Welcome to the South East England School of Christian Studies. This is an embryonic organisation inspired by the call by the great Dutch Christian leader Abraham Kuyper, and his vision of the Lordship of Christ over all of life.
Two introductory courses are in the planning stage:‘An Introduction to a Christian Worldview’ and‘Elements of a Christian Philosophy’. In due course, these can also be made available as distance learning modules.Depending on demand, it is also planned to provide workshops for those in specific areas of work to help Christians to reflect on a distinctive Christian approach to their discipline, profession or practice.
This project is at an experimental stage to gauge interest and to stimulate further development. To find out more, please visit Welcome.
The third presupposition is that there is a purposiveness to events which makes it possible to speak of them in the first place. Even for those who deny any actual purposiveness to events, there is still the need, just for intelligible for communication to be possible, to speak ‘as if ‘this or that event has purpose. For example, speaking of an earthquake of volcano, the horror of destruction needs to be placed in a context where attempts are made to save lives and property, and deaths are mourned as if the lives of those lost have significance — horror and mourning makes no sense at all in the face of the insignificant. Even to grasp the event of the treading on an ant, or indeed the microscopic collision of two sub-atomic particles, one need to invest the death of an ant, or the collision of the sub-atomic particles, with sufficient significance for it to be registered as an event.
More specifically, the purposiveness of events is the work of the Holy Spirit, from the event of creation through the work of the regeneration of human hearts, to the transformation of the universe.
Second, there is a basic order of the world in the way that the many different kinds of relation harmonise with one another. No one kind of relation can provide the basis for its own harmony with all the other kinds of relation.
More specifically, from a Christian perspective, this transcendent Coherence is provided by the eternal Son of the Father, through whom all things come into being and in whom they hold together.
First there is a transcendent ground upon which all things depend. This is true even when it is held that there is an infinite regress, or, as Christians affirm, there is a definitive Origin upon from which the whole of creation derives its being.
More specifically, it is the Father who is the Origin of creation, redemption and transformation through his decree. As all things are ordained by the Father, and are redeemed through his love for the world in general and for humanity in particular, so all as his creatures are called to render him his praise.
This vision of God’s creative, redemptive and transforming action in the world provides the basis for the way we should understand the world and our life and work in it. Religion in this regard is that which shapes and governs our worldview and gives rise accordingly to the Ideas (capital I) or presuppositions upon which any philosophy is grounded.
The transcendent vision (that is, the vision given us on the basis of biblical revelation) gives rise to three presuppositions which are necessary for any Christian philosophy, or indeed, provide the basis of any philosophy in general.
Any philosophy, Christian or otherwise, proceeds on the basis of presuppositions, which are rooted and grounded in a basis religious conception of the world. This conception of the world might lay stress on the Origin of all things, or it may lay stress on the way al things related to one another, or it may stress the process of all things.
The Bible speaks of the “heart”, the central concentration point of our deepest hopes and desires. In all things the heart is the centre of human orientation (whether or not they recognize themselves as ‘religious’). For a Christian, it is in the heart that each person encounters, and responds to God. God speaks to all human beings, but the human response can be distorted by over focussing on one or other element or aspects of experience.
In the story of the creation of humanity in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, the key point in the coming to be of humanity is the encounter with God — so that the human race can be described perhaps not just as homo sapiens but homo religiosus. The Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2 marks a boundary in terms of the human response to God, resulting in a signal act of disobedience. This in turn led to the whole story of judgement and redemption, in which humanity’s relation to God is seen through the experience of key figures, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, each with a covenant associated with his name – a progressive revelation of the judgement on humanity for its disobedience but, at the same time God’s gracious provision for human beings to be restored to a right relationship with himself. This process culminates in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God becoming fully human, and dying and rising to provide the sole basis for the redemption of human beings through the power of his Holy Spirit.
Human beings are inescapably religious, and this is true both of those considered conventionally to be religious (i.e. of the traditional relations, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism), but also those who are secular, not least the most aggressive secularists such as Richard Dawkins, who, in his attack on religions “fundamentalisms” creates a new fundamentalism of his own with its own creedal basis.
A. It is critical to distinguish between three covenants, each between the three Persons in the first instance — each with the appropriate human response.
