Christ and Culture
Translation of Christus en
Copyright© G van
Rongen and W. Helder, 1977
A note on the
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The translation is by G. van Rongen and W. Helder.
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On March 23, 1952, the LORD took unto Himself His servant Klaas Schilder.
Christ and Culture is the English
translation of Schilder’s Christus en Cultuur. The original
version of this publication was issued in 1932 under the title “Jezus Christus en het cultuurleven”: it was included in Jezus
Christus en het menschenleven, a collection
of contributions by various authors. In 1947 it was published separately as Christus en Cultuur: a reprint
followed in 1953.
The author was born on December 19, 1890, in Kampen, The Netherlands. In his native city he later studied at the
Theologische School of De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland , from
which he graduated cum laude in 1914.
After having served as minister in several congregations, he was in 1933 awarded the
doctoral degree summa cum laude at the
Friedrich-Alexander University , Erlangen , Germany . His
dissertation was entitled Zur Begriffspeschichte des
Calvins und des Nach-Kierkegaardschen “Paradoxon.” In the same year he was appointed Professor
of Systematic Theology at the Kampen Seminary, which post he
held until his death in 1952.
Dr. K. Schilder wrote numerous books and
articles. His trilogy Christus in
Zijn lijden became
internationally known especially in its English version, Christ on Trial (1938). He regularly contributed to the
weekly De Reformatie ever since it began publication in 1920, becoming
one of its editors in 1924: from 1935 on, he was its only editor. The strong stand that
he took, not only in theological and ecclesiastical matters but also over against the
anti-christian philosophy of National-Socialism, led to his
arrest by the Nazis in August, 1940 Soon after his release he
was forced to go into hiding, for he was among those wanted by the German occupying
forces. He remained in hiding almost until the end of the Second World War.
Twice, in 1939 and in 1947, Schilder visited
the United States of America . The return voyage in 1947 provided him with the
opportunity to revise and expand his above-mentioned 1932 essay. The preface to the new
edition of Christus en
Cultuur was signed and dated: “On board
s.s. Veendam, August 24,
1947.” This Dutch publication attracted attention also in the English-speaking
world, particularly in the U.S.A.: for example, Schilder’s ideas, together with those of Aurelius Augustine, John
Calvin, and Abraham Kuyper, were thoroughly discussed by
Henry R. Van Til in his The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (1959; repr. 1972). A Japanese translation by Professor Y. Yamanaka of
Kansaigakuin, University, Takarazuka , Japan , was published in 1974.
The present English translation was made possible by the kind permission of
Mrs. A.J. Schilder-Walter and the cooperation of the original
publisher, T. Wever, Franeker,
May the LORD bless this publication and use it in the battle for true
Grand Rapids , Michigan , U.S.A. —G. van
Hamilton , Ontario , Canada —W. Helder
Christ and Culture
culture”—this theme has occupied the minds of many as long as Christianity
has had a place in this world. Rather, it did so already many centuries before. For the
name “Christ” is nothing but a translation of the word “Messiah.”
Even during the days of the Old Testament, when the Messiah was still expected, men
thought, struggled, and prophesied about as well as rebelled against the
“Messiah” (Christ) and “culture.” If what we are about to write
is true, then this age-old theme will continue to strain the attention in joy as well as
in sorrow until the end of time: The complete solution also of this problem will not be
reached in the course of time but is reserved for the day that will put an end to time.
It will not be obtained in the way of evolution but along that of the catastrophic
parousia of Christ Himself. Therefore the great joy and the
deep sorrow about the final outcome of the struggle concerning Christ and culture can be
expected at the end of the ages. Here one utters two heavily charged words:
The above already makes
it clear that the theme which we are broaching here must not be inserted in the list of
subjects that the hasty heathen takes into his sphere of interest before and the careful Christian only after the academic discussion thereof. The problem of the
relation between Christ and culture immediately concerns the fundamental questions of
Christian thought and action. Therefore a Christian must continually contend with it. The
one who does not touch it neglects his direct calling. The definition of a
Christian’s life-task as it is given in Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg
Catechism and in which a Christian is considered as a prophet, a priest, and a king, is
so ample and comprehensive that the matter of the relation between Christ (and the
Christian) on the one hand, and cultural life on the other, is under discussion as soon
as the question is raised how the pertinent words in this section of the Catechism must
be interpreted. For this reason in particular, a confessing Christian is not allowed,
before entering into the cultural struggle, to wait quietly (ad calendas graecas) for academic resolutions regarding
the cultural problem. Neither has he permission to wait for
what is more and more becoming their substitute, the resolutions or conclusions of a
For life builds up the
academy, but the academy does not build up life. At best it can think about life. The
same way the problem of the right appreciation of culture or that of the evaluation of a
concrete situation which a Christian comes across or has to help create in a given
cultural phase, must never be reduced to a so-called merely academic matter. Life
precedes the academy: primum vivere, deinde
philosophari. Everyone has to deal with a temporally and locally determined
phase of cultural life. At his birth he is thrown into the midst of it, and no one is
able to withdraw from it, not even for one single day, supposing that he would be allowed
to do so. Man cannot isolate himself, though he may flee into a cloister that does not
distill liqueur or anything like that, nor helps to fill the pages of a magazine.
Why is this
problem such a difficult one? Many things could be said in explanation. We shall mention
a few points only.
a. One of the main reasons
is that the opinions so widely diverge. Not only in what we sometimes too abstractly call
the world, but also in what—again we must say, often in too abstract a way—is
called the church, we see the struggle between opinions that are very much each
other’s opposites. There is nothing unusual in this.
Those who really adhere to the authentic philosophy of pure materialism will have a view
of culture that completely differs from that of people who think along the lines of
metaphysical universalism. Those who think that history is linear set up a construction
that is completely different from that of the man who sees history as a cycle. The theist
and the pantheist are one another’s opponents, also in their conception and
appreciation of culture. A Lutheran’s evaluation—if only he is loyal to
Martin Luther—will differ from that of a Calvinist; that of a pessimist is not the
same as that of an optimist.
A Platonist differs from an Aristotelian, a Spinozist from a
Cartesian, a Kantian from a pupil of Fichte. Even among the Romantics, Goethe does not agree with Novalis, nor Schleiermacher with the Schlegel brothers. We did not even mention
Bismarck and Rosenberg , Otto and Walt Whitman, or the Buddhist of one sect or another.
The differences which divide the philosophers will influence the theologians and the
ordinary church members. It is only a dream if someone believes that “the cultural
idea” is a sort of master key opening the door to the conference hall that offers a
peaceful reception to cultural congresses. It will be war there—that is to say, if
the participants in the conference have their wits about them, which unfortunately is
b. A second factor, then,
is that time and again the problem itself is given new solutions which—even within
the same period—contradict each other. Or that it takes the shape of theoretical
foundations. All this happens in as well as outside the church. Both
concepts, “Christianity” as well as “culture,” are thus
frequently created, fixed, and used in different senses. Consequently the problem of
“Christianity and culture” is in the (as we shall see later on: incorrect)
opinion of many people—wittingly or unwittingly—narrowed down to a problem of
“religion and culture,” or of
“nature” and “grace,” which are then repeatedly considered as two
Indeed, the word “territory” is easy to handle. However, it is mostly used in
a too strongly geographical, not to say, mathematical sense. And mathematical concepts
(such as e.g. a point, a line, a plane, a “territory”) do not find their
correlative equivalents in reality. Besides, one may perceive that even then many
questions appear one after another.
c. To all this
must be added that the devaluation of the name Christ caused also the devaluation of the
concept of culture. The church started to trifle with the name Christ, and philosophy did
the same. As a result they also trifle with the problem of Christ and culture. As soon as
two concepts are devaluated, the right track that must be followed by those who search
for the relation between them is blotted out.
d. One has only to consider
how those who call themselves church, broken adrift from the contents of the Confession
of Faith, speak about the Christ. What is Christianity? Who is Jesus Christ? What is the historical position of this
Jesus in the world and His significance for historical life? Does He have any influence
at all on our historical life with its continuous relations? Is He indeed the incarnate
Word of God, or is He (rather: he) no more than one of the many Gestalten of God’s Word? Is the Gestalt of the Word of God an adequate revelation of its
Gehalt, or is
the Gestalt the paradoxical opposite of
Is the historical Jesus of
Nazareth the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectation of the Christ (the Messiah), or
is the messianic idea not adequately revealed in Him, or perhaps only fragmentarily? What
does the name Christ mean? What does God
intend with the name Messiah? What does His anointing mean? Does it really include a
divine commission (“His being
ordained”), and also a real gift (“His being made capable”), or are these two only designated in a symbolic
way? Is there a fundamental difference between those “anointed ones” whom we
consider as ordinary men and Jesus of Nazareth as One anointed in a completely distinct
way? Or is this suggested fundamental difference no more than a fiction only?
To what extent can He, as a historical person, act in human life in a critical, that is,
judging and absolutely decisive manner? Does He Himself, as Jesus, as a historical
person, together with our whole human life, lie under a crisis, that is, under a radical
judgment of God that condemns the world as this, as our world, or did He let us hear on earth, in a pure and
effective, lively, judging and sifting way, the voice of God as the perfect Judge and
perhaps also as our Father, the voice of the supreme and, in fact, unique criticism,
repelling or attracting?
It is actually something to weep about, but it is a matter of fact that in the circles of
what is called Christianity there is much serious dispute about all these questions
nowadays. And so we stand there as a concrete or legendary “community” of
“Christians”; we all lay claim to this name, and get angry as soon as the one
denies it to the other. But in the meantime we are very uncertain about the fundamental questions concerning Jesus
and concerning Christ, at least among ourselves.
Neither are we sure about each other. Opposing each other we stand with a series of
written and especially unwritten Christologies in the midst
of a multifarious world which claims that it is continuing to build up its
“culture.” And although we repeat a thousand times in tense and agitated
Christian protest that the culture of this world is not mature and not pure, that it is
deceptive, and that the reward of (also cultural) sin is death, the question is urgent
and hurts so deeply, especially as
question, whether we ourselves are not (at least as a group) completely
unauthorized and unable to utter even one single word on this problem, because of our
profound differences with regard to the term “Christ” as we find it in the
problem of “Christ and cultural life.”
We are more and more active as a group in international, interdenominational, and
interconfessional, ecumenical relations, and in sending out all sorts of messages
concerning world life and culture. But it all lacks power, for as a group we no longer
know Christ. As long as Jesus Christ, for
us as a group, is not the Known One and the Familiar One, we utter nothing but immature
statements about the relation between Christ and cultural life. For the first of these
two terms is already hazy. And an international, inter-academic, ecumenical haze is the
worst of all.
e. Is the situation any
better as far as the second term of our problem is concerned, namely, cultural life? What
actually is culture? The answers differ. We have already referred to that in a few words.
However, it is really oppressing that in spite of this we still present all sorts of
nervous, hurriedly fabricated and even, as far as our own point of view is concerned,
illegitimate constructions. The worst part is not that the culture-philosophers time and
again supply widely divergent answers to the fundamental issues. The worst part is this,
that while all sorts of culture-philosophers entrench themselves behind a
certain—as a matter of course, subjectivistic—theory of
value, Christians, even confessional ones, fail to ask themselves more and
more if not the first and actually only true value is that of the covenant communion with
God, that of the assurance of faith, the value of Christian gratitude, which in a
practical syllogism assures faith from the fruits thereof that it is true faith.
The worst part is the servility with which Christian confessors, as soon as they touch
the problem of culture, timidly look up to the unbelieving
culture-philosophers next-door: Would they be so kind as to grant us a nod of approval?
The progressive submission of Christian thinkers and theologians to (non-Christian)
cultural and other philosophers, is more and more becoming an
obstacle to giving a unanimous and unequivocal answer of faith.
The youth leaders of today and lecturers of adult education classes, as far as they have
a Christian background, realize perfectly well that the drafting of a concept of culture
meets multiple and searching questions. At their conferences they toil with the problem
of history, that of the individual and society, of the essence of the nations and the
distinct races of men, of time and eternity, of physics and metaphysics, religion, morals
and natural law, of evolution and creation.
But about the fact that we as Christians have to take our starting point in
the prejudices of faith, and that we have
to accept upon authority, and consequently to act accordingly, that our positive and
negative attitudes must merely and solely be a matter of faith, which (as we confess in
our Catechism) is a sure knowledge and a firm confidence—about all this one can
hear quite often, as long as certain points of systematic theology (ecclesiastical
suspensions included) are at stake, but one hardly hears the same things as soon as the
sphinx of cultural life comes under discussion.
There is much pride in the many words that are spoken on the theme of right action, but
in the meantime the speakers do not discern the oppressive fact that this whole ideogram
of “culture” and “cultural life” remains very hazy, and that one
can work with it only a premature and hypothetical basis. It is an artificial term that
many people operate with; however, they do so without being justified philosophically,
theologically, and, above all, as far as the concrete service of the living God is
f. When finally we act
as if we really have established a connection between “Christ” and
“culture,” then the main question is not always put to the fore: What is it
actually all about? Are we talking about culture as such (the culture) or only about a certain kind of culture? Is
there indeed a permanent culture, which may be known by the peculiar style to
which it is faithful, or do we, if we keenly discern things, find only a chaos of
cultural tendencies? If it is not
culture as such but only a particular form of culture, which is it then? The national culture or just
a national one? The or an international culture? The or a temporary one? The or a future one?
Is it a (or the) culture which we have created or have to create. Let alone are able to establish—that is to say, we as
Christians? Or is it a sort of ideal culture that we are required to acknowledge or to
hope for? Do we as Christians have to act in this world and its culture in the way of
reform and revolt? Are we capable of doing this? Or have we perhaps been given only the
limited task that we might somehow or other force our way through the rapid currents of
this world’s multifarious life, and thank God afterwards because the ship of our
life just missed being wrecked in the tremendous energy of the breakers?
Is there really a positive task for us as
Christians? Does “following after Jesus” then really include the tireless
actualizing of a God given creative ability unto a peculiar (or distinct) Christian
culture with world-conquering tendencies? Can the “following of God” be
recognized in certain concrete acts in conformance to the material contents of divine
commandments, and also in an accordingly concrete and steady attitude?
Or is the following of God a formal concept only: God did indeed create the world, but He
also permanently changes it, and once will do so in a catastrophic manner, wherefore only
those can follow Him who replace any “yes” spoken to the existing world by
“no” and thus consider any attitude as being of the devil, the revolutionary
as much as the conservative attitude, and vice versa? Is a Christian’s action
performed in earnest or just as a game—by virtue of a fixed ordination that does
not permit us anything but the game, and thus makes the game into the only possible
Innumerable are the
questions that have not been answered, and, indeed, that have not even been formulated
yet. “Jesus Christ” and “cultural life” have alternately been
called enemies and friends. Or even complete strangers one to another. The one, with
Tolstoy, sacrifices “culture” to (his) “Christianity”; the other,
with Nietzsche, abandons Christianity in favour of
“culture”; a third one flares up in anger as soon as he hears that Christ and
culture are considered to be connected with one another (cf. the contemporary,
Barthian inspired, criticism of a so-called
The starting point of the first two views—partly also of the third one—is an
antithetical relation between Jesus Christ and cultural life, real as well as potential.
On the other hand there are also those who, eagerly or with the feeling that they, too,
are fortunately still allowed to participate, raise the slogan
that Jesus Christ and “culture” can certainly be reconciled with one another
and that the relation between the two may ultimately be considered an amicable
It may be
unintentional, but the inevitable result of all this is, of course, that among those who
swing back and forth in this manner practice reveals many greatly varying aspects.
According to the one there is no higher task for a Christian than timidly to eat under
the table “the crumbs which fall from the table” of unbelieving
“culture builders,” and consequently he defends this timorous eating with the
thesis that in cultural affairs God has not imposed teetotalism.
He, then, will never get beyond a questionable argumentum e silentio: What
he wants has not expressly been forbidden; it is therefore all right. Do not ask him
whether this eating of crumbs from the table of others is a meal of faith and love or a
gesture of embarrassment, with a corresponding argument of embarrassment providing the
The other, however, jauntily asserts himself in cultural life, puffs up his little
Christian person to a certain cultural pride, and keeps himself convinced that it is
nothing but an argument of embarrassment when the above-mentioned brother, sighing and
apologizing a thousand times for his meals of crumbs, quotes the apostle Paul and says,
that one “cannot go out of the world” (I Corinthians 5:10). He in fact brands
this argument as inferior. In his opinion it must be replaced by the proud watchword that
a Christian has to promote God’s honour “in all
spheres of life,” cultural life included. However, the crucial question, what
“cultural life” actually is, and, in close relation with it, what exactly the
sphere or territory of cultural life is, most likely remains unanswered for the time
being, even by him.
We are fog-bound. Even
the followers of Dr. Abraham Kuyper are. For years and years
they talked of nothing but “God’s honour in all
spheres of life.” The more scholarly ones among them constantly repeated
Kuyper’s adage concerning “sphere
sovereignty.” Every “sphere” of “life” had its own
“sovereignty. However; often they do no more than repeat this slogan. No wonder.
For Abraham Kuyper himself could
not clearly explain what exactly those “sovereigns” in all those
One single Sovereign—that we can accept and understand But as soon as one starts to
speak about “sovereigns” in the plural, each of them in his own sphere, then
things become vague. When Kuyper says that God created
everything “after its kind,” he only repeats a biblical datum. However, it is
really a big leap from “law of nature” to “sovereign.” It is also
a big leap from a creature of God to a product of man. And the same must be said about a
third one, the leap which he makes from the respective kinds of creatures to the
so-called “spheres” in which they play their role either with or without the
help or hindrance of man.
metaphorical language is here also a metabasis eis allo
genos, a matter of mixing up unequal and
heterogeneous quantities. This is disastrous, in particular when one speaks about
“spheres” each having its own sovereign. Really, we are fog-bound.
Now the sky can clear
up only if we quietly put ourselves under the preaching of the Scriptures. They are
fundamentally nothing but a revelation from God, knowable and known in Jesus Christ, His
Son. Therefore no one can derive from their teachings anything concerning the theme of
“Christianity and cultural
life” unless he lets them reduce the problem to the matter (not of
“Jesus and cultural life,”
but particularly) of “Jesus Christ
and cultural life.”
It is no doubt very useful to consider briefly why the first two formulations of our
theme are never able to penetrate to the foundation of our problem, while only the last
mentioned one really can. As soon as we have found the answer to this question, we
believe that we are holding the clue to our subject as the Scriptures present it to us.
Actually, as we said,
the problem should not be formulated as “Christianity and cultural life” For this
formulation would not bring us to the root of the problem. As a matter of fact, by
“Christianity” one can understand among other things: (1) the
community of Christians (in the proper
sense of the word or not, including or not including those who are Christians in name
only), and (2) the visible result which
it was possible to record in the visible world because of the Christian activities of the
community of Christians, or, rather, which was and time and again still is, recorded
within the framework of a more or less fixed communis opinio.
Of course, the word has many more meanings However, let us leave them for what they are
for convenience’ sake. For even when we restrict ourselves to the just mentioned
two meanings of the word, we have enough problems. As for the first definition, what, for
example, does “community” mean? Is it just the simple fact of being together,
or the possibility of gathering together for those who call themselves Christians,
correctly or incorrectly (sun-ousia)? Or is it a spiritual unity, spiritual in the sense of
produced by the Spirit of God?
In other words, is it a unity that is in conformity with God’s Word
Is this koinonia the result of the efforts of man, some
thing that must come into existence by his actions, or is it the product of God’s
efforts, something that has come into
existence and now calls on people to act accordingly by acknowledging the communion which
God has made, de jure as well as de
Or, as far as the second definition is concerned, is one, for the registration of such a
result of Christian communion, dependent
on history and tradition, or can every age thrust upon us its own theory concerning this
registration and qualification? “Christianity” is a difficult word—if
one wants to go into the matter.
whatever sense one may take this word, one thing is certain: it is impossible to take
“Christianity” as one’s starting point when one wants to ask questions
regarding cultural life, let alone solve the problem of “Christianity” and
a. This is impossible in
the first place because Christianity can never be the standard. Take (in the first of the
two above mentioned meanings) Christians together as a community, and then—if you could, by theoretical
abstraction (for you cannot get any further!) -- purge this community of all those who
are Christians in name only. Or (according to the second meaning of the word) take
Christianity in the sense of the result
of the Christian (in your ideas even supposedly catholic) creed in man’s and the
world’s life, and even be as strict here as you can in applying the standard and in
bestowing the title of honour “Christian.”
Whichever way you would take it, in neither of the two cases
would you be able to derive from this “Christianity” a standard for dealing with your problem. No Christian can
be the standard, neither can a factual datum be. Facts do force our hands, no one can
dispose of them, and everyone’s actions rest upon the facts. Our hands can easily
beat the air, but this does not result in or lead to anything. Only when they are put
into the material produced by reality as it has historically developed, they are able to
fashion this material.
And as for this fashioning of the material (our acting with responsibility), we fully
depend on the standards which God has established. The latter do not force our hands,
they command us. Only the Word of God, Holy Scripture, is the standard; not the Christian
or Christianity, but the speaking Christ
Who has been made known to us by revelation, and Who also Himself “explains”
God to us, and as the Giver, Keeper, and Interpreter of the Law speaks God’s Word
to us without any restraint caused by sin or impotence, He Who has been sent to the
people on behalf of God.
Any historical trend, also any cultural trend
or construction, that would be based on Christianity as a datum or
even on an ideal Christianity, which is a product of the mind, must necessarily
end in sin, violation of the Law, and irreligion; it would be able to establish nothing
but a Tower of Babel . For by taking a wrong starting point, it has already started to do
This way also historical materialism and positivism have taken the courage to orate on
Christianity and culture. This way (though proceeding from different presuppositions)
idealism, too, in more than one form, has done the same thing. This way even Barthianism has sometimes done so, when it said, “Es predigt”:
there is the fact of
“preaching” in Church, which fact is then the starting point for further
There is a certain quantity called “Christianity”. However, this
fact is not the foundation of any
doctrine, although every doctrine must
take into account all facts, also this one. Facts do not form a foundation for doctrine.
On the contrary there is already a certain measure of doctrine in any description of a
fact (or of what is considered as such). When there is a thunderstorm, this is a fact.
But those who believe in Wodan and those who can explain it
and have become acquainted with the theory of electrical discharges understand and
describe this fact in completely different ways.
