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Manufacturability as a belief


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A contribution by: Hans Schaeffer

Not social engineering but creation faith [1]

Let me begin with a thesis. 'Makeability belief' is a contradiction in terms. Characteristic of faith is the fundamental assumption that the most important, the most valuable, the transcendent of human life is precisely not malleable.[2] This is not to say that human activity and faith would be incompatible, quite the contrary. But human action is not something you can believe in. Believing in social engineering, then, is the same as what G.K. Chesterton denounced when he spoke of "believing in yourself.

Once a publisher in conversation with Chesterton remarked that a certain figure would go far, because - the prosperous publisher remarked - he believed in himself. To which Chesterton replied that the people who believed in themselves the most were in a mental institution. The publisher "replied soothingly that there were, after all, quite a lot of people who believed in themselves and nevertheless did not stay in an institution. 'Indeed,' [Chesterton] replied, 'and you of all people should know them. That drunken poet from whom you wouldn't accept a single piece, who believed in himself. That somewhat elderly preacher with an epic, from whom you hid in a back room, who believed in himself. If you were to go by your business instinct instead of your stupid individualistic philosophy, you might know that believing in yourself is one of the most common traits of a jerk. Actors who can't act believe in themselves; and debtors who won't pay. It would be much more truthful to say that someone is bound to fail because they believe in themselves. Complete self-confidence is not just a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness. To believe completely in oneself is a hysterical and superstitious form of confidence (...).' To this, (...) the editor gave the following deep and effective reply: 'Well, if a person is not allowed to believe in himself, what should he believe in?'"[3]

Believing in the social engineering of human society, believing in the social engineering of happiness, love, the human body, or social structures is the same as believing in yourself. In this story I offer a theological critique of social engineering beliefs. To the editor's question, what should one believe in when one is not allowed to believe in oneself, my answer would be: in God, who created this world and still sustains it through his providence. In the following I would like to explain this answer. After a brief analysis of the belief in social engineering, in part 2 I will explore what believing in God the Creator means. Part 3 deals with the question whether one can still speak of freedom. In the fourth part I work out what Christian faith means for dealing with structures and social institutions such as marriage.

1. Manufacturability as a belief

Jürgen Habermas, who recently received the German Book Trade Prize for his entire oevre, has been a éminence grise acquired an important position in German philosophy. He is known as a defender of modernity, of the important place that human reason has been given in the Western world.[4] In doing so, he aligns himself with Kant's thinking.[5] Manufacturability, the great value attributed to human activity, has its origins in this tradition of Kant, which continues to work powerfully to this day. Habermas fights against what he calls 'the new obscurity'. Others call it "postmodernism. If, according to Habermas, no more efforts are made to indicate a universal framework within which people can act, this world will succumb to despair. That is why he continues to argue for what he calls 'utopian energies', because - he argues - the self-confidence of Western culture is at stake[.6] Habermas's utopia is an ideal communication community within which a humane world society can be developed.[7] For a good society, it is necessary to use this ideal as a presupposition: each one should listen in such a way that he or she arrives at truth without abuse of power in a communication process.

Kant also tried to establish universally valid criteria for a good human life. The rule that always applies to each is: act only according to that rule, which at the same time would make you want it to become a general law.[8] Both Kant and Habermas, with their ideal, rational and utopian presuppositions, want only one thing: that people's actions be given a reliable foundation.[9] Western culture's confidence in itself is at stake.

There is a curious ambiguity at play in this tradition. The Tübinger systematic theologian Oswald Bayer has considered this at length in his work.[10] On the one hand, presuppositions apply, about an ideal conversational situation or about the freedom of reason. On the other hand, these presuppositions are not present in practice, but must be realized. Man is free in his thinking and communicating, at the same time every man must realize this freedom in practice.[11] This freedom is thus a thought construct, a concoction, a utopia to be realized.[12]

The human activity that results from these conceptions suffers from this ambiguity. On the one hand, we, reasonable people, are called upon to use our freedom, to use our reason.[13] On the other hand, we must at the same time fight for this freedom ourselves. Karl Marx's famous and abused adage "Arbeit macht frei" echoes this thought. Man has to realize himself, has to act, is an acting being - only in this way can he realize his freedom.

