This summer I’ve been reading 19th century Dutch ethical theology (J.H. Gunning, Jr, and Chantipie de la Saussaye, Sr.). Yesterday Ch de S remarked how the principles of their theology appeared to have few to no takers and their influence would soon die out. I don’t have the time — and perhaps not the expertise — to  explicate all of what they were about. My point is different. Their perspectives didn’t die out, but found their way into the 20th century with people like O. Noordmans and A. A. van Ruler. These were enormously influential in Dutch 20th century theology. And more. Their influence is not waning but waxing even into the 21st century.

I find this of interest because we so often get discouraged in pushing a point of view. When CI got started a few years back Dan Meeter, I think, cited his favorite theologian, Donald Rumsfield, in saying this would be a “long slog.” Indeed, fashionable causes take the front burner. And we may think our reflections soon to be left behind. But ideas have a certain persistence to them.

More — our point is not to be right. It isn’t even for a “point of view.” It is to be faithful to what we think God is calling us to be about. Then, if it is so, it will persist. If not, then, properly, we will disappear, likely not even to show up in a footnote anywhere. But if I get my Reformed theology right, it’s not about us, but about the glory of God and the coming of God’s kingdom.

One thought on “Persistence

  1. Al,
    I am quite optimistic about the perseverance of God: after all, Jesus rose from the dead.

    As for the ‘ethicals,’ they can only be dismissed at our own peril. It helps to know that in classical thought, ethos, pathos and logos -all three- must never stand alone, but overlap (try a Venn diagram…).
    Each realm has its own domain, but also overlaps with the others. Where all three come together a realm is formed called ‘pistis’ in classical rhetorical teaching! And yes, it is the choice NT word for ‘faith.’ And note that, if our world is a circus, people of faith are not the audience but stand in its ‘piste.’
    The ethos of the ethicals was indeed seen by many contemporaries as wimpy and irrelevant: rational logos and visonary management of structures (both the line of the new first Dutch King, and also of Kuyper) and grand empire building won the day.
    But WW I would bring the realization that de lack of pathos was pathological. and the lack of ethics dehumanizing.
    A strong undercurrent of Reformed theological piety persisted in the realm of church and life, some by mere confessional perseveration, but much of it by perseverance.
    We need not here refresh only our memories of Dutch theologians, but can readily think of Bonhoeffer (Ethics), Moltmann (Pathos) and Pannenberg (Logos as a field-category of history). And the American scene has its own representative characters.
    CI invites us to pistis: faith and faithfulness, without trying to stand on only one leg whether pathos (missiology), logos (self and shelter concerned architectural aspects) and ethos (whether exclusive liberalism or its antipode, conservatism).
    Reformed theology professes a trinitarian God: its theology should echo the dynamic of that manifold. It is why we have a Song of Hope.

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