Pantheism, Panentheism, and idealism in relation to the nature and progress of the Human Being ; An explanation by Bavinck

We now move on to secular views of what a human being is and how he/she develops into the potentiality of what it means to be human.  Right from the start I have to say I don’t agree with these views and neither does Bavinck.  Bavinck is explaining what these philosophies are although he doesn’t agree with them.

Here are some names Bavinck mentions on pages 37 – 38

1.     J.G. Fichte; (1762 – 1814) Founding Father of German Idealism (Ideas developed from Kant’s writings)

2.     Schleiermacher; (November 21, 1768 – February 12, 1834) Father of modern Liberal theology

3.     R.Rothe;  Theologiische Ethik; (28 January 1799 – 20 August 1867) He saw himself as a theosophist.

4.     Hegel; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831); Fundamental figure of philosophy.

For more background information on some of these seminal figures you can read it on the wikis.

The Philosophy of the Age which contradicts the Biblical witness

Bavinck starts with; J. G. Fichte (1762-1814) taught with impressive

intellectual power that morality only comes into existence out of conflict.

The intelligent ego strives after freedom, self-sufficiency, and independence and wants to be absolutely autonomous but finds itself restricted by the non-ego.  The non-ego has to be conquered and pushed back; the ego has to dominate the non-ego; reason has to rule over nature, and spirit over matter. Morality, thus, is the result of conflict, struggle, and wrestling; it lies at the end of the road,it is not a point of departure but an end goal. The ego is born as restricted by the non-ego (which is sinful, because for Fichte sin is restriction). Paragraph from page 37 of Bavincks Ethics by John Bolt.  He goes through these thinkers and explains the ideas that they had. Man is created completely natural and evil. Overtime they take on nature and spirit and in the long struggle eventually break away from nature.  The goal is for nature to become reason and spirit. God is also the result of a process.


A Reflection

Forget about sin. In this scheme ‘morality is a goal, a result of a process an ideal…’ (page 38) I don’t think that much has changed since the days of Bavinck.  Idealism, evolution taught as fact, underpins a lot of the sciences even today. Even though this way of thinking is seen as secular, non-religious, independent.  Nothing is further from the truth; these ideas were found in the ancients in some form and in other religious systems. 


Empedocles; ( c. 494 – c. 434 BC, fl. 444–443 BC)

With his ideas, one can see a precursor to Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Wikipedia explains in his Cosmogony


Empedocles attempted to explain the separation of elements, the formation of earth and sea, of Sun and Moon, of atmosphere.[32] He also dealt with the first origin of plants and animals, and with the physiology of humans.[32] As the elements entered into combinations, there appeared strange results—heads without necks, arms without shoulders.[32][50] Then as these fragmentary structures met, there were seen horned heads on human bodies, bodies of oxen with human heads, and figures of double sex.[32][51] But most of these products of natural forces disappeared as suddenly as they arose; only in those rare cases where the parts were found to be adapted to each other did the complex structures last.[32] Thus the organic universe sprang from spontaneous aggregations that suited each other as if this had been intended.[32] Soon various influences reduced creatures of double sex to a male and a female, and the world was replenished with organic life.[32] It is possible to see this theory as an anticipation of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, although Empedocles was not trying to explain evolution.[52] ”(see; )


So, as we said earlier no modern idea is completely modern, it has probably had some religious background to it.  Modern philosophers knew this, and I suppose Idealism is an attempt to break away from a religious world view and walk the earth as independent beings not needing God or religion.  I think this has failed.  For the Christian, this is unacceptable although there are Christians and theologians who have drunk this teaching and have imbibed all of its falsehoods. 


The Bible teaches the opposite to this so let us continue with Bavinck at the bottom of page 38 in which the great Bavinck writes;” Directly opposing these pantheistic theories is the view of human beings as created in God’s image.  The moral and the good is not an ideal hovering far off in the distance from humanity and which we need to reach. The good (ethics/ morality) is not the end goal of life, a destination for humans, but the foundation on which we stand and the environment in which we stand”. (Last para, page 38 – page 39 para 1)


The foundations of Christianity and Idealism are at opposite ends.  Next time I wish to go and look at the humanness of Adam and Eve who were created good.  Bavinck gives a clear description of the importance of Adam, the fall and the hope of eternal life in Christ.


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