Sunday, October 30, 2005

Defining "Reformational"

My answer to my question:

Reformational refers to the philosophical system of thought stemming from the Reformation (usually from within Reformed churches) and the teaching of Abraham Kuyper, and originally developed and expressed by Herman Dooyeweerd and D.H.Th. Vollenhoven. It is both Reformed and Neo-Calvinist, but to be Reformed and Neo-Calvinist does not necessarily mean to be Reformational (see the Venn diagrams here, here, and here.

Along with many other Reformed and Reformational entries, Wikipedia has an entry here. A very good expression of Reformational thinking was made by Roy Clouser at Dordt College in 2002: Is There a Christian View of Everything? Also helpful is Al Wolters's What is to be done . . . toward a neocalvinist agenda.

I see the terms Reformed and Reformational used interchangeably at times by Reformed-minded people who don't necessarily know or understand the philosophical movement referenced above. Also, when I taught at Dordt College, there was some debate about Reformed vs Reformational. Clearly Reformational thinking has deeply influenced Dordt College--its guiding documents reflect it and it's probably not easy to find another institution with a greater concentration of faculty with Reformational leanings. But some saw Dordt as Reformed and only inclusively Reformational.

As you can see, I also capitalize all these terms--nouns, adjectives, and adverbs alike. I follow the principle that if the term stems from a proper noun (which is capitalized) then all derivatives are capitalized. This is less common among continentals and this reluctance to capitalize apparently catches on among Reformational types themselves. In this regard, consider me a dissenter in the ranks.


At 5:55 AM, Blogger Steve Bishop said...


Do you know the first term the term reformational (I'm being continetal here!) was used in this sense? And who it was that first termed the phrase neocalvin?

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Paul Otto said...

No I don't, but it's an interesting question. I used to have pictures of several 20th-cent Calvinists on my office door--Kuyper, Bavink, Machen, Vollenhoven, and Dooyeweerd--with the inscription "Neo-Calvinists all." I'd certainly find myself more comfortably in the Kuyper tradition than the Machen one, but I don't like the exclusivity that some Neo-Calvinists express.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Paul Otto said...

I meant to add that if no one can answer this question here, it be posed on thinknet.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Paul Robinson said...

I'm fairly sure Dooyeweerd uses it in NCTT. I wanted to look this up but haven't had time. Maybe next week.

At 1:08 AM, Blogger Steve Bishop said...

From the OED:

1854 J. GUTHRIE in Evang. Union Worthies (1883) 322 Calvinism and *Neo-Calvinism. 1997 Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev. 91 653 The type case was the Netherlands, where the development of republican forms was simultaneously influenced by traditions of medieval constitutionalism,..neo-Calvinism, and neoclassicism.

At 1:09 AM, Blogger Steve Bishop said...

Again from the OED:
reformational, a.

Belonging to, concerned with, the Reformation or with reform.

1861 BP. EWING in Ross Mem. xxi. (1877) 329 Theologies, Reformational and Roman, have heretofore obscured the light. 1884 Manch. Exam. 20 Oct. 3/6 The black reformational, and it stands in the way of making an ‘altar’ the great centre of worship.

At 2:17 AM, Blogger Steve Bishop said...

The above don't seem to help us much - sorry!

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Gideon Strauss said...

Hi, Paul!

- Happily neocalvinist in Hamilton, Ontario


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