There is even more than
this. “Christianity,” as it takes shape in the midst of the world carries the
name of its own choice, and can be registered, is itself always deeply involved in a
current cultural process or even in a series of cultural processes. Followers of Hegel,
and consequently also Marxists, arid National-Socialists, count Christianity itself among
the cultural phenomena: the suppliers of the theories that were chartered by Anton
Mussert wanted to entrust the
“Department of Culture” with the interests of Christianity
(which could be protected only in the European part of the Kingdom of The
This already shows how seriously and inevitably “Christianity”
itself—even if it were only to protect its name—is always involved in the
clashing of the cultural trends that are present in every constellation of world life.
Besides, it varies according to local, national, anthropological, and even climatological types. In brief, the term “Christianity,”
taken in this sense, is a sphinx, and nothing else.
b. And to the extent that
it is no sphinx but can be allocated in history in a pure or (which is something
different again) fixed shape, it has on its part often interfered in the cultural
struggle in a high handed and arbitrary way and with many shortcomings and sins. In every
subsequent process of formation, deformation, or reformation, it sometimes tried to
become a real and direct cultural force (remember the papacy), or lived, either
consciously or unconsciously, from certain principles which put on its work programme a clear cultural commission as its essential task.
Of course this was wrong. For Christianity is not a matter of culture. Although, on the
other hand, culture is certainly something that Christianity is concerned with. But
according to the ever-repeated (although not biologically or evolutionistically determined) action of deformation and reformation,
historical Christianity has never been able in the course of the ages to lead one
specific cultural idea to victory, neither has it ever fully completed any of its
mandates regarding cultural life.
One will find here the most extreme variations: there is a vast distance between cultural
imperialism—as it was developed by the Church of Rome in certain periods—and
the isolated position, separatism, and asceticism of the “pious” but
culture-shy people and congregations that are of the opinion that they represent true
Christianity only in this sort of shyness Who would be able to derive a cultural
standard from such a
“Christianity?” Neither is a majority or a minority decisive in this respect.
Justice as well as power, health as well as healing gifts, they can belong to the
majority, but also to the minority, even to the smallest minority one could imagine.
In the second place:
History confirms that, strictly speaking, the problem cannot be formulated as
“Jesus and cultural life”
either. For, to put it strongly, if no more is added to it, “Jesus” is of no
use as far as our problem is concerned. We have to consider that Jesus has explained
Himself as the Christ. This Self-explanation (according and with reference to
the Scriptures) is accepted upon
authority by the one and rejected by the other.
This rejection is often camouflaged under the cloak of ignorance. The complaint is: He is
such a riddle: please allow
me to pray the prayer of the ignorant, in
order to learn how to qualify this Jesus! Presently one will himself construct some Jesus
image or other. Not God’s Sent One, Jesus Himself, but a human concept of
“Jesus” is also made into a
sphinx by those who do not acknowledge Him as the
However, He is not a
sphinx, for His Self-explanation is clear enough. But He becomes one to those who dispose
of His Self-explanation. Then for these people a riddle is propounded in Him. And this
riddle is not disclosed as long as Jesus is acknowledged only as
And old maxim used to say: Ubi vides,
non est fides; that is
wherever something can be seen, no faith is needed. We will not analyze this adage; it
can be well meant, but in general terms it is not correct. People could see the
“historical Jesus”; but, in order to really know and acknowledge Him, faith
The fact that the man Jesus was God’s Christ (Messiah), that He was called the
“son” of Joseph, though without having been begotten by him, and much more
than this, remained a matter of faith. Ubi vides, ibi
fides. Visio quaerit fidem. Fides quaerit intellectum.
This thought in fact
preceded Christianity. For the Bible has never restricted itself to a speaking of
“Jesus” only. In the Old Testament it first spoke of “Christ”
(Messiah). But the fact that this promised
Christ would later appear under the name of “Jesus” was then not
yet known. However, since He did come, the Bible always speaks, as a matter of fact,
about Jesus Christ. Before
“Jesus” as a historical person came into this world, He was announced as
That is to say, God
described His office and work in its quintessence before His historical appearance under a human shape, and
in a particular cultural situation, was even vaguely defined. Remember only the
protoevangel in paradise. When after many centuries, during
which God, by means of the prophets, had spoken about the coming Christ (Messiah) and
given information in advance about His office and work, this Messiah came into the world
and was registered as the son of Joseph and Mary and was called “Jesus,” then
everyone had to learn to consider this Jesus as the fully authorized Christ unless Jesus was to remain a riddle to him with a
supposed appeal to his own pretended authority to interpret.
A supposed appeal, we said, for the real
Jesus is terribly angry with those who refuse to accept the key to the interpretation of
His person and work from the hands of God’s anointed Prophet and Teacher. He then
comes to such a generation—usually it is a majority—with visitation or with
punishment. Both fall upon His unwilling hearers-interpreters as often as He in the
gospels, first of all to His first “contemporaries” but to us, too (who are
also the contemporaries of the living Christ, Who governs us from heaven), speaks in
Also concerning the subject of serving God in cultural life, He repeatedly speaks in
parables to His “contemporaries” of the days of
old as well as (via the Bible) of these days, and He reveals the meaning of these
parables also in cultural theological respect, to those only who afterwards interrogate
Him about all this (today via His Word) in faith. Of what benefit would Jesus be to us if
nothing else were to follow, if no second name, no second office-name, the
name “Christ,” were added to
this first one?
The gospels do not give a biography of Jesus. Neither do they design their own image of
Him. They already tell us that in our thinking we are not to go beyond that which is
written (concerning Christ, in the Old Testament) (1 Corinthians 4:6) They do not intend
to give a scientific-systematic summary of His life’s work from any formal and
methodological point of view, not even from any cultural point of view.
Any systematic treatise on Jesus’ works, teaching, prophesying, building up and
breaking down, is lacking in the Scriptures. The Gospel is neither a biography nor a
novel. Neither does it describe a cultural phenomenon according to cultural-philosophic
or cultural-historical methods, nor does it write Church history after the method of the
science of historiography. The Gospel is not even a systematic exposition of the history
Therefore every effort that wants to learn only from a so-called Life of Jesus what he meant and still means in a
particular aspect of human life is doomed to fail. For we have no Life of Jesus. Whoever consciously would like to write it
would strain himself in the telling and do injustice to Him. One can and may never
separate the gospels—which describe to us the course that Jesus Christ followed
towards and through human life in fulfilling God’s counsel and in accordance with
God’s revealed will to remain Himself in evangelic redemption—from Old
Testament prophecy; nor from the history of salvation and revelation, out of which He
came to the fore according to plan—just as this history itself is of Him and
determined by Him; nor from the epistles of Paul and the other authors of the New
Testament epistles; nor even from the Apocalypse with which the Bible completes its
This Apocalypse, too, contains a description of history, not only concerning the future,
but also concerning the past (Revelation 1:12 e.g.), and even concerning what was
contemporary to John, its author (e.g. regarding Rome’s emperor-worship as
anti-christian moment, chapters 13 and 18). Also this last
Bible-book lets us hear the revealed truth regarding the background and constituent
elements and trends of any kind of history, cultural history included; e.g. that there is
a satanic urge behind the
anti-christian beast (Revelation 12), and that any struggle,
the cultural one included, is fundamentally the struggle between the seed of the woman
and the seed of the serpent; it is the old serpent that in any new cultural period persecutes the old church as woman and her one Seed and intends to
To summarize it all, no
one is able to characterize the work of “Jesus” in a faithful way as long as
it has not become clear to him from the whole of the Scriptures what Jesus came to
accomplish as the Christ and what He therefore as God’s office-bearer par
excellence has to do in, and for, and also with the cosmos. The biblical preaching of
“Christ” must in its contents absolutely determine already in what manner one
is to speak about the biblical stories concerning “Jesus”.
Actually this is not so
strange. No one has ever been great in this world without having to be explained and
understood partly on the basis of the time in which he lived, but also partly with
reference to his own personality, that which the Father of spirits endowed him with
individually and exclusively. However, as far as Jesus is concerned, it is actually still
different. As we have already said, in His works he is never understood in isolation
from, but definitely also not on the basis of the time which He spent here on earth among
He is known also by means of, but not on the basis of, His days. For
He dominates, directs, and governs all ages. For Him the “fulness” of time does not mean a casual occasion or, as something
quite fortuitous, the fertile soil into which He, “finding” the field, could
sow whatever He wanted, but it was His time, the “kairos”—taken by Him, as created for His sake—in the
“chronos” extending according to God’s plan.
Neither can He be explained on the basis of the cultural history of “the
nations” nor on the basis of Israel’s history of salvation, for of both these
“histories” (which are fundamentally one and of one territory) He is the
foundation, the Worker, and the “Firstling,” the beginning, the principle,
the aim, and also the new starting point. The study of Hellenism cannot explain Him, even
though it will be essential for the distinctive interpretation of His words and works
(and vice versa).
Neither does the knowledge of Judaism
“explain” Him, although—provided that it produces good results—it
sharpens every interpreter’s pencil The “faithful
Witness” Who speaks continuously, but Who only as far as unbelief is concerned
sometimes speaks in riddles, is Himself not a sphinx. Oh no, He never is. But a
“Jesus concept,” formed in
innumerable variations by people who do not know Him as the Christ, and an
image of “Jesus” arbitrarily
designed—this is what time and again vexes its designers and worshippers with the
quiet and mocking smile of a sphinx.
The latter is again and again placed near the great caravan-routes of mankind. However,
who decides which is the most important and the central one of these routes if the Bible
is not permitted to decide? This sphinx can be seen standing in the midst of time. But
who will put an end to the discussions—which are being revived also in this
century—about the real nature of “die
Mitte der Zeit”?
This sphinx, which since the beginning of this era no eye has
seen nor ear heard but the contours of which time and again loom up in the hearts of many
people, is passed by many centuries. But it is silent, completely silent—unless
“Christ” has been found in “Jesus” throughout the Scriptures. For
Jesus Christ used to speak and He is still speaking: He is “present” with His
Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, speaking in His Word.
Until the moment that one listens to Him, one can only compose fiction about this sphinx
but not prophesy concerning it. Jesus must be put in His own light. Rather, He has to present Himself to us in His
own light. But in this presenting and explaining Himself in His own light, Jesus is
already doing the work of Christ. It is
precisely in this work that He is the Christ, God’s Prophet, Priest, and King The
light which does indeed shine in Jesus, shines in Him because He is the Christ, the
Servant of the LORD. He does not allow us to isolate “Jesus” from
“Christ”—not even in the academy, since it is not permitted “in
Is there still any
reason to be astonished because people are so strongly divided with regard to the
question what the importance of “Jesus” is for cultural life. and because the problem “Jesus and culture” is given almost as
many “solutions” as there are minds brooding on this problem?
No. it cannot be
otherwise. And in the inevitability of this oppressive phenomenon His greatness is
revealed and His judgment executed For therein we find a proof in the negative of the
horrible seriousness which is evident in the sanctions of His positive commandment that
we are never to “see” Him as “Jesus” but always fully to
“hear” Him as “Jesus Christ “. For otherwise
these “sanctions” come into force.
The history of the “Jesus paragraphs” in cultural historical works is so
confusing that they make us think of a cultural-historical judgment: “Because they
seeing, see not: and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew
13:13). Any arbitrariness in constructing a “Jesus image” receives its own
reward: it has to share the field with a multiplicity of the most individualistic
We have already pointed out some of the bad harvests produced by this noxious soil.
However, remember that it is of “Jesus” that one wants to speak; then the
harvest becomes even more audacious and depressing. The Marxist places
“Jesus” in cultural history as the great revolutionary. Ernst Haeckel utters his oracles on Jesus as despiser of culture. Constantine
the Great saw in Him the most successful propagandist of a most Christian cultural
struggle. Oswald Spengler places Him—Jesus! --
among the historical pseudomorphoses of Arabic culture. Chamberlain sees in Him the founder of
a moral culture.
Hegel connected to “Jesus” a sort of cultural pantheism—this was done
by him who apart from this was yet so wise as to remember that no one can isolate himself
here from the trinitarian motifs of the early Christian way
of representing things. Many people, for whom the sun rose only at Stockholm or
Lambeth, where they wanted to formulate the “third
confession”—where is it now? -- saw in “Jesus” the great
formulator of direct “messages” to the cultural world on the so-called
topical cultural questions, although it must be said that the direct character of their
messages” can be obtained only at the cost of a fundamental vagueness.
Again other convention delegates present themselves as inspired apostles or as inspiring
mahatmas and they, too, render “Jesus” a small place among the
“wise” who have left behind a sufficient number of enigmatic sayings to
provide a lasting connection between “East” and “West”. That way
the traditional “Teacher” of the West is transformed in this encounter into
an equally traditional “Patriarch” from the East. The Western world always
had its “Teachers” speak,
while the East prefers to hear (!) its “patriarchs” keep silent.
The former express their conceptual learning in their lines of
writing, while the latter between their few lines make us guess at their strictly
paradoxical thoughts, deriding any conceptual “clarity”, which is then
regarded as but a lack of clarity. This way “Jesus” as yet becomes a cultural
factor, not so much because of what the theologians have heard Him say, but because of
the fact that the theosophists heard Him keep silent: the “sphinx” is here no
accident but the only suitable figure.
And hardly have these
people been together in conference, leaving behind a “message” also
concerning Jesus, or, look: ascetics, mystics, sectarians of another kind, consider
“Jesus” as entirely indifferent to culture. He only speaks of God, they say,
and to the soul, and “the heart,” but for the rough and tough life of the big
world, He does not, in their opinion, want to utter a single word apart from that of
permanent separation: Go out from Babylon , separate yourselves!
Theologians belonging to the school of modern Religionsgeschichte put “Jesus” in one
line with Mohammed, Zarathustra, and other “founders of
religion” and do not wish to hear of a factual distinction between true and false
(pseudo-)religion; at best they will consider a distinction between degrees of divinatory
capacity. And several chiliastic sects, which all through the centuries have nibbled not
only at scholastic hierarchical but also at living, reformationally sound Christianity, consider “Jesus”,
strictly speaking, as the grim prophet of their own cultural egotism and separatism;
abruptly they dare to establish a private community that, in a life withdrawn from the
suction of the world, is looking for the borderline which once will separate the world
and the Church forever.
“church” itself is at fault here. Even she often neglected to see in
“Jesus” and in all He did and did not do the “Christ” of God. She
is guilty in so far as she allowed theologians to lift the four gospels out of the whole
of the list of Bible books and to abandon the totality of biblical teachings if only they
could distil from the gospel data an “objective” “Jesus”
As long as one restricts one’s attention to “Jesus,” one may at best
perhaps be able to say what “Jesus” has not done with respect to the cultural
question; however, one will not arrive at a positive answer. For in order to he able to
give a positive answer we must, apart
from the name “Jesus” (His first name-of-office), take into account the
(second) name “Christ.” Those who only reckon with the “Jesus” of
historiography, neglecting the prophecy that comes to us in the name
“Christ,” do not get any further than small wares: an exemplary
interpretation of text fragments, a parallel, a comparison, a parable.
Such mere pedlary sometimes awakens feelings of pity when
with the help of some small details of the gospel story it distils certain contributions
to a doctrine concerning “Jesus as cultural theoretician.” The gold, incense,
and myrrh of the Nativity story then sometimes have to serve as proof that He does like
riches and wealth. We are often referred to the fact that He let Himself be served by the
money of some rich persons, e.g. the wife of Chusas, king
Herod’s steward, as a detail intended to teach us that Christ instructs “the
Church” to make a rule, if
possible, of what was once for Israel an emergency measure and a retaliatory measure sanctioned by
special decree: spoiling “the Egyptians “.
The costly ointment with which He let Himself be anointed in the presence of Simon, His
host for the moment, His entering into the house of rich Scribes to eat with them, even
the garment that was gambled away by soldiers at the foot of Calvary’s cross and
which was “without seam, woven from the top throughout,” they all serve as
illustrations in object-lessons about such problems as “Jesus and good
taste,” “Jesus and riches,” “Jesus and culture.” We shall
refrain from mentioning more.
But does one not
perceive how insignificant all this is? The gold and myrrh and incense are not mentioned
again in the Gospels. The money was perhaps spent on a flight, the flight to Egypt . The
Rabbi from Nazareth did not add to the money that He accepted but it was spent on the
ministry of the Preacher of the Gospel of God’s Kingdom. The costly ointment was
accepted, not in order to teach the disciples anything about wealth and the use of
wealth, but in order that Simon would submit himself to a preaching that put him to
shame, or to teach His disciples—it was high time—concerning His imminent
death. In the latter case this ointment was then presently added to the supply of funeral
What can one do with
this sort of “data” if one does not know more than this? Is this then a
cultural image: “The foxes have
holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His
head” (Matthew 8:20)? Is this really a cultural-technical datum: “When they
chase you away from one village, go to the other and shake off the dust of your feet
And if one does not
want to hear any questions but only assertions, well, here they are. He withdrew partners
from a flourishing fishing business, James and John. He made, no, not some masked culture
types but unmasked fishermen, even from Galilee , follow Him, the Nazarene. One of them
speaks his own dialect when he timidly slips into the court-room where the great
court-case of the world is decided.
He heals lepers, although sporadically; however, He does not establish leper houses. He
opens the eyes of the blind—again, sporadically—but He leaves others in their
blindness; at any rate, He does not establish an organization for the support of the
blind. For such a miracle He once uses mud. Although He is offered a royal crown, He does
not accept it. He makes His entry into the capital while sitting on the young of an
He deals carefully with servants, and when one of His disciples injures the ear of a
certain slave called Malchus, He heals the man; but it is in
vain that one looks for the beginning of an Association for the Abolition of Slavery. He
looks those who have been possessed by demons deep into the eyes and leads them to the
light; however, He never built a clinic, and did not make any preparations for
that—at least, not in any direct sense.
And the authors called by Him later on issue books, gospels, that show a complete lack of
any artistic style and that are written in the common language of the people. Again we
ask: Does one make any progress by trying to define and solve the problem with the help
of this sort of details? Can one in this way even contribute to its solution?
Perhaps someone is of
the opinion that we are not completely fair, and certainly not serious, in presenting the
above collection of curiosities from this petty retail trade. Instead of these details,
would he prefer to see the life of Jesus in broad outline? Well, this can be arranged.
But the result will be the same, even then.
We shall mention a few
When the Rabbi of
Nazareth was here on earth, Judaism—just to mention one thing—was of almost
no significance at all as far as the plastic arts were concerned. The background of this
frequently observed phenomenon could not have been entirely praiseworthy in His opinion.
For more than once it is evident that He was a seer and a prophet.
The seer knows what is in man. and the prophet time and again
brings it into relation with the rules given in the Scriptures. Therefore His keen eye
and His prophetic insight made it clear to Him—more than it would be possible with
us—that this deficiency was—at any rate, was also—the result of a wrong
interpretation of the second commandment which the Father of Jesus Christ had given in
the Law of the Ten Commandments to His people Israel and to all the nations.
We would be utterly wrong if we were to apply Christ’s complaint and accusation
that the Jewish leaders had made God’s commandment null and void by their human
ordinances only to those few ethical
maxims concerning which the average reader of a Church magazine asks the editor of the
question column for clarification: Are we allowed to eat blood sausage, to ride our bikes
on Sunday, to marry our cousin, and things like that.
The unproductiveness which, with respect to the plastic arts, distinguished the Jews from
almost all the civilized nations of those days and later, must, in as far as a wrong interpretation of the second
commandment was involved, have seemed a gap to the true and Spirit-filled Law interpreter
and as such must have hurt Him. One can express this opinion without prejudging the
question whether the plastic arts are included by Christ among the concrete assignments
which he gives to His soldiers on their pilgrimage of the “last days.”
For suppose that He with respect to the plastic arts does not unconditionally wish to
give His people a mandate; still He can never take under His protection a sort of
negativistic and ascetic ethics as far as it originates in a wrong interpretation of the
Law of God and intends to be a God pleasing document of this wrong interpretation. This
is the more likely because the tabernacle as well as the temple made use of the services
of men who were proficient in the plastic arts, even (think of Bezaleel and Aholiab, who are given a
prominent place in Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s concept of
common grace) by divine appointment.
Nevertheless, “Jesus” has not given any direct instructions regarding, say, a
theory of art, which, in whatever way one may wish to answer the question that was asked
above, would at any rate have been fitting there. When one thinks of the man Jesus as the
chief Prophet and Teacher, also for the artist, of Him Who lived always in the presence
of God without sin, then His “attitude” in this respect will be the more
“disappointing,” at least for those who would like to hear from the mouth of
“Jesus” a more or less developed system of cultural ethics or
Even the (developed) prolegomena are lacking in “His” teachings. He did not
teach His “own” ideas: He was not a lecturer but a Prophet. How often did He
not say: “It is written”? Speaking this way He does not take His place behind
a lectern to teach a system that carries His own name, but He takes His place among all
the prophets; and even when He shows Himself to be more than these, as their
“fulfilment,” He can never be separated from
This is most “disappointing”; this “Jesus” considers it an
honour that no lectures on His “own” rules are to
be expected from Him. He came, as He says, not to destroy the God-given “Law”
(torah) but to fulfil it. “To fulfil” is not the
same as “to destroy” (by means of His “own” system), and also not
the same as “to add unto”.
Above we mentioned the
absence of a fully developed and direct thetic theory of culture. However, does
“Jesus” perhaps present a kind of polemics or apologetics regarding cultural
theory? Or principles of stylistics? Or
fragments thereof? Or aphorisms?
Quite easily one could
encourage the notion that there was, after all, some reason for such during the period
which He spent here below among men. We have here in mind the increasing hellenization of Israel ’s life in those days. Also the arts were
greatly influenced by Hellenism. For example. music. Just as for the “sacred” cult-activities the Hebrew language obstinately
maintained itself while Greek made itself felt in matters of culture, so Jewish music continued to be binding for the
liturgist for use in the temple cult, but outside it the “free” Hellenistic
music fought against the Israelite style for predominance in profane cultural use.
Architecture showed the influence of several cultural phases but in particular of the
Hellenistic one and more and more lacked a character of its own. The public games, the
governmental machinery, military service, fashion to some extent, they all were more or
less patterned after foreign models. This, again must have
hurt from all sides the mind of the man Jesus, a mind sharpened with precision by the
knives of the Law of God.