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From this ambiguity - free, but doomed to live up to this freedom - authority becomes a burdened concept. Who would tell me what to do? Only the universally valid moral law, which I discover within myself. This law is not imposed on me, it belongs to my autonomous self-consciousness. This is how Kant speaks. However, when it comes to my social behavior, the exercise of my profession, the soldier's obedience to an officer - there freedom is curtailed, just as Kant also urges the preacher to adhere to the creed in his sermons. Privately, however, the clergyman may exercise his freedom to the full.[14] In short: no authority, only when it comes to maintaining the community[.15]

But this tension could not last too long. The great systems of thought that emerged after Kant all saw this paradox [16], and attempt to solve them. Most familiar will be Karl Marx's solution. The dual nature of human freedom calls for actual change. The bourgeois philosophy of the Enlightenment must be transformed into the revolutionary potential of Marx and Engels. The external world does not hang together only of necessities; here, too, real freedom can be acquired.[17] Technical development also makes change possible in many areas. The general sense of life is "social engineering. You can make a career, and it is not dependent on your parents, your social stratum or anything else. You are responsible for your own success under the Ratelbandian motto: 'Success is a choice'.

Meanwhile, social engineering in the 21e century has become a belief. I see around me a powerful belief that you are only dependent on your own capacities for your own success; that you must (note: must!) develop yourself in freedom, that you can and must shape reality to your own will. Without pretending to have outlined the history of this 'social engineering' in full above, I think it can be said that the social engineering of this reality, of your own life and your own success, goes back to the Enlightenment concept of freedom. You have to realize your own freedom, and for that structures and traditional patterns may also have to give way.

2. Creation belief as an alternative

The basic premise under all kinds of "social engineering" beliefs is that freedom "is there," just like reason. Every human being is free - theoretically. The practice of education then consists in ensuring that the germs already present are actually allowed to develop.[18] However, from the perspective of faith in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, this raises, I think, interesting questions. Where does this freedom come from? Where does man's reasonable ability come from? These questions were deliberately set aside by Kant.[19] Although Kant still speaks unconcernedly about God as Creator [20], the content of this belief has faded. God is only a postulate, a concept conceived by us, which must guarantee our freedom: in an afterlife, this god must make up for the iniquity and unfreedom that immortal souls must endure here on earth.[21] This postulated deity is the opposite of what the Christian faith professes.

Now let me elaborate on that. Believing in God, the Creator, implies that you consider your life, your freedom and your development to be a gift from God. In a sense, we do not "have" freedom, by nature, innate - just as we do not have life in ourselves at all, for "what have you, which you have not received?" as Paul asks the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:7). Our freedom is given to us, we are given energy and a future. Opposite 'making' is 'getting' or 'receiving'.

A. van de Beek, in his book on Creation, has expounded this thesis widely. Opposite the social engineering and optimism of the modern age, he has the idea that this world is coloured to the bone by brokenness. This brokenness is to be touched with hands, and every Christian striving for progress, restoration, a better future is essentially a myth.[22] "The cross belongs to creation," states Van de Beek.[23] Those who, with Christian faith in their hands and hearts, raise their voices against injustice, are right. But whoever wants to say and do more, whoever raises the battle banner and goes to war against injustice organized with Jesus in the banner, loses sight of the core of the Christian faith. "Christian faith," states Van de Beek, "ultimately does not serve world improvement, but is faith in Jesus."[24] This prevents Jesus from becoming a means to a higher end: ideal humanity, or liberated humanity.[25]

To believe that our reality is created by God means, for Van de Beek, a radical critique of the activity of acting man. He distinguishes three ways of thinking. First, there is "[t]he thinking and acting man [who] is directed to an object in order to find it, to form it, to create it." Another way of looking at things considers man and the universe as "objects," where reality is a product of history, "at the mercy of whatever fate has in store for him. A third way, which Van de Beek advocates, is "the subject in the passive sense": "We be addressed. It doesn't start with what we come up with, but with what is handed to us. Thus is shaped our lives. For example is shaped our person."[26]

Van de Beek contrasts man's passivity with his activity. Indeed, reflection on human, moral action (ethics) must begin precisely opposite Western Enlightenment thinking with what has been given to man.[27] Our existence is not a matter of making, of doing, nor is the essence of man that he works or acts. That you are created by God is an ultimate confession of your own passivity. Just as you cannot be independent of pre-given genetic material, or independent of the education you receive, or independent of your cultural context - just as you cannot construct your existence on your own. The individualistic acting subject of the Modern Age is a fiction, a concoction. It is a utopian dream in which man is not at his environment, but acting there versus state.

Creation faith, in this way, is not just a confession that God once, long ago, out of nothing, called forth this reality. It certainly is. But it does not stop there. Creation faith also means to say, "I believe that God created me, along with all creatures, without merit on my part or my own dignity."[28] God created you and me too. Creation is not something of the past, it is something of the present. Still today God sustains this world, is creative. Creation denotes the complex of creation and existence.[29] Our reality - with emphasis on ours - comes from God. Our existence is carried from moment to moment by God's power. "We live on the breath of his voice," as Psalm 103 is rhymed. It is the creative power of God that keeps us alive, declares us righteous [30], will make our lives new [31], and will ultimately bring this world to its goal.

