Dooyeweerd: Roots of Western Culture – Chapter 1

To help establish a new national identity for the Dutch after World War II, Herman Dooyeweerd published a series of articles that encouraged the public to think and discuss the issue of their culture.

At the heart of Western culture lie three significant rationale: the spirit of ancient civilization (Greece and Rome), Christendom, and modern humanism. Dooyeweerd’s argument is that the antithesis of Christian faith is not reconcilable to the undercurrents of humanism or any other faith. Ancient civilization’s “form-matter” ground-motive of formless, cyclical life-stream, incalculable fate, immortal Olympian gods, and eventually the Greek polis itself could not answer the Greek’s concerns over inevitable death, conflicting morality, or their eventual political shift from feudalism. The Greco-Roman worship of multiplicities led to the glorification of one part of creation as opposed of the whole (which is all-unity, creation and redemption, in Christ). Because cultural development always requires a leading power, multiplicities can never substantially support society. A sound foundation requires a singularity, not by competition but by essence and definition. While apostate culture has at times begun to foreshadow the qualities of harmonious nature (i.e. human rights), this is only so by way of God’s common grace distributed to all for the sake of all mankind.

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