Abraham Kuyper.

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to the periphery. A great orator approaches his hearers in
the periphery of their consciousness, and thence penetrates
to the roots of their sense of self ; while, on the other hand,
the biologist or hypnotizer finds a means in the nervous
system by which to penetrate at once to the centrum of the
human spirit, and is able from thence to reach the periph-
ery in such a way that the mesmerized subjects think and
speak as he wills. Such a central inworking upon the
human spirit goes out from the Spirit of God, and by in-
version from Satan. Our spirit in our innermost being is
not independent, but dependent, and, even without inspira-
tion (taken in its narrower sense of means of revelation as
Theopneustic), workings and inspirations from the spiritual
world go out to the centrum of the life of our soul, which


affect US for good or for evil. The poetical impulse, the
inner promptings in every department of art, heroism, en-
thusiasm, animation in speech and writing, the stimulus of
genius, premonition, and in connection with this the entire
chapter of divination and all that it entails, show incontest-
ably that our consciousness is not a boat propelled solely by
the oar-stroke of our own exertions, but that it may likewise
carry a sail which may be filled by winds over which we
have no control.

Passing by Satanic inspiration, which will be discussed
later in connection with the energumens, this general inspi-
ration finds its ground first of all in the omnipresent imma-
nence of G-od. (" In him we live and move and have our
being.") There is not merely an " of him " and a " through
him," but also an " in him." He is the fountain of all good,
not in the sense that now and then we fill our life-jar with
waters from that fountain, and afterward live of ourselves,
but in the sense that, like plants, we flourish by the side
of that fountain, because the root of our life is constantly
refreshed by waters from that fountain. This relation of
God is defined, in the second place, more closely by our
creation after the image of God. If one may say so, there
is a general inspiration of God in all nature. It is lasting
and limited in animal instinct, and in a measure even in
wine and in the stimulating agents of several medicines.
When a dog jumps in the water to save a child, there is an
inspiration of God in that animal ; and when thunder dis-
tresses us, and fresh mountain air makes breathing an ex-
hilaration, there is inspiration of a higher power. But with,
man, this inspiration assumes a special form by virtue of the
affinity between God's Spirit and ours. God is Spirit. This
is, according to Christ, to optco^ 6v of His being, and conse-
quently with us also the deepest point of our human life lies in
our pneumatical existence. In so far as our nature is created
after the image of God in original righteousness, this excel-
lency could be lost and our nature become depraved; but not
our creation after God's image so far as it pertains to its essence
(quod ad substantiam). Our human nature is unassailable.


The capability of having consciousness, which is the dis-
tinguishing mark of the pneumatical, has not been lost, and
in this lies man's openness to inspiration (^Inspirationsfaliig-
keit^. Hence, inspiration can work in the unconverted as
well, as was the case with Balaam and Caiaphas, and though
it generally occurs in connection with conversion, it is by no
means dependent upon this. The creation of man as a pneu-
matic being opens the possibility of communion between his
spirit and the Spirit of God, by which the thoughts of God
can be carried into his thoughts. To which is to be added, in
the third place, that man is created, not as one who is always
the same, but as a self -developing being, and that it is his
end (reXo'i) that God shall be in him and he in God, so that
God shall be his temple (Rev. xxi. 22), and he a temple
of God (Eph. ii. 21). This, likewise, offers the means by
which the influence of the Spirit of God upon his spirit
can be supremely dominant.