A lack of style and in particular a loss of style must have wounded Him, Who as a man
happens to be God’s second and supreme composition without flaw. It must always
have struck Him. To Him as Bible reader, by day and by night a (not only ahnend but)
Self-conscious Prophet, the leveling, the internationalization, the quasi-ecumenically
interested denaturalization of (also) the cultural life of His people—a
denaturalization which in fact prostituted itself to all the
“gentiles”—must have been to Him a pressing reason for anxiety.
For partly this was one of the consequences of the dispersion of Abraham’s children
among the nations. And was this dispersion not called God’s judgment? It showed the vestiges, the traces or remnants,
of the mastery of foreign powers that had successively overrun, the people of “Jesus.” In this dispersion He saw the
results of Israel ’s sin; and only in the
second place He saw in it a preparation for His own mission.
Israel ’s dependence on other countries was to him a matter of punishment. In it He
distinguished sin, loss, weakness, worldliness. And is not sin the most severe punishment
of sin? This is how already the prophet Zephaniah had seen things. For this prophet, too,
had fulminated against a raving about, e.g. foreign fashions or against a copying of
foreign customs (“leaping on the threshold” Zephaniah 1:8 9). During King
Josiah’s reformation he had joined the battle against the sin of ogling demagogues
and fulminated against “acting the Assyrian way” just as still today among us
the “stalwart” Calvinist, at least in theory, discerns a bad odour in the fashion of Paris , and the puritan is on the alert against
any possible infiltration by a cultural “fifth column.”
For the company of exotic drill-sergeants deserves no gentler name. The one prophet
fulminates against populations the youth of which speaks “half in the speech of
Ashdod ” (Nehemiah 13:24); the other calls for the days
when there will no longer be a “Canaanite” (such a huckster) pottering about
in the temple of Yahweh . Philistine influences are broken by the one reformer in the
south, Syrian ones by the other in the north. The importing of foreign religions, at
least their “forms” (as if these could be abstracted from their contents) for
the sake of business relations and cultural contacts, is plainly called “going
awhoring” by a third one.
All the prophets know quite well that Israel is first of all “the Church” and
only then “a nation.” It is a nation only because it is the Church. And
behold after so many centuries there is now “Jesus,” standing in the midst of
His people realizing He is the precursor-successor of Zephaniah and of all the reformers
temple-purgers, and prophets and still He does not produce
for His “contemporaries” a detailed and fashionable system of hodogetics regarding “fashions” or their opposite; neither
does He in a direct way lecture on style and cultural forms.
But He preaches, leads, prays, holding His Bible in His hand and His fishermen by His
hand. Even in the matter of the marriage problem He refuses to choose between the two
theories presented to Him regarding the right of divorce (the doctrine of Hillel over against that of Shammai, Matthew
19). He never looked at a woman.
What is all this? Is this negativism? Or asceticism? Is this a
matter of surrendering riches of life which can surely be considered wealth? Is it a
hankering after a dome des invalides? Please stop asking questions. Rather realize that
with our questions-with-no-answers we are sent from pillar to post as long as the full
biblical light concerning the Christ has
not dawned upon the doings of Jesus.
Therefore the problem
is none other than “Jesus the
Christ and culture”.
For in this combination
of the two names the key to its solution has been given us. Jesus: the essence of His office (to save pleromatically). The
Christ: the legitimacy of His office (He
has been “ordained” of God definitively) and also the guarantee of His office (He was anointed “with the
Spirit” not with some ointment only, and consequently: He always attains what He
definitively wants to attain in pleromatic respect).
Those two names which have been combined this way once only, exclusively, in this one
Person-having-two-distinct natures, create style in what seems
to be stylelessness, and a chord out of the single tones. Now
that in the light of the Scriptures we have seen these two names combined in
Him, we hold the clue and are able to
read the music of “the life of Jesus”: Ein wohltemperiertes Klavier.
Rather, not “a” but “the” Well-Tempered Clavichord. For now the
office of this Man of God requires our
attention. And from the fulfilling of the office which He holds when awake and when asleep, in
going and in sitting down, in speaking and in keeping silent, the preaching of the
counsel of God concerning Jesus Christ
comes to us.
This, then, applies to
the first term of our problem. Moreover, from the fulfilling of the same office we get a
clear insight also into the second term of our problem: cultural life, the cultural task, the concept of culture.
In the above we have
time and again emphasized the fact that Jesus Christ cannot be known without the
Scriptures—which He Himself used to quote in order to prove His identity. We had to
put our finger at this detail because otherwise we would still not arrive where we would
like to be.
There have been hundreds of “Jesuses”
(Joshuas). They are still there, in the ghettos and in the
market places. Strictly speaking, there have also been millions of “christs” (anointed ones) and they are still there, in catacombs and
fortunately also on the city squares. However, as for the son of Mary and Joseph (as was
supposed), the fact that He would deserve to be called Jesus (Joshua) truly and
exhaustively and that in Him the divine appointment would be definitive and His being
enabled to fulfill His task adequate, this we do not know from the sound of the names,
neither do we read this in His parousia, His appearance, but we hear this from the Scriptures.
And now that we know
all this, we see that, although His office never separates the Christ of the Scriptures
from the people and in so far does not isolate or abstract Him from them, nevertheless
His unique and exhaustive, definitive, and pleromatic
anointing, and this connected with His unique Person (constituted of two distinct
natures), made Him as the second Adam and as a Mediator entirely different in all His
work from anyone else.
His work, since it was and is the work belonging to His office, is seeking us all. But because it was and is
His work, it always defines Him in His
unique service to God. One cannot copy Him without underrating Him. There are thousands
of soldiers, but there is only one generalissimo. Whoever wants to have this one
generalissimo imitated, paralyzes the whole army. The
generalissimo is closely connected with them all, and he decides for everyone what the
regulation uniform will be, but he himself is “non-regulation.” However, the
law of the country has been written into his heart. Law and uniform are two different things.
Let us again take up
the thread of our argument: Not to get married was a command for Him alone. His office
was to suffer and die. His office consisted of a struggle against God and against Satan
at the turning-point of the ages. His office was: to be the second Adam; that is, to
establish a community of men. This time not of one blood, as a living
soul, but from one Spirit as a quickening pneuma. It commissions Him to rule over a
large nation, not because this nation has in common the same strongly beating blood nor a
common struggle and triumph, but on the judicial ground of the unique sacrifice of the
blood that flowed forth only from His
This office put Him
among men, as One Who was never authorized to isolate Himself but Who yet was completely lonely in the idion of His “experience” (His
peculiar experience). For “experience” means: to experience that the Word
which God spoke concerning us comes true.
Well, then, a very peculiar Word was spoken regarding Him, a Word relevant to His unique
situation. Only by enduring this loneliness He could presently praise God and cause Him
to be praised by a great multitude. This office engulfed Him, even bodily. It totally
obligated Him. It so completely dominated His spiritual and bodily life that all His
flesh and blood devoted itself fully to the one great battle that He would wage in
righteousness and strength before God (enopion Theou, coram Deo).
Who does not immediately feel that with this everything has in principle been said about
Jesus’ status as an unmarried Person? Who does not feel that He would even have
been unable to “heal” marriage, also as a cultural monument, if He, as the
Servant of the LORD, had not taken upon Himself His yoke, without co- or adoption of
“the children given to Him” according to the law of flesh and blood?
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself
likewise took part of the same” (Hebrews 2:14). For He is not
ashamed to call Himself the Brother of us all.” This is His office, however, He would have been ashamed indeed to call Himself the
(physical) Father of some of us. FOR THIS IS NOT HIS OFFICE. His unmarried state is not a
pattern for us, nor a humiliatingly “high” ideal for the man who has not the
charisma of abstinence. His office is so
One who has seen this
office will presently know what to think about all those other details which we have
mentioned above as being all riddles. The gold of the Magi from the East, e.g., and their
gifts of incense and myrrh had only to serve the Great Commission. The costly ointment,
the woven garment, the fine table in the house of prominent people—they all had to
serve the fulfilling of His office. To be
sure, He had no place to lay down His head, but this was no proof of contempt of culture,
neither was it a silent protest against dwelling in ceiled houses “as such,”
for the prophets did not curse the dwelling in ceiled houses but only the sin of those
who were dwelling in them and at the same time neglected the temple.
No, was a cause of necessary sorrow in His struggle to give us real culture, among other things: in this battle
His God never lets Him go “on leave”. He selected His fishermen, people of
all kinds, not as if, sociologically speaking, only the poor and unpretentious in the
cultural world could please Him (besides they were not so “poor” those
Galileans), but because He had to work also among the people of Galilee : and further, He
did not chose fishermen only or Galileans exclusively.
Did He take them from among the poor? The one says He did, the other remembers just in
time that some of them left behind a business: they were, in this case, no poor devils
who squinted with envy at the golden ornaments of the ladies of Jerusalem, but determined
heroes who had given up the “gold mine” of their business: the prophecy
concerning the Messiah had caused their heart to burn within them. Christ selected those
people for the apostolate because He wanted them to preach that the gold may again adorn
the chair of the prominent ones if this chair has been built not on the foundation of
what makes one great among men, but of that which is right before God.
In this selection of apostles, then, He was on His way to the hour of revelation when He
would cast down all the cultural philosophers with that fine and decisive word of
revelation: the “fine linen” of the most beautiful city “is the
righteousness of the saints” (Revelation 19:8). The establishing of leper houses
will surely follow if only first of all justice and the concept of the office which
forbids euthanasia, are again acknowledged in accordance with the written law of
Even the Law of Moses already knew all about social service—the isolation of lepers
included. However, Moses considered this as a matter of theocratic service in and to the Church, on covenant
territory. Thus Christ does not give leper houses but He gives them back, even when the covenant territory is no longer
geographically the same as under Moses, but can presently be distinguished in
He wants to have a royal crown. but only when the crown of
thorns has obtained it. He transforms His fishermen into preachers. and His preachers
into organizers of, e.g., a movement for the abolition of slavery, but first the world
must be told that the most serious and most painful and most humiliating slavery is that
of sin, and the basis of this essential slavery must be taken out of the life of the
world by His humbling Himself unto death,
His having become a slave (Philippians 2). He, them knows with the certainty and
practicality of a seer the times and hours of His office. For this reason He, for
example, sometimes on purpose leaves some sick people in their sickness.
While He healed others,
He passes them by, but He does so because He leaves them to be healed by the charismatic
power of His apostles. Therein He wants to show, that, as often as these apostles of His
heal sick people after Pentecost, He Himself, with His Spirit, has in them come back to
this world, still being alive after He has died.
But who will ever see this leaving of sick people in their sickness (e.g., that drudge at
the gate of the temple called Beautiful) in this light, if “Jesus” has not become to him
Christ, the Christ Whose “being a
seer” is accompanied by prophecy?
Yes, indeed, He wants
to be understood as the Christ of the
Scriptures, also in order to be able to give us insight into His positive
attitude towards the problems which we touched on under number 10, above. He shall speak
either directly or indirectly, and fundamentally, about architecture, the plastic arts,
music, fashions, about the struggle between the tendency to level the cultural
development of a nation and the urge to maintain its specific character.
However, He shall do so only as Christ,
as the One Who as the uncreated, eternal Logos, even before the birth of
“Jesus,” dominated the history and culture of all the nations, and Who on the
feast of Pentecost entered into His working period of “a thousand years” from
Ascension Day and Pentecost until His second coming. In this final period of the
everlasting, now incarnate Word of God, He shall complete and perfect His work as the
Christ—in every respect, also in that of the questions and struggles regarding the
“cultures” of the past, the present, and the future; and, moreover, also by
establishing a Christian culture in the
midst of the world.
Further, also with
respect to the second term of our problem, that is, for the development of the concept of
“culture” or “cultural life” which is in full harmony with
God’s revelation, the Scriptural concept of the office is of direct and constituent
significance. Only when we take into account the office concept, as it was grasped so
well especially by John Calvin, there will be an end to the tiresome game of the spirits,
of which the one plays “religion” off against “culture,” the
other “culture” against “religion.”
The chain of thought is
here readily handed to us.
As for the
“second” Adam, we must go
back to the beginning of things, when the
“first one” was there, the first one to whom God, Who gave revelation within
the communion of His covenant, also made known the first principles of it. For the first Adam was—at least
for those who do not think in an evolutionistic way—not a child, no playfully naive
person. To use the language of the Belgic Confession of
Faith, he did indeed, together with all other creatures, have his officium, His task as
part of the created unity of God’s works.
However, for him—just as for the angels—the officium became an
office. He had been made by God in order
to be an office-bearer, not just as part of the huge world-engine, but also as the
engine-driver appointed by God, and answerable to Him, answerable not in the first but in
the second capacity.
This appointment of
adam (man) to such a responsible office
determines his whole course of action in all his relationships. It even determines his
qualities. For God created him just as He wanted him to be.
And God wanted him to be a purposeful office-bearer.
From this point of view the concept of the “naive” primitive man disappears
completely. Man is given the title of “God’s fellow-worker.” He is
given His own work in such a wide cosmic context that in the original world of
paradisal purity this work can immediately and always be
called “liturgy”; that is, service in and to the Kingdom.
To which Kingdom? To the one of which God is King; that is,
the Kingdom of heaven, the subjects of which have been distributed over two sections of
the cosmos: one “upper” section and one “lower” section. If this
is the image of the first Adam, then the Christ can justly bear the name of the second
Adam only if He, too—as man—falls within and wants to fall within the
framework of these categories of office. For it is precisely as the second Adam that the
Christ as office-bearer in the middle of
history must revert to its beginning and
to the then given principles.
By fulfilling His office—which is fundamentally the same as that of all
men—before God’s countenance, He takes upon Himself the great reformational task of returning to
the ABC of world and life order. To serve God, in concrete
life, to obey God in any function, to fulfill God’s expressed will with all that is
in us and to do so in the midst of and in organic relation and communion with all that is
around us—this is the ABC. Here the
problem of culture, and also its
definition, has been stated in principle.
Presently we shall come
back to this point.
But when after having
provisionally looked for a resting point for our thoughts, we take up the thread again,
then we see Christ in His office standing in the midst of world history. It is in
such a way that the concept of the “midst of history” (Tillich et al.) is developed in accordance with the Scriptures. It is no
“category,” on the same level with the “border concept” of a
so-called a historical “beginning” or with that of an equally a-historical
“eschaton”—again taken as a “border
concept”—but it is a result of a real measuring and dividing of time into
real periods of time.
There is indeed a historical beginning;
then it was that man was created and that he fell into sin. There will also be an end: when everyone will receive the things done “in
his body” (by him in his temporal existence here below) (II Corinthians 5-10). So
the “middle” of history is the period in which Christ comes to redeem this
end from the curse of being exclusively determined by the fall and rupture that took
place so shortly after the beginning.
For to make it again
possible for man to fulfill this original service of God, and to give back to Him His
world and His work-community, Christ comes to do two things.
In the first place He
comes to reconcile God and to still His wrath. He does this in perfect alliance with God
Himself, Who is the subject of the “katallage”
(reconciliation): “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (II
Corinthians 5:19). “In Christ” He was the only Author of this katallage. For the
eternally burning hatred Of God against all sin cannot keep its postulates in harmony
with those of His eternally flaming mercy unless during time (in the so-called middle of
history) God’s punishing as well
as His demanding justice is
The punishing justice requires the complete condemnation of the guilty one: the demanding
justice still desires the rendering of an inviolate obedience “in the body”
(that is, during a man’s lifetime). Therefore the Christ stands surety with respect
to this twofold justice. And He indeed fulfills the pledge. This way He within time
brings about the judicial verdict that was known and demanded by God’s wrath as
well as by His love: with the ransom of His blood He purchases the right of the renewal
of what is now called God’s “new” mankind. It is now called His
redeemed Christian congregation which through Him and together with Him is heir to
However, since for Him
and for all people this eternal life—like eternal death—began and shall begin
already here, in this cultural world,” He does yet a second thing. All life and
death is now given to Him to be administered by Him, because they remain determined in
their everlasting character by the judicially-constituent ransom of Himself in the “middle of history”. This way He administers
eternal death as Christ’s sentence-of-condemnation to those who have alienated
themselves in their historical existence from His judicial verdict (“whereunto also
they were appointed,” l Peter 2:8).
Consequently through His Holy Spirit (Who actively propels the “middle of
history” towards the “end”), He is coming to do two things. On the one
hand, He will, in the cultural world, cause the grapes of the earth to ripen in order to
be trodden in the winepress of the administration of God’s anger. On the other hand
He comes, through the same Holy Spirit “in” Whom He Himself
“completes” the “thousands years” of His own dominion of peace,
to equip the work and-office community of God which He Himself purchased for the work and
service of God in order that all its living members may enter into the city of perfect
It is a struggle of a
For that reason it is
also a struggle for power.
The judicial struggle which He fought before God and Satan
was decided in the middle of the history of the world and that way He put it again on a
And the dynamic battle. which in principle He
won for ever brings for God’s newly purchased work community, the new mankind, which is nevertheless fundamentally the same
as “the old,” great powers of the outpouring of the Spirit, powers of
sanctification of Church conquest, of world maturation of cultural action.
This twofold fulfilling
of His office renders transparent for us Christ’s life as an office bearer here
below and in heaven and is of predominant significance for the problem under
For in the fulfilling
of this office, whereto He has been called and also perfectly equipped, this corrupt
world experiences once again the miracle of the appearance of
the whole, the beautiful, the original or, if one wants, the “ideal” man. As
long as He is in the state of humiliation this wholeness and pureness is only there in
concealment. Then it is the decorum of a pure, sinless human nature that always responds
to God’s timely speaking in faithfulness to His Law.
However, then it has not yet gained its reward, which glorifies Him also externally
rendering immortality to His human nature The reward that glorifies Him also publicly is
given Him in the state of glorification: He has become now a King-in-His-beauties. Psalm
110:3 is always fulfilled in Him: and many a cultural philosopher would like to have
written these fine words as soon as he had understood them.
The whole man, is he
presented as a gift? Yes, he is. For (a)
Christ is the whole man standing in our midst: wherefore He can say: The Kingdom of God
is in your midst”. This flawless man did not turn His back to the others, not even
for a single moment. And not only this, but (b) by the almighty power of the Spirit given to
Him. He also creates a man who in principle is whole again, as a fruit of creative
To believe this,
has its consequences.
achievements are among man’s mandates, and since no one can act in such a way that
his actions have no cultural significance, Christ, the sinless One, is the only One Who
in an entirely pure manner has acted and is still acting upon cultural life. That is to
say, He is the only One among men-after-the-Fall. Who can comprehend the fullness of the
thoughts, also the cultural thoughts, that are included in the
dogma of the Church that sees and preaches Christ as Man-without-sin?
As the sinless One He responds, in words and deeds, in a way that is always entirely to
the point in every situation into which the Spirit thrusts Him in order that He should
prove Himself to be the second Adam, even in a world that in cultural respect is far
removed from that of the first Adam. What is a more direct cultural act than to react to
cultural situations and complications fully and purely, and fundamentally, and according
to the original rule?
And in all this He is not just “a” man, but the Son of man That is to say: He
is more than a bright spot or a ray of light for a world that, also in cultural respect,
is heading for the abyss; He is the Sun of righteousness, also in this respect.
“Sun” does not only mean a source of light but also a source of energy. As
the Logos-Mediator-Surety He is the hypostasis, the solid foundation, the original
ground, the fulfiller, redeemer, and renewer of
culture—a cultural sign which shall therefore be spoken against.
And because He as the
Messiah, even before appearing under the name of Jesus, and also afterwards—that
is, all through the centuries—takes action by virtue of the right to be obtained or already obtained in the middle of
history, by His redeeming power, He makes
certain people again as they were “in the beginning”: men of God In the midst
of a “crooked and perverse generation” He places the types of a humanity that
is in principle pure.
They are not perfect yet; however, in principle they are there again. They are there from
the very moment when Adam in faith submits himself to the Word of the first Gospel
promise. And they continue to appear, they increase, they become “the great
multitude which no man could number,” the multitude of those who in Christ have
been sanctified by the Spirit Their host is increasing in number and is always to be
counted, until the last day.
In this administration
of His own office, and in the formation of those who are anointed together with Him
(“Christians”) there comes about nothing less than a divine action (an action
proceeding from the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) to conquer the world for God, by the
Christ of God. “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness
thereof” (Psalm 24:1). This conquest is a reconquest:
the property is, as far as it has been destined from eternity, brought back to and
restored in its proper relation to the Owner.
Christ connects the beginnings of the world with the end, the earliest history with that
of the last days, the first things with the eschata, alpha with omega, the ABC of God’s efficacious
legislative Word of the beginning with the XYZ of His once again efficacious evangelical
Word at the end of time. For God’s legislative speaking in the beginning of the
world—to undefiled Adam—was a matter of speaking in and on the basis of the
covenant: a matter of ordering the mutual
relation between God and man, in promise and in demand.
This covenant together with its ordinances had then to govern the world from the
beginning to the end. And now that after the breaking of the covenant by the first Adam,
the second Adam goes in the way of the covenant again, and restores the same now the end
will still be there as yet in peace, but this is the pax Christi—otherwise there is no peace at all. This
way Christ brings all that is in the world to its consummation: that which is secular and
that which is ecclesiastical, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the
power of angels and the brute force of demons.
He went before us and then, together with us back to the origins of God’s creation:
He there read from the Law tables the work rules which God in the beginning had imposed
upon the man of God that in the history of the created world any labourer created by God had to trace in himself all the
“talents” which God had distributed to His labourers in the morning of creation and learn to use them in such a way
that finally, by making productive the “possibilities” which had been put
into the creation and afterwards had to be discovered and respected according to their
kind” man would exploit all its potentials.
All the talents which the Master had given to His servants were to have gained in the
end, in the evening, as many as were distributed in the morning. And
all the possibilities hidden in the cosmos had to be traced discovered, made to function
according to the revealed law, and rendered subservient to the edification of the whole
of God’s creation according to the order of the respective creatures that had been
established from the beginning.
If the personal man assisted in this respect by the other personal office bearer created
by God the angel—were to fulfill his ‘munus’ (office)
this way, then, to use an expression taken from the Belgic
Confession of Faith, any non-personal creature and also man—and
angel—himself, would fulfill again his officium (office or service) (Article 12). This
is, if one wants to put it that way, the Theocratic arrangement of all things.