This belief in reality as God's creation also implies that the new world, the new earth, is to be expected from God. He will make this world new. His future with this world is not primarily a matter of our interference, our activity. In that perspective, many attempts on our part to preserve or save this world take on something potty-mouthed. Take nature reserves, for example. These bear all the marks of human intervention, and so little of "nature. Put a fence around a piece of land, organize the right flora and fauna, and you have 'reserved' nature. A gate gives access, there are parking areas, professional keepers 'manage' the wildlife population and ensure a well-balanced natural balance. 'This is how even nature is humanized.'[32] Moreover, in extreme form, they can give the impression that ultimately we are responsible for the preservation of the world.

I believe in God the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. This statement is a confession. A confession that I live in my creation and in my existence from what I have been given. I myself cannot make existence. I cannot create life, including my own. I cannot make children. I cannot make 'nature' as in a nature park. A human being does not learn by himself, for that parents, examples, teachers, and authorities are needed. A student without professors, without the Internet, without books, without fellow human beings cannot learn anything. What do you have that you have not received? This is not just a motto against overconfidence and conceit. It is a confession that man lives by what he receives. That man owes his existence to the grace of the Creator.

3. Passivity and freedom

In part 1, I briefly named the rational freedom tradition of the Enlightenment on the basis of Habermas and Kant. You are free, and must live up to this freedom. In the previous section I stated that believing in God the Creator means that as a human being you receive, you are passive. We live by what we receive. In this third section I want to reflect on the difficult relationship between this belief in creation, and what I imagine to be freedom. The value of human action, our activity, will also be discussed.

If the belief in social engineering is opposed to the belief in God the Creator - what is left of our human freedom? If I were to live only on what I am given, then things are not looking too good after all. Doesn't this view mean that I should passively stay where I am? That human activity, for example to improve the environment, is forbidden, and that the existing structures in society or in the church will remain the same for all eternity?

In this section I limit myself to the question, what is the state of our freedom. More practical questions will be discussed in the last section. To begin with, the fact that we do not naturally possess our freedom does not mean that we do not have freedom. The tension lies in the words "by nature. Indeed, I do not believe that we are "naturally" free people. The freedom that Kant meant was a theoretical freedom. A freedom, which was limited to the realm of thought, of reason. By this he meant to transcend the unfreedom that every human being experiences in the practice of life. At the same time, Kant's theoretical freedom was so strongly disconnected from life that you could still do nothing with it in practice. Faith in God the Creator offers, in my view, a way out of this dilemma between theoretically free but practically bound.[33] God the Creator gives us freedom. This has two important consequences that I want to emphasize here.

First, this "giving" by God is not a matter of theoretical reason. God gives life and freedom not abstractly, but concretely. In the midst of all the experiences of being bound by rules, history, education, etc., God meets me. He speaks concretely into my life. In the midst of what threatens my freedom, He speaks the words: I am your God. And therefore you are My people. 'This commitment opens to man the space of reliable communion between God and us, so that in the midst of all threat he may be free.'[34] As the Lord might say to Joshua and the people of Israel, about to enter the land of Canaan, facing great dangers and difficult tasks, "Be strong and courageous!" (Josh. 1:9).

Unlike Kant's categorical imperative, a space-creating imperative sounds here. God's Word is also in such a command to Joshua and the people of Israel creative word. It works what it says, it makes man free to act. Likewise - unlike Kant - the person of God comes into its own. God who acts on us and with whom we are in the first instance received human beings . He is no longer the condition ('Bedingung der Möglichkeit') for human freedom, but the God who addresses Himself to people in word and deed in order to pledge freedom in the midst of de facto unfreedom[.35] This freedom that is spoken to and promised to us cannot exist without concrete reality. It is not a theory or idea, but gift of the freedom-creating Word of God.

Second, this view means that freedom is by definition not individualistic. It stands or falls on relationships. Wherever freedom is given to man in the process of speaking and hearing, the authoritative relationship between God and man is raised. Freedom that arises from God's creative commitment thus points to the fundamental anthropological insight that man lives from what has been given to him. The objection that such relationality negates human freedom and dignity assumes a one-sided individualistic concept of freedom.[36] "The value of man and his freedom lie much more in the common play between hearing and speaking, gift and appropriation, receiving and surrendering, authority and criticism."[37] In part 1 I briefly mentioned Kant's conception of autonomy. Who can tell me what to do? Only the moral law which I discover in myself and which must apply to everyone. However, when a human being lives not out of this presupposed freedom, but out of the concretely addressed freedom, it means that our existence is affected by a fundamental asymmetry characterized. I stand in relationship to God and my fellow man as receiving; other people have authority over me.[38] 'Authority' is derived from the Latin word (augere) for power that makes grow, that makes multiply - power that creates life.[39] God's authority is such a life-creating power.

