Why I Am A Dooyeweerdian

Disclaimer: One does not need a philosophy to be a Christian. I take philosophy to be an academic discipline. I certainly recognize that one can be a Christian and have nothing to do with theory or scholarship.

In this atypically long entry, there are several things I would like to address: a rough definition of Dooyeweerdianism, a bit of the story of how I became a Dooyeweerdian, and an indication how I subscribe to this school of philosophy.

When others ask me to explain what philosophy is, I often say something like: “well, different academic fields look at reality in different specific ways. For instance, biology is concerned about 'the organic' and 'how things are alive,' and it asks biological sorts of questions --about photosynthesis, for example. Sociology, on the other hand, is concerned about 'groups' and 'how people behave and relate,' and it asks questions about that. Aesthetics, however, is concerned about 'art' and 'how things are symbolic,' and it asks artistic sorts of questions. All the various disciplines ask their own specific types of questions. But philosophy is broader. It wants to looks at the big picture; the totality. Philosophy asks questions about asking questions, you might say.”

Philosophy is the "totality" science (theoretical discipline). It is about analyzing the whole structure of temporal creation. It often involves a great deal of categorical and conceptual clarification.

Dooyeweerdianism --as represented in Dooyeweerd's work "A New Critique," for example-- approaches philosophy in three major divisions:
1) transcendental criticism, in which the religious foundation, orientation, and pre-commitments of all theory and philosophy is explained;
2) modal theory, in which the "multi-aspectual" character of temporal reality, in its diversity and coherence, is explained; and
3) individuality-structure theory, in which the nature of "entities," in their various composition, is explained.
Amidst the prolegomenal and cosmological discussion in the New Critique, Dooyeweerd also suggests a philosophical anthropology and social philosophy.

Dooyeweerdianism is concerned to approach philosophy, its several sub-disciplines, and the full array of theoretical fields from a non-scholastic, non-synthesis, non-rationalist, radically biblical (calvinistic) and critical manner. Dooyeweerdianism is opposed to all reductionism and ideologies.

In early high school I was profoundly influenced by G.I. Williamson's study on the Westminster Confession of Faith. This was a great milestone in maturity for me in my understanding and appreciation of the Reformed Faith in which I was raised. I then read Calvin's Institutes and the works of F.A. Schaeffer. By the end of high school, I had read a bit of Cornelius Van Til. I knew then that I wanted to be a philosopher, and my mouth was watering for a comprehensive system that took seriously the idea that the Christian religion provides a unique basis of its own for genuine philosophy.

In college I was introduced to various Christian approaches to philosophy, but I found Kuyper and Dooyeweerd most compelling. I sensed that Wolters and Walsh&Middleton possessed what I was looking for. I was very curious about this much-maligned "Dooyeweerd" fellow.

In my second year I got a copy of L. Kalsbeek's book. The following summer, I read it over and over; making notes, struggling with questions. By the end of the summer I felt as though the ground had been pulled out from beneath me. That summer I experienced a conversion. That may sound suspicious or kooky, but I think the language is appropriate. Unbeknownst to me, I had been an embryonic rationalist. However, Dooyeweerdianism showed me how this was fundamentally incompatible with my religion. I felt reborn into a new theoretical consciousness. Someone once said, “No one has a philosophy. A philosophy has you.”

I continued to read and contemplate whatever Dooyeweerdian material I could find. (Perhaps I will list some works I found helpful in another entry). The most difficult part about progressing in my philosophical understanding was that I was horribly alone. Dooyeweerdians often speak of the crucial importance of laboring (theoretically or otherwise) in community. It took me quite a while to find a few kindred spirits.

Despite isolation and misunderstanding by others I continued to embrace and grow in this school of thought for at least two main reasons:
1) Dooyeweerdianism takes the revelation of God in Jesus Christ with utter seriousness, and seeks to submit its theories at every turn, with total abandon, to His commanding Lordship;
2) Dooyeweerdianism has tremendous explanatory power for the temporal creation in its overwhelming diversity and coherence.

In Dooyeweerdianism I have come to better understand my very self, and that, of course, is a dictum for the pursuit of wisdom. If you are interested in discovering more about this school of philosophy, I recommend to you the Dooyeweerd Pages. And keep an eye out for a future post on other helpful materials.

Also consider the comments of Gideon Strauss, Macht B., and David Koyzis on being Dooyeweerdian.