No less than this did
Christ find written in the order of the day which God inscribed in the heart of the
cultural man of the beginning the flawless man in the beautiful garden without a gate
called “The Beautiful,” for the garden was open then.
What He read there so
laid hold of and dominated Him that—just to give an example—as appears from
the synoptic Gospels, He told the parable of the talents, wherein this ABC is taught again—for
reforming means to teach the people the
ABC again—as the last one before He in accordance with His office went the way of
His sufferings and resurrection. It was the last one He told before His
“Millennium” broke through.
It so laid hold of Him that in His last great prayer for the Church “sent up”
in the days of His humiliation He told the Father “I pray not that Thou
shouldest take them out of the world but that Thou
shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 1715) that
Thou shouldest keep them there not in their cloister which
becomes a refuge of self-willed religion a refectory of fatigue at least if it has no
window and no door open to the world.
This last point the ABC
of the first days of the world is the turning point in our argument. At this very moment
the door is put on its hinges and it must fit. And—here alone can it fit.
For here alone we come
to the possibility of working out the above-given, still only provisional, concept of
culture. For culture is a word that can be found on the first page of the Bible:
“Dress the garden, replenish the earth, be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis
215; 128). These first Bible-pages, they are the pages of “the ABC”. They
contain these three brief commandments in the description of the phase of the so-called
“covenant of works”. They already fit in the virgin world which has not yet been completed; that is which is still
in the process of being developed—according to the plan of creation—in order
to reach the end the teleiosis, the entering into the state of being
Therefore this first page of the Bible, replete as it is with covenant regulations, is
directly of cultural interest. For the Creator Himself is culturally interested.
“Culture”, after all, is a word that has been derived from the Latin verb
colere. Colere means “to cultivate” “to care for”. The farmer who
plows his field is engaged in this colere. There is a field, which is a promise. And
there is seed, which is also a promise. But there is also a farmer, which means: “a
commandment with a promise”. As a creature of God he has been put in a
cosmic unity together with the field and the seed. He himself is also a
“field” of the everlasting Spirit, and at the same time he is seed.
He, too, is in his entire bodily existence a creature of God’s hand, his
“conscience”, his consciousness, included. As a creature of God he, too, is
included when the Belgic Confession of Faith states that all
creatures are as so many characters in a most elegant book (Article 2). But God placed
him as a personal creature not only in
but also over all other created life.
That is to say, man is, with his conscience, not only a character in the book of creation but also a
reader of this “book”: he
must read and understand also himself as a character, although never isolating himself
from other creatures.
Deum scire cupio, et animam: I desire to know God
and the soul. This well known saying means, as far as this “soul,” known
through God, is concerned, that it—or let us say: the conscience, conscious
life—is a character in but also a reader of God’s book. So man as a
personal-spiritual being, as a called labourer of God, and as
the crowned vice regent, by the finding and sowing of all seed is to take from the field
what is in it. It is agri-culture.
However, in order to
fulfill this task, as a lord of this field, and also, though as a personal being, to
confess that he (he consciously) is one with this field, under God, he must undertake
self-cultivation. This self-cultivation immediately finds its limits here. It may not be
or even be called “personalism.” As soon as the
“person” is considered as “divine,” or (which is fundamentally
the same thing) as an end in itself, as a reader who no longer wants to be a character in
the book of God, he has fallen to the share of idolatry, the idolatry of “person
He then forgets that in “the book” of creation God’s name is to be
read, and that the God Who may be known from this book as the Creator and Re-creator is
transcendent, to an infinite degree qualitatively distinct from all creatures.
Self-cultivation, self-development, this positive (!)
askesis, that is, the training of the creaturely
aspect in us, in order that what is human and creaturely may find its officium herein that man
as a creature may see his munus and fulfill it—this is good and even
His hand shall sow and deposit the seed in the field of the world. He shall be the medium
by which, in faith and faithfulness to the promises which God spoke to His fellow
workers, the silent promises that God put in to His creatures, each in its own context,
shall find their appropriate fulfillment. In such a self-development, such a self
cultivation, he prepares himself for the growing task, and he lets his God take pleasure
also in himself as active field.
This was God’s
wise intent when He created the world. It did not please Him to create the world ready to
hand. He only created it good. The world, then, as it came forth from God’s hands,
was a world-in-the-promise, a world in hope; and as long as it was good this hope could
not be called “idle”. Neither will the ordinances of creation, those fixed
“laws,” ever be invalid, “powerless” (unto our perfection) unless
through the flesh”. That is to say, when sin makes its
Not that sin can push aside the ordinances of creation. Definitely
not. Their continuity is the first condition for the blessing as well as for the
curse—both of which were already announced in paradise. However the ordinances of
creation, which in an obedient world always make the blessing concrete and multiply it,
will do the same in a fallen world as far as the curse is concerned. Then they are
“powerless” unto blessing, but not unto cursing.
This is how God
immediately spoke in the sanctions of His “covenant of works,” and in so
doing He put the whole world, man in particular, under high pressure, under
“tension.” For man, called as a fellow-worker of (and also under) God, the
world was not a world of the “omega” but of the “alpha.” The
paradisal world was a beginning. And in this beginning was
given, in principle. everything that had to be there potentially to let it grow out to a
completed world of perfect order, the polis, the civitas, the “city” (state) of God, paradisally designed and presently built.
If one day it is to be full grown, it needs a historical process of many centuries. We
are indeed in an “interim”: but it lies not between a primitive and an
eschatological “history,” both of which would be a-historical, but between the “first” and the
“last” things, which are as historical as the things in “the middle of
history”. Otherwise it would be nonsense to speak of a
“middle.” The paradisal reality, then, is
definitely not a so-called “higher” reality: neither is Adam. It is only a
virginal reality: but for the rest it is, very concretely, included in time, sober, real,
historical: there is flesh in it and blood, just as there are soul and spirit.
And now, in this sober,
flat reality of historical paradisal life, God announced that
He would work evolution on the foundation of creation. This evolution, according to the nature of
created life cannot take place without the energy which flows out from God, not even for
one moment. But, according to God’s own commanding Word, which creates order and
allots to everything is own place, it should not happen, not even for one single moment,
without man as man of God acting therein as God’s fellow worker.
“You are labourers together with God” (I
Corinthians 3:9): this is not a posthumous quietive that was proclaimed by Paul for a
seceded Church somewhere in an isolated corner. No, this is a matter of leading back in
an imperative way to the “first
principles of the world. “This is not only a suitable text for a minister’s
inaugural sermon but it is also the day-text for any cultural worker, for the professor
as well as the street-sweeper, for the kitchen-worker and for the composer of a Moonlight
Therefore the first
commandment with a rich promise reads: “Dress the garden.” No castles in the
air are promised in these words: neither do they suggest a so called “higher
reality.” Dress the garden—here first of all the spade, a cultural
instrument, and later on rubber boots, are not put into our hands, but man’s
created spirit has to invent them
according to time and place and to design and adapt them to the dressing hand and the
foot that breaks up and tramples down the soil.
For the hand and the spirit, they work together: man has to “dress.” Dress
the garden—here no introspective moralizing sermons are delivered, but here there
is a concrete work- and life-commandment, a highly-spiritual and, consequently, everyday
commandment. Biblical interim ethics can only operate with a lex that can be grasped.
A “commandment” that one cannot lay hold of, a Word of God that one cannot
work with, would not enable it to fulfill its pedagogic calling of prescription.
For the garden may be called “paradise,” and our lyrical rhetoric
unfortunately may have changed it as if by magic into an isolated, solidly fenced in
spot, where zephyrs blow and which, its seems, only a popularly misunderstood romanticism
can write about. But actually it is something completely different. The garden is the
beginning of adama, of the inhabited world. Hence it is also the beginning
of the cultural world. The garden lies open. Therefore we earlier spoke about the
beautiful garden but one without a gate called “The Beautiful.” All that which issues from the world issues from there, including that which
issues from cultural life and all its processes.
For culture becomes here,
THE SYSTEMATIC ENDEAVOR
TOWARDS THE PROCESS-WISE ACQUISITION OF THE AGGREGATE OF LABOUR BY THE SUM TOTAL OF HUMAN
BEINGS AS THEY BELONG TO GOD, EVOLVE THEMSELVES UNTO GOD IN HISTORY WITH AND FOR THE
COSMOS, AND ARE PRESENT AT ANY HISTORICAL MOMENT, HAVING ASSUMED THE TASK OF DISCLOSING
THE POTENCIES LYING DORMANT IN CREATION AND SUCCESSIVELY COMING WITHIN REACH IN THE
COURSE OF THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, OF DEVELOPING THEM IN COMPLIANCE WITH THEIR
INDIVIDUAL NATURES, OF MAKING THEM SUBSERVIENT TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT, BOTH FAR AND NEAR,
ACCORDING TO THEIR COSMIC RELATIONSHIPS AND IN SUBMISSION TO THE NORMS OF GOD’S
REVEALED TRUTH; AND ALL THIS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE TREASURES THUS ACQUIRED USABLE BY MAN
AS LITURGICAL CREATURE, AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, TO BRING THEM, TOGETHER WITH THE NOW MORE
THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED MAN HIMSELF, BEFORE GOD AND PUT THEM AT HIS FEET, IN ORDER THAT HE
MAY BE ALL IN ALL, AND EVERY WORK MAY PRAISE ITS MASTER.
In this definition the
fundamental moments of the biblical creation story have, in our opinion, been rendered.
Dress the garden: the concrete cultural mandate to exploit the world’s
Be fruitful and multiply: a growing sum
total of human beings to be subjected to the cultural mandate, the obligation to engage
in culture, time and again in every temporal phase and in all provinces of geographic
Subdue the earth. and have
dominion: the cultural man as a product of God’s creation work, facing
his own position: that of God’s vice-regent. Man created in God’s own image:
cultural work must be spontaneous (man’s qualities have been created in him in view
of his munus): it is a matter of serving God as a
representative of His supreme authority and consequently a matter of discovering God and
causing Him to be found in the discovering of the future.
God speaks unto man and with him, because
of his appointment as the chosen representative of God’s dominion over all other
creatures: and within the communion of the covenant that God made with him. God speaks
unto him and with him about the rest of the cosmos in spite of the fact that he himself
is part thereof—which means that self-distinction is thus awakened in him, and that
self-cultivation, self-development is made clear to him as his duty, not as an end in
itself but as a matter of mandate.
And finally, he is given a moral
commandment together with all that belongs to him he is in his cultural labour subject to his Creator: in the determining of his own goals with
regard to created things he is bound to what he has heard from God’s mouth by
Word-revelation concerning God’s own purpose with respect to the cosmos. He is
summoned to kneel down, now and presently, before his Maker in and together with a cosmos
prepared by his own hand under God’s providence, culturally engaged as he is in
view of his own, but especially of God’s sabbath into which he. man has to enter.
Under the influence of
thinking that has been corrupted by sin and is hostile to God, in a world that disrupts
all relationships, culture is usually separated from “religion”, or at least
sharply distinguished from it. But from the beginning
it was not so (Matthew 19:8) For religion is not a province of life, not a
separate function of or for the “heart,” not an isolated activity of a devout
conventicle of people during certain elevated fragments of
man’s lifetime. No, religion, or rather the service of God, is to be distinguished
Schleiermacher, the pantheistic
philosopher-in-the-guise-of-a-theologian of Romanticism, wrote a book entitled
On Religion. However, he dealt only with
religiosity and at bottom—by virtue of his pantheism—this religiosity was
self-worship, in so far as “God” and “universe” are intertwined
in his thinking. He of necessity had to reject as moralism
any action having an objective. “Religion” was to him neither a matter of
“doing” nor of “knowing.”
In our interpretation it is no mere “doing” either. It is service: however, not that of an all-nature particle
oscillating together with the universe, a particle called homunculus, but the service of the man who loves his
Father, knows Him as being above the world, believes Him in the world, and wants to turn
again to Him with the world in order that he may consciously—not by deriving all
sorts of “formulas” from the “universe” but by listening to
commandments of instruction from the mouth of his Father-Legislator—formulate his
maxims in the believing “knowledge” of the Church and so fulfill the will of
For this reason cultural work is in paradise service of God. There one cultivates
everything, the ground on which one walks and the heart in its full depth, plants as well
as the meditative spirit. There one washes his undefiled hands as well as his soul in
righteousness—the one thing cannot be separated from the other.
And culture will take
its God appointed place again only there where one reaches back to this original
situation and its order.
reaches back. This expression already
includes the confession that there was a disruption.
This disruption was
caused by sin; man fell away from God.
Then there was
disintegration. His life crumbled. The same happened to the world: the whole of it and
its respective parts did no longer work towards each other .The human mind, confused,
erring, sinful, conceited, itself disintegrated in principle, began to practice
disintegration, that is to abstract to tear asunder, to set apart and separate. Man
ceased to think in a general and widely cosmic way, keeping the parts” in a proper
relation to “the whole” and putting all this under God’s feet, but he
changed his “catholicizing” interest to a “specializing” that is
Details, which one can become enamoured of, were severed from
the “whole” in which one must love God. He stopped his ears to the truth
revealed to him in God’s Law and confirmed by the tragic failures of his existence,
the truth that he, once he had fallen into sin, could or would no longer survey any
single theme in the great context of the whole of God’s compositions, let alone
that he could or would work it out in his own.
This is how religion
and culture were separated from one another: the vanguard of the generation of Cain chose
“culture” and discarded “religion” as something unrelated; and
the rear guard of the generation of Seth quite agreed with this distinction. And that was
the worst thing. For from the
beginning it was not so.
Sin worked still
further destruction. For the process of disintegration cannot stop. Not only the
abstracting severance of the whole into “parts”, “spheres”,
“sectors”, “territories “, “groups with common
interests”, is by itself the result of sin, but even within these
“spheres,” “ territories,” “communities” themselves
(existing as a result of abstraction) the factor of dissolution becomes further active to
increase the effect of the de-catholicizing principle, For while God lets the
distinctions which He has put into His creation combine unto and in a “pluriform” unity
Satan makes use of these distinctions to separate things.
God binds the respective races together and shows in their coalescence mankind’s
“pluriformity”. Satan makes them principles of
division and so forces a racial struggle. It goes the same way as far as the different
classes, sexes, characters, nationalities, and trade organizations are concerned. To use
Pauline imagery again: eye cultivates eye, ear cultivates ear, hand cultivates hand, foot
cultivates foot, and this rage of specialization eats its way so deeply that the question
whether these respective parts of the body need each other is reserved only for the
moments when the world has a hangover, for example in what is called a postwar
Even in these moments, asking the question is no more than a token vote. Personal
aptitude is deformed into one-sidedness. One “type” will presently be the
opposite of the other, of which it originally was to be only a complement. Everywhere
differences become antitheses. Culture as the systematic endeavour of the developing sum-total of human beings towards the
acquisition of the aggregate of labour, is hereby already
formally dissolving itself.
For by acting this way people attack the system: the confusion of tongues is a matter of
punishment, but it is then promptly presented as a good thing. This formal dissolution is
the fruit of a material falling away from God. Faith in His covenant word was forsaken. The idea of
man’s office was thereby abandoned. Earnestness gave way to play and to
play-culture (sport-infatuation, four columns of sport reviews to half a column of Church
news; big capitals for the winner of a match but not a single letter for the cause of
spiritual struggle even in “Christian” newspapers).
The hope, which in the regeneration of
all things sees every part again in its proper place in the whole, has been forsaken;
every day the world becomes more nervous and “culture” more and more a
casemate business: everyone creeps into his own casemate at the command of
“his” trade organization. Love for
God, Who must be shown in His full glory in that which is His own, yields and
gives way to infatuation with a creature that has broken away
from its Maker.
There is no unity any more. It is no longer even sought, because unity is found only
through God, and God is considered an enemy. No longer the original
style of the “commandment of life” (in paradise) is followed. And the
reason which is given—if a reason is still given—is this: Well, we are in the
desert now, and there one cannot do much with paradisal
commandments. But this argument betrays the hypocrisy of those who use it: the law of
life is held in contempt because God, Who by and in His Law gave life, is Himself
On his part, man broken away from God no longer has a cultural style that is determined
by the moral law. Only in so far as God (as He presently will appear to be doing), for
His own sake, yet keeps the created world within the natural context of the cosmos, man
will feel himself to be bound by this fixed arrangement of God, also in his cultural
achievements. Even though the moral law
of God no longer determines man’s cultural style, the natural law continues to bind the producer of culture
with strong bonds.
In the meantime the bonds of this natural coercion differ from the cords of God’s
love. The strong grip of God’s natural ordinances enclasps
God’s friend as well as His enemy. But as far as this enemy is concerned, if it
were up to him he would in his battle against the moral law try to avail himself of that which is
natural and functions as such. If only he
could, he would precisely in his immoral culture like to attain the proper
“style” of Satan, who also has been unable to destroy the fundamental
structure of God’s original creation, but who yet desires to corrupt morally, with
all his strength the world given by God. There have already been some “cultural
styles” of “Satanism”.
As the foregoing
implies, the mere fact that there is culture and that man performs cultural labour, cannot be classified under so called “common
This has indeed
repeatedly been claimed. Taking the point of view of experience and at the same time
making a “guided” effort to take biblical data into account, one then
reasoned as follows: Because of the dreadful character of sin and guilt we, men, would
have deserved to descend into hell immediately after the Fall.
Such a descent, cutting off all development would have served us right. Yet we see before
our eyes that the world has continued to exist after the Fall
for thousands of years and that the potentialities given in the cosmos are being
developed as yet. Is this not “grace”?
The answer is then implied: It is indeed grace; it is God’s goodness which He does
not owe to us. True, this grace does not redeem unto eternal salvation. Therefore it is
called “common”. Yet, it is indeed “grace.” lt gives us the benefit of the restraining of sin. If sin were not restrained it would
break out in the most flagrant, directly satanic outpouring of wickedness. However, God
stems this wickedness by the “common” operation of His Spirit, even by the
common “testimony” of the Spirit, which testimony provides man with
certainty, the immediate assuredness concerning some clusters of central truths, this
assuredness being pre-reflexive.
In this way there falls upon the desert of this world the continually self-renewing dew
of common grace, which makes life yet tolerable and even—by virtue of the
“progressive” operation which is peculiar to it—creates oases in the
midst of the desert cultural oases also.
However, in this train
of thought there are several twists which weaken the conclusion that the term
“common grace” is applicable here.
Certainly it is true
that sin is being “restrained” and that the curse has not been fully poured
out upon the world. However, the same thing can be said about the obedience which in
Christ Jesus was again permitted to become a gift of God’s free grace and which by
the power of Christ’s Spirit also was able to become a gift of this favour. Whoever calls the restraining of the curse “grace”
should at least call the “restraining” of the blessing “judgment.”
But neither of these terms would have a scientific basis. As best they could be used in a
non-scientific description of concrete reality, but then next to one another. However,
this casual usage in speaking about “common grace” as well as “common
judgment” means in itself already a correction of the preference for the term
Certainly there is a
withholding (II Thessalonians 2 6).
However, withholding is a feature peculiar to time. Where nothing is
“withheld”, there is a possessio
possession of life so that one always has the fullness of this possession simultaneously
in his hands in full measure) OR a
tota simul (a matter of having been robbed a deprivation and then
again in such a way that the fullness of this depravation is there totally at every “moment” in full measure).
That is to say: wherever there is no withholding there is no temporal existence any
longer; there “eternity” is found. For even in paradise there was a
“withholding.” If the Spirit of God had been given to Adam without a
withholding, then he would have been excluded from the possibility of falling into sin.
“Development”—or otherwise “corruption”—is a feature
peculiar to time. Development and corruption belong to time. The state of being developed
and being corrupted (both pleromatically, according to the
subject’s nature and capacity) belong to eternity.
Consequently the fact that the gifts of creation show development is not grace but
nature. There is a stirring “within
them” within things, within people. It is something “in” man: the
boisterous urge of one who, since he is himself “developing”, seeks to wrest
corn and wine from the “developing” earth; that is the urge to
“colere,” to cultivate the garden. However that which before the Fall
was a religious work of love directed towards God as the Covenant God becomes after the
Fall a deed of selfishness of self-preservation of zest for living (a la Pallieter), not
service to God but self-service.
One so often hears about “nature” that one is left with the impression this
is dead capital lying there to be used or not to be used by man (and the world). Then one
jumps to the conclusion: this world of man deserved to die, namely, to die an eternal
death, which as such takes away from all its objects the possibility of any use of
capital; yet man is able to “use” “nature,” that is, to cause
this dead capital still to yield interest; ergo, this is “grace.”
But this reasoning is
altogether faulty as long as “nature” is understood as temporal nature. As
long as time exists, mobility, pregnancy and birth, begetting and conceiving, belong to
nature. “Dead” capital—this is here too playful a terminology because
it is not relevant to nature-in-time and
because it only serves naively to distort the problem in order to be able to conclude
that the term “common grace” is indeed applicable.
The problem under
consideration, then, is fundamentally a matter of evaluating “time.”
It is wrong to think
that the prolongation of time after the Fall is a matter of
“grace.” One then refers us to the seriousness of sin, arguing that
“we” deserved, immediately after the Fall, to be
cast into the “lake of fire.” This did not happen; ergo, it is grace.
However, one forgets that the first sentence of this argument offers no more than a
fable. If fallen man had been cast into the “lake of fire” immediately after
the Fall, then “we” would not be there. Then only
two people would have been condemned, and no more, no mankind, the subject of the just
mentioned hypothetical judgment.
Consequently a great
mystery has been revealed precisely in the prolongation of time after the Fall. This prolongation is no grace. It is simple enough to
“prove” this: Suppose God had intended to punish only as many people as he
will indeed punish eternally, should these people then not have been born first, even
successively, the one from the other? So God would have had to prolong time already for
the purpose of casting into hell as many objects of His wrath as there will one day be.
And not only this. During this time marriages would have had
to be contracted; at any rate, the copulation of men and women would have had to occur.
Therefore, e.g., an economic equilibrium would have been essential. Culture would have
been necessary. Culture is the presupposition of all the works of God, even with respect
Praise be to God because we know more than only that there will be a hell. A
heaven, too, is on the programme of divine action. In order
to populate it with as many as God shall call thereunto, prolongation of time is needed,
the bearing of children is essential, and consequently labour, in an economic as well as climatological equilibrium, is necessary. But precisely for that reason
it is a serious error to designate the prolongation of time and the cultural development
of the cosmos as (common) grace.
