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Spirituality: Religion and Faith

This page explains Dooyeweerd's view in more detail, outlines the advantages of this view, and discusses some of the problems with it. The first version on this page, at least, is based on a paper by Olthius.

Dooyeweerd's View of Religion and Faith

Central to Dooyeweerdian thinking is that all creation - all temporal or empirical reality - refers beyond itself to its Source, its Origin, its Destiny, its Creator. It is not sufficient in itself. Dooyeweerd uses the word 'restless' to characterize this, but Olthius thinks that the negative connotations of that word are unfortunate. In the human being, this referring occurs via two channels: via the faith aspect, and via the whole person.

Dooyeweerd saw faith and religion as two separate and distinct things. Faith is a human functioning, of the pistic aspect, whereas religion is the response of the human heart to the Divine. All of human life is religious, but not all is faith. Dooyeweerd's view of religion and faith is closely tied with his anthropology, his view of human being.

The Religious (Spiritual) Response of the Whole Person

To Dooyeweerd, all of life is religious (to use his terminology), or spiritual. That is, for example poetry, technology, sensing, eating, and everything else, is 'religious', sacred, spiritual. Religion (spirituality) is "the connection between the meaning of the creation and the Being of the 'Arche' (Origin)." [NC I:104] The human person can be religiously (spiritually) orientated in one of two directions, either towards the genuine Divine Source, or towards some non-divine thing or aspect found within created reality.

The Faith Aspect

Faith is one mode or aspect of life: the faith (pistic) aspect. It refers to the human function of commitment. In this aspect we see our human response to the Divine, either the real Divine or a non-Divine thing. According to Dooyeweerd, this aspect is the only one that points beyond time; it is to do with original transcendental certainty. It is thus expressive of religion, of towards what we orientate ourselves, though distinct from it.

Functioning in the faith aspect determines our orientation in all other aspects. [I'm not sure I agree it absolutely determines it, rather than merely strongly influencing it, but I guess that might be a quibble.]

Temporal, Supra-temporal and God

Dooyeweerd's view of religion, faith and the relationship between them is closely tied in with his view of the human self. It seems that Dooyeweerd thought in terms of three distinct realms when he thought of what it means for the human person to be religious:

Created Creator
Temporal Eternal (supra-temporal)
Human (and other) functioning and living Human heart (or self) God
Diversity (aspects) Unity -

Thus, concerning religion (spirituality) the human heart is supra-temporal and open to God. The boundary between God and the creation is Law, the boundary between temporal and supra-temporal is Time. Unity among the diversity is found in the supra-temporal realm, not within the temporal. Diversity is found in the temporal realm, and comes about only because of Time, which operates like a prism, in refracting the unity of Meaning into its diversity of modal aspects.

Then, the faith-functioning connects supra-temporal unity of Meaning with temporal diversity of meaning. Thne function of the faith function is to orientate human life to the supra-temporal heart, in which it finds orientation to the Origin. "Faith functions as the opened window of time through which the light of God's eternity should shine into the whole temporal coherence of the world." [NC II:302]. "Indeed, without faith this temporal reality cannot exist." [Olthius:36].

While this is a curiously elegant scheme, it has much to de-recommend it, and Olthius spells out the problems it leads to, below. My own personal reaction to it is twofold: I have never really understood or 'grasped' it (though I can understand it analytically), and I find it unsatisfying and not in accord with what I find. It seems rather abstract, especially concerning God. Also, I wonder whether such a complicated scheme is really necessary.

Links with Theology

At this point is important to understand that Dooyeweerd's view of humanity and relationship with the Divine is strongly influenced by Christian (Calvinistic) theology, in two ways. One is that the revelation that God gives to the creation is of two forms: Word-revelation and general-revelation, which aligns with two types of grace of God: particular grace and common grace. ('Word' refers the the Greek word 'logos' which is used to describe Jesus Christ, and not to lingual symbols.) The other is that only 'regenerate' people are open to God ('regenerate' refers to being 'born' spiritually, i.e. by operation of the Holy Spirit of God). The human heart, he maintains, is orientated towards God only in the regenerate; in all other people, it is orientated back towards something in creation, which orientation is distorting of all of life. Only when the heart is orientated towards God does the human link into Word-revelation. But all human beings receive general revelation. In regenerate people, the person's faith is opened along two channels, one towards the Word-revelation from God, and one towards the supra-temporal heart, but in non-regenerate people only the latter channel is open.

Personally, though I believe in regeneration of people by God, I find myself unhappy with the way Dooyeweerd has worked it up into an anthroplogical theory. Olthius covers some problems below.

Evaluation of Dooyeweerd's View

Comparison with Other Views

to be written.

Tillich tries, as Dooyeweerd does, to embrace the idea that all of life is sacred and spiritual, but because he equates faith with religion, he ends up treating it as superior to the rest of life, and the rest of life as second-class. Dooyeweerd, however, since he distinguishes the universal human mode, faith, from the religious response of the human heart to God across all aspects, is able to retain the sacredness of all aspects of life.

Advantages on Dooyeweerd's View

(From Olthius, but in a different order.)

Problems with Dooyeweerd's View

to be written.


Olthius JH (1985) "Dooyeweerd on Religion and Faith" pp.21-40 in McIntyre CT (ed.) The Legacy of Herman Dooyeweerd: Reflections on critical philosophy in the Christian Tradition, University Press of America.

(Click here for site bibliography.)

This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.

Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Number of visitors to these pages: Counter. Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: 18 September 2002. Last updated: 23 September 2002 Religion, Faith and Humanity written. 21 November 2005 unets, .nav.