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Mr. R. J. Hayward (London, UK)

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Wisdom For Thinkers: An Introduction To Christian Philosophy
Wisdom For Thinkers: An Introduction To Christian Philosophy
by Willem Ouweneel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ouweneel says that when we start asking questions like "What is psychology, 7 Feb. 2015
This book has just arrived so I have not read it yet, but want to help those interested by giving an indication of the content. Ouweneel says that when we start asking questions like "What is psychology?" "How is psychology as a science different from psychology as a practice?" "How does our understanding of being human influence our understanding our study of psychology?" we are asking philosophical questions. Philosophy is for him a foundational science that endeavors to answer the most basic and vital questions about all knowing and being (6). He believes that philosophy will be based on a worldview and so wishes to introduce a christian approach to these questions. The book is made up of the following chapters:

Chapter 1 Introduction to this introduction, Chapter 2 Knowledge and wisdom, Chapter 3 A Christian view of cosmic reality, Chapter 4 Cosmic reality and God's law, Chapter 5 A Christian view of entities, Chapter 6 A Christian anthropology, Chapter 7 A philosophy of science, Chapter 8 Science and worldviews, Chapter 9 Philosophy and theology, Chapter 10 Truth

What Then Is Theology?
What Then Is Theology?
by Willem J. Ouweneel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A philosophical view of theology, 7 Feb. 2015
This review is from: What Then Is Theology? (Paperback)
In this book Ouweneel offers us, according to the subtitle, “an introduction to Christian theology”. However it is not an introduction in the usual sense of an overview of the main themes and content of theology. It is rather an introduction to the activity of theology, or as Ouweneel puts it in his foreword “It is more like a chemist taking you into his laboratory, and showing you what he is doing. That is, the purpose of this book is to analyze the phenomenon of theology itself” (xiii). This means that the book is not really an example of theology, it is a book about theology, and as such is more philosophical in character. This is an important point for Ouweneel who is also a philosopher as well as a theologian, and he makes numerous references to his earlier book Wisdom for Thinkers which introduces Christian philosophy.

For convenience we can divide the book into two sections. The first five chapters deal with how theology is related to matters that should be distinguished from theology itself. The last five chapters deal more with the internal workings of theology, in the language of the foreword, the theologian’s laboratory.

So Ouweneel begins by distinguishing the practical character of Christian life and belief from theology as a science, a theoretical enterprise (chapter one). He explains the role and influence of philosophy in relation to theology (chapter two), how the Bible is both not the only object of theology and is more than what theological study is about (chapter three), how theology relates to the other sciences (chapter four), and to the church and its confessions (chapter five). Helpful about this part of the book is the way he insists that Christian life is richer and more important than theological study valuable as it is. The difference between ordinary “Bible study” and theological study is very great, he argues, “It is a bit like the difference between the eater and the chemist in the case of bread” (5). He develops the quite radical position that theology is neither a higher more sacred science than other sciences (scholastic view), nor a dogmatic pseudo-science (modern rationalism). It is one science among the others, properly scientific and not to be controlled by the church, but as all sciences, developed out of a faith stance. All sciences are ‘secular’ in that they investigate empirical reality, and all sciences are ‘sacred’ in that they investigate God’s creation and must recognize or willfully ignore the creator. Further Ouweneel insists that without a Christian philosophy there can be no Christian theology.

The second half, as I have divided it, starts with a discussion of abstraction and the use of concepts and ideas in theology (chapter six), next he discusses criteria for the conceptualization that is part of the task of theology (chapter seven). The next two chapters deal with paradigms, first in science in general then in theology in particular, he ends with a discussion of (theoretical) truth against the background of the fullness of truth found in Jesus Christ.

Ouweneel has set himself a very difficult task. The issues he raises have not always received the attention they deserve and at the same time he is writing an introduction. As such some parts of the book are more successful than others. Since I am sympathetic to his project and much of what he is arguing for I will just mention briefly a few weak points. His focus is on systematic theology and it is a shame that he does not consider the important developments in biblical theology. His distinctions between rational, irrational, non-rational and supra-rational start to become rather confusing when set alongside other distinctions he makes (eg practical-theoretical, faith, worldview, ground-motive etc.). It is not always clear how these all distinctions line up. He can be commended for keeping the book short, however I wonder if some sections could have been cut back more to make room for a case study chapter where the relevance of the issues raised in earlier chapters can be applied to a live theological topic.

Purpose in the Living World?: Creation and Emergent Evolution
Purpose in the Living World?: Creation and Emergent Evolution
by Jacob Klapwijk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towards a more creative and open dialogue, 21 Nov. 2010
The discussion around creation and evolution is often polarized and intemperate. Characterised simplistically as a conflict between science and religion opponent positions are dismissed as creationism or evolutionism. Despite this many of the former reject a literal 6 day creation and the latter insist they do not stray from the conclusions of science. Is there a way out of such an impasse? Well lets be realistic, too much is invested in both sides to expect a sudden shift to a more moderate and creative dialogue. Still no one should feel bound by the current terms of the debate and thankfully Klapwijk gives us a fine example of what it can look like. Klapwijk does not take up a mythical posture of neutrality on the topic. He is up front about developing his ideas within the context of a "final hermeneutical horizon of our knowledge and understanding of reality" (197). Klapwijk takes his stance from the Genesis account as "a believing witness regarding God as the source of all being and the origin of all that lives" (9). He distinguishes this creation belief from creationism which goes further in taking the Genesis account as "also a scientifically reliable representation of the manner in which He brought the world and diverse forms of life into being at the beginning of time" (9).