Care, however, should be taken against a confusion of
terms, lest by an exchange with its metonymy inspiration
itself escape from our grasp. Inspiration is not the same
as communion. This, indeed, places the ego of man over
against the ego of God, and makes them wed or enter into
covenant, but ever in such a way that the ego of man accepts
the communion, enters upon it, and lives in accordance with
it, — a unity, but one which rests upon a duality. Neither
may we confuse the ideas of inspiration and mystical union.
This, indeed, rests upon the necessary and natural union
between the head and members of one organism and the
body of Christ, and is not grounded in the consciousness,
but in the essentia. The mystical union makes us one plant
with Christ. Neither, again, may inspiration be confused
with regeneration and with its consequent enlightening. To
illustrate : inspiration is the use of the telephone, in order to
communicate a thought, while regeneration is the act which
repairs the telephone when out of order. With such
a man as Isaiah, regeneration was the means to save him
unto life eternal, and inspiration to make him of service to
the Church of God. Every effort, therefore, to interpret


inspiration from an ethical basis, and to understand it as a
natural fruit of sanctification, must be resisted. The possi-
bility of inspiration does not depend upon the normal or
abnormal condition of the nature of man, but lies in his
nature as a pneumatic being, "which as such is open to the
central inworking of the Spirit of God.

Hence, with ins piration we deal with three factors;*
(1) with the spirit that inspires (spiritus inspirans), (2) with
the spirit of man that is inspired (spiritus hominis cui inspi-
ratur), and (3) with the content of what is inspired.

In God who inspires, inspiration assumes thought and will.
He who pantheistically denies consciousness in God or
merely darkens it, abandons every idea of inspiration. P'or
this very reason God is ever revealed unto us in the Holy
Scripture as the lights and this light in God is pictured as
the brightness from which the light of self-consciousness
is ignited in our spirit. "In thy light shall we see light."
Nothing, therefore, can be present in our consciousness but
God knows it. "• For there is not a word in my tongue, but,
lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether." That this does not
refer to our words luerely, appears sufficiently clearl}- from
the statement, that " the righteous God trieth the heart and
reins " (Ps. vii. 9) ; for by that word " reins " the deej)est root
is indicated in the subsoil of our conscious soul-life. The most
complete transparency of pure, clear consciousness is like-
wise a characteristic of the being of God, by which His the-
istic existence stands or falls. The ethical representation
must, therefore, be dismissed, that inspiration gives rise
to certain perceptions in us, which only afterwards produce
thoughts in our human consciousness. At heart, this is
nothing but the pantheistic representation of a deep (/Sy^d?)
out of which the thought separates itself in us only. If
it is asked whether consciousness in God is anthropomorphic,
and whether our Avorld of thought is not limited by and bound
to the finite, we readily reply : that the question contains some
truth. The apostle himself acknowledges that our knowledge
is a knowledge "in part," and that all our gnosis will sometime
pass away, in order to make room for a higher "seeing."


He, however, who infers from this, that for this reason tliere
is no consciousness in God, contradicts the apostle's assertion
that even to us a still higher form of consciousness is com-
ing. If consciousness could assume one form only, even the
finite form of our consciousness by day, the conclusion would
certainly be correct. But this is not true, since conscious-
ness has many forms, one by day and one by night, one
without and one in ecstasy, one now and one in the realm
of glory, which proves it to be entirely natural that con-
sciousness in God has its own Divine form. Neither does
this end the question. That Divine consciousness has affin-
ity to our human consciousness. " We shall know, even as
we are known.''^ If it is self-evident, that our future con-
sciousness must stand in the genetic connection of identity
with our present consciousness, this of itself provides the
bridge which connects the divine consciousness with ours.
Even among men, the consciousness of a child differs from
the consciousness of a man, and yet the greater can enter
the consciousness of the child. Consciousness differs with
each and all, but true love is able to place itself in another's
place ; yea, in another's consciousness. With reference to
its formal side, susceptibility for learning foreign languages
sufficiently shows that consciousness is possessed of very
great pliability, and is by no means frozen solidly in its
form. If these are features in us of the image of God,
we may safely conclude, that in the consciousness of God
(1) there is affinity to our consciousness ; and (2) the
possibility is found of entering into the form of the con-
sciousness of another. This becomes a certainty, when
you remember, that God Himself has fixed the form of our
consciousness, and has first thought it in this way before
He created it. Our form of consciousness, therefore, is not
a strange something to God, for He knew it before He
enriched us with it. And though we grant unconditionally
that the thoughts of God may not be assumed as clothed in
our forms, we maintain that God is able to cast them into
our consciousness-form, and hence is also able to think them
in our form.