So man becomes free only when he is called to freedom by the Creator. Only in this way is practical unfreedom, the threat to life, broken and the space to live arises. This freedom also implies an asymmetry of first hearing and then speaking, an asymmetry that does justice to the relationship between God, fellow creatures, and us. It is within this framework of bestowed freedom that the activity of man comes into play. It is man's freedom that responds to God's promise. Just as hearing and listening carry within them the proxy for exercising criticism, so the gift of freedom invites human action. But our activity is thus released from the duty, our freedom and our own world to create or bring about.[40] Human action is responsible action. Space is given to humans to act in response to the reality that surrounds them.

The character of this action is determined for a Christian by his passivity. A Christian is first of all endowed with good gifts by God his Creator. Where the pressure - almost metaphysically charged - to stand in this reality as an acting, active being is relieved and eased, space is created to serve the other, to give ourselves to the other in an acting way. Van de Beek devotes a beautiful chapter to this in his book on 'Creation'.[41] Typical of such a commitment of ethics is the commitment to the seventh day of creation. When God contemplates his newly-awakened creation, it is on a day of rest. Before man acts, there is the divine rest in which, in turn, our activity may rest. In the midst of a restless striving world, may Christians radiate the gift of God's rest, before moving to action themselves in their place.[42]

I realize that in doing so I have given a rather abstract account. What consequences could this now have for practice? Therefore I want to elaborate on one important point, the confrontation between creation belief and social engineering.

4. Social ethics and social institutions (structures).

A Christian may live from the freedom that God commits to him or her, in the midst of all kinds of noise of voices. The pressure to have to make this freedom, to have to make the future or the present itself make is thereby removed. A person does not have to 'create this world, or the future, out of nothing.'[43] Yet that does not take away from our feelings and experiences of unfreedom. Certainly around the structures in which our lives are cast, experiences of unfreedom arise. Power structures in authority relationships, such as those between teacher and pupil, parents and child, or government and citizen are often experienced as oppressive and depressing. In sociology and social ethics, these relationships are discussed as "social institutions."[44]

If you believe that God created this reality, does that also mean that the structures were created by God? Are institutions such as family, marriage, creations of God, or products of man - artifacts of a particular culture [45]? Formerly, the neo-Calvinist tradition spoke of "creation ordinances."[46] Since the Deutsche Christen in Germany during the Third Reich advocated obedience to the existing order with these creation ordinances in hand, people in ethics have been wary of using this word. The conservative connotation associated with creation ordinances has also caused Reformed theology to give it little thought.

Still, I think there is something to be said for talking about social institutions that are God-created forms of life. Let me take the institution of "marriage" as an example. A marriage is not characterized by its form in our culture. Going to the town hall, possibly a church service, a big party - these are incidental matters. Let me mention a few essential elements: marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, entered into openly - in the presence of witnesses.[47]

If you look around with such a definition in hand, you will see that many relationships do not comply with it. For example, the lifelong monogamous nature is often not maintained. Moreover, this form of life is also open by law to same-sex partners. Also, many people, including many Christians, have difficulty linking the sexual relationship to such an institution. Surely those who live together also love each other, and why should that be less or worse? In short: what is the value of the institution of "marriage," and is this now a form of life supposedly created by God? Is this institution not eminently in need of a thorough renovation?

But even for Christians who want to remodel the institution of marriage in a less radical way, such a form of life can be oppressive. Even the person who throws himself wholeheartedly into this great adventure will at times be frustrated. Anyone who takes the problems of marriage and divorce seriously could easily come to the conclusion that this institution really has had its day.

Social sciences, finally, have shown with their diachronic analyses how multiform these structures have been shaped over the centuries and by different cultures. Can we even talk about a basic structure of 'marriage'? Does 'marriage' even exist?

All these questions circle around the question of whether professing that God is Creator of heaven and earth also says something about the structures in which we live. Should institutions be regarded as God's creation, or as social engineering? And what is the role of what theologians call 'brokenness' and 'sin'. I will mention a number of elements that can be of service to us in reflecting on this.

First of all, what is constricting about the marriage relationship is also constricting about any relationship: taking care of the other person, not making your own choices without limitation, living together at all - it seems to be at odds with an absolute concept of freedom. Those who criticize the limitations of marriage must ask themselves what the connection is between love and freedom in the first place. Is it possible to love someone without binding oneself in some way to another? The ideal of romantic, free love, is opposed to "institutions. But how many relationships are weighed down by the heavy burden of this Hollywood ideal? The slogan: "success is a choice" has the flip side "failure is a choice. As noted in the Valentine's special of the Spits (February 2001) read, "Loneliness is a choice." In an age of Internet relationships, chat gratification and phone sex, it was said, loneliness is a choice. Just so you know. Do you feel lonely? Then you've chosen that for yourself. One visit to the worldwide web and you have someone on the hook. While everyone experiences firsthand that relationships cannot be made.