This prolongation and
development are no grace. Nor are they curse or condemnation. That is to say, if one
wants to use these terms in a serious way.
They are the
sine qua non of both, the substratum of
In so far as the urge
to develop creation is natural, and in so far as the opening of any womb, even of that of
mother earth, is natural, culture is a natural thing. It is the substratum of two
extremes: the acquittal of as many as have been predestinated unto this acquittal or the
banishment of those who have been foreordained to this banishment.
Grace is not inherent
in culture (colere) as such. Nor is grace inherent in eating and drinking
as such, or in breathing, or in the begetting of children. Grace, if there is grace,
would be inherent only in God fearing colere, eating and drinking, and begetting of children not as
dead but as living people.
And the curse does not
lie in culture (colere) as such. Nor does it lie in eating and drinking as
such, or in breathing, or in the begetting of children. The curse, if there is a curse,
would lie only in ungodly colere, ungodly eating, drinking, and begetting of
children—not as living but as dead people.
Within the framework of
time after the Fall, the antithesis was inevitable not in
nature but in the use of nature, and hence in culture. This is the antithesis between
cultural activity in faith and in unbelief.
There is indeed
“common” grace in culture (grace for more than one person). But there is no
universal (or general) grace for all men. Therefore Abraham Kuyper’s construction was wrong.
There is indeed also a
“common” curse in cultural life (a curse shared by more than one person). But
there is no universal (or general) curse.
can sometimes be the same as universal, but it is not necessarily always so. Something
can be common to all people, but it can also be common to more than one person, not to
In the present scheme
“common” is intended to mean: shared by many, not by all people.
There is a common (not:
universal) grace in culture, as far as the redeeming work of Christ is shared by all
those who are His—which grace has an effect upon their cultural achievements.
But all the others lie
under the common curse. It has been given to the Man of Acts 17:31 to pronounce
judgment over them.
Immediately after the
Fall the Son of God took action, not yet as Jesus but as the
Messiah, known to God alone, being the Logos
the Word not yet incarnate which yet had to come into the flesh. He took action in order
to begin the work and the ministry of grace in this world, and to mark as being
determined by His work the ground (not of
election and reprobation, for their ground is only God’s good pleasure, but) of
salvation and of condemnation.
The ground of salvation would be: Christ’s merits. The ground of condemnation would
be: man’s guilt, which after the Fall appeared to be
determined by the presence of Christ’s work. Man’s guilt is his rejection of
Christ. Thus Christ took action as the Saviour-Redeemer, and
as the Saviour-Avenger. The constitutive element in both
functions is: His evangelical work of redemption, which is never satisfied with being a
Because in this spirit
and with this double intention, Christ, before the countenance of God, took upon Himself
the burden of the world, He became the Redeemer of the world, culture included. He also
gave—from now on Christologically determined—meaning to all cultural activity.
This Christologically determined sense is universal, general.
The grace therein is not universal, but common. It is the one and only grace unto
salvation, redemptive and recreating grace. For Christ now guarantees that the world,
which in God’s eternal counsel was “foreordained,” will return to God,
Accordingly a complete
history of many centuries is for His sake “inserted” between the first sin
ever committed and the final curse. We repeat: for His sake. After what we have said,
this cannot mean: only for the sake of His redemption work (or only for the sake of the
elect). It must mean: for the sake of His double function as the Saviour-Redeemer and the Saviour-Judge. He
makes room for history in order that all that happens may be Christologically determined: pro as well as
And of course the verb “insert” is no more than metaphorical language.
History only seems to be
“inserted.” But in reality it was determined from eternity. In history God
makes room for Christ’s all dominating work of redemption, and for His appearing,
presently as Jesus, in order to die here on earth, rise again from the dead, and change
the course of the world by shifting its helm with hands of flesh and blood through the
power of God’s Spirit.
In this history even of
a fallen world, a history created by God’s will so that this world might hold its
own, Christ must be considered as the One Who carries all the burdens of the world, while
He transfers all the world’s delights to God the Father, that God may be all in
all—see the concluding verses of I Corinthians 15. So God directs all that happens
in this world towards Christ. He directs all cultures towards Christ, Who shall determine
the fullness of time: the culture of the ancient nations before the Flood, that of Egypt
, Persia , Rome , Greece , and Babylon .
Such prophets of Christ’s advent as Isaiah and Daniel are the instructors of every
true cultural philosopher. Because of Him and also by Him every process is led to this
time. And therefore every culture has to serve in order to make room for a seemingly a
cultural manger, and for an also seemingly culturally in different cross, and in order to
have a hole hewn out presently, somewhere in a garden belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.
But on the Easter morning the body of this Son of Man then rises again from this grave,
being whole and sound and flawless. Then He returns to God’s world in the Spirit,
this Christ Jesus, and puts the world in its own place. He puts sound—that is to
say: reborn—people in the place that is fitting for them and He heals life, in so
far as life acknowledges Him as the mystical (i.e., hidden) Head of His
Hereby the respective
relations are brought back, in principle, to their ethically normal origin (as we have
seen, the original norms are the natural ordinances for created life). Flesh and blood do
not proclaim any ethical norms, but only the Spirit, through God’s Word—even
concerning the governing, stimulating, and Eschatological subservience of flesh and
Hence, when the world
was top heavy with an effete and violently disruptive pseudo culture which did not
acknowledge God as the Owner of the cosmos, a handful of simple guild artisans in some
small towns in Asia Minor—workers, who by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ had
learned to serve God in their daily labour—as often as
they had dutifully, with God in mind, tanned a piece of leather or made a tent or
completed a certain guild task, meant more, precisely for culture, than the entire
imperial train of the Caesar of Rome with his palaces, his dancers, his laurels, his
maecenasses, and his metropolis.
Hence, when on a certain day an escort of prisoners was led into the city of Rome, among
whom there was a certain Paul, this man was of greater significance, particularly for
cultural life, than all of culture-drunk Rome: he signified a radical change, over
against all those prominent ones who were running the show—he who called himself a
Yes, indeed, this is
true, says someone, for later on Paul would create culture through his followers. But no,
say the angels, he created culture right then, at that very moment. A man who was sound,
a man of God, entered into the wilted and corrupt city of Rome, a maker of tents and a
philosopher, a theologian and missionary; someone who would have the courage to look the
emperor in the eye, even when the latter did not have the courage any more to do the same
to him. A man who showed his fellow prisoners a great light, and made a rented house in
Rome the forecourt of an academy of philosophy. There is a little poem by a Latin poet
Occurri nuper, visa est mihi
senem potum pota trahebat anus
That is, in the street I met a strange procession: a drunken old hag
was dragging a drunken old fellow. Pardon this crude translation, but it is fitting here.
This little song in its realism as well its cultural-historical outspokenness is as
typical of the days in which the apostle Paul entered the culture drunk city of Rome as
that other little song in which a Roman emperor pitied his “soul” because of
its poverty, and, blasé wished it goodnight. Yes, indeed, this was typical of the
big city of those days: drunkenness, which is then considered to be a joke.
The relationships were turned completely upside down: the woman drags the man behind her,
grey hair is no longer an elegant crown, and the poet, chuckling over it, makes capital
out of it. Here we see the down fall of that entire world. But then the apostle Paul
entered the city in chains, for the servant is not higher than his Master. However this
Paul—although he had a thorn in the flesh and, according to his own statement in 1
Corinthians 15:8, had been brought into the Church as a “miscarriage,” and
although he knew himself incorporated in to the procession of the not many rich the not
many noble, the weak ones, and those who are nothing in this world, I Corinthians 1 --
this man Paul was, by the grace given to him an example of soundness, also of cultural
In the same way the seven epistles, hidden somewhere in the beginning of an Apocalypse,
the book of Revelation, are, by the grace that speaks in them, monuments of culture. Such
is what they are as truly as the Sermon on the Mount is a monument not only of the
history of revelation but also of cultural history. For in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus
Christ teaches us here on earth, and in these seven epistles the same Jesus Christ
teaches from heaven how at the trough, at the office, in the temple, in the factory, at
the academy, and in the artist’s studio, one has to realize again that one’s
starting point, purpose, and direction are determined by God, that he has to fill his
“yes” and “no” with the strength of an oath, and to do his work
under the tension of living between the beginning and the end of history as a
kohen, i.e. as one who “stands and serves” before
In the Sermon on the Mount and in those seven epistles the world turns the other way
round, just as it had to do, in order to prepare a cradle and to set up a workshop, even
if it were only for one single man of God. Herein Christ in principle condemns for
everyone the fragmentation of life and conquers it in the life of His own people. He
fundamentally connects the respective faculties until they have grown into a complete
“university” He again links “religion” together with
“culture,” making cultural activity into a concrete service of God, and, when
it comes to the point, denies anything that is not out of God the name and honour of “positive cultural activity.”
For, strictly speaking, all is sin that is not out of faith. The cultural urge
per se is, as we have seen, one of the
“natural” gifts, the “gifts of creation.” Therefore we can also
speak of colere in the animal kingdom. Who knows if there
some progress is made in matters of organization? Who knows if even the ants and the bees
have shown a certain “progress” in the building of their nests and in the way
of gathering and preserving honey?
But the purposeful use of these gifts of creation, positive cultural activity in
accordance with the commandment given by God with respect to purpose and eschatologically
determined direction, is possible only in an obedience regained through the Spirit of
Christ. Sin, wherever it may appear, also in cultural life, is
unable to be persistently moral in its cultural thinking, nor can it build or
create in a culturally positive way. For colere means “to
build,” but sin breaks down. In God’s original dictionary of
revelation “culture” is always constructive, but sin is destructive.
‘We shall come back to this point later on.
As it was in the days when Paul stumbled into the city of Rome , so
has it always been in the world since then. Every reformation that,
driven by the Spirit of Christ, returns to the Scriptures, the Word of God, is at the
same time a healing of culture. When round headed Martin Luther at last got
married and could laugh again in a healthy way, he was worth a hundred ducats as a
healing and direction giving producer of culture, while the complete papal and imperial
train was worth hardly more than one single ducat, even considered from the cultural
point of view.
This is evident when one compares the spheres of activity of Lutheran and Roman Catholic
countries. However, while Luther made certain errors in the foundation principles, or,
let us put it this way, in the fundamentals of the relation between nature and
grace—which errors were overcome by John Calvin—the Calvinistic countries
later exhibited a cultural development that thetically and
antithetically was far stronger and produced far greater strength than was the case in
The cultural chaos that Adolf Hitler left behind because he
first brought it with him, could arise in Lutheran countries also with the support of
“orthodox” Lutherans, but met positive and unbreakable resistance among the
Calvinistic groups. This resistance did not weigh off “values” which can be
directly grasped and which possess a tangible usefulness against other values”
(“Americanism,” communism versus Nazism, real democracy versus a mythical
Volksempfinden!), but it continuously kept in mind the far
reaching protological and Eschatological history projects of
the Apocalypse, which encompass all of history, and consequently connected its cultural
activities with the fundamental principles of the Calvinistic Reformation.
John Calvin in Geneva and Strasbourg shows us what the service of God is concretely able
to do also for cultural life He created a Christian culture, which had been freed from
the secularist imperialist aspirations that still render Rome’s imagination effete
since they are inspired by the same false distinction between “nature” and
“grace” that played Martin Luther a trick.
As often as we think
about these things it strikes us that the name which the book of Revelation applies to
the Roman Empire and which is so meaningful precisely for cultural evaluation and
examination is that of the antichristian prototype, the name “harlot.” When
the Bible calls the Roman Empire a harlot all depends on the right exegesis. The same is
true when Martin Luther gives the philosophical Seminare a hard nut to crack when speaking about
die Hure Vernunft (the harlot Reason).
This was no condemnation of reason” (for a harlot does not stand condemned because
of her womanly nature) but of the proud and sinful reason which has emancipated itself
from God (just as in a harlot only the use of her womanly nature contrary to the divine
ordinance for womanhood is to be accursed). One single false interpretation of the word
“harlot” that does no longer distinguish between the one thing and the other,
is all that is needed to throw Martin Luther—wrongly, of course—on the
despised heap of the despisers of God’s great gift of reason in the same way, one
indiscriminate interpretation of the term “harlot” in the Apocalypse, and the
Church of Rome no longer knows in what particular respect the Roman Empire was a
Was it a harlot in its persecution of Christians? Oh no, that was only the consequence.
It was a harlot when it refused to put the created gifts at the disposal of God. Who
wants to be the Bridegroom of His faithful work community.
Then, as a consequence of such a false exegesis, a worldwide Church can become
enamoured of what ultimately is the harlotry of the Roman
Empire . Then a church presents itself that acts as “the state,” idealizing
the state as a cultural power, and
imitating it even at the cost of mutilating the prophetic cultural testimony, and this way forgetting that the
prophecy concerning the relation between
nature and grace (and also between nature and sin) which is faithful to God’s Word
is a greater cultural force than the most astonishing Pyrrhic victory of a culturally
Over against such a Pyrrhic victory of Rome , John Calvin meant a restoration. He built
up a Christian, Protestant, Reformed culture, precisely by making a
distinction—which does not mean a separation—between church and state. He
came to God’s recruits with an order-of-the-day that was also a matter of culture.
He saw again that in the Old Testament the “shepherds” had a wider task than
only that of caring for souls, for they were commissioned with cultural care as
He again taught a living love for the divine calling, went out into all the nooks and
crannies of the world, and had learned to understand that precious word of grace and
hence also of culture: “All things are yours . . . and ye are Christ’s; and
Christ is God’s” 1 Corinthians 3:21, 23).
And this is the law
that shall remain in force in this world.
A church magazine that,
wherever necessary, does its weeding and keeps principles pure
means more for culture than a gilded stage. Over against a minister who in a
“Reformed weekly” exclaimed that sometimes one single drama means more than
seven study outlines, the Reformed distinction of nature-grace-sin maintains that one
good outline means more than seven, even good, dramas in as much as the power of
God’s Word is stronger than that of the image, and doctrine is more than
A Christian family, living in a distinctively Christian style, is for cultural life, in
whatever complications it may be placed, another revelation of the wholesome power for
which one looks in vain in Hollywood, of which a culturally sorry portrayal—sorry
especially from a cultural point of view—is given in Vicky Baum’s book,
ohne Geheimnis. A Christian labourer who dares to be himself as Christian, again represents
wholesomeness in an unhistorical, businesslike-Americanized world; he is worth more in
potential force than a complete college of science that has not seen God.
continuously works in all His people until the end of time. In this world, which has to
complete its course according to His operative Easter rights, He time and again brings to
the fore new forces for cultural life in its widest sense, performing in the republic of
the communion of saints a creative
miracle: for every regeneration,
acknowledged in Calvinistic fashion as a new creation, is a matter of His transcendent and merciful
intervention in cultural life also. He continues and He will presently open new fountains
as often as in the life of an individual, or subsequently in a community, efforts are
undertaken and work is done in His power and in accordance with His revealed
Therefore the book of
Revelation draws a picture of the pure cultural-city-at-rest of the future, the
new Jerusalem, with its perfect style, a style truly
satisfying its inhabitants. No, this new cultural city—new because of its having
come into existence by renewal and its being elevated above
the level of struggle—does not come into being gradually.
“catastrophe” of the last day is essential for its appearance just as
‘catastrophes” played a prominent role in the creation. However, let
us not forget that at the moment when this catastrophe takes place, whether ‘in
heaven above” or “in the earth beneath” or “in the water under
the earth,” all spiritual and material potentials are already present that are
necessary to build or restore this cultural city and, then, according to His commandment,
continuously to fashion the material made available by God’s providence to His
community of men, to fashion it in a logical” way—which means here, through
the Logos Who became flesh and has declared God to us.
This catastrophe itself will not create chaos, nor destroy or trample upon any seed. On
the contrary, it will purge and purify this cosmos of every culture destroying element or
“producer” of cultural disintegration. For when God opens the new heaven,
then this new heaven will not be, so to speak, a donum super
additum that has been obtained by a new act of
creation and has done away with the old creation or covers and encloses it. This
new Jerusalem will over shadow the old dwelling place of man
but not cover it like a dome.
The never ending story of the wonder of this dwelling-place of God among men will not be
mechanically added and imposed as a completely new chapter that is to follow the
narrative of the history of our world as a sort of appendix, but it shall only be an
undiluted and unrestrained Gospel report concerning the unhindered
development—given by God in Christ—of all those forces that were put by
Christ in the new (that is, renewed) mankind, the community of the servants of God, and
were already initially developed therein.
Here we briefly have to
return to a point that has been touched on in the above We said there that, strictly
speaking, the granting of a license for positive cultural activity can occur only when
people build and labour according to God’s will.
This may be too strong
a statement, in many people’s opinion.
We immediately admit
that it needs some further amplification, even though we have already referred to the
fact that the act of colere is natural to all people, in so far as they
as a result of their innate urge to work and move participate in the cultivation and
development of the cosmos according to their being involved as creatures in the never
idle field of the world.
Yet there is a
possibility of misunderstanding which must be avoided.
For after the Fall God
did not split up the world into two halves, one of which would perform cultural service
according to God commandment, the other being a desert or a chaos containing only ruins
and caricatures. The mere thought is already foolish. This idea does not only clash with
the obvious facts but it also trifles with every presupposition of cultural
No real koinonia exists among men
unless it has been brought about by God’s Spirit. Koinonia means
communion. It does not owe its existence to the simple fact that various people have the
same nature or the same interests. For if this in itself would establish a community,
then there would be a covenant communion everywhere. Then there could not be a
Those who are of the opinion that communion is already established by the sharing of the
same nature and interests, forget that the same thing is essential also for quarrelling
and fighting with one another in such a way that the one really touches the other. No,
real communion is something else. It can only be achieved wherever the same nature is
directed towards a common goal through love for the same basic principles and wherever
the same interests are promoted in common faith and hope and love. Cultural koinonia then, is
basically a matter of the fellowship of faith. Here our remarks concerning the antithesis
to be found also in cultural life are applicable.
joins only part of mankind together, there exists a sunousia, a being-together, among all men.
Now God has imposed
all men Wheat and chaff have not been finally separated from one another. One day even
will be taken away from them. However, things have not yet reached that point. Towards
all those people placed next to each other in sunousia comes the command to engage in cultural
labour (which mandate is general because God has not
abolished any command that is original and permanent in character) just as also the urge
to cultural labour is an inborn one.
Besides, the given
material to be fashioned is the world inhabited by us (and who can say if even the world
not yet inhabited by us will not become part of our area of endeavour?). For that reason there cannot be the cultural performance of
the one without that of the other. The koinonia is given us
by Christ, the sunousia comes from God the Creator.
There is only one
nature, but a twofold use of nature: one’ material, but a twofold fashioning of it;
one territory, but a twofold development of it; one cultural urge, but a twofold cultural
And since all
fashioning of the material, the good as well as the bad, is bound to the nature, the
structure, and the laws of that particular material, the products of the labour of the unbeliever and those of the labour of the believer are very much alike. This similarity is not caused
by the similarity of their diverging minds but by that of the stiff’ recalcitrant
material There is a great difference between the one potter
and the other, between the one sculptor and the other. The one builds a temple, the other
builds a dancing hall, but both of them go for their clay to the same pit and for their
marble to the same quarry.
This is the first
There is also a second
We touch here the
problem of the “common tempering.” For God has arrested the course of human
sin. Now the stiffness of the material to be fashioned still remains and shall remain to
the last day. But also the will to free oneself from the material—Fichte in his philosophy at
least dreamt of such “freedom”—is checked in its advance of satanic
pride in this world of general tempering. Christ (for this checking or unresisting is an
act of God’s providence and, consequently, determined by the history of revelation
and salvation) has bound Satan so that he can no longer devour the nations during the
period of time indicated in Revelation 20, except in the last period of the
“thousand years” that comprise the progress from Ascension Day and Pentecost
until the Parousia.
He has tempered the process of sin and curse; the “withholding” of Antichrist
is a matter of fact However, this withholding of Antichrist corresponds with the
holding-Himself in of Christ Triumphant. He too, does not let Himself go. He, too, does
not yet allow this world, which is still tempered and held in check in all its
life’s movements, the view of the full expansion of His exalted power. All the
carts are still held in check, all the horses are bridled Judgment is held back, but so
is grace, in this world.
Therefore nothing is
fully developed and consummated, nothing is mature as yet. Nowhere has the power of
Christ’s mercy revealed itself in its full strength, not even in heaven. Neither
has Satan’s destructive power, according to his own scheme, made its influence felt
in full strength anywhere in the world, not even in hell Any
kind of music, of angels as well as of demons, is wohltemperiert, and the One Who controls it is God.
This is the mystery of the common tempering in the problem of culture (the substratum of
the above mentioned common grace and common judgment). Life has not yet split up into the
forms of hell and heaven The godless are still prevented in their cultural labour from ecstatically raging against God in the paroxysm of
satanism, although this is in a direct line with their hidden
desire: and the communion of God’s saints, partly by the sin that dwells in them
but also by the governing of their king Himself, Who is pursuing the goals of the history
of salvation and revelation, is still prevented from doing adequately what is their
Thus by the rule of Christ, who restrains everything until the last day, there is, for
those who serve God as well as for those who do not serve Him, the possibility of being
simultaneously engaged in work on one and the same cultural fragment now here, then
there—work that takes place in sunousia and is bound by the structure of the
material of the cosmos. Those who serve God and those who do not serve Him
have not been geographically separated in the world. Christ Himself keeps them still
together In this mixed and restrained world it is still
possible to do constructive work even though the constructors are not men of God. No ark
was ever built by only Noah’s family. The candidates for death are always
contributing their part.
However, we must also
observe a third aspect: namely, that temperantia is always constant, but the restraint
or tempering is not. Until now we have mentioned these two in the same breath. That was
permissible, for God tempers (i e., controls, guides, keeps
in check) by means of restraint (by withholding). But temperantia is a matter
of governing (something which remains for
ever, also in heaven and hell, and in all ages), and restraint is a special
manner of governing (which manner may
Revelation, chapter 20, and also II Thessalonians, chapter 2, tell us that Satan will be
loosed which will happen within the
duration of time, and that the “withholder” of Antichrist one day (also
within time) will “be taken out of the way.” This restraint will never
completely be lacking in this world. For completely absent it will be in heaven and in
hell. However, within the duration of time it will not be of a constant measure.
