1887

n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Calvyn in die intellektuele erfenis van die Weste s

Volume 49, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0041-4751

Abstract

Met die oog daarop om Calvyn se posisie in die intellektuele erfenis van die Weste te bepaal word allereers aandag geskenk aan die Grieks-Middeleeuse agtergrond - met klem op die idee van 'n kosmiese (ontiese) wêreldorde (). Besondere aandag word gegee aan die ontwikkeling van die vroeë Griekse wysbegeerte wat via Plato en Aristoteles uitgeloop het op the Stoïsynse filosofie, Cicero en die middeleeuse erfenis wat sy hoogtepunt sou bereik in die denke van Thomas Aquinas. Aandag is ook gegee aan die denke van Augustinus. Die disintegrasie van die Middeleeue is bemiddel deur die laat-Skolastiese nominalisme (veral Ockham) wat veral op Luther 'n regstreekse invloed sou uitoefen. Calvyn het hom egter gedistansieer van die nominalistiese idee van die van God - soos wat dit vergestalt is in die siening van God se despotiese, absolute willekeur (aangedui as die potestas ). Daarom het Calvyn klem geplaas daarop dat God bo die wette wat vir skepsele gestel is, verhewe is. Hoewel God bo die skeppingswette verhewe is, is Hy egter nie willekeurig nie (). 'n Vlugtige aanduiding is gegee van die relatiewe ongedifferensieerde samelewingsomstandighede waarin Calvyn homself bevind het - met verwysing na die leerstuk van verset (Beza en ander denkers). Nadat die deurwerking van die nominalisme verder toegelig is, met besondere verwysing na Kant se siening van die verstand as aprioriese formele wetgewer van die natuur en ook na die keersyeffek daarvan op die ontstaan van die historisme (19de eeu) en die postmodernisme (20ste eeu) is ten slotte gelet op die kontinuering van sommige on-Bybelse elemente in die denke van Calvyn, terwyl ook melding gemaak is van bepaalde positiewe insigte waarmee hy die Christelike lewensen wêreldbeskouing verryk het. In die besonder kan hier gedink word aan die eerste vertrekpunt van die leerstuk van soewereiniteit-in-eie-kring wat al eerder deur Van Prinsterer en Kuyper (19de eeu) onder woorde gebring is en wat in die 20ste eeu deur die reformatoriese wysbegeerte van Dooyeweerd verder uitgewerk is.


In order to assess some prominent facets of Calvin's position within the intellectual legacy of the West the Greek-Medieval background is first of all highlighted - with a focus on the idea of a cosmic (ontic) world order (logos or law). Particular attention is given to the line of development from early Greek philosophy, via Plato and Aristotle, up to Stoic philosophy, Cicero, the medieval legacy culminating in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. The fundamental dualism present in Greek thought - between form and matter (the constant and the changing) - exerted a lasting influence on medieval thinking. Cicero assumed an immutable, incorruptible and non-arbitrary universal law which is valid per se. He distinguishes between being a Roman citizen on the one hand, and participating in the Roman populus (the public) on the other. When Thomas Aquinas entered the scene in the 13th century his account of medieval society was based upon an attempted synthesis between Aristotle's philosophy and biblical Christianity respectively. He accepted the dual teleological order of Aristotle with its hierarchy of substantial forms arranged in an order of lower and higher. It was designated as the lex naturalis (natural law) which is related to the transcendent lex aeterna (eternal law) as contained within the Divine intellect. By virtue of its substantial form the human being depends upon the community for the satisfaction of its needs. However, the disintegration caused by the late Scholastic movement known as nominalism (in particular Ockham) then entered the scene. Luther was influenced by this nominalism but Calvin reacted against its idea of arbitrariness. For that reason he emphasized God's law for creation and rejected the nominalistic conception of the absolute, despotic arbitrariness of God's will (the so-called potestas Dei Absoluta of God). His alternative claim is that although God is elevated above his laws for creation, He is not arbitrary (Deus legibus solutus est, sed non exlex). A brief indication is given of the relatively undifferentiated societal condition prevailing in the world in which Calvin lived - with reference to the doctrine of resistance (Beza and others). The longstanding over-estimation of human reason caused Thomas Aquinas to relativize the radical effect of the fall into sin and for that reason he held the view that human reason was only "wounded" by the fall - a view that was continued by Calvin. However, the biblical appeal of the legacy of Calvin also contains a number of positive insights that we still have to appreciate. He emphasized the constancy and steadfastness of God's law for creatures and also explicitly rejected the idea of chance and fate - dating back to the Anankè (later on known as the Moira) of ancient Greece. This emphasis is all the more remarkable in the light of the powerful nominalistic movement which denied any universality outside the human mind, thus eliminating both the (universal) law for and the (universal) orderliness or creaturely reality. This nominalistic view reached its rationalistic conclusion in the thought of Immanuel Kant (18th century) who carried it through to its ultimate consequences - by elevating human understanding to become the apriori formal law-giver of nature. The other side of the rationalistic orientation of modern nominalism is found in the irrationalistic focus both of historicism (19th century) and postmodernism (20th century). The thought of Calvin does not fit into this humanistic tradition. In respect of human society he did show an understanding of what eventually became known as the principle of sphere-sovereignty (introduced by Groen van Prinsterer and Abraham Kuyper during the 19th century). Calvin substantially contributed to an enrichment of our Christian world and life view - carried through in more detail by the reformational philosophical tradition.

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/content/akgees/49/3/EJC20151
2009-09-01
2019-08-24

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