Secondly, God commits us to our freedom. But this too does not take place in abstractions. God enters our lives in concrete forms.[48] Concrete and tangible in all kinds of "human" phenomena such as parenting, in a book of letters and phrases, in baptismal water, in bread and wine. God's commitments are not abstract. For this very reason, the form in which God meets us is not arbitrary. Those who want to seek God in the spiritual beyond the concrete forms of life will avoid earthly structures and institutions. Whereas it is precisely in this reality that God wants to be sought. Whereas God comes to us precisely in his creation. The life form "marriage" is not arbitrary. It frees us first of all from the pressure to have to make happiness for each other. After all, our happiness cannot be manufactured either, but is a gift from God. The term 'institution' already indicates this: it is a relational term. Someone institutes something. God institutes a marriage, sets up a marriage. It is "an institution of God. Think away from that the impersonal, and learn - as a consequence of belief in God the Creator - to see this form of life as a gift from God. God's gifts are not "spiritual," not abstract. Freedom is not a matter of theoretical reason, but of God's concrete Word speaking into our lives.

Third, the term "creation order" is abstract. The character of God's creative institution and institution has disappeared from it. Therefore, I would avoid this word. 'The' marriage is also an abstraction. Christians who think about marrying or living together - concrete people, that is - and who realize that God the Creator wants to give them freedom, can be encouraged by this view of marriage. Those who want to enter into the risky adventure of a relationship can find rest in God's concrete promise that He will give such a relationship a form: the Christian life form of marriage.

Fourth, there is the brokenness and sin in creation. The term "creation order" can evoke thoughts of a paradisiacal state. But we no longer live in paradise, so what can we do with it? It is not about a nostalgic longing for a lost paradise. Nor is it about a romantic utopia. Believing in God the Creator is a confession. The creation stories themselves are meant to connect direction and structure to God's actions in the midst of experiences of disorder, chaos and unfreedom. That despite experiences to the contrary, God is confessed as Creator of this broken world is a confession of dependence: "Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth" (Ps. 124:8).

When marriage is viewed this way, as liberation from the ideal that we must shape our relationships ourselves; as a form of life that God gives to people; as comfort and encouragement in the midst of our experiences of chaos and failure - when marriage is viewed this way, the idea that marriage as a social institution is a gift from God perhaps becomes more plausible.[49]

But as beautiful as speaking of "marriage" as God's creative gift can be, the question remains, which structures are now God's work, and what is human work. After all, people have devised so many structures themselves - which ones are really God's work? Can we simply state with an appeal to tradition that marriage, family and state, for example, are "creation data"? What marriage do we mean then? And what form of state? How many abuses of such theological statements have occurred throughout history? How many degrading situations have not been legitimized by appeals to God's will? Can people claim structures at all as "gifts from God"? How would we know what really comes from God?

With questions like these, believing in God the Creator becomes exciting. The Creator is not just something for beautiful vacation photos of the mountains in Switzerland. It only becomes exciting when, in the face of difficult and troublesome phenomena in reality, we ask ourselves the question: is marriage God's created form of life for the coexistence of man and woman? To answer this question, we will have to go back to the question for a moment, how God is creatively present. The fact that marriage is a form that fits life, in which our sexuality, our manhood or womanhood, is given a place, cannot be considered a kind of definition. God's creative word is not static, but comes to meet us in the midst of unfreedom, creating space. Each person is called to live in his or her life in a form of life that freely responds to this calling. The life form of marriage is concretely a gift of God, to be discovered amidst all kinds of relationship forms as a gift from God. Just as confessing that God is the Creator of this, concrete world is not an easy thing to do, my negative associations and experiences surrounding a marriage relationship will instantly disappear.

In summary, therefore, I believe that speaking of marriage as a God-created form of life ("institution") is not meaningless. The main argument for this is that confessing that God is Creator relieves me of the pressure to make my happiness and that of my partner my own. If my freedom is God's gift, I don't have to live up to it. Negative feelings that arise in marriage - feelings of bondage, power (abuse), and unfreedom - are in part the result of human guilt, and in part they stem from a (rational or romantic) ideal of absolute freedom. Believing precisely in God the Creator criticizes both this ideal and human guilt.

5. Lock

Makeability and creation faith are opposed to each other. Forms of society, social institutions are the forms in which God comes to us, forms in which God wants to give us freedom. Emphasis on the social engineering of our life together imposes the costly duty to realize our freedom ourselves. Believing in, that is trusting in, God the Creator of heaven and earth releases us from this doom of being free. Faith in God's creation is more real. I don't have to make my own life. "Do not be anxious about your life," reads Jesus' life-creating imperative (Matt. 6:25). Living off what God gives is really different from the "believing in yourself" that Chesterton fought against: not a make-believe but a creation-believe.