The one day it is stronger that the other. In certain periods, God hands the people over
to their delusive ideas, and sends (!) them an “energy” of error (with
horrible cultural effects), and in other periods He awakens in His Church the Spirit of
repentance and conversion, Who sometimes causes the impact of the preaching of
God’s Word to penetrate very deeply even into the circles of the unbelievers. This
restraint, then, Will decrease to a minimum at the end of time Then any status quo existing between the Church and the world will be
denounced—from both sides—also in cultural life, even precisely there.
Then the whole world—except God’s elect—will crowd together around the
Antichrist. Then his (cultural) miracles—which God allows him to perform by His
active permission, that is, by making cosmic material (with its inherent possibilities,
as discovered with astonishing speed) freely accessible—will, as so many signs and
wonders of falsehood, brush aside the Church with its proclamation of the truth and push
it into the distant corner of antiques and of separatist, rectilinear-minded
Then the flames of the cultural struggle will flare up as never before: the propaganda of
falsehood will appear to be “supported” by some dazzling facts, while the
propagation of the truth will be solely dependent on the faithful Word that under those
circumstances shows its confessors the meaning of the “hard” saying:
“Blessed are they that have not
seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
We are living in an interim to be so understood, in the interim of the-interim.
We have already
discussed the former: the interim between the first and the last things of
The latter has been
indicated in the above: it is the interim between the not yet anti Christian era and the
presently indeed anti-Christian parousia of the one man of Sin, the great cultural hero
though hero in sin, escorted by the propaganda department of the false prophet: the beast
from the earth (Revelation, chapter 13).
May the knowledge
thereof make the believers careful as never before. Even when
the cultural forms are the same, he should distinguish the differences in cultural
For when under the
impact of the law of tempering and the restraint by God there is “still” a
possibility of a wide scope of development of science and art of trade and industry, of
national and international communication. of technology or
whatever else, then this is indeed “still” “culture” to a certain
degree. But this “still” is determined by the fact that Satan has “not
yet” been loosed. Who does not feel the drift towards the end of the
interim-of-the-interim when he has heard Bach and ... jazz? In so far as cultural
activities are not driven by faith not done according to the Law of God and to His
honour, they operate with corrupt “remnants,” and
are in fact a mere residue. The material (of Genesis 1, cosmic nature) has remained. And
there are still remnants, residues, of the original gifts.
residues” is, of course, not meant only in a quantitative sense, for although there
are still some quantitatively measurable remnants” of the original gifts left, the
quantitative can shrivel up and will indeed do so.
Therefore these remnants are also called vestigia, or vestiges, i.e. footprints. “Vestigia” is not
a quantitative concept, for the footprints left by a dog’s paw or a man’s
shoe are not remnants thereof. Acknowledging the double fact that there will always be
remnants of the original gifts—the tempering is constant—but that they will
become smaller and smaller and the “light of nature” more and more suppressed
(Canons of Dort), and that (for the believer, according to
the strength of his faith understanding) there will always be clear vestigia in this drunken
world, vestiges of the paradisal gifts (even in
anti-christian cultural infatuation), we nevertheless speak,
in this sense and with these reservations, of remnants and vestigia.
Our conclusion then is that culture is never more than a mere attempt
and that, since it is restricted to remnants only it is a matter of tragedy. God has
indeed left something behind in fallen man But these are only
“small remnants” of man’s original gifts, concerning which the
Calvinistic confession speaks in such a brilliant-dangerous way.”  Even when
they have been reduced to their minimum or defiled to their maximum (Canons of
Dort), they are still vestiges.
In the imminent pandemonium of the cultural revolution against
God and His Anointed, the believer shall discover the vestigia of the riches of
paradisal life—but he alone. The anti-christian cohorts shall not see therein the vestiges of
“yesterday,” but only the primitiae, the
firstlings of “tomorrow,” for which tomorrow they hope (in vain), and which
is cut off by the heavenly Judge. Until then we Christians shall continue to build, in
hope against hope—just as Noah built the ark, in his “last days.” We
know it: these remnants, taking effect in a world that is “withheld” by God
according to the measure of all His times and wherein not a single volcano of sin, not a
single hearth of grace, can empty itself in an absolute, and adequate way, a world that
day after day is preserved against the summum of its own destruction, and is continuously
protected against the unlimited success of its own destructive tendencies—these
residues of such a world are still able, according to the scheme of development and
restraint that Christ’s Sender maintains in the Christological progress of all
history, to instigate new cultural contributions, as long as it pleases Him.
This is an instigation the possibility of which was already given in the paradisal world, and which has its kairos only because Christ has His own aim and
intention with the world and has reserved it unto the fires of judgment day. However, the
residues in question can never force a break-through, or, what is even worse, they can
never produce any work that is sound, accurately directed to meet its objective, and due
to its style, not even work that is true to nature. For bound to nature is entirely
different from due to nature. In one’s acting (in a responsible way and intervening
in history) one is only due to nature when one is ethically faithful to its Maker.
A culture that wants to maintain itself apart from God cannot reach consummation if it
constantly continues to follow the course it has chosen It
never can come to unity. It will never mature. All through the centuries it consumes and
scatters itself. The unregenerate detains what he retains (he holds it in
unrighteousness, Romans 1:18; Canons of Dort III/IV, Article
4). A single continuing style has never been born wherever Christ was not acknowledged as
Time and again the monster of immanent cultural paralysis appears alongside the cultural
tendencies that have made themselves felt. In nations, races
and societies: the architects may be building, but the original design has been lost.
They are building fragmentarily. Every century has its own fin-de-siecle. All that which is heavy becomes top heavy. With the help of cultural
instruments—take. e.g. the cinema, which was the result
of cultural building but which, once it was there, should have been a cultural instrument
and then could have kept its place in the pedagogic whole—people are not going to
build but to destroy: they will rob God.
Every builder will become bankrupt as soon as his employees fall in love with their
tools, refine and “cultivate” them for their own sake but in the meantime
show no love for the activity of building. Those who remember this know: our Chief
Builder (God) will never go bankrupt, but yet He has a multitude of that contemptible
sort of bricklayers and labourers, also among His Christian
people. For even among them there are fools who concerning any cultural instrument cry
out: the cultivation of it is real culture!
They feel ashamed not to join in with others. But this is foolishness. The cultivation of
a cultural instrument in itself and for its own sake is nothing but idolatry—it
falls under the same heading as the worship of idols, which also includes the
personalism that we rejected earlier. A film for the sake of
the film, sports for the sake of sports, fine arts for the sake of fine arts, all have
had something to do with culture; but the technique of cultivating these so-called
“territories” (oh dear!). apart from the goal and
from the whole of the one universal territory of operation of the world that must be
brought back to God, is as an activity not a matter of building but of breaking down:
agape for the cultural goal then yields
to eros with
respect to the cultural means.
With the help of a hammer one can build but also destroy. So this world is destroyed not
by sports, the cinema, etc., but by their being isolated as goods-in-themselves. The
movies in our days are being technically perfected more and more. However, the cinema is
not a constructive but a destructive thing. Instead of being a medium of education it has
become a means of blinding the people’s eyes. Whoever calls this activity culture
because the cinema originates in cultural power, forgets that colere still means to
build or cultivate,” not to break down.”
Even Satan can only fight against us with the help of the material that is available to
him in the world of our sunousia. Concerning the Antichrist the same thing can be said.
The beast of Revelation 13 does not enter into our world as through a funnel but has been
with us in our sunousia from our very birth.
It is true that in the
last days when God abolishes the Interim-law of His restraint and in an acute dramatic
tension will rapidly bring upon the world the catastrophe of the great judgment, the
Antichrist will set up a plan of action in order quickly to put over against any aspect
of culture that is still slightly reminiscent of Christian influence, an anti-culture of
sin before the eyes of the world and that he will try to complete an end program. But in
order that we may be able to understand what this means for our subject, we have to pay
attention to two things: First, the
Antichrist is a dictator. Second, he will
be thrown from the battlements, on which he is glorifying himself, “halfway through
In the first place he
is, as we said, a dictator. This means that the origins of his activities, also of his
demonic anti-culture plans, do not proceed along the normal ways of development from what
already exists, but are by force thrust upon a world that is divided against itself.
According to the strict rules of the logic of God’s judgment of hardening the
hearts as it is passed on the world, God Himself will enable him thereto.
The “democratic” world shall undergo its punishment when it ends up with the
Guilt Dictator. How and whereby will God enable him to do this evil work? By His above
mentioned “active permission,” which grants to the Antichrist the making of
as many discoveries as are needed for the “miracles of Antichrist” (11
Thessalonians 2, Revelation 13). He will show off with them: the materials of the cosmos
will presently be used in the grandiose game of the ultimate, organized immorality.
The infatuation with cultural fragments, cultural Dashes, and cultural
instruments—barely registered, because they were miraculously invented—will
then push its way through and develop into the most frivolous exhibitionism, a carnival
of immorality, unashamed and respecting neither God nor man. “Colere” will
come to an end, the setting of long term goals will cease, and, because of the mere
infatuation with cultural things, the
cultural commission as God gave it will
But we must add: this hard reality will not be acknowledged unless among the greatly
reduced number of the last, persecuted Christians this infatuation with cultural
things will identify as the cultural
mandate the praise of man for man. Those
who do not join in the singing of this praise will be sentenced as spoilsports: dictators
know no mercy.
And the fact which we
mentioned in the second place, that in God’s judgment the
Antichrist will be thrown from the high battlements “halfway through his
days,” proves that the development of his own style can not be finished and
his program not completed. Any culture of infatuation excludes real love and must
disappear as smoke is driven away, for it is the final convulsive twitch of ‘the
wicked” of Psalm 68. This will mean punishment for the Antichrist, his judgment.
Yes, indeed but it will at the same time mean the revelation of his impotence: every
judgment corresponds with the immanent condition of the person concerned.
Therefore it is so
appropriate that the last book of the Bible tells us that the figure 7 fits the work of
God, as also the number 1000, the number of perfect completion, but that the Antichrist
can get no further than the figure 3Â«. That is to say, halfway (for
3Â« is half of 7) his work will be broken, together with himself. The
“culture” of the Antichrist will presently leave in its wake only torsos,
when the horizon bursts aflame with the fire that will be seen even at the shore of the
sea of glass, the fire of God’s judgment.
The antichristian cultural fun fair of the Serious Game, in honour of Homo Ludens, that idol, shall be the last spasmodic effort of man,
who was created with the natural ability of a schematic mind, schematically (that is, in
satanic and even satanistic style) to put over against
God’s coetus an anti-congregation. But the Bible, by writing the number 3Â« upon the glossy cultural
products of this final “cultural struggle” and convulsion of sin, shows that
the cultural structure of the last days is only a truncated pyramid.
Hereby shall be
confirmed for the eye of faith what we have already stated, namely, that no one is able
to build ecumenically, to colere homogeneously and continuously in the
actual eschatologicalIy determined sense of the word, unless
he lives and works “from” God. Neither can any kind of community.
Over against the dismal
picture of such a truncated pyramid stands the initially true-to-norm structure of the
Church and the Kingdom of heaven, as far as the Word of God rules and prevails
This Kingdom prepared
itself for the pain to be endured at the sight of this truncated pyramid. As often as the
people of Israel or their kings forgot that the nation was also Church and that the
Church in every struggle, including the cultural one, can only conquer through
faith—that is, by joyfully accepting the contents of the revelation with which it
has been entrusted—this nation alone with its royal house stood in tears at the
sight of the stump of a once stately tree. David’s house Israel ’s national
building, became such a stump. It became such particularly in
cultural respect: the Babylonian exile, Jerusalem ’s destruction.
Then the people, who had looked up to the culture of the “civilized nations”
(the heathen), who had been eager to compete with them and to outbid them in the market
of culture, said: Alas, no rod shall come forth out of the stem of Jesse! Who has ever
seen anything so impossible? But then the prophets said: “Refrain thy voice from
weeping, and thine eyes from
tears” (Jeremiah 31:16). And Ezekiel had to become a sign unto the people who saw
the destruction of the desire of their eyes—the desire of eyes that see cultural
He himself also lost the desire of his eyes (his wife) but was not allowed to mourn
(Ezekiel 24:1625). Why not? Because for the faithful covenant congregation, which would
take the Word of the covenant seriously again (Jeremiah 31), a rod would presently sprout
forth out of the truncated stem, a “Branch,” which would be the Christ, the
Good Shepherd. He is a Shepherd because He provides in every need, also in cultural
needs: Thy bread and thy waters shall be sure (Isaiah 33:16).
There we have the
cultural activity of the faithful Church members: it is according to God’s
promise. This promise is of a cultural
nature also: it has been given through grace and through the Gospel. This gift-of-grace
will be “sufficient”: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (11
Corinthians 12:9) Sufficient to what end? Sufficient to reach the end of time in
faithfulness to one’s office and not to lose sight of colere or of the God Who
always wants to be worshipped by His creatures.
We just said: it is
sufficient. Is it not cultural pride to say that grace is
sufficient? This is what “Neo-Calvinism” is reproached with.
No, we do not encourage
any Christian cultural pride. For we said no more than that grace is sufficient. Besides, we acknowledged that also
the Church and the Kingdom of God are living under the universal pressure of the law of
restraint, this Sharp Resolution of Mitigation issued by Christ the King. Even the
believers never finish their cultural endeavours. They, too,
have their truncated pyramids. There is much patchwork in what they are doing.
No this is no reason for pride. For as a matter of fact the
numbers 7 and 1000 fit God’s Kingdom and Church not because they involve or include
human labour but only because in both numbers Christ is
effectively active with His Spirit. But—by this Christ has this great reality at
least been proved: that sound and purposeful structure, norm-fast style, harmonious
culture are present, truly present, only there where God by special grace again creates
living people from the dead and where men of God are “furnished unto all good
works” (11 Timothy 3:17): there, moreover, wherever He mutually binds them and
their works together.
For theologically-directed cultural construction is not an affair of individuals but of a
strong communion. Therefore the article of our faith concerning “the communion of
saints” (the koinonia) is also of direct significance for culture. And a
schism in the Church—a true schism, not what hierarchy makes of it—always
means cultural destruction. On the other hand, Church reformation, even though the number
of confessors may dwindle, is always cultural restoration also. And when those true
confessors are boycotted and with violence removed from the workshops and funds of
culture, they will still be evangelists, signposts of culture, even though they have been
thrown aside. For the only one who may truly be called a source of culture is Jesus
We realize that this
standpoint has been called “impertinent”.
However, those who made
such statements do not share our “creed.” They do not know a Word of God that
effectually enters into history in a historical way; that is, continuously producing
fruits from its own seed. The ‘Word of God” as they consider it is no
“seed of regeneration.” In their view, no “chain of salvation” is
forged here, under the clouds of heaven. What produces fruits, thirty, sixty, and even
hundred-fold, here below, can in their opinion never have been seed from above.
We shall not further
deal with this theory. We would be able seriously to oppose Barthianism only if we had been given more space than is available
However, let no one
delude himself with the idea that this would be a clash of arguments only. For at bottom
we have to make here a decision of faith. Either one acknowledges the Scriptures as the
Word of God, or one does not acknowledge them as such. We very well realize that, as soon
as we are deprived of the Scriptures, our standpoint cannot produce any proof for its
being correct—just as the other standpoint cannot do so. But we do not want to make
anything but a statement of faith, also this time.
Not only matters concerning the Church and the forgiveness of sins are matters of faith,
but of all things it must be said that they are only known through faith and not by
“experience.” Even questions regarding the “substance” and
“appearance” of culture are answered by faith only. Concepts such as a
“communion” and “to build” are matters of faith: if the
confession had nothing to say concerning them, it would not deserve its name.
But because we accept
this standpoint as the Biblical one, we do not shrink from its consequences.
Let us mention a few of
The first one is that, strictly speaking, it is incorrect to
speak of “the” culture, of culture as such. This way of speaking uses an
imaginary quantity: that is to say, in so far as it might suggest that there is unity of
cultural endeavour. This unity is lacking even
transcendentally.” Just as there is no “reine”
(“pure” reason), no reine Verstand uberhaupt (pure intellect in general), there is no such thing as
culture). Although nature is one, there is more than one use and cultivation of nature.
To will is inherent in man, also culturally; it belongs to his nature. But cultural
striving is more than to will: it includes long-term and long-distance
Having arrived at this
point, we again meet with the antithesis and with the curse that is the result of sin,
the curse of disintegration and scattering. The world still dreams of a tower of Babel,
and still its language is confounded wherever this great project is undertaken, it no
longer occurs in the same striking way as at the first Tower of Babel. It happens more
gradually now. The punishment is never so severe nor the curse so immense as when things go this gradual way.
In principle there is again some einheitlich (unified) cultural producing, born
from the Spirit of God. But because the unbeliever, that great sectarian, turns away from
it—while nevertheless at the approaches to the cultural material to be fashioned he
more and more posts his sentries, who turn back everyone that is unable or unwilling to
produce the password of sin (presently this will be the name of the beast) -- therefore
the culture that is built through faith will cover smaller and smaller areas.
This culture is
einheitlich, but of the material that affords
“opportunities” for the cultural impulse it uses no more than fragments only.
The world of unbelieving schismatics—sin is
schismatic—does not want it any other way. Over against this stands the fact that
this schismatic “world” itself, even though it conquers all the approaches
towards the natural sources, the material to be fashioned and cultivated and the already
discovered cultural means, because of its sinful character and the inherent destruction
of communion, produces no more than mere cultural fragments in its presently almost
universal cultural territory.
With the believers there is unity in labour but only
fragmentation of work areas. With the unbelievers there is a unified work area but
fragmentation of the work: fragments, torsos, exponents of the diverging aspirations and
endeavours which are not out of God, contradict each other,
cancel each other out, and are never able to consolidate themselves into a unity. For the
imposed unity of the totalitarian antichristian state will not last long: if it were not
imposed, this sham unity would fall to pieces.
We have already seen
it. partly with a feeling of shame: even culture that is in
accordance with the will of God shall not reach completion before judgment day. As far as
this is a matter of the universal law of the already discussed retardation of powers, the
“restraint,” it makes us humble: our life is but short and we are dependent
on the “climate” in which we are born. As far as this is a matter of being
plundered by “the world” that ousts us from the “territory” still
to be cultivated, we have to carry Christ’s cross.
As far as it is a matter of the sin of us all, which (we now follow the infralapsarian
line) has from alpha to omega disturbed the gradual development of the first given
(cultural) world, and now makes unavoidable the sharply rising and falling line in the
curve of the retardation of beast and Spirit, we have to profess our sin in Adam before
God. And as far as the fact that we cannot finish our task is more a matter of our
directly individual sin and of our slothfulness and unwisdom,
we have to do penance for that and the more exert ourselves in working towards a sound,
rich, and broad cultural life as long as this is still possible. For Christ puts before
us the duty of cultural activity. Not to
join in cultural labour means willful disobedience on the
part of God’s labourers. It means not to serve God in
what belongs to Him.
But we also have to
distinguish God’s governing hand in the fact that “culture as such,”
that of the believers no less than that of the unbelievers, cannot be finished, for God
does not let any power fully develop itself, not even the power of Christ and His Spirit,
before the great catastrophe of the last judgment. Retardation, we said is the will of
Christ and the law set for the Antichrist until the hour of Christ’s parousia has come. Against a “law,” a fixed ordinance,
man’s power can do nothing. We cannot so challenge the bull that he will enter the
arena before the set time.
We cannot avert God’s restraining hand. Heavy as well as lightening, oppressive but
with the unbreakable intention of God to grant us as yet “times of
refreshing,” it hangs over the world and its bustle but let us not forget: this law
works also in an evangelical way. It is of a Christological
nature, God does not permit the thermometers of culture to be broken by premature heat
also for this reason: that He is waiting for the last one of the elect, as well as for
the latter’s opposite. the last reprobate.
Both have yet to he born in this world. They will yet have to he surrounded by the
earth’s protecting atmosphere that grants them a place and without which no one can
ever do any work. They must be immersed into the temperance-atmosphere that still tempers
the hot glow of the heavy wrath of redemption in order that at the very end of the
lengthy course of time they may fulfill the counsel of God with regard to themselves
contending with each other in a life-and-death struggle the one armed the other unarmed
each of them obeying a different command.
Is there not in this retardation in the atmosphere’s not being rent apart an awful
kind of wrath apart from astonishing grace? The retarding power lies upon world life as
an atmospheric pressure. The balance will not be broken and the atmosphere not be rent
before those last two will have completed their course. Then all those who are out of the
second Adam will be allowed to take with them for ever the fruits of the cultural
struggle as far as God’s new world will make room for them. Then they will enter
into the world of full satisfaction which precisely as such does enjoy fruits of culture
hut has passed beyond all cultural striving. Then, but not
A second consequence of the standpoint we have taken is
that in our discussion concerning the Christian and culture we must also not proceed from
the fiction of “culture as such.” There is not one single “cultural
substance” certain “forms” of which we meet with or ourselves might “be.” There is no universal soul or spirit or
reason or logos. All these terms are mere abstractions. They
would be more or less harmless if they were not always related to the pantheistic idea
that the moral law accompanies universal culture itself because in culture
“God” becomes “Self conscious” and therein determines
Over against this the Christian professes that God does not come into existence but that
He is there that He has made His counsel from eternity and still makes it and that He
imposes His moral law from above. To
this law we are bound in our actions.
They are actions either of the new man that has been created by God or of the old man
that has been dislocated by Satan.
Therefore we are not trying to find a practical counterbalance in a Christian adaptation
(supposing that such were possible) of a novel about la peur de vivre over against
the crypto-vitalistic designs of a
“Christianized” touched up version of Pallieter for example. We must serve God everyone
in his own way wearing either a leather apron or an academic gown—it does not make
any difference. Everyone has to serve God wearing rubber boots or carrying a gasoline can
having as emblem a hammer and sickle (these belong to us) or a painter’s palette rather than a censer as
We have to serve God everyone in his own place in the new God-created community.
“In his own place” means here: according to his own calling. For calling not
aspiration without inspiration determines what is “ours.” We have to detest
thoroughly the forming of any group that fixes its limits and its criteria for membership
while leaving the matter of divine calling beyond consideration. Everyone’s
individual character or disposition must be on its guard against the danger of selfishly
growing beyond its limits and must try to fit into the structure of the communion for
which divine calling (to be known from the Scriptures and from the course of our life)
books us a place. To establish koinonia in the sunousia, as members of the mystical union of Jesus Christ,
that is Christian culture.