Given his philosophical inclination for hermeneutics and siding with creation belief it seems surprising that very early on he states that evolutionary theory is based on "facts as hard as nails". Given later comments - on evolutionary science "not as rectilinear and objective a scientific approach as it would seem at first" (76), and "isolated facts do not exist" (163) - it is probably best to read this opening gambit as more a rhetorical positioning than a philosophical assertion. This is not meant in a critical sense. Klapwijk is making clear that in this book he is not interested in a philosophical critique or rejection of the results of science, but a philosophical reflection on those results (so perhaps we could say "critique" in the kantian sense of discerning the limits of scientific results). Another surprise is that his own upfront confession of a "hermeneutical horizon" does not lead to a damning of his opponents but almost the opposite: "I acknowledge without hesitation that the naturalistic continuity faith, which I don't share, also has heuristic value" (51-52). For Klapwijk it nevertheless leads to dogmatism when the faith of "naturalistic evolutionism" gets disguised as science and claims for itself a scientific monopoly that wipes all competing faith horizons from the table.

Klapwijk's main thesis is what he calls a "general theory of emergent evolution" (GTEE) which "draws our attention to significant differences in level that occur not only in nature but also in human beings and human society. It can be seen as an ontological vision of the differences in level that have, through evolution, delineated themselves in the world of our experience. In this sense "levelism" is a theory not only of emergent evolution but also of ontological stratification. It implies that the world has gradually disclosed itself in an all embracing hierarchy of lower and higher levels that reach from the physical and biotic domains up to the complex spheres of human society" (153-154). This is Klapwijk's own original articulation of philosophical themes pioneered by the Dutch philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoeven.

One possible misunderstanding of what Klapwijk's thesis is supposed to achieve is the criticism that it fails to offer a mechanism to explain emergence. But this is the scandalous heart of his proposal which argues that no overall explanation can be offered (162) because explanation always works within idionomic domains or ontological levels (135fn). So GTEE is "an open scheme of thought" that works at the approximating level of ideas rather than the precise objective level of conceptual determination (161-162). Klapwijk rejects the continuity faith of naturalism which believes that on the basis of a single science all the mysteries of life can be solved. Evolutionary naturalism is a one-dimensional scheme of thought which involves itself in all sorts of contradictions when it confronts the multidimensional world we experience. Each special science has its limits and is unable to provide explanations capable of crossing ontological levels or idionomic domains.

Creation, Revelation, and Philosophy
Creation, Revelation, and Philosophy
by Johan P. a. Mekkes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.33

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dynamics of Christian philosophy, 8 July 2010
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Johan Mekkes was a student of Herman Dooyeweerd and wrote four books which elaborate in his own distinctive way the reformational philosophy that Dooyeweerd pioneered. This is the first book Mekkes published and the first to be translated into English. In his brief introduction Bert Balk, who attended Mekkes's lectures between 1964-1970, writes that "He did not teach us a philosophical system, but delivered philosophy in actu. In particular, he imposed upon his students an awareness of all attempts to transgress, by reason or otherwise, the boundaries set by time and the human condition. Put otherwise, his was a critical attitude towards all human attempts to deliver, from some alleged God's-eye point-of-view, the answer to all questions."

In Mekkes own words scientific theory is just one sector of our life and so "can only arise from within this life, and its systematisation is a matter of recurrent activity by living people." Philosophy is one activity that people can pursue and in doing so they respond to the needs and possibilities of human life within their historical context. Philosophy has its life as part of the historical context that is the development of western culture and so an investigation of the limits of philosophy must confront the place given to reason in this tradition. Given that philosophy must be rational, what are the limits of this standard of rationality? Once again Mekkes insists that "rationality is no more than an abstraction from one of man's many living acts and actions, acquired by way of theory" and so philosophy cannot find its unity in what is called "reason". We are forced back into the very root of our existence and here we must make a choice to either listen or not listen to creational revelation. Mekkes' claim is that since "the avenue of creation is the avenue of the kingdom" so "Life is only revealed through the cross".

1. Introduction: The limits of philosophy; 2. Truth and ground-motive; 3. Revelation and listening; 4. Philosophy and theology; 5. Creation and pseudo-revelation; 6. The Word: revelation and the fall; 7. The dynamics and motive of philosophical reflection; 8. The "common grace" hypothesis, the Archimedean point, and the antithesis; 9. Perspective on the limits of temporal existence; 10. History and the dynamics of disclosure

A New Critique of Theoretical Thought: The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophy v. 1 (Collected Works of Herman Dooyeweerd)
A New Critique of Theoretical Thought: The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophy v. 1 (Collected Works of Herman Dooyeweerd)
by Herman Dooyeweerd
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is a Christian Philosophy possible?, 29 May 2003
Many would think the very idea of a christian philosophy is absurd. Would not philosophy lose it's very nature, it's treasured autonomy, and so become a mere plaything of theology, or worse still be taken hostage to a narrow apologetics? Dooyeweerd's rich analysis of the dynamic structures of our world guided by the christian confession of the radically non-self-sufficient character of creation (including philosophical thought), empties such suspicions of their foundation. Long before post-modernism challenged notions of pure reason Dooyeweerd showed the inter-dependence of the various modes of human experience including the rational, and argued that a truely open philosophy does not hid its commitments behind metaphysical claims to objectivity and neutrality. This is a truely original work of philosophy and worthy of serious attention (yes critical attention) from philosophers both within and without of the christian tradition.

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