Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society
University of Notre Dame Press, 2011
464 pp., $68.00
Civil Society and Creation Order
One of the challenges in talking about the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) is the pronunciation of his name. If you've seen The Sound of Music you can pronounce "Dooyeweerd." Sing: "Doe, a deer, a female deer." Yeah, that's great … if a little weird. "Doe-yeah-weird." Close enough! "Doo-ye-weerd."
In Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society, Jonathan Chaplin shows how Dooyeweerd's subtle yet powerful analysis of the architecture of society critically illumines contemporary controversies concerning the state and civil society. Dooyeweerd offers a rich, insightful account of deep forces that shape how we human creatures make our life together. Chaplin's book is not intended for a popular audience—he writes for "English-language social and political theorists"—but we may hope that many of these theorists, and certainly those who are professing evangelical Christians, will read this book and so benefit from it that they will be inspired to explore the implications of Dooyeweerd's thought in ways that will enrich the many conversations now going on among Christians in every field of cultural endeavor.
With this book Chaplin also contributes to the revival of interest in the thought of Abraham Kuyper. I can attest to this revival—for example, as I started writing this review I was visiting New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church to study two chapters of Kuyper's famous 1898 Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary (available in various editions as the Lectures on Calvinism) with a highly diverse group of 24 young professionals in that church's Gotham Fellows program. The Gotham Fellows were glowing with enthusiasm for what they had been learning from Kuyper—an enthusiasm that I have encountered among young adults all over North America, including businesspeople in Phoenix, Arizona, and seminary students in Pasadena, California, citizens serious about political engagement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ...