is seen in the traditions committed
to writing at a later date in the apocryphal gospels ; this is
seen in the different authority of tradition in the Eastern and
Western churches. It is this same infatuation against the


fixedness of the truth, which now appears again in the oppo-
sition against every confessional tie, and no less in the loud
protest against the written character of revelation, and this
in a time which otherwise emphasizes so strongly the written
for the entire Cultur. On the other hand, it is seen in the
holy books, which every more highly developed form of
religion has created for itself, in India, China, among the
Persians and Islam, etc., how the pious sense which, from
the ever changing, seeks after a basis of fixedness, applies
writing, as soon as found, as a means of resistance against
the destructive power of what is individual and multiform
in tradition. What Paul wrote to the church at Phil. iii. 16,
" whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let
us walk," is unchangeably the fundamental trait of all re-
ligion, which does not end in individual wisdom or fanati-
cism, but organically works in upon our human life as such.
And since writing only, and in a more telling sense, the
press, is able to guarantee to the Divine thoughts which are
revealed to us that fixed form, it is not by chance, but of
necessity, that special Revelation did not come to us by way
of oral tradition, but in the form of the Scripture.

This brings with it the purity, which likewise can be guar-
anteed by writing only, among sinful men, and this only in a
limited sense. Since Divine revelation directs itself asrainst
the mind and inclination of the sinner, sinful tendency could
not be wanting, to represent that revelation differently from
what it was given. Not merely did forgetfulness and indi-
vidualism threaten the purity of tradition, but the direct
effort also wilfully to modify what was revealed according to
one's own idea and need ; which psychologically is done the
sooner, if one knows the revelation only from tradition, and
thus thinks himself entitled to mistrust its certainty. One
begins by asking whether the revelation might not have been
different, and ends in the belief that it was different. If
printing in its present completeness had been in existence
from the times of the beginning of revelation, it would have
been the surest safeguard against such falsification. If what
was spoken at the time had been taken down by stenography


and lieeu circulated at once in thousands of copies by the
press, we woukl have been so much more certain than now
of the authenticity of what is handed down. Since, however,
printing, as a strengthened form of writing, did not exist
at that time, handwriting alone could guard against falsifica-
tion. And though we must grant that this safeguard is far
from being absolute, yet it is certain that the written tradition
has a preference above the oral, which defies all comparison,
and thus, in order to come down to us in the least possibly
falsified form, the Divine revelation had to be written.

To him who thinks that the Revelation came from God,
but that the writing was invented by man, the relation
between that Revelation and its written form is of course
purely accidental. He, on the other hand, who understands
and confesses that writing indeed is a human invention, but
one which God has thought out for us and in His own time
has caused us to find, will arrive at the same conclusion with
ourselves, that also in His high counsel the Divine revelation
is adapted to writing, and writing to the revelation. We
do not hesitate to assert that human writing has reached
its highest destiny in the Scripture, even as the art of print-
ing can attain no higher end than to spread the Word of
God among all peoples and nations, and among those nations
to put it within the reach of every individual. To this still
another and no less important spiritual benefit attaches it-
self, in so far as printing (and writing in part) liberates men
from men and binds them to God. So long as the revela-
tion is handed down by oral tradition only, the great mul-
titude was and ever remained dependent upon a priestly order
or hierarcli}- to impart to them the knowledge of this revela-
tion. Hence there ever stood a man between us and God.
For which reason it is entirely natural that the Roman hier-
archy opposes rather than favors the spread of the printed
Bible. And it behooves us, in the very opposite sense, to
confess, that the Divine revelation, in order to reach immedi-
ately those who were called to life, had to assume the form
of writing, and that only by printed writing could it enter
upon its fullest mission of power.

CnAi'. II] § 75. INSPIRATION 413

§ 75. Inspiration. Its Relation to the Principium JEssendi
If we liave not failed entirely in our endeavor to appre-
hend the .special principium in its full significance, and if
thereby we intend to maintain the confession of the theology
of the sixteenth century, that the only principium of theol-
ogy is the Holy Scripture, the question now arises, — by what
action the Holy Scripture came forth from this principium
in such a way that at length the principium and the product
of this principium (i.e. the Holy Scripture) could be inter-
changed. Theologically taken, this action lies in inspiration,
and therefore in this section we proceed to the study of this
majestic act of God, to which we owe the Holy Scripture.
It is not enough for Encyclopedia to declare apodictically
that the Holy Bible is the principium of theology. Such a
declaration is sufficient, when one writes an Encyclopedia of
a science whose principium is self-evident. A medical Ency-
clopedia does not need to give an account in the first place
of the fact that pathological conditions appear in the human
body, nor of the fact that in nature there are reagents against
these conditions. But for theological Encyclopedia the mat-
ter stands differently. It has to investigate a matter as its
object, whose principium is not given normally in the crea-
tion, but has abnormally entered into what was created.
Tlie right understanding, therefore, of this science demands
an explanation of this principium, its action and its product,
in their mutual connection. This principium is the energy
in God by which, notwithstanding the ruin worked in the
cosmos by sin. He carries out His will with reference to that
cosmos ; and more properly as a principium of knowledge it
is that energy in God, by which He introduces His theodicy
into the human consciousness of the sinner. The product of
this principium, which is placed objectively before the human
consciousness, is the Holy Scripture. And finally the action
by which this product comes forth from this Divine energy
is inspiration. Hence this inspiration also must be explained.
It should, however, not be lost from view, that this inspi-
ration is no isolated fact, which stands by itself. He who


takes it in this sense arrives at some sort of Koran, but not
at the Holy Scripture. In that case the principium of
knowing (cognoscendi) is taken entirely apart from the
principium of being (essendi), and causes the appearance
of an exclusively intellectual product which is outside of
reality. We then would have an inspiration which dic-
tated intellectually, and could not communicate to us any-
thing but a doctrine and a law. Entirely different, on the
other hand, is the action of this Divine energy, which,
in spite of sin, carries out the plan of the Lord in and by
the cosmos. Since indeed sin is not merely intellectual
in its character, but has corrupted the whole nature of man
and brought the curse and disorder even upon nature out-
side of man, this Divine energy could not overcome the
opposition of sin, except it directed itself to the whole
reality of our human existence, including nature round
about us. Hence this Divine energy constitutes in part
(see § 67) the principium essendi, and from it comes miracle,
— not miracle taken as an isolated phenomenon, which ap-
pears without causal connection with the existing world ;
but miracle, as the overcoming, penetrating working of the
Divine energy, by which God breaks all opposition, and in
the face of disorder brings His cosmos to realize that end
which was determined upon in His counsel. It is from
the deeper basis of God's will, on which the whole cosmos
rests, that this mysterious power works in the cosmos; breaks
the bands of sin and disorder, which hold the cosmos in their
embrace ; and centrally from man so influences the entire
life of the cosmos, that at length it must realize the glory
intended for it by God, in order in that glory to render unto
God what was the end of the entire creation of the cos-
mos. Every interpretation of the miracle as a magical
incident without connection with the palingenesis of the
whole cosmos, which Jesus refers to in Matt. xix. 28, and
therefore without relation to the entire metamorphosis which
awaits the cosmos after the last judgment, does not enhance
the glory of God, but debases the Recreator of heaven and
earth to a juggler (70779). This entire recreative action of


the Divine energy is one continuous miracle, which shows
itself in the radical renewal of the life of man by regenera-
tion, in the radical renewal of the life of humanity by the
new Head which it receives in Christ, and which finally
shall bring to pass a similar radical renewal of life in nature.
And because these three do not run loosely side by side, but
are bound together organically, so that the mystery of regener-
ation, incarnation and of the final restitution forms one whole,
this wondrous energy of re-creation exhibits itself in a
broad liistory, in which what used to be interpreted as inci-
dental miracles, could not be wanting. Because our soul is
organically connected with our hody^ and this body unites us
organically to nature, a palingenesis, which should limit itself
to the psychic domain, without at the same time working an
effect upon the body and upon the cosmos, is simply unthink-
able. The fuller explanation of this belongs from the nature
of the case to dogmatics. Here it is sufficient that the atten-
tion is directed to the significance, which the recreative
Divine energy, also in so far as it appears as the principium of
being (essendi), has for the life of our consciousness, and there-
fore for the principium of knowing (cognoscendi). The tie
that binds thought to being and being to thought operates
also here. There is not a revelation by the dictation of a
doctrine and law, and by its side a revelation by what is
called miracle ; but the revelation in the world of reality and ,
the revelation in the world of thought are interwoven. The
thought explains the reality (as, for instance, prophecy the
Messiah), and again from the reality the thought receives its
content (for instance, in the gospels). The preparation of
the consciousness for the thought (illuminatio) proceeds
from the reality of the palingenesis, and again in faith (as the
act of the consciousness) the reality of the new life finds its
utterance. In a like sense inspiration doesj3^_tJj^_isplated_
by the side of the Divine energy in history, but is organically
united to it and forms a part of it. If in the meantime it is
demanded, that theology as science indicate its principium,
it has to deal from the nature of the case as such with the
principium of Jcnoiving only, and cannot reckon with the


reality, and tlierefore with the principium of being, except
so far as the facts and events have been transformed before-
hand iiito a thought, i.e. have become a narrative. It is in
the ghiss oi our human consciousness that reality reflects its
image ; by the human toord this image becomes fixed ; and it
is from this word that the image of the reality is called up in
the individual consciousness of him who hears or reads this
word. A reality., such as the recreative Divine energy has
woven through the past as a golden thread, was not intended
only for the few persons who were then alive, and whom it
affected by an immediate impression, but was of central and
/permanent significance to humanity. It could not be satis-
( fied with simply having happened; it only effected its purpose
\ when, transformed into an idea, it obtained permanence, and
\ even as the Divine loord, that accompanied it, and in the unity
\ which joined this ivord to the facts of history, it could be
\ extended from generation to generation. If now our himian
('consciousness had stood above these facts and these Divine
utterances, the common communication by human tradition
would have been enough. But since our human conscious-
ness stood beneath them, and, left to itself, was bound to mis-
understand them, and was thus incapable of interpreting the
; correct sense of them, it was necessary for the Divine energy
to provide not only these facts and utterances, but also the
image of this reality so as to insure re-creation likewise in the
I world of our consciousness. This provision was brought
I about by the Divine energy from the special principium in
\ inspiration in a twofold way : (1) by means of the word in
; the past transforming the Divine doiyig into thought, and thus
\ introducing it into the consciousness of those who were then
! alive ; and (2) by bringing to us this entire past, together with
L_these Divine utterances, as one rich idea, in the Holy Scripture.
I Thus inspiration is not added to this wondrous working
of the Divine energy, but flows, and is inseparable, from it.
It does not come from the principium of creation, but from
j that of re-creation./ Though, indeed, it finds an analogy in
' the communion of paradisiacal man with his Creator, and its
connecting-point in the capacity of paradisiacal man for that


communion, inspiration, in the narrower sense, may never be
confounded with this communion. Inspiration, as it here
appears, is not the working of the general " consciousness of
the divinity"' (Gottesbewusstsein). It does not rise from
the seed of reliyion. It may not be confounded with the
utterance of the mystically disposed mind. Neither may it
be placed on a line of equality with the way in which God
will reveal Himself to the blessed in the realm of glory.
Appearing as an abnormal factor in the work of re-creation,^^
it bears a specific character, belongs to the category of the 1/ ,
miraculous, and is consequently of a transient nature. As /#''/r^
soon as the object for which it appears has been attained, it
loses its reason for being, and ceases to exist. Though it '
must be granted that the illumination, and very much more,
was indispensable, in order that the fruit of inspiration might
ripen to the full ; yea, though from everything it appears that
the Holy Spirit ever continues to this day more fully to ex-
plain the rich content of the fruit of inspiration in the con-
fession of believers and in the development of theology ; yet
in principle all these operations of the Spirit are to be dis-
tinguished from inspiration in its proper sense. In the coun-
sel of God before the creation of the world, there was a
provision for the carrying out of His plan concerning the
cosmos, in spite of the outbreak of sin. In that counsel of
God, all things were predestined in organic relation, which
to this end were to be done by the Divine energy, and this,
indeed, severally : on the one hand, what was to be done
centrally in and for our entire race, and, on the other hand,
what was to be done in order that this central means might
realize its purpose with the individual elect. Inspiration ^
directs itself to this central means ; the individual is left to
illumination. This central means is to be taken in this
threefold way : lijrst, as an idea in Divine completeness^ lyi"§^
predestined in the counsel of God ; secondly, as from that
counsel it entered into the reality of this cosmos and was
ever more fully executed ; and thirdly, as it was offered to
the human consciousness, as tradition under the Divine
guarantee, and by inspiration as the human idea.