Disclaimer: This contribution by Dr. J.H.F. (Hans) Schaeffer was previously published as an article under the title ''Not social engineering but creation faith' and is with the permission of the author reprinted. Dr. Dr. J.H.F. (Hans) Schaeffer is majoring in practical theology at the Theological University at Kampen and is translator of the 2001 version of "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton. 


[1] Presented in modified form as a lecture at a symposium on "social engineering" of the Reformed Students' Association of Groningen on October 23, 2001.
[2] "Faith does not rely on the creature, it relies instead on the Creator of whom it is reminded by the creature" (Weder, Hans; 'Hope and Creation'. In: Polkinghorne, John; Welker, Michael (ed.); The End of the World and the Ends of God. Science and Theology on Eschatology, Trinity Press International: Harrisburg 2000, [184-202] 185).
[3] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, transl. from the English by Hans Schaeffer, Kok: Kampen 2001, 12-13.
[4] Cf. K. Veling, Space for Reason. Philosophy as Systematic Reflection, Agora: Kampen 2000, 24: "In the debate on postmodernism, Jürgen Habermas fulfills the role of defender of 'modernity,' that is, of the value of human reason as it has been discovered and applied in the Western world during the last centuries."
[5] Cf. Höffe, Otfried; Immanuel Kant, Beck: Munich 11983, 41996, 170f; 301.
[6] J. Habermas, Die Neue Unübersichtlichkeit. Kleine Politische Schriften V, Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M. 1985, 143: "Es geht um das Vertrauen der westlichen Kultur in sich selbst".
[7] "Die unterstellten Bedingungen der idealen Sprechsituation bestimmen ... die ideale Form herrschaftsfreien Lebens, die es zu realisieren gilt als humane Weltgesellschaft, in der alle mit gleichen Chancen an der diskursiven Konsensbildung beteiligd sind" (Rohls, Jan; Geschichte der Ethik, Mohr/ Siebeck: Tübingen 21999, 707).
[8] "Der kategorische Imperativ ist also nu ein einziger, und zwar dieser: handle nur nach derjenigen Maxime, durch die du zugleich wollen kannst, dass sie ein allgemeines Gesetz werde" (I. Kant, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (ed. Weischedel, Bd. VII), B 52).
[9] That Kant's philosophy was about human action, argue: Rohls, Geschichte der Ethik, 416; O. Bayer, 'Gesetz und Freiheit. Zur Metakritik Kants'. In: O. Bayer, Freiheit als Antwort. Zur theologischen Ethik, Tübingen 1995, 164-182. Cf. on Habermas: O. Bayer, 'Theologische Ethik als Freiheitsethik'. In: Freiheit als Antwort, (97-115 ) 104.
[10] O. Bayer, Autorität und Kritik. Zu Hermeneutik und Wissenschaftstheorie, Tübingen 1991; O. Bayer, Freiheit als Antwort. Zur theologischen Ethik, Tübingen 1995; O. Bayer, Gott als Autor. Zu einer poietologischen Theologie, Mohr/Siebeck: Tübingen 1999; O. Bayer, Leibliches Wort. Reformation und Neuzeit in Konflikt, Tübingen 1992; and: O. Bayer, Schöpfung als Anrede. Zu einer Hermeneutik der Schöpfung, Tübingen [11986] 21990.
[11] "[A]lle Menschen sind von Natur aus 'frei gesprochen' und 'mündig' (Kant: naturaliter maiorennes). ... Der Mensch ist frei, gut und spontan. In diesem Sinne ist die Neuzeit antinomistisch. ... [Zugleich] bin ich als individuelle und kollektive Subjektivität mit der Erfüllung des mir selbst gegebenen Versprechens belastet - nicht nur zur Freiheit befreit, sondern zugleich 'zu ihr verdammt' (Sartre); ich darf nicht frei sein, sonder muss mich befreien. So ist die Kehrseite des Antinomismus ein Nomismus" (Bayer, 'Gesetz und Freiheit', 182).
[12] Cf. Oswald Bayer's assessment: 'Rationalität und Utopie'. In: O. Bayer, Umstrittene Freiheit. Theologisch-philosophische Kontroversen, Mohr/Siebeck: Tübingen 1981, 135-151.
[13] Cf. I. Kant, "Was ist Aufklärung?" (ed. Weischedel, Bd. VI), A 481-494.
[14] Kant, "Was ist Aufklärung?", A 486-488. Cf. for this analysis: H. Marcuse, 'Studie über Autorität und Familie' (1936). In: H. Marcuse, Ideen zu einer kritischen Theorie der Gesellschaft, Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M. 1969, (55-156) 81-97.
[15] This tension G.W.F. Hegel later tries to overcome by "understanding" freedom comprehensively, by "knowing" it. Thinking, man is free precisely by overcoming these contradictions.
[16] Kant himself called her "antinomy" (cf. Bayer, Gesetz und Freiheit, 169; Marcuse, Studie über Autorität und Familie, 93).
[17] "An die Stelle der alten bürgerlichen Gesellschaft [...] tritt eine Assoziation, worin die freie Entwicklung eines Jeden die Bedingung für die freie Entwicklung Aller ist" (Marx, Kommunistisches Manifest, quoted in Marcuse, Studie über Autorität und Familie, 141).
[18] Cf. I. Kant, 'Über Pädagogik' (ed. Weischedel, Bd. VI), 701: "Es liegen viele Keime in der Menschheit, und nun ist es unsere Sache, die Naturanlagen proportionierlich zu entwickeln, und die Menschheit aus ihren Keimen zu entfalten, und zu machen, dass der Mensch seine Bestimmung erreiche".
[19] KrV A XVII: "... weil die Hauptfrage immer bleibt, was und wie viel kann Verstand und Vernunft, frei von aller Erfahrung, erkennen, und nicht, wie ist das Vermögen zu denken selbst möglich".
[20] E.g., Kant, "Über Pädagogik," A 13.
[21] Cf. Bayer, "Gesetz und Freiheit," 169.
[22] "With the idea of progress we must be careful. (...) With this I oppose the idea of the elevation of creation which has become almost commonplace in contemporary theology. Elevation means that we see creation under the perspective of progress and that especially in Christ the world has been elevated to a higher plane" (Van de Beek, Creation, 170). Cf. also Van de Beek, Creation, 208-211; and: A. van de Beek, Jesus Kurios. Christology as the heart of theology, Kok: Kampen 1998, 209-232.
[23] Van de Beek, Creation, 172. Indeed, "In everything else we say, therefore, about the world as creation, we shall not lose sight of this: the Creator is the Crucified One" (173).
[24] Van de Beek, Jesus Kurios, 231.
[25] Van de Beek, Jesus Kurios, 229v.
[26] Van de Beek, Creation, 67. "I am very attached to this passivity, which is why even in Leiden, where the professors had been asked for a phrase, I gave up Paul's quote, 'Quid habes quod non recipisti?' (1 Cor. 4:7)" (A. van de Beek, "Not Discarding These Words. A reply to Barend Kamphuis'. In: Radix 27 (2000), (51-64) 62n5).
[27] Vgl. Bayer's thesis: "Theologische Ethik befasst sich mit der Frage: 'Was sollen wir - und inmitten der anderen: was soll ich - tun?' Doch sie beginnt nicht mit ihr, sondern mit der Frage: 'Was ist uns gegeben?' Denn menschliches Handeln fängt nicht mit sich selbst an, sondern lebt aus vorgebener Freiheit." (Bayer, Freiheit als Antwort, 1).
[28] Thus M. Luther in his Small Catechism (Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (BSLK), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Göttingen 111992, 510,33-511,8).
[29] For example, L. Scheffczyk, Einführung in die Schöpfungslehre, WBG: Darmstadt 1987, 88; and: W. Härle, Dogmatik, De Gruyter: Berlin etc 1995, 423f.
[30] Cf. Rom. 4:17 where Paul, in the context of speaking of justification by faith, writes, "For a father of many nations I have set you[, Abraham,] - before the face of that God in whom he believed, who quickens the dead and calls to life that which is not."
[31] Cf. Doctrines III/IV art. 12: "This is the regeneration, renewal, new creation, raising from the dead and quickening, which God accomplishes in us without us, and which is spoken of so impressively in Scripture. (...) It is according to the testimony of Scripture ... no less powerful than His work in creating or raising the dead."
[32] O. O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order. An Outline for Evangelical Ethics, Eerdmans/Apollos: Grand Rapids (Mi.)/Leicester 21994, 68f.
[33] In this elaboration, I am inspired by the work of Oswald Bayer, who draws on Luther and J.G. Hamann (1730-1788).
[34] "Solche Zusage eröffnet dem Menschen eine verlässliche Gemeinschaft, in der er jetzt schon inmitten aller Bedrohung frei sein kann: 'Siehe, ich habe dir geboten, dass du getrost und frei seist. Lass dir nicht grauen und entzetze dich nicht!' (Joshua 1,9 - ein erlaubender, kein befehlender Imperativ" (Bayer, Freiheit als Antwort, 1).
[35] Bayer, Freiheit als Antwort, 194.
[36] Cf. for an articulation of criticism of this individualistic concept of freedom: C.E. Gunton, "God, Grace and Freedom. In: C.E. Gunton (ed.); God and Freedom. Essays in historical and systematic theology, Edinburgh 1995, 119-133.
[37] Bayer, Freiheit als Antwort, 188.
[38] Vgl: "Im Autoritätsverhältnis werden also Freiheit und Unfreiheit, Autonomie und Heteronomie zusammengedacht und in der einen Person des Autoritätsobjekts vereinigt. Die Anerkennung der Autorität als einer Grundkraft der gesellschaftlichen Praxis (...) bedeutet (...) die selbstaufgabe der Autonomie," said Marcuse ('Studie über Autorität und Familie', 55). By speaking of "self-surrender of autonomy," however, he remains within the presupposed framework of a Kantian conception of freedom, which pervades the rest of this article. If this autonomy is not presupposed, neither can man be the first to yield or surrender it.
[39] Bayer, Autorität und Kritik, 2f.
[40] On this point Bayer sees a parallel, if not identification, of creation doctrine and justification doctrine: : "Die iustificatio impii (Röm 4.5) steht parallel zur resurrectio mortuorum und creatio ex nihilo (Röm 4.17)" (Bayer, Leibliches Wort, 23n9).
[41] Cf. Van de Beek, Creation, 359-405.
[42] This recalls the commitment of Karl Barth's creation ethic to Sabbath rest: "Was sagt das Gebot des Feiertages? ... [D]ass das eigene Werk des Menschen sich als ein durch diese je und je stattfindende Unterbrechung begrenztes Werk vollziehen soll. (...) Das Gebot des Feiertages gibt diesem [menschlichen] Können und Sollen einen Anfang und ein Ziel, indem es den Menschen an das entscheidende und allmächtige Wollen und Tun Gottes erinnert" (KD III/4, 54. 58).
[43] Cf. Gunton's characterization of this conception of freedom: "An action is not free unless it is entirely within the undetermined choice of the agent. (...) Freedom is only truly freedom when the agent creates, ex nihilo, the form of action which is entered" ('God, Grace and Freedom', 119).
[44] W. Kerber, Sozialethik (Grundkurs Philosophie 13), Kohlhammer: Stuttgart 1998, 9-14; "The ethics that deals with the moral aspects of human action, insofar as it takes place in or relates to social institutions" (F. de Lange, Applied Ethics. Social Ethics, Kok: Kampen 1994, 13).
[45] This debate is between essentialism and constructivism (cf. Cahill, Lisa Sowle; Childress, James F.; Christian Ethics. Problems and Prospects, The Pilgrim Press: Cleveland, Ohio 1996, 287).
[46] Cf. A. van Egmond, "An exciting life: reformed from 1892-1992. In: M.E. Brinkman (ed.), 100 years of theology. Aspecten van een eeuw theologie in de Gereformeerde kerken in Nederland (1892-1992), Kampen 1992, (283-318) 296: "'s Heeren Ordinantiën or Ordeningen, waardoor, aangezien de Schrift ons voor us daarin voorgaat, alle creaturenlijke zijn en leven wordt ontvangen; waar, als Bestel van den hoge God, voor het denken van ons, Kalvinisten, niets noch het groot noch het kleine valt onttrekken"; cf. also: A. van Egmond; C. van der Kooi, "The Appeal to Creation Ordinances: A Changing Tide. In: P.G. Schrotenboer (et al.), God's Order for Creation (Wetenskaplike Bydraes van die PU vir CHO, Series F), [Publication of Institute for Reformational Studies, Potchefstroom University] 1994, 16-33.
[47] Cf. the definition used by H.W. de Knijff uses: "A social institution aimed at total communion of life (especially full mutual participation of persons), exclusive (third parties, especially sexually, exclusively), lasting (to the limit of life), legally protected, which is grounded in the sexual expression of the natural desire for love between man and woman, thereby creating the space for producing and raising offspring (with special rights such as inheritance) and which is experienced as something that rests on a supra-personal basis" (H.W. de Knijff, 'Chronicle. Homosexuality and Marriage'. In: Church and Theology 52 (2001), (281-284) 282).
[48] Cf. for this: B. Wannenwetsch, 'Wovon handelt die "materielle Ethik"? Oder: warum die Ethik der elementaren Lebensformen ("Stände") einer "Bereichsethik" vorzuziehen ist'. In: A. Fritzsche (Hg.), Kirche(n) und Gesellschaft (Ökumenische Sozialethik 3), Munich 2000, 95-136.
[49] Cf. also B. Wannenwetsch, Die Freiheit der Ehe. Das Zusammenleben von Frau und Mann in der Wahrnehmung evangelischer Ethik (Evangelium und Ethik Bd. 2), Neukirchener Verlag: Neukirchen-Vluyn 1993.


Erwin de Ruiter

"One man tries to express himself in books, another in boots; both are likely to fail." - G.K. Chesterton

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