- The first is the covenant of creation: the Father calls all things into existence, through the Son and the effective operation of the Holy Spirit. The proper human response to this is obedience to the creational and revealed laws and norms.
- The second is the covenant of redemption: the Son vicariously lays down his life as the sole basis for salvation in agreement with the Father, and the Holy Spirit ‘opens the gate of heaven to the elect’ (as Calvin puts it). This from a human point of view is justification by faith alone through grace.
- The third is the covenant of glory: the Holy Spirit transforms those who have been justified according to the will of the Father to ‘the fullness of the measure of Christ’ This culminates in the entire purging of the universe of all evil and the new heaven and earth. Applied to elect humanity, this is sanctification.
B. In each of these covenants, a different Person takes the leading role. In creation the Father takes the leading role, in redemption, the Son and in transformation, the Holy Spirit. However, not exclusively. In each of the great acts, the other two Persons are involved perichoretically, as we see above. In creation, the Son is the Word of the Father, made effective through the Holy Spirit. In redemption, the Son is appointed as Christ by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit. In transformation, the Holy Spirit is send by the Father according to the measure or shape of the Son.
C. The three covenants can also be seen in the threefold character of the Son’s office as Christ, the Second Adam. As Second Adam, he is first of all the example of what created humanity was created to be — this is his prophetic role calling fallen humanity back to God’s creatorly intention for humanity. ‘Second Adam’ also refers to his substitionary role, as the one who died in Adam’s place, that is on behalf of the elect — this is his priestly/sacrificial role, both High Priest and Lamb, ‘Second Adam’ finally refers to his eschatological role — the human being of the future, the first fruits of the dead and the prototype and king and of the transformed and restored creation. In broader terms, the Son is Word (through whom all things were created), Christ (in whom alone is redemption), and Lord (who alone has the authority from the Father and power from the Holy Spirit over all areas of the transformation of the created order).
D. Office is a function of the Person (the Son in relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit) not the nature. he Son’s role as Christ should not be assimilated to his humanity (in contrast to, say, his role as Logos which is then seen purely as a function of his divinity). Rather, the Son’s office as Christ is as both fully divine and fully human.
E. The three covenants should not be confused. For example, we are saved not through works (creational) nor through our sanctification (transformational), but solely through the death of Christ (redemptive). At the same time, these covenants build on one another — the basis for setting right the failure of humanity to respond rightly to the creation mandate, provided by the Son in his role as Logos, is the act of redemption to provide justification fo the elect, accomplished by the Son in his role as Christ, for which the final act of consummation, prepared for by the sanctification of the elect and the inaugurated restoration, indeed transformation, of the fallen creation as a whole, is the return of the Son in his office as Lord and Judge.
F. The different biblical covenants (Adamic, Noachic, Mosaic, Davidic – are all mixtures of all three covenants. It important to distinguish the creational, redemptive and transformational strands in all these). These biblical covenants should not be regarded as successive dispensations, but rather as the progressive revelation of God’s purposes.
The biblical understanding of mystery is that which is in the plan of God and which is unfolded in the course of time. It is the working out of the economy of God. It is not the positing of an unknowable realm. We cannot know God fully, and God is not in any place – but the world is created, directed and transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit . The work of the Spirit is not to underplay the created order, but to intensify it and bring it to it to resolution. The outcome of all things is in God’s hands – that is what the nature of the mystery is all about. We cannot manipulate God to be an object of our plans. God will always be one step ahead of us: the Father calling us, the Son going before as the pioneer and first fruits, and the Holy Spirit opening up new opportunities. As Abraham Kuyper states:
“The Father brings forth, the Son disposes and arranges, the Holy Spirit perfects.”
There is a close link between the redemption of the universe and the resurrection of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the pre-incarnate Son, the universe is made through the power of the Holy Spirit, so also though the resurrection of Jesus by the same Holy Spirit; the universe is restored and brought to its future potential through the adoption of the redeemed ones as the children of God. Romans 8 is a prime source for this:
RO 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as childreren, the redemption of our bodies.