Hence the tliouglit, that it comes-t£Lau end, is not foreign,
but lies in the nature of inspiration. This is not arbitrary, but
flows from the fact that our human race forms an organism,
and that, therefore, here, as with all organisms, distinction
must be made between that which centrally directs itself to all
and that which individually limits itself to single persons.
And if this distinction is noted, then it follows from this
Avith equal force, that that which centrally goes out to all
must appear in that objective form in which it could continue
from age to age and spread from nation to nation. That
which is individual in its character may remain subjective-
mystic in its form, but not that which is intended to be
centrally of force for all times and nations. In order to
exist objectively for all, this revelation of necessity had to
be completed. As long as it was not finished, it missed its
objective character, since it still remained attached to the
persons and the life-sphere in which it had its rise. Only
when it is completed, does it become independent of those
persons and of that special life-circle, and obtain its absolute
character. An ever-continuous inspiration is therefore only
conceivable, when one mistakenly understands by it mystical
inworking upon the individual, and thus takes the work of
re-creation atomistically. Then, however, inspiration fails of
all specific character and loses itself in the general " est Deus
in nobis, agitante calescimus illo (Lo, God is in our soul,
we kindle when He stirs us); " while re-creation is then
imagined as coming from phantasy, and is no longer suitable
for humanity, which only exists organically. In all organic
development there are two periods, — the first, which brings
the organism to its measure or limit, and the second, which
allows it, once come to its measure, to do its functional work.
The plant, animal and man first grow, till the state of matu-
rity has been reached, and then that growth ceases. An or-
ganic action which restlessly continues in the same way, is a
contradiction in terms. Considered, therefore, from this
point of view, it lies entirely in the organic character of
revelation, that it passes through two periods, the first of
which brings it to its complete measure, and the second


of which allows it, having reached its measure, to perform |
its work. And this is what w^e face in the difference between A ^■
inspiration and illumination. Inspiration completed the reve- tt-^
lation, and, appearing in this completed form, the Revelation/
now performs its work.

This first period (that in which Revelation attained its
measure by inspiration, and which lasted so many centuries)
does not flow by itself from the principium of knowledge.
If you think that revelation consisted merely in a communi-
cation by inspiration of doctrine and law, nothing would
have prevented its being finished in a short time. Siiice, on
the other hand, revelation did not merely make its appear-
ance intellectually, but in life itself, and therefore dramati-
cally, the inspiration, which only at the end of this drama
could complete its action, was eo ipso linked to that process
of time which was necessary for this drama. This would
not have been so if the special principium had merely been a
principium of knowing, but must be so since simultaneously
it took in life. The long duration of the first period of
Revelation has nothing, therefore, to surprise us ; but this
long duration should never tempt us to allow that first period
to pass unmarked into the second. However many the ages
were that passed by before the incarnation, that incarnation
came at one moment of time. The new drama which began
with this incarnation is relatively of short duration ; and
when this drama with its apostolic postlude is ended, the .
Revelation acquires at once its a?cumenic working, and thereby'
shows, that its first period of its becoming, is now completed. \
Thus inspiration obtains a sphere of its own, in which it
appears ; a definite course which it has to run ; a boundary of 1
its own, which it cannot stride across. As the fruit of its
completion, a new condition enters in, which shows itself in
the oecumenic appearance of the Church, and this condition
not only does not demand the continuance of inspiration, but
excludes it. Not, of course, as if a sudden transition took
place which may be indicated to the very day and hour.
Such transitions are not known in spiritual things. But if
the exact moment escapes our observation in which a child

420 § 76. INSPIRATION IN [Dtv. Ill

ceases its growth and begins its life as an adult, there is,
nevertheless, a moment, known to God, in which that growth
performed its last act. In like manner, we may assert that

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 39 of 64)