You are on page 1of 16
, ANAKAINOSIS , A Newsletter For Reformational Thought Volume Three, No.3 March_1981 Editorial: Civilization as Creatio Tertia Since at least tho seventeenth century (and probably much earlier), Christian theologians have been making a distinction between ereatio prina| and ereatio secunda in the creation account of Genesis 1, "First creation has reference to God's sovereign act of creating the heavens and the earth “in the beginning." "Second creation” refers to the process by which the newly made earth (initially “formless and void") is formed and filled by the eight let-there-be's of God's creative word. When the Scriptures else’ where make mention of creation by the word, it scems usually to be this ereatio secunda that is being referred to.’ Unlike eveatio prima, it is not creation ce niailo, but creative development of the already existing earthly reality. We find this distinction made, for example, by the Dutch Neocalvinists Kuyper, Bavinck, Vollenhoven and Schilder, and (wore recently) by the American Old Testament scholars T. Young and M. Kline, among others. The six days of creation, then, describe the finishing and furnishing of an originally unfinished and empty “earth” (understood in the broad sense, not as dry land}, in order to prepare it for human habitation and elaboration. In the light of this, it makes sense to speak of human culture and socie- ty as creatio tertia. Although I am not aware of this term having been used before in this Connection, it scems to fit well with the conception of the so-called cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28) as the command to develop creation, specifically thet province of creation calicd "the earth" (as distinct from heaven). That carth is developed by God himseif in the six days of ereatio secunda, after which he rests from his creative work. Now he assigns to his image, mankind, the task of continuing that develop- ment on his behalf. Again, the notions of forming ("subdue") and filling ("replenish") are central to the task of developing the created earth, emphasizing the continuity of second and third creation. Perhaps the forming should be associated with human “culture in the strict sense of the word, (e.g, tilling the garden) and filling with human "society" (c.g. starting the family), Together they refer to civilization as + tertia. All of this, of course, serves to reinforce the reformational understand- ing of history as the responsible opening up of creation, in culture and society, in the movement From the garden of Eden to the heavenly city of the new earth. On the other hand, it implies a revision of common Cor- mulation with respect to "creation by the word." This can now be under- stood to reer primarily to erectic sveunda, but also (through the media- tion of human responsibility) to ¢ (Aw Butterfield and his Commentators by Keith Sewell Herbert Butterfield, Writings on Christianity and History, edited with an Introduction by 6.7, McIntire, New York: Oxford University Press, 1g79. This volume represents a most welcome addifion to the literature on and by the late Sir Herbert Butterfield, Profg4sor--and later Religious Pro- fessor--of Modern History at the UniwerSity of Cambridge, Writings on Chriatianity and History (referred to as Writings hereafter) con- prises seventeen essays or papers by Butterfield, preceded by an intro- ductory essay by C. Thomas McIntire (of the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto), entitled "Herbert Butterfield on Christianity and History." In this informative essay McIntire discusses the "liberal-evangelical" character of Butterfield's Methodist upbringing and convictions (weitings, pp. xi-xii, xix-xxii}, as well as noting his earlier pre- ference for the classics and literature, rather than historical research (ibid, p. xxiii). Readers of Anakainoeds will be interested to learn of Butterficld’s difficulties with both fundamentalistic evangelicalism and modernism (fhid, p. xxv-xxvi), and to note the familiar disjunction be- tween an “inner personal religious life" and an "outer world of