The Resurrection above all represented an irreversible development in the history of the world: from that point it could not but proceed to the end. The End has been brought into history through the resurrection of Jesus, the culmination of his proclamation of the Kingdom and his death in fulfilment of the judgment brought upon fallen humanity. This is not to say that that it was not part of the unfolding economy of God from the beginning. But from the point of the Resurrection, what was previously promised was now made actual.
The vision of global peace, when the earth shall be full of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea [Isa 11:9 Hab 2:14] is a result of this manifold work of God in the world through the diversity of human relations. This vision is based on the nations coming to know God, and the end of all things as they are consummated in the return of Christ.
The new heavens and the new earth are the result of the transformation, not the destruction, of the present order (2 Peter 3:10 which refers to the heavens and earth being burned up, refers not to their destruction but to their being refined). What is anticipated in Scripture is a transformation of heaven and earth, of our own bodies – the whole of our being and the our known environment will be made anew (not a new universe but the present one changed not beyond all recognition, but transcending the pains and sorrows of the present giving them a previously only dimly longed for and only imperfectly at best foreseen, weight and significance. This is beautifully brought out by C.S. Lewis in his book The Great Divorce, where the water is so solid that it can be walked upon.
Through the Spirit new possibilities are opened up, not in a random way (although it may seem so at the time), but in a way that creates new possibilities for the future as the Holy Spirit moves all things forward to the Sabbath of all things; the goal of all creation.
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
 Vol I. Chapter 2 The Work of the Holy Spirit VI. The Host of Heaven and of Earth.
 See Rom. 1:4.
 N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (SPCK, 2003), p. 462. See also Al Wolters, “Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10”, Westminster Theological Journal, 49:405-13.
In that we know Jesus, we know the one through whom all things were created and for whom all things are designed.
The focus in John’s Gospel with regard to who Jesus is on his activity in the world at one with God and humanity: as creator, redeemer and lord. His identity, as presented in the Gospel is a dynamic one, not one that can be presented in static terms; but it is not a dynamic which begins with the Incarnation – it is one which overarches and sustains the entire drama of creation, redemption and glorification. Jesus, the one born among us is the one who was before all things, and the one in whom all history takes its meaning and end. This is not something new in John’s Gospel, but John draws upon the OT, and develops an account strongly complementary to the Synoptic tradition. Far from setting his account of the distinctiveness and pre-incarnate history of Christ over against the history and traditions of the Jews, John in his Gospel is asserting that in Jesus, and only in Jesus, all the central traditions of the OT find their fulfilment.
In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with the divine man in the Old Testament, and in Matthew, where Peter similarly encounters Jesus walking on the water. In both cases (if we take the latter encounter to presage Peter’s confession at Caesarea a Philipi), there is a change of name involved: something which can only properly come from an encounter with God by whom we are named.
Both Jacob/Israel’s and Simon/Peter’s encounters are temporally specific – that are about a critical event. The encounter has significance beyond that particular moment: Jacob and Simon cannot be the same again, again. But that does not involve their abstraction from history, since they are renamed for God’s purposes in history: Jacob as the patriarch of the patriarchs in the calling of Israel as the bearer of God’s promised in the Old Testament, and Peter, as the disciples, who become the apostles, the chief witnesses to the resurrected Jesus and the foundation, upon Christ, for the covenantal community which Jesus brings into being.
It is in the fully human Jesus that the personality of God is known, and the personality of Jesus is none other than the personality of God. The Son is the one in whom all things cohere (Col. 1:15; see also 1 Cor. 8:6b and John 1:1) It is on this basis that Christ is Lord of all creation. It has been put famously by Abraham Kuyper:
‘…there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”’
This is a powerful vision of Christ as the ascended Lord, who rules not only with the authority of the Father but also by virtue of his own status as the one in whom and through whom all things were created. For Kuyper, the general principle of Calvinism involves what he calls ‘the cosmological significance of Christ’. In speaking of Christ’s ‘cosmological significance’, Kuyper has Christ’s redemptive role in view here, as well as his prior creative one. Christ is redeemer of all creation because he is creator of all. For this reason, Christ’s work includes the restoration of the entire cosmos not simply the redemption of individual sinners.
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
- A Framework for Life: Elements of a Working Christian Philosophy
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