antithesis

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

antithesis WdW I, 32, 80, 83-84, 86-87, 492

NC I, 114, 524

NC II, 562

De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, in het licht eener Calvinistische kosmologie en kennistheorie (1931), 91.

antithetical I, 81, 133
choice of position I, 10, 14, 18, 23-25, 31-32, 34, 38-39, 43, 45, 50, 52, 57-58, 62 (take a position), 67-68, 70, 72, 87, 125,

NC I, 11, 20

The antithesis is the choice of position that we make in our heart’s transcendent religious dimension. The choice is of an Origin either in God or in temporal reality. If we choose an origin in temporal reality, we end up absolutizing aspects of temporal reality.

In the transcendent religious subjective a priori of the cosmic self-consciousness the whole of human cognition is directed either to the absolute Truth, or to the spirit of falsehood. In this cosmic self-consciousness we are aware of temporal cosmic reality being related to the structure of the human selfhood qua talis. (NC II, 562)

Abraham Kuyper’s neo-Calvinism emphasizes the religious antithesis. But Kuyper was profoundly influenced by Baader, and praises Baader for his stand against autonomous thought.

The neo-Calvinism of both Kuyper and Dooyeweerd has often been assumed to mean a polemical us-against-them division between those who have chosen their direction towards God and those whose thought is apostate. This can certainly be found in Kuyper, who says,

There are two kinds of people. a difference of principle, which does not find its origin within the circle of our human consciousness, but outside of it. Regeneration, being begotten anew, enlightening, changes man in his very being. Abraham Kuyper: Principles of Sacred Theology (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1980, p. 152).

Wolterstorff rejects the Idea of a religious science that says there are “two kinds of people, hence two kinds of science” as a form of “religious totalism.” See Nicholas Wolterstorff, “On Christian Learning,” in: Stained Glass: Worldviews and Social Science (University Press of America, 1989). Although I do not agree with postmodernist concerns of totalizing, I think that Wolterstorff does have a valid point here.

But Dooyeweerd himself emphasizes that his idea of religious antithesis “runs along a line of separation entirely different from what has hitherto been supposed” (NC 1, 114) It is not a line dividing “us” from “them”, but rather a line that the line of antithesis runs through the heart of each of us:

It is in this universal sense [the universality of the kingship of Christ and the central confession of God’s sovereignty over the whole cosmos as Creator] that we must understand Kuyper’s Idea of the religious antithesis in life and thought. Many peace-loving Christians have made this very point the victim of numerous misunderstandings. They do not recognise that this antithesis does not draw a line of personal classification but a line of division according to fundamental principles in the world, a line of division, which passes transversely through the existence of every individual personality. (NC I 523, 524; WdW I, 492)

Antithesis is certainly not intended as a division between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. Dooyeweerd became much more ecumenical in his outlook and abandoned the term ‘Calvinistic’ for his philosophy. Klapwijk also argues for a broader view of antithesis. J. Klapwijk: “Calvin and Neo-Calvinism on Non-Christian Philosophy,” The Idea of a Christian Philosophy, p. 57.

Because the line of division runs through the heart of each of us, the antithesis represents a challenge for us to turn in the direction of the true Origin. There must be a turning of the personality, a giving of love in the full sense of the word, a restoring of the subjective perspective of our experience (II, 563). This turning must include the recognition of the supratemporal selfhood as the religious root of temporal reality, which for Dooyeweerd is the “key of knowledge.” The Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption must be understood as occurring within this religious root, as restored in Christ, the New Root (Twilight of Western Thought, 124, 125, 145). And the Bible must also be interpreted in terms of this key of knowledge.

The antithesis between a Christian worldview and a non-Christian worldview is thus not between Calvinism and non-Calvinism, and not even between a Biblical and non-Biclical philosophy, unless the Bible is itself understood in terms of the religious root. The antithesis is between a worldview that affirms the supratemporal religous root and one that does not:

Want het Christendom had een waarheid geopenbaard, die de Christelijke levens- en wereldbeschouwing eens en voorgoed in een onoverbrugbare antithese tegenover alle wijsbegeerte van het immanentiestandpunt plaatste. Het was deze waarheid, dat de boventijdelijke scheppingseenheid onzer tijdelijke werkelijkheid niet in de nous, niet in de immanente rede- of bewustzijnsfuncties is gelegen, maar in den religieuzen wortel van het menschengeslacht in zijn scheppingsverhouding tot den souvereinen Schepperswil Gods en in zijn onderworpenheid aan den eeuwigen zin der goddelijke scheppingsorde: den dienst der verheerlijking Zijns Naams.(De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, in het licht eener Calvinistische kosmologie en kennistheorie (1931), 91).

[For Christendom had revealed a truth, which once and for all placed the Christian life- and worldview in an unbridgeable antithesis over against all philosophy based on an immanence standpoint. It was this truth, that the supratemporal creation unity of our temporal reality is found not in the nous, nor in the immanent functions of reason or consciousness, but in the religious root of the human race in its creational relation to the sovereign Creative Will of God and in its subjected-ness to the eternal meaning of the divine creation order: the service of glorifying His Name.]

Based on this criterion, to the extent that current reformational philosophy denies the supratemporal religious root, it is antithetical to Dooyeweerd’s idea of a Christian philosophy. In his terms, such philosophy is apostate (not standing within the religious root, but rather denying the enstatic relation of the religious root to temporal reality), and it is immanence philosophy, since it seeks the selfhood within time. See my article, “Dooyeweerd versus Strauss: Objections to immanence philosophy within reformational thought.” Of course, this does not mean that reformational philosophers who deny these ideas cannot be Christian. The point is that such philosophy, to the extent that it denies a supratemporal heart and religious root, is antithetical to Dooyeweerd’s ideas, and that from his viewpoint can only be immanence philosophy.