Next to this clear consciousness of thouglit, inspiration
assumes in God who inspires the will to inspire tliis or that
thouo-ht. This element of the will was neglected in former
times, but in the face of the pantheistic representation of in-
voluntary communication it now deserves a special emphasis.
A twofold inspiration goes out from us : one is voluntary,
the other involuntary. Voluntary when purposely we try
to exert a certain influence; involuntary when our act or
person exerts an influence ijidependently of our will. This
is so, because our self-consciousness is exceedingly limited,
so that we observe a very small part only of the working
that goes out from us. With God, however, this is not so.
He is not like the star that sparkles without knowing it, but
is transparent to Himself to the deepest depths of His Being
and the utmost circumference of His action. Here, there-
fore, is no door that stands open for every passer-by to look
in at will, but a door which on each occasion is opened.
Inspiration of itself, therefore, presupposes in God the will
and the purpose, from His Divine consciousness, to intro-
duce into the consciousness of man this or that thought,
transposed and interpreted into our form of thought, and
thus to reveal it among men.

The second factor that claims our attention is the spirit
that is inspired ; viz. the spirit of man. The nature of this
human consciousness may differ materially, and this differ-
ence may arise from its disposition as well as from its con-
tent. With reference to the disposition there can be affinity,
neutrality, or opposition. In the case of the venerable
Simeon in the Temple, there was a strong affinity of mind
and inclination to the inspiration that was given him. The
disposition of Jeremiah in Chapter xx. of his oracles bears
witness to a strong opposition against inspiration ; while
in Chokmatic poetry the disposition of the singer does
not appear, and thus remains neutral. Of course, with
affinity and sympathy the subjective expression is far more
strongly apparent; with an antipathetic disposition more


violence must be done to the man of God ; and with a neu-
tral disposition neither the subject nor the feelings of the sub-
ject come to light. With a sympathetic disposition and a
neutral mind both, it is possible that the revelation-organ
itself should not observe that inspiration takes place, as is seen
in many a Psalm and in the prophecy of Caiaphas, John xi.
50 and 52. The strongest possible expression for inspiration
is the "Now this he said not of himself." Connected with
this appears also the difference between aphoristic, more con-
tinuous, and altogether continuous inspiration. We catch
inspired words from the lips of Zechariah and Simeon, with
whom it is restricted to one single inspiration ; we read of
prophets and apostles, with whom repeated inspiration fre-
quently bore an official character ; and in Christ, of whom
it is written that the Spirit not merely descended upon Him,
but also remained upon Him, we see an inspiration in His
human consciousness, which ever continues, — " As I hear, I
judge " (John v. 30).

But the content at hand in their consciousness must like-
wise be taken into account. By consciousness in this con-
nection we do not merely understand the action of tlmiking,
but also, sensation, perception, and observation in the general
sense. With a man of genius from the upper strata of society,
like an Isaiah, the content of this consciousness was, of course,
much richer than with Amos, who had lived in the country
among herdsmen; and, on the contrary, poorer with James,
who originally was a fisherman, than with Paul, who had
attended the schools of learning. If, in such a conscious-
ness, the conceptions and representations are already present
which are necessary for the oracle as its component elements,
the oracle needs merely to effect the new combination. If,
on the other hand, they are wanting, the material of imagery
for the symbolical manifestation must be borrowed from the
content of the imagination. Though, thus, the so-called avv-
Trjpri(n<i (i.e. our memory, our store of things) is in the first
place the all-important factor, the imagination is needful as
well, and not merely for the images in its portfolio, if we may
so express ourselves, as for what, perhaps, the imagination is


