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three Religion and Philosophy The Necessity of Religious Presuppositions Dooyeweerd’s conception of the relationship between religion and philosophy enters a debate reaching back even before Augustine’s monumental effort to transform the inheritance of classical thought in the light of biblical religion.1 This debate has been engaged under various headings , such as the relationship between faith and reason, theology and philosophy , faith and philosophy, natural and revealed knowledge, or Christian and secular thought.2 A characteristic feature of Dooyeweerd’s contribution to this debate is his repudiation of any approach that regards these terms as pitted against each other, in tension with each other, referring to distinct realms of being, or as standing in a relationship of mere complementarity. On the contrary, his project is to demonstrate the full integrality of the relationship between—to use his terms—religion and philosophy. Christian philosophy is not a branch or extension of­ theology; nor is it a set of background constraints or guidelines within which the quest for “rational” or “natural” or “secular” knowledge is joined; nor is it primarily what today is typically termed “philosophy of religion.” Christian philosophy, he holds, is philosophy that takes up a common philosophical task—a systematic theoretical investigation of the deepest structures of reality—from the perspective of and as penetrated and guided by the Christian religion. Van Woudenberg observes that Anselm’s classic formulation of Christian philosophy as “faith seeking understanding” can be interpreted in two ways. The dominant approach has understood this phrase as 39 40 h e r m a n d o o y e w e e r d­ referring to the rational investigation of the contents of faith: to engage in “thinking believing,” as he puts it. Dooyeweerd, he suggests, represents a second approach, the aim of which is not reflection on faith with the aid of reason but rather philosophical reflection on reality in the light of faith: the pursuit of “believing thinking.”3 It is entirely consonant with this second approach that Dooyeweerd opens NC not by outlining the neo-Calvinist religious convictions upon which it is evidently based but rather by examining the nature of theory. The purpose of this examination is the construction of an elaborate ar­ gument for the dependence of all philosophical reflection on presup­ positions of a religious character. This argument is described as a “transcendental critique of theoretical thought.” It is a “new” critique in the sense that it is post-Kantian; indeed, it is presented as a radical Christian critique of Kantianism. Assessing the conceptual origins and evaluating the epistemological implications of this program lie beyond the scope of this study,4 but since Dooyeweerd’s critical analyses of social and political theorists are presented as instances of his larger transcendental critique of Western philosophy as a whole, a summary sketch is necessary. The object of the transcendental critique is to demonstrate the necessary dependence of such thought upon ultimate religious presuppositions of a pretheoretical character—to contest what Clouser calls “the myth of religious neutrality.”5 Dooyeweerd’s claim is that this presuppositional dependence is an inescapable feature of all theorizing, whether Christian or not. Clearly if he can successfully prove that philosophical theories devised by thinkers who do not share his Christian confession are themselves embedded in deeper commitments of a religious nature, then he has gone a long way to removing the standard objection that a Christian philosophy and the Christian social and political theory rooted in it rest finally upon faith and not reason and so cannot be regarded as an equal partner in the rational philosophical discourse of the Western tradition. His aim is, moreover, to vindicate the enterprise of Christian philosophy without endorsing a Thomistic formulation of the distinction between revelation and natural reason, which, he claims, cedes too much autonomy to the latter and so leaves it insufficiently transformed by religion. But this justificatory aim is only a part of his larger purpose, one that grew in importance as his thought developed, which is Religion and Philosophy 41 to establish the conditions on which genuine philosophical communication could occur between thinkers of radically opposed standpoints. Such communication presupposed a rigorously honest exposure of the most fundamental presuppositions underlying both one’s own and one’s opponents ’ theoretical standpoints.6 In NC Dooyeweerd proposes two distinct ways to approach this task. The “first way” to a transcendental critique was already advanced in WdW and is reiterated in the opening pages of NC...


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