A third consequence of our standpoint regards the matter of
abstention from cultural endeavour. Is there room for that? And if so, how far, why, and to what
This problem has many
aspects, too many to sum up here. A few remarks may here suffice.
First of all, we must
emphasize that, since there is a cultural mandate that existed even prior to sin,
abstention from cultural labour is always sin: those who
abstain from it are on strike. And now that Christ has comprised in Himself all the real
treasures of “culture”—that is, of “grace”—abstention
for the sake of abstention is nothing but a renunciation of Christ, self imposed poverty,
and sin before God. In this sense a Christian’s abstention in cultural affairs
should never be preached. “Every creature of God is good, if it be received with
thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer” (I Timothy 4:4,
5) It says: every creature.
The products of
God’s hands are not the same as ours: His “corn and wine” differ from
our malt products or our distilled liquor And precisely because every creature of God is
sanctified by “the Word of God” (God’s speaking to us) and by
“prayer” (our speaking to Him), that is to say, in real covenant fellowship, abstention from cultural labour, or, in other words, the refusal to let God’s creature
appear in the covenant communion with God, is nothing but a matter of narrowing this
communion. And what do we usually say about love that narrows its fellowship
There is also a type of
abstinence in which the faithful avoids certain areas of culture because he finds it too
difficult to pursue God’s command in those areas, deems himself incapable,
considers the high pressure of being subject to God’s Law too burdensome, and for
this reason avoids that particular area. It should be clear that such abstinence is
sinful He avoids the cultural zone concerned because he does not want a conflict with
God’s Law. However, this abstinence is in reality an avoidance of God Himself. The
person in question does not wish to get into trouble with Him, the Legislator, but at the
same time he fails to let God show him His will. Renunciation of cultural participation
may never be desired for its own sake. It can be justified and imperative only when it is
imposed on us as an emergency measure.
For there will indeed
be an emergency situation until the end of time. And this emergency situation will
gradually grow even worse, for it is war-time.
Because of the war
which God still wages against sin, and which sin wages against God, there is nowhere a
possibility a simultaneous, harmonious and centrally guided development of all cultural
forces. Just as the normal development of the forces inherent in the life of a nation
that is involved in a war is only possible as soon as the weapons are put down, so the
community of the new mankind can find its “rest” only in normal labour on the new earth. Then the war will be over.
This war-motif shows us
still another aspect of the matter of abstinence. God has millions of people in His
creation, but only a part of those millions even begins to fulfill its duties. Therefore
the communion of God’s faithful children is much more heavily burdened than they
ever would be if all people feared and served God.
In our days frequent complaints are heard from the side of the unbelievers about the
unequal distribution of goods. But those who complain about this apart from God are
basically doing the very thing which they reproach society with. Go and take an evening
walk past the movie theatres, have a look at the flashing signs and see how even the
paupers in large numbers pay their two quarters. Think about the huge organization behind
this powerless “cultural labour,” which
unfortunately is usually done in an unchristian way, and in this single example you will
see proof of a God-less distribution of goods.
The Christian labourer who toils
to save a quarter and on Sunday puts it into the collection bag for mission work, is also
engaged in “culture,” be it indirectly. Half of this amount would have been
enough for him to give if the idlers who spend their two quarters in the theatre had been
able to find the dividing line between entertainment and labour, creative effort and recreation. The sums of money that are
offered for one single bad film have been taken from, e.g., mission work, which is also
cultural labour, although not exclusively.
These few examples may illustrate the fact that Christians as a community are heavily
burdened with respect to education, mission, Church life, charity, etc. At every step
they are accompanied by abnormality, for the son who works in his Father’s vineyard
is overburdened because his brother who does not work is unfaithful to the
abstinence, in whatever form and regarding whatever detail, as far as it originates in
resentment, laziness, diffidence, slackness, or narrow mindedness, is sin before God.
Unfortunately we must admit that in this regard the unbelieving world often rightly
criticizes us. For quite apart from the resentment that makes even Christians run down
things they never can accomplish themselves, a quasi edifying Pietism has all too often
forgotten—and even branded as heresy—that the work of redemption leading us
back to the “original” things imposes on the new man the duty of cultural
But on the other hand, in as far as the criticizing unbelievers by neglecting their
calling, are in fact on strike themselves and in cultural matters always decline a normal
division of labour, Christians who consciously abstain are
heroes when they resort to their negative “asceticism” to preserve the
positive, their training for the forthcoming performance of their duties, putting first
and foremost that whereto they are in particular called. A Christian people maintaining
their colleges, supporting missionaries, and caring for the needy who were left them by
Christ, thus saving them from the clutches of state absolutism (that pioneer of the
Antichrist!), doing a thousand other works of divine obligation, and primarily because of
all this not able, for example, to set up an imposing Christian stage, supposing that
such were possible, or to establish an extensive Christian organization of aesthetic and
artistic character, such a people is indeed a heroic communion.
When it voluntarily abstains for this reason, such abstention is, among other things,
self control and also self denial self development of the man of God who wants to remain
engaged in that whereto he has been called. Others may mock him, but he is herein
dominated by a broad cultural insight. For his abstention because of
the emergency situation places time under the arch of the history of the beginning as
well as of the end. This sort of abstention should not be typified with the word
“resentment,” but finds its limits and legitimation in, e.g., Matthew 19:12, where Christ speaks about those
“that make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake” and not
in order to avoid this Kingdom. It recognizes itself in the scene presented in Revelation
There the woman (the Church) goes into the desert. Yet she—for
she goes into the desert after Christ’s ascension into heaven, at the beginning of
the “thousand years” of His glorious reign—yet she has been liberated
by the Son of man. She has the rights of Sarah, the free woman. But she suffers
hunger in the desert together with Hagar, the bond woman. Her voluntary abstinence is
definitely no negation of her hereditary rights, but the maintaining of her own style and
a matter of taking in hand a cultural task which the majority of people never take into
consideration the service of God in the full extent of human life, hic et nunc, according to the occasion (kairos) of Christ’s
It is war-time, even in
our own heart. Also for this reason abstention may time and again be a duty for the
individual person in very distinct respects that are individually to be more closely
determined at every turn: hence the eye that is plucked out, the hand or the foot that is
cut off, the field or the family that is left behind, the maimed body, the lonely soul,
and all this for the sake of God’s Kingdom. But this is again no abstention for the
sake of abstention. It is a powerful effort to prevent an onerous distemperance from letting the lower lord it over the higher. In other
words, it is not a matter of indifference to style, or hostility to culture, but, on the
contrary, of culture in style, training and activation, self-temperance of the man of
(God in and unto service in the broadest sense.
A fourth consequence is that even within the framework of
an inexact, non scientific, popular parlance it is definitely incorrect to characterize
the problem of “Christ and culture” as that of “common grace.”
We have already
expressed as our opinion that in an exact, conceptual description of our belief there is
no room for the term “common grace,” at least not in the Kuyperian sense, in which “common grace” is identified with
“universal grace”. We shall not elaborate further on this.
However, one could ask:
Who is always prepared to produce an exact concept? Who is able to use a parlance that is
fully adequate? Who is able to write one single page without using figurative language?
In a certain definition, be it inexact but joyfully showing thanks for what is still left
to us, could a cumulation of the vestiges of the creation
gifts, and “natural light” and its use, not be called “grace”?
Are we not permitted to take one single step together with the Remonstrants or Arminians, who (according to
the Canons of non) designated “natural light” as
Our answer to this good
natured question is this time not so good natured. This time we say no, and we believe
that experience has taught a lesson here.
For in the first place
there is some difference between “the glimmerings of natural light” that
“remained” in man and the use of this light. The epic recitals in which
Abraham Kuyper is presented as extolling common grace in the
arts and sciences have more than once neglected the distinction between light and its
use. But as soon as one raises the question what “grace” actually is, this
distinction is of the greatest significance.
But apart from what we
have said before, we have still another objection against the one sided use of the word
“grace”. Nowadays we quite often hear people speak slightingly of
“rectilinear” thought and of “single track theology.” Usually we
then have some difficulty in keeping ourselves composed. It causes some extra difficulty
when we hear this from certain authors who function as apologists of the Reformed Synods
in The Netherlands in the years 1942-1944 (and even after 1946) and therefore march
against those who really could not (to the exclusion of any differing view) hold the
children of the covenant to be rectilinear.
Sometimes we hear those apologists fulminate against the “rectilinear” and
“single track” thinking of their opponents. But they themselves had to
promise (and with respect to this promise nothing changed) that they would not teach
anything which was not in full agreement also with the synodical declaration of the year 1942 that took the trouble to assure us
that “among us” (meant were those of Reformed confession) such residues in
man as the “light of nature” were really called by the same name which also
the Remonstrants used: common grace.
Well this is too
rectilinear to suit us. This reminds us of a single track railway line For “grace,” being undeserved, forfeited “favour,” is, then, a word related to the idea of what is permissible. Therefore many Christians
have come to look upon the cultural problem as a question of what is and what is not
Hence the numerous
For in our
opinion—and our whole argumentation confirms it—our cultural mandate must be
primarily seen as a matter of a “common command,” a “common calling,” a “common mandate”. Here our may is our must.
Our above-explained standpoint shows the cultural question to be, even before the
Fall, a question of duty, a mandate from the very beginning, a
creature’s service to God. And when the Heidelberg Catechism correctly and with
full emphasis states that God does not wrong man when He requires of him that which had
already been imposed on him in paradise, even though
he cannot do it any more, then this answer turns its sharp edge against those
who let their theory of “common grace” teach only and exclusively about that
which by God’s charter has been left to us as being permissible. Dress the garden—God does not wrong any man when He
still requires the same thing of him, even though he cannot do it.
All this is closely
connected with more than one important theorem, also of methodological structure
The doctrine of common grace that takes “grace” as
its starting point, has chosen as the starting point for its problematic the things that
after the Fall have been left to us. But
here it makes more than one mistake. Without neglecting what happened after the
Fall, it has to go back to what happened before the Fall in
order to understand God’s intentions.
Further, time and again it speaks about that which has yet been left to us, us men, as if men were the more important here,
rather than God. This theory is more anthropocentric than theological. And by making this
mistake it necessarily makes a third one: it starts to broadcast culturally optimistic
sounds in a culpable way. For “nature” (as the material to be fashioned or
developed by man) has never been given to us, but it has been put at our
disposal—just as a shipping line puts a ship at a captain’s disposal in order
that he may work for the company in the shipping business; the ship is not a gift.
When God lets us remain as part of His creation and when nature continues to co-exist
with us, then the man who feels rich because of what he once possessed will say: Many
permissible things have yet been left to me. The other, who would never deny that he
loves his work and enjoys life as a feast, says in his turn:
Be on your guard against single track theology. For the man who realizes he has been
appointed by God as a captain of the ship of the eternal Ship-owner has to admit: I have
received firm mandates: there is still
work to be done. As for nature—of which I am part, together with my cultural
urge—many things must still happen to it before the world will perish: or, rather,
will be transferred (into a different mode of existence). The mandate to develop it in
and outside myself as God’s office-bearer has never been withdrawn—which is a
serious warning against Pallieter-axiology.
Culture is a question
of must. It,
too, fell under the original “command of life,” of life in its broadest
sense. This expression does not mean that there is a command: Live! Nor is it: Man, dare
to live! But it means that there is a command that does itself impart life to everyone
who obeys it.
Therefore the contents
of our cultural calling are never determined by our aptitudes or tastes, as if these
could determine the norms, for the primary calling is for everyone: to be sound and
whole, teleios in the sense of Christ’s saying to
us: be ye therefore perfect, fully grown, human but never humanistic. Everyone, together
with all that belongs to him and with what belongs to the community, has to present
himself before God.
Not everyone has the aptitudes required for participation in every cultural phenomenon.
Variety of natural abilities is not culpable However, not to posses the ability to engage
directly in one cultural field or another
(e.g., music) is not the same as willfully to exclude oneself from it. To look upon the
cultural struggle as a whole without showing any interest is the opposite of striving for
Therefore we cannot
agree with those who, with Abraham Kuyper, state that
Christianity or Calvinism cannot and should not design its own artistic style. Someone
has said that Calvinism has failed to develop its own artistic style because its concern
is religion and it was forced to leave the “lower” things in favour of the “higher” ones, or at least was not able to
develop the former. In our opinion the danger of once again separating religion and
culture is imminent here. Besides, the impression is then created that it would be
possible to design a style for the one “area of life” and not for the
“Style” is always first a matter of the whole building, and only then of its
respective parts. If a Calvinist can speak of a life-style, he can also speak of an
artistic style. We are afraid that the founder of the Free University has limited its
task too much. The service of God is above all creative, shaping, and also stylizing In
so far as Calvinism—to mention no more—did not develop its own style in any field, this shortcoming
is partly (for the above made reservation
is still in force) a sign of weakness. If culture is a matter of the everyday service of
God, this calling is and remains inexorable, within the limits of each period of the
history of salvation as these limits are set by Christ’s governing, and everyone
has to strive to be a whole and complete man, proportionally and in cooperative
relationships set up according to norms that correspond with their purposes. For this
calling is never without social effect.
Because the balloting
norms of these cooperative communities are their peculiar norms, derived from the Law,
the preaching and administration of which has been entrusted to the communion of saints,
therefore the fifth consequence of our
stand point has to be the deep reverence which, also from the cultural viewpoint, may be
demanded for the Church.
As the King of the
Church, Christ is the King of the whole world also, the One Who completes nature in its
history (for Rickert rightly reminds us of the fact
that nature, too, has a history), God’s Ambassador, who wants to lay down at
God’s feet all the results of the cosmic process of development and recruitment,
and consequently He is also the Governor of culture, and the Judge and Redeemer of its
organs. In Him God will “recapitulate” all things (Ephesians 1:10).
We just mentioned
Ephesians 1:10 and spoke of a “universal recapitulation.” In order to be able
to answer the question what particular place Christ has been given with respect to the
also culturally to be determined “summary of history,” Paul’s statement
briefly deserves our attention. It says: “. . . that in
the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in
Christ.” We have derived the phrase “universal recapitulation” from,
among others, a translation of Paul’s statement as it was quoted by Irenaeus, one of the “Church fathers” (this questionable term
is still used to designate children-of-the-Church of a not always harmless kind).
Irenaeus (c. 140-c. 202 A.D.) once discussed Christ’s
ascension into heaven and His sitting at God’s right hand with reference to
Ephesians 1:10. Where Paul says that Christ will return in order to “gather
together in one” all things, Irenaeus’ Greek text
uses the word anakephalaiosasthai, which in the excellent Latin text of Rouet de Journel is rendered as the Latin
verb “to recapitulate.”
Ascension Day, seen in
this light, means the beginning of this universal recapitulation.
Does this word help us
at all? That depends on the question whether in the rendering of Paul’s own word in
Ephesians 1:10 it accurately conveys the kernel of the matter. The Vulgate (the official
Bible version of the Church of Rome) makes use of a different term in Ephesians 1:10
(instauration) -- all the more a reason why the word “recapitulation” calls
for our attention.
Many have made use of it. We
shall give here just a few examples which at the same time show us what Paul intended to
(Works, 1, 147) refers to Ephesians 1:10
when he expresses the opinion that the angels are included in the “recovery”
and recapitulation of all things which
God has given in Christ. Subsequently, he devotes a lengthy treatise to this subject,
entitled The Glory of Christ in the Recapitulation of
All Things in Him (pp. 357f). Referring to Colossians 1:20, 1 Corinthians
11:3, Ephesians 1:22 and 23, he extols the power of the redemption whereby that which in
God’s world had been scattered and broken asunder is re-collected under one Head as
one family-of-God, as one body.
The Greek word used in
Ephesians 1:10 does indeed allow other translations; e.g. “gather together”
(KJV), “to unite” (RSV).
It is all a matter of
the “atmosphere” from which one thinks this particular word derives, or of
the “sphere” to which it points in its imagery.
According to one
opinion, this word had its origin in a military setting. When there are soldiers who have
lost contact with their troops and are wandering about here and there, one has to try, if
possible, to bring them back to their own detachment. This, then, is taken to be the
meaning of the word concerned.
However, others offer a
different interpretation. They have in mind not so much military operations as
arithmetical ones. Adding certain numbers, one gets the “sum,” the
“result.” “Sum” is in Latin summa. The idea is that of con-summation. The final sum
is made up and underlined, and everyone knows now the result. Christ could
then be considered as the one who makes up the final sum, the sum total, showing us: here
is everything together. Others have had in mind bookkeepers, who add up amounts of
money and give us the result in the
In the Greek language
such a summary, such a summing up, may be called kephalaion (something like: head, principal), and
the verb that is used by the apostle Paul is derived from it. According to this train of
thought, Christ Himself is the Head, the principal the sum total. But
at the same time (!) “all things” are
gathered together, summed up, in this sum (the sum is then included “in” the
sum; all things are the sum, including Christ, according to this peculiar train of
thought which operates in a somewhat strange way with the words “in
However, the number of
proposed interpretations has still not been exhausted. Others refer to a certain word
that was used among the Jews in the days of the apostle Paul. It means so much as
agreement’ or “harmony” and is derived from a root that can be
translated as “head,” or “result of the sum.” This technical term
would then be in harmony with the Greek word kephalaion, and consequently its meaning would be “being
brought together (added up),” as well as “being in harmony with each
other”; ergo: “being gathered
together in peace.”
We should like to
mention a last opinion, one that points back to the schools of
the rhetoricians There an act such as meant Paul was a brief summary, in a few main
points, of what was earlier explained in a more elaborate way. Usually such
a summary was not a “neutral,” dispassionate summing up. but it was accompanied by a sort of “application”: an
admonition, a castigation, a word of consolation, or a conclusion stating a demand, as in
a court case.
One also encounters
various combinations of these etymologies and interpretations For instance, someone has
the boldness to teach that man is a microcosm, a world in miniature, comprising the
elements of the created world as in a summary, that Christ, as the second Adam, is God
and man in one Person, and that man (that compendium of “all things,” that
microcosm) will finally be reunited with the eternal Word, the Logos. Or: just as
sometimes in civil affairs a “member” that has been separated from its
“head” (e.g., a woman separated from her husband, the head) is brought back
to her “head” and so returns “home,” the community to which it
belongs (e.g., a woman is brought back to her family), so the whole creation, now
separated from God, will return to Christ its Head, and be “home”
again. The creation is in that case the reconciled
As one can see, the
opinions vary greatly.
Whoever wants to come
to his own decision has to consider that the Greek word used
here does not go back to kephale (head), but to kephalaion.
The latter has clearly the meaning of “summary,” as e.g. in Romans 13:9 and
Hebrews 8:1. In Romans 13:9, Paul says that the commandments of the second table can be
summarized in the sentence, “Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself.”
This is in all these commandments the ever recurring main point. It is the summary of the
Law. In Hebrews 8:1 the author states: “Now of the things which we have spoken this
is the sum: We have such an high priest” as has been
introduced to us in the New Testament. This is the sum of the whole argument. But whoever
announces a sum or summary, closes his books at the same time.
This is how God in the fullness of time will give the sum of history, of the history of
“all things.” He will give the sum, not its summary in a sort of
“microcosm,” a “compendium” of all cosmic elements, an
“extract” of all that lives and moves. No, He will give the sum of and in the
history of all things. He will give them for Himself (medium). He will for Himself bring
all things to and in their sum,  as one could translate
Is this not a
universal recapitulation, the completing
and drawing up of the sum of history? It is universal: for “all things” will be involved
in it and brought to their consummation.
“all things” were no stationary quantities; they were permanently in motion.
In them the one history was enacted. The sense thereof we understand not from those things nor from their movement itself. For, as we said
elsewhere also, the enigmatic aspect does not lie in the spoken or written Word of God,
but in the facts, in history itself. We understand the things and their movements only in
and from God’s Word.
As a matter of fact, no
one among men is able, in the manner of a rhetor, to comprise
the sum of the history of all things in any formula, not even if he were to stand on his
rhetor’s toes. For we see only
piecework, and we ourselves are only piecework. Even the Messiah confesses His
inability in this respect: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man . . . but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
But God is the great Rhetor-Speaker, and also the great Poet-Creator. So He is revealed as the only Recapitulator-Counter.
His counting or adding is not the act of a child that does its sums, but that of the
administrator of time: He is really
doing something. He forces things to the
end, to the decision. He speaks in Word and fact.
In His Word He gives us revelation; in the facts He Himself is revealed. It is for that
reason that He can make our sums and
indeed does make them; our sums are His sums. He had them already in mind even before our
life began. He is like the orator who grips his audience and keeps their attention
what will he say next? But then suddenly
he says “Thank you,” or “Amen.”
The speaker himself knows full well when he has come to his conclusion, his epilogue, in
which he summarizes all that he has said and so brings his oration to a close, to the sum
in-words. But because we have to do here with God, Who is not only the Speaker but also
the Maker, the epilogue to His speaking is at the same time the end of His acting.
Because His doing is also speaking and His speaking also doing, therefore, as soon as He
has arrived at the sum of revelation, He at the same time has arrived at the sum
of-action. He completes His historical speaking, and also His historical acting and
labouring and moving of all things “The prayers of
David the son of Jesse are ended,” it says in the book of Psalms (Psalm
The Greek translation has they are brought to anakephalaiose—the same word as in our text.
The reflexive summary given by the rhetor and the closing act
of the worker are the same—but with Him
And all this is done by
God “in Christ.” Not only in Him as the Son (Logos) Who from eternity is closely related with the Father and the Spirit as
their Equal (as in Colossians 1), but also in Him as the glorified Savior, Who is seated and has been placed at
the right hand of God. In this glorified Christ, God reigns over all things, for good and
evil, in blessing and judgment. In Him He brings all things to their end their
consummation, as He has thought it out in His counsel and as He in His speaking and
acting has revealed and realized it.
For this is the great
significance of Christ’s glorification, the Son of man as God’s fully
authorized Agent has taken all things in hand. God’s Oration has passed its half
way mark. History has been brought to a decision. In the great drama the third—and
decisive—act has been completed. And now all things must come to their
The latter, as Paul
says, is dominated by Him. There is one single history only and this is of a
“Christian” character, that is, dominated by Jesus
Christ. History is also Pneumatic, that is, dominated by the
Spirit Who takes it all from Christ.
We read our newspaper and listen to the radio, and we grope for the background of what
the democrats in-name in this era of quasi-democracy
systematically withhold from us in their deceptive press and their secret diplomacy. We
cannot find the sum. No rhetor says exactly what he means. He
himself does not even know his own sums, for the historical developments carry him along
and the programs are things belonging to certain periods, and these periods are becoming
shorter and shorter. But our God in Christ has the sum in His mind, and when He presently
will end all that happens, then we at once will see the sum of His policy and blessed is
he who then will not be overcome by it.
For the sum of
“all things” is dominated by Christ, but He has been given as
“Head” to the “congregation,” and to her alone.
He has been
put, not in the centre of all things, as their compendium or microcosm but has been set
above and over all things, as their absolute Regent.
In the Head of the
Church the sum of all things is drawn up. This statement destroys
the theory according to which the Church itself is a cultural state or is allowed to
become one. No encouragement is here given to any suggestion that the Church—which
always, as institute, is to be instituted and therefore never gives away the name of
Church to whatever else, in order to characterize the Christian communion in school,
family, social life political life, etc. is falsely called “the Church as organism”—is
directly a practical cultural business,
let alone an exponent of culture.
This sort of concept concerning the Church would murder her,
violate her in a service in which the Word is preached, the Church does not present a
direct lecture on culture that goes into all sorts of technical details, a thinly
disguised university for the people. But, on the other hand the administration of
God’s Word does put the whole of life under promises and norms. And God has closely
connected great promises with the official ministry of the Word, which is the
administration of the seed of regeneration” (Romans 10:17).
Faith regenerates, says Article 24 of the Belgic Confession.
And this regeneration then takes place in the Church, which brings forth children through
the Word of God. It is in this way that the Church can, must, and is allowed to be a
hearth where the man of God is from on high “charged” with strength from on
high. From the Church, where the Spirit
of Christ distributes the treasures of grace obtained by Him, the people of God have to
pour out over the earth in all directions and unto all human activities, in order to
proclaim over all this, and also to show in their own actions, the dominion of God, the
Kingdom of heaven.
From the Church the fire of obedience, the pure cultural glow included, must blaze forth
all over the world. Take the Church away and the Kingdom of God becomes a nebulous
affair. Put the Kingdom of God in the mist and the Christ is renounced, also in matters
of culture. It is in the Church that
Christ lets the Spirit procreate children of God. Only the Church, as the mother of believers brings forth the
“new” men, who, also as far as cultural life is concerned bear the burdens of
the whole world.
Only the Church joins them together into
an unbreakable communion and teaches the norms for all the relationships of life, even
outside the Church. The Church alone (not a so-called clergy!) is the bearer of
God’s Word, and can in a national community proclaim the norms of God in the
language of the time and place concerned and so make known to that community what riches
can, according to its own nature, be developed in its life, and how this can and should
be done In the days when the Christian Church was strong, Christian art flourished, and
culture was a matter of turning the people’s faces heavenward.
Today we have sunk to the low level of screaming films and of a theatre that can maintain
itself only if inferior items are not dropped from its programs, of newspapers that
depend on a lay-out of sensational headlines, of radio plays in which a novel is
compressed into dialogue form with claptrap as method, even of a Church-porch that lacks the courage to
keep the announcements of all those busy activities from its notice board. And a
community of men that no longer reads articles but only devours their headlines, presently allows itself to be devoured.
It is an easy prey for the day texts and ephemeral slogans that make the universal and
impertinent corruption by willfulness and self worship in business and trade, in press
and politics, into one wholesale outpouring of sin, which has been organized so well and
so rapidly that it hits the individual with a feeling of impotence that is no longer even
given the time to shudder at itself.
Therefore, for the
benefit of a Christian culture, that is, a culture that is faithful to its own sense and
purpose, all must work with might and main for the upbuilding
of the Church, of the body of Christ.
Take the Church away and what is really human is gone, while humanism, boasting about its
own ruins, returns. Take the Church and its confession away and the cultural
hubris (though in the shape of
humbleness) will return which in the heyday of philosophical Romanticism mesmerized the
whole German nation, and others, by its immanentistic
pantheistic creed of an autonomous and autarkic oscillation of all individually
Gebildete along with
the divine spirit that blows throughout the whole universe.
For it is true that in its last period the Romantic school of the day, by the mouth of
the Schlegel brothers, simultaneously contradicted just about all its own slogans as
derived from Fichte, but its deepest root, the doctrine of
man as growing up together with God, has not been rooted out: National Socialism with its
cultural projects is proof of that. Take away the Church—which, starting from the
local fellowship of the believers, will presently establish national and even
international connections—and what is then left will be only an oscillation of
“cultural struggles” that put the strongest on the throne.
The pantheistic slogan concerning “the” right that is inherent in things may
establish tribunals which sentence people not in the name of the divine Legislator Who by
the grace of God made kings cultural shepherds but in the name of “justice”
(Seyss Inquart). Then
“the right of the strongest is the most simple judicial
formula. Formulas of justice and of power merge at last. And so, by deterioration in the
Church and over the dead bodies of the Church members, a platform is built for the
dictator of the last days, Antichrist.
He will drill them all according to his system, which is the most horrible of systems.
The Church should not be even the smallest direct centre of culture, but she
must be the greatest indirect cultural
force. She is the Bride of Christ, that
is, the Bride of such a Bridegroom Who, unto Himself and unto His God, brings together
all the glory of the nations, and Who is building a city of
the finest symmetry. Hence the cubical form of the New Jerusalem.
The sixth consequence is that only through following Christ
the individual can become of value for cultural life. Culture is always a communal act.
But every communion that has not been bound together by God’s Spirit lets the
multitude vegetate on the individual and usurp his rightful position. Sometimes—a
dictator hailed as a savior is proof thereof—it leaves itself (and the individual
leaves this communion) under the impression that this service of the individual to the
multitude is his divine and unfading ornament, and consequently they make him the object
of their adoration and worship.
A national movement that is based on such a foundation may stir and carry along the
masses but it kills the individual personality. What is introduced as involvement is nothing but conformity. But when in the Old Testament the Law of
Sinai addresses itself, not to the Church in general but to the individual Israelite, and
when in the New Testament the Sermon on the Mount, that great Canon also of culture, does
the same thing, then even in cultural life the individual is in any communal struggle
always the one directly concerned, the one addressed by God.
Only he who has wittingly and willingly become an office-bearer in following Christ and
through Christ preserves in the suction of often whirling cultural currents, his personal
idion in the
midst of the on driving force of the massive formations of “man power’ that
drag along the individual or tread him under foot. “Man power”—it is
the querulous term usually reserved for the description of an army that has been
mobilized: kings and dictators are said to make use of such “manpower.” As if
the boards of “trade unions” do not act in the same way.
But one that has been
hewn out of the Rock which is Christ, will—as far as it is up to him—never
separate but always distinguish himself (I Corinthians 2).
Just as the Decalogue addressed the individual Israelite, the sermon on the Mount
addresses the Christian individually as well as others, and the Spirit, joining Himself
with the whole of God’s Word as it issues forth, by acts of re-creation,
establishes a politeuma (Phillippians 3:20), of which we are the citizens and which has its centre
and royal residence in the heavens, and so on earth works mighty things, in particular in
creating a communion.
The politeuma, or state, which is in heaven
will on its part never revolt against a politeuma here below. But as
soon as the earthly politeuma on its part commands the citizens of the
heavenly one to deny the latter (and the arena of the struggle that then follows is
always a cultural-religious one). Yes indeed, then
there is that painful inability to stem the tide. But even then, in every period of
cultural decadence, the great Steward and Custodian of God preserves “the salt of the earth,” so that it is sound and
Whoever has been
subjected to the Sermon on the Mount will perhaps be astonished when confronted with that
strange biblical word that says to him: Do this and that, for otherwise ‘must ye
needs go out of the world” (I Corinthians 5:10). This seemingly accommodating word
may make him wonder because, after having heard the Sermon on the Mount, he actually
thought he could never again remain quiet and composed when listening to moralizing
sermons of accommodation. Is it not a matter of chafing and
pinching on all sides? To give and take—does such a system not stand accursed in
the Sermon on the Mount? Is not the apocalyptic call, “Come out of her, my people,
that ye be not partakers of her sins” (Revelation 18:4) a much more direct and much
The answer is: Not at
all To come out of Babylon is not the same thing as to go out
of the world. In biblical language “the world” is often, but not always,
identical with Babylon .” To leave the harlot” (see above) and to pluck her
does not mean to condemn womanhood, to renounce nature (Ezekiel 16). Not to be partakers
of her sins does not mean: along with her creaturehood to
deny or abdicate the sunousia.
Paul’s word in I Corinthians 5:10 therefore does not contradict the style and the complex of thought found in the
Sermon on the Mount, but has been organically included therein. For the Sermon on the
Mount was addressed to the Christians, also in their capacity as missionaries of God in
this world and as builders of the
new world. For this reason a Christian is
never allowed to go out of this world. In this distorted world he simply has to fulfill
his duty before God.
The tension that arises from our continuous conflict with “this” world and
the command never to go out of “the” world is ultimately the tension between
our lot of being in contact with men (sunousia) and our daily duty to fellowship (koinonia). The latter, just
as God wants it, belongs in this sinful world to the antilegomena, the things and signs
that will always be spoken against.
Take away from the
Sermon on the Mount the element of the instruction of office-bearers, and that word about not going out of the world will be
misused in a horrible way by “the flesh” as if it were a general pardon and a
carte blanche to do all that pleases
“the flesh.” But it is quite the opposite. Someone has said (Prof. B.
Holwerda, De reformatie van onzen “omgang,” [Utrecht, 1947], p. 15):
If you wish to use this
word, you should take it exactly as it is written there.
It does not mean: when
you are in contact with the world you can patter with your principles and not be so
punctilious. For Paul said just before: you have been redeemed by the cross of Christ and
now you must celebrate the feast of nothing but purity and truth. Everything here stands
in the climate of absolute seriousness: it has to do with the cross of Calvary , and
therefore you cannot take things easy as far as the Church is concerned, in particular
with respect to Church discipline.
Do you think that Paul would add now: however, in the world it does not matter so much?
On the contrary, he stays in the high climate of perfect seriousness. Because of the
cross of Calvary the matter of your social intercourse with the world should be taken
with perfect seriousness... Is social intercourse with godless people in the Church
allowed? No, it is not, for God gave you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven... Is social
intercourse with godless people in the world permitted? Yes, it is, for if you were to
refuse it, you would go out of the “world.”
Our seventh and final conclusion, then, is that, proceeding
from this concept of calling, the concept of office, our Christian cultural philosophy
will have to begin reasoning more consistently.
As Christian cultural
theoretician one should no longer take ‘common grace” in the above rejected
sense as starting point. The starting point must be: the original calling, the task given
at creation, the original office—lest we be drugged by cultural optimism or
cultural contempt. As soon as this idea is dropped, even the best among us begin to make
Kuyper. e.g., in his De
Gemeene Gratie in
( i 904). p. 44 concedes to Von
Hartmann that “religion” in its highest form divests itself of its artistic garment. We are afraid
that this reasoning about “religion” is pantheistic rather than theistic. We
are further of the opinion that “religion” does not dress
“itself” but that it makes its prophets liturgists (and not only them) and
dresses them all in the robes of office.
Even the artist may participate in weaving these garments. No, not the artist
exclusively, but the artist, too—no more than anyone else has exclusive use of the
loom. “Religion” has never been dressed in artistic apparel, but has provided
many an artistic garment with the signature of the office and distributed them as robes
of office, on the understanding that this signature would be left on and be tolerated by
A garment of office should never be put off; rather, its distinctiveness should be
renewed time and again. This is why we said that in Calvinism the service of God should
come to its own peculiar style in all areas of life, to the extent that the
above-discussed “restraint” and “abstinence” do not stand in the
Neither do we, with
regard to the above mentioned problem, seek our standpoint in an “inborn religious
consciousness,” which would then try to express and realize itself in religious
culture. For man, also pious man should not live his life to the full, but he should
fulfill his office.
of his office will always urge him to turn to the revelation of God’s Word, in
order to learn again what the norms are. “Nature,” enigmatically,
does not teach us anything unless it is put in the light of
Scripture. His permanent awareness of his office, also with regard to his cultural task,
makes the Christian as prophet reach always for God’s Word. It teaches him as
priest never to confuse the office
tempered love of life and joy in culture as agape with the purely natural function of his
eros, as if by means of the latter God’s calling were
complied with—Pallieter is a pagan! And as king it
never lets him reach out for life for the-sake-of life but for his Creator, Whose servant
and representative he is.
Thus the core of this
problem lies in the second answer of Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
There John Calvin, through his disciples Ursinus and
Olevianus, becomes, by the grace of God, a cultural
He preached and gave depth to the concept of man’s office and taught us to
understand again how the struggle of sin and grace, of obedience and disobedience, is of
paramount importance in culture. Those who have passed through John Calvin’s school
will never utter exclamations like those of the people who—with a shudder which,
incidentally, we can understand—see how, e.g., technical science is developing in
gigantic proportions and then with full emphasis cry out that in technology man has
triumphed, but he has triumphed to death:
Er hat gesiegt
er hat sich tot gesiegt (H. Lilje).
This cannot be correct. When someone meets his death in any cultural field, it is never
the consequence of any cultural act but only of his own disobedience and unfaithfulness
in fulfilling his office. “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with
thanksgiving” (I Timothy 4:4). John Calvin’s concept of autarky is
CHRIST AND CULTURE, now for the last
Now the hearts may be
opened, and the mouths; now the hands may set themselves to work, and the feet bestir
themselves unto service. The man who follows Jesus Christ is splendid and sound in so far
as he does so. Apart from that, he professes precisely on his day of assembly and
festivity (at the table of the Lord’s Supper) that he lies in the midst of death. Homo
est, humani nihil a se
alienum putat. He has
also become very concrete in all he does and says. Novalis,
the poet of Romanticism, once said:
New life springs, fresh blood
In order to establish eternal peace for
He dives into the flood of life
With His hands filled He is standing in our
Lovingly listening to everyone’s
Yes, indeed, He listens
to everyone’s prayer, but also to everyone’s actions, to the purposeful
actions of the sober ones, for “they that be drunken are drunken in the night, but
let us, who are of the day, be sober,” says a voice from the midst of the choir of
Bible authors (I Thessalonians 5:7).
Novalis, a Romanticist on principle, and consequently a
pantheist and panchristist, sees life rise up again where
darkness intensifies; that is, where contrasts can no longer be distinguished, where the
unity of opposites is “experienced,” and, consequently, where purposeful
action, action that is mindful of the fundamental antithesis, is lacking. But our Christ
does not know any soldiers but those who belong to the day (which causes things to be
distinguished). We do not have a Christ Who merely listens (to prayers of sentiment) but
One Who looks on to see how we handle the spade, the hammer, the book, the needle, the
brush, and any other instrument, in order to draw out
of the world—ourselves included—all that God has put into it.
sermons please!,” is the cry of many. But let another
then cry out that we should sow and saw and fly and telegraph in an Eschatological way.
Eschatological “theology” is demanded somewhere. But it is better to speak of
eschatological culture everywhere.
Let us in God’s
garden full of blessing
tend the buds and flowers
Then we answer that
this world is no longer a Garden of God that is a “Garden of Eden.” The
latter will return. But at this moment the world is a workshop, an arena a building site.
And the place where one meets God unlike what Novalis
apparently had in mind is not a secluded corner where the romantically disposed soul
practices “religion,” in a province set apart for the soul. Neither is it a
“universe” placed in twilight not drawing any boundaries between God and
For God’s forum is today His
workshop which is as wide as the world and it is there that we find our workshop our factory the smoking oven the study the studio; in a
word any province any non-mathematical plane where “the man of God thoroughly
furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:17), “faithfully tends the buds
and flowers,” wherever there may be any, but also has his rubber boots on or pulls
out weeds or develops a desert region.
Is it an “endless
task?” Yes, indeed. He knows of nothing but such endless tasks ‘fool”
that he is—“in Christ.” It is the others who are foolhardy in his
opinion. And he is right.
Our cultural task in
following Jesus Christ is indeed an “endless task.” Blessed is my
wise ward-elder who does his home
visiting in the right way. He is a cultural force, although he may not be aware of it. Let
them mock him: they do not know what they are doing, those cultural gadabouts of the
Mussert was the “leader” of the
National-Socialists in The Netherlands before and during the Second World War
Department of Culture (Cultuur-kamer) was one of the institutions imposed upon the
Dutch by the German occupying forces. Registration was compulsory for e.g. artists
although many of them preferred to cease their activities or perform in secret
both cases we have to apply quotation marks For those who together with Him breathed the
air of Palestine, were indeed with Him here on earth at the same time, but His position
with respect to and in time yet differed from theirs And although we today do not see Him
living among us we are nevertheless as far as time is concerned His contemporaries: for
as the living Kurios He intervenes in our temporal existence.
He Who as God and man in one person, always in advance, lives for us
and sympathizes with us.
 “Jesus” is usually called His personal name and “Christ” the
name referring to His office Of course there are several elements of truth in this
distinction. However, in His case, the name Joshua (Jesus) Is
on purpose, expressly, pleromatically, and therefore for this
one case, exclusively interpreted on the basis of the phrase “He shall save His
people” (Matthew 1). Consequently Joshua (Jesus) is the first name-of-office, it regards the material of His office and commission. The second
one (Christ) regards the legitimacy, the concrete function and analysis of, and His
suitability for this commission.
 It has
no sense here to argue about the question whether at every place in the Bible that has
the Greek word for (God’s) “fellow-worker” the right exegesis draws the
same conclusions as the above-mentioned ones. For not one single “text” but
several require our attention here. Besides, the phrase “God’s
fellow-worker” has been given a certain fixation in systematic theology since the
 In can
also—even better—be expressed in Greek: stoicheia (New Testament).
take over the word “pluriform” although not
without inverted commas—for we do not share its philosophical background, which
allows the use of this term to be understood in more than one way.
 We are
here alluding to the well-known Boethian definition of God as
the eternal One. According to this, God has a perfect and tota simul possessio, i.e., the possession of an interminable life (a
life that cannot be limited). This always remains something reserved for God only.
Tota simul—at the same time
in full measure (cf. perfectum praesens).
man, however, his life is always terminable (limited because he is a creature).
Temporally he does not “possess” life in a perfect sense. His possession is
eternity (according to the character fo the terminable) he possesses life (in his own way)
“perfectly” and also (in his own way again) tota simul: there is no longer any
growth “in” it.
 Pallieter, by Felix Timmerman, published in Amsterdam, is a novel
“in which the main character embodies the pagan glorification of the body and its
lusts for life by running out naked in the spring rains and kissing the grounds”
(quoted from Henry R. Van Till, The Calvinistic
Concept of Culture, page 140, note 4).
further: K. Schilder, Is
de term ‘algemeene geneade’ weteschappelijk verantwoord? (Kampen: Ph. Zalsman, 1947).
 “Mystical” is an adjective (cf. mystical union). The substantive
“mysticism” however, designates something objectionable: the doctrine and
methods of an (alleged) immediate knowledge of God—for which the Scriptures allow
 Cf. K.
Schilder, Wat is de
Hemel? (Kampen: J.H. Kok, 1935).
well known aria from the opera The Magic Flute, In
diesen heiligen Hallen, could other than in the “lodge” where it
actually belongs, also be sung in Church, without offending too many ears. Why? Because
the composer’s mind, though drunk with Buddhist motifs, was unable to express its
own pagan-teutonic cycle of thoughts in adequate style forms:
the style of the Church, this product of many centuries, was still bothering him because
he could not let his paganism (Isis and Osiris) speak (cf. the above-mentioned “silence”). In my opinion we
cannot in this reasoning lake our startingpoint in common
grace but in common impotence which is the result of the tempering that allows no one to
 [unsure of footnote
location _ed] Franciscus Junius, a theologian of the “flowering” of the Reformation,
made a similar statement: de Deo etium verum
dicere periculosum est (even to speak the truth concerning God is dangerous).
author here refers to the declarations made by the above mentioned Synods on e.g.
presumptive regeneration and common grace and their decision that “nothing should
be taught which is not in full agreement with” these declarations which caused a
schism in De Gereformeerde Kerken
in Nederland (Translators’ note)
 Heinrich Rickert (1863-1936) belonged to the “Neo
Kantians” of the early twentieth century (Translators’ note)
 E.g. a
Lapide, who refers to Jerome as a supporter of the
translation “recapitulation,” and also to Irenaeus, Bibl. Cr.
i.l., 92, refers to Desiderius
Erasmus and draws the conclusion that the correct translation is: ad caput revocare; which is
accepted by Vatablus, who, however, adds: vel, in summam et compendium redigere (op. cit.
95). Cf Clarius (op. cit. 98):
h.e. summatim comprehendere et compendiose instaurare; and also
Zegerus (op. cit. 99): brevi recapitulatione implere et summatim complecti universa mysteria longo tempore praenunciata. The translation “recapitulation”
occurs frequently, but its interpretation nevertheless varies. On Augustine, see
Menochius and others.
Grotius, Hammondus, quoted in
J.C. Wolfii, Curae Phil et
Cr., 1734, p. 23) for Grotius, cf his Ann. in NT., and
Bibl. Cr. VIII, i.l. col 106, 113/4. Grotius is not definite: quae significatio huic loco maxime convenit, Bibl. Cr., 106.
 Dinant, on Ephesians: cf. Wolfii, 23; Camerun Bibl. Cr. VIII, 101.
 Cf. H.
i.l. 884, b.
 Leidsche Vertaling
(Leyden Translation): in
Cameron in Bibl. Cr. 1.1.101
 Cameron, 1.1., cf. a Lapide, i.v. 475, b.
 Aretius, Comm. in
N.T., 1612, i.l. 249.
 Irenaeus quoted in a Lapide,
i.l. 475/6 Cf. Photius, quoted in
Zanchius. Opera, t. VI. 19, b.
 Aretius, op. cit.
 Aretius, op. cit.
 Medium; and further: “the causative idea. . . is
not due to the voice but to the verb itself” (-0-00), Robertson, Grammar N.T.,
2nd ed., 809.
 Gebildete means literally: people who have been
formed,” “fashioned.” Within the context of Romanticism, however, this
term means: people who have risen to a level at which they are well aware of their own
historicity and individuality (Translators’ note)
 Seyss Inquart was the
Reichscommissar during the German occupation of
The Netherlands in the forties. (Translators’ note)