capable of doing with those images. Even outside of inspira-
tion, with writers of note, you will see that series of images in
the foreground which are in harmony with their inner nature ;
and in proportion as the writer lives either by apprehension
or by conception, the images will lie loosely among his words
or they will dominate his style. The many-sided content of
the consciousness must not be estimated by what lies read}-
for use at a given moment, but also by its almost forgotten
treasures. All that has ever gone through our memory has
left its impression behind, and we often discover that there
has been stored in our consciousness the memory of con-
ditions, persons, names and conceptions, which, except
for some impulse from without, would never have recurred
again to our mind. And finally, to this content of our con-
sciousness must be added all that which, outside of us, has
been chronicled and committed to writing or image, and
thus lies in reach to enrich our consciousness. The sig-
nificance of this ready material in the consciousness, or of
whatever else our consciousness has at its disposal, be-
comes plain at once, if we but recognize the organ of reve-
lation to be a messenger who has something to communi-
cate, on the part of God and in His name, to His Church.
If, for instance, a superior officer in the army has to employ
a captured farm-hand to send tidings to an inferior officer who
has command in some distant town, the entire communication
must be committed to writing, or, if the man is clever, be ex-
plained to him clearly and in detail. If, on the other hand,
the officer sends an adjutant who saw the battle from begin-
ning to end, and knows the position of the entire army, a hasty
word in passing whispered in his ear is sufficient, and quick
as lightning the adjutant rides to obey the given order.

It must not be imagined, however, that in the case of inspi-
ration God the Lord is limited by this affinity of disposition, or
by this content of the consciousness. Most of the apocalyptical
visions rather prove the contrary. We have simply intended
to indicate that, as a rule, that affinity and that content of the
consciousness are employed by God as elements in inspiration.
This is true even theologically ; not as if God, for the sake of


the success of Revelation, selected the most suitable persons
from among those who were accessible, but rather that He
Himself caused these men to be born for this purpose, predes-
tined them for it, and caused them to spend their youth amid
such circumstances and surroundings, that in His own time
they stood in readiness as suitable instruments. As Jeremiah
declares that to him it was said: "Before I formed thee in
the belly I knew thee : and before thou camest forth out of the
womb I sanctified thee. I have appointed thee a prophet unto
the nations " (Jer. i. 5). This constitutes the fundamental
thought which dominates the appearance of the revelation-
organs from first to last. The words, "I know thee by
name," in Ex. xxxiii. 12, indicate the same thing. And
what is said of the ideal prophet in Isa. xlix. 1, 2, 5, by
virtue of the comprehensive character of predestination, applies
to all. This predestination cannot be limited to these men
personally, for it embraces the whole sphere of life from
which they sprang and in which they appeared. Such in-
spiration would simply have been inconceivable in England
or among any of our Western nations. Our consciousness
stands too greatly in need of sharp conceptions, visible out-
lines and rigid analysis. Since the world of thought that
discovers itself to us in inspiration lies at first concentrated
in its centrum, from whence it only gradually proceeds, there
could be no question here of sharply drawn lines as the result
of rigid analysis. The lines of the acanthus leaf cannot be
admired so long as this leaf still hides in the bud. Inspira-
tion, therefore, demanded a human consciousness that was
more concentrically constituted, and this you find in the
East, where dialectic analysis is scarcely known, while intui-
tion is so much more penetrative, for which reason it describes
its content rather in images than in conceptions. Moreover,
intuitive consciousness lends itself more easily to that pas-
siveness which, in a measure, is needful with all inspiration.
The Western mind reacts more strongly and quickly against
impressions received; the Oriental has that passive recep-
tivity by which he surrenders himself to perceptions and drifts
along with their current. He is more deeply inspired by nat-


uie, and therefore more susceptible to the Divine influence
(jrda')(eLv viro rov deov^ which is the characteristic of all
inspiration. While we are more ready to speak, the Oriental
is more inclined to listen; he does not know what conver-
sation is, in our sense of the word, and that very inclina-
tion to listen aids his predisposition to inspiration. To this
we may add, that among the nations of the East, Israel
possessed these peculiarities in that modified form which pre-
vented one-sidedness. It was Eastern, but formed the fron-
tier against the West. The intuitiveness of the Israelitish
consciousness, therefore, did not easily turn into an extrava-
gant fancifulness, neither was it lost in a deep revery. The
Jew possesses all needful qualities to secure a position of in-
fluence for himself in the Western world. Within himself he
carried two worlds, and this rendered Israel more capable
than any other people of receiving inspiration and of repro-
ducing it intelligibly to the Western world. Paul, the dia-
lectician, and Zachariah, the seer of visions, were both from
Israel. In connection with this, the Jew in the East had
that peculiarity, which still marks the French of to-day, of
being inflamed by an idea, which is no result of logical
thought, but springs from national life. The promise given
to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees becomes the pole-star to
Israel's life as a nation. That one animating thought ele-
vates Abraham above Lot, and presently Jacob above Esau,
maintains Israel's independence in Egypt, appears again and
again during the period of the Judges, finds at length its
embodiment in the idea of the King, finds its acme in the
expectation of the Messiah, and preserves Israel in Babylon
under Antiochus Epiphanes, under Herod, and in its periods
of deformation. From the nature of the case, such an idea
animating an entire people is a valuable preparation for in-
spiration. It accustoms the whole nation to live under a
higher inspiration. It has its disadvantages; life in an imagi-
nary world may tempt to sin, as it did Tamar, and feeds false-
hood especially, which is one of Israel's characteristic sins, but
this is the defect of its qualit//, and does not affect its excel-
lence in the least.


If such was the general soil prepared in Israel for inspira-
tion, there was added to this in the second place that particu-
lar factor, which intensified and specialized this predisposition
in individual persons. This took place in their creation, this
creation being taken in connection with their genealogical
origin, and going back, therefore, into the generations. But
with all the emphasis this genealogical connection deserves,
there is, nevertheless, the individual creation of the person,
the moulding of his disposition, the tuning of the harpstrings
of his heart, the endowment of him with charismata and
talents, and the quickening in him of what in lesser measure
was common to all his people. An election, if you please,
not to salvation, but to service, to the task of an holy voca-
tion, together with the fitting out of the elect one with every
requisite for that service. The bow is provided, and also the
arrows in the quiver. What lies hidden in the natural dis-
j)Osition is brought out by the leadings of Providence in
education and surroundings, — Moses at Pharaoh's court,
David as the shepherd lad, Peter and John the fishermen
on the waters of Gennesareth. The casting of the net, the
watching of the water's ripple, the quiet waiting of an almost
inexhaustible patience for higher power to send, fish into the
net, and the constant readiness with fresh courage and hope of
blessing to begin anew, constitute a choice preparation of the
spirit for that restful and soulful abiding for the work of
grace, in which it is known that God alone brings souls into
His nets. To these leadings of Providence is added, as a
rule, the leadings of grace, which God the Lord imparted to
His chosen organs of revelation. By this grace most of them
were personally regenerated, and thus themselves established
in the salvation, the inspiration of which fell to their share.
In an uncommon way this increased the affinity between
their own spirit and the Spirit of God, as well as between the
content of their consciousness and the content of their inspi-
ration. Not in the sense, as stated above, that inspiration
itself might be explained from this ethical affinity. He
who affirms this virtually places the inspiration of prophets
and apostles in line with the animation of poets and preachers.


A virtuoso on the organ will work charms, if need be, from
a poor instrument ; but only when the organ is worthy of him
will his talent be shown in all its power : but who will say
that for this reason his playing proceeds from the excellence
of the organ ? No, the excellence is his who plays, and the
organ merely serves as instrument. In the same way, the
ethical excellence of the organs of revelation must certainly
be taken into account, but it may not be said that this ethical
excellence gave birth to inspiration. God alone is He who
inspires, and even Isaiah or John are never anything but
choice instruments, animated and tuned by God, who plays
on them His inspiration. The difference of disposition in
these instruments, however, determines the difference of
intensity of inspiration. As " a virtuoso on the violin" can

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 48 of 64)