But no Christian should think that his/her philosophy is free from theoretical error:

And finally the motive of sin will guard Christian philosophy from the hubris (pride) which considered itself to be free of theoretical errors and faults, and which believes itself to have a monopoly on theoretical truth. (NC I, 176).

It is also interesting that Dooyeweerd indicates that the antithesis may already be reconciled in the supratemporal or religious dimension, although this reconciliation is still being worked out in time:

It may be that this antithesis has been reconciled by the redemption in Jesus Christ, but in temporal reality the unrelenting struggle between the kingdom of God and that of darkness will go on until the end of the world. (NC II, 33).

If the antithesis runs through each of our hearts, then each of us continues, at least to some extent, to deny the reality of our supratemporal selfhood as it participates in Christ, the new religious root. Our worldview is not consistent. We do not always consciously stand in this truth, and so our apostate attitude continues; and we then also fail to see God, selfhood, others, and temporal reality as they really are (NC III, 30).

The idea of antithesis is also found in Baader. He says that our freedom as creatures can be used in two antithetical ways–for or against God. When we use our freedom against God, we are denying our creation in the image of God (Elementarbegriffe, 544, 545). This antithesis affects our knowledge. We know differently if our hearts are with God rather than against God:

How a man is related to God determines how he is related to himself, to other men, to his own nature and [to] the rest of nature (Werke XV, 469).

Grassl summarizes Baader’s thought: ‘With God a man knows differently than against God.’ See H. Grassl (ed.) Franz von Baader: Über Liebe, Ehe und Kunst, 18; cited by Betanzos 47, 48.)

Baader says that we have the freedom to be for or against God (Elementarbegriffe, 544). And this has implications for the way that we regard our selfhood. We either affirm the Central Unity or we deny it (Zeit, 24). We can choose to find our center either in God or in our own self. If our center is in God, then we understand ourselves as ordered (gesetzt), as participating in a previously given Ground. Or we can choose to deny our true center and attempt to find our ground in our own self (Selbstsetzung) (Werke 14, 61f, Sauer 28). The foundation of our existence can be immanent, insofar as it is founded in oneself by oneself, or ‘emanant’–founded in another being (Werke II, 520).

Baader says that this choice of position in the religious antithesis, where we choose for or against God, is our only real choice. All our subsequent actions are driven by it. It is in this sense our “motive”:

Nur in dessen Wahl ist der Wille frei, aber nicht, nachdem er einmal in diese Stätte eingegangen ist, indem er sich dann nach der Natur lezterer bestimmen muss (Rat. theol., Werke 2, 501)

[Only in this choice is the will free, but not once one enters into this state, then it must be determined by the nature of it].

Baader’s two standpoints: Selbstsetzung [autonomy or giving one’s own law] or Gesetztsein [being placed within God’s law]. And Baader compares two kinds of knowledge based on this antithesis:

Jedes Verbot einer Erkenntnis A (wovon z.B. in der Genesis die Rede ist) nothwendig mit einem Gebote einer anderen Erkenntniss B zusammenfällt, so wie dass eine Intelligenz, welche einmal von ihrem Erkenntnissvermögen jenen Gebrauch machte, den sie nicht hätte machen sollen, hiemit aber zu einer Erkenntniss kam, die sie nicht haben sollte und die ihr zur Pein, zur Qual und Strafe ist, sich selber überlassen, die Freiheit verloren hat, sowohl dieser abnormen Erkenntniss wider los zu werden, als auch die ihr manglende normale zu gewinnen. Dies abnorme Erkenntniss A ist nun aber verfinsternd und beraubend die Erkenntniss B, und soll letztere wider in der Intelligenz aufgehen, diese wieder klar und licht werden, so muss erst das Feuer in ihr entzündet werden, welches jene erste Erkenntniss (als Finsterniss) aufhebend oder verbrennden der anderen den Eingang öffnet.) Das Verklärtwerden einer niedrigeren Sehsphäre durch eine höhere ist nemlich nicht das durchscheinen oder blosse Anscheinen, sondern das Ein-und ausscheinen letzterer durch und in jener, wodurch did niedere Sehsphäre nicht wie jene finsternde aufgehoben, sondern in die höhere erhoben wird.” (Werke 2, 506).

[Each forbidding of a kind of Knowledge “A” (e.g. the prohibition in Genesis) necessarily carries with it the commandment of a different Knowledge “B”, so that an intelligent being who makes use of his means of knowledge in a way that he should not, in this way comes to a knowledge that he should not have had and is therefore given over to pain, suffering and punishment. He has also lost the freedom to get rid of this abnormal knowledge as well as to win back the normal knowledge he is lacking. This abnormal knowledge “A” darkens and robs from him the knowledge “B” and if such a person wants to enter again into an intelligence that is clear and light, then there must first be a fire lit in him, which opens the way to the true knowledge by sublating or burning up this first darkened knowledge. When a lower sphere of our sight is explained by a higher one, that is not by a shining through or a mere shining on, but rather a shining within and without of the higher sphere, through which the lower sphere is not sublated as in the darkened knowledge, but rather elevated in the higher sphere].

Revised Sept. 11/07; Dec 23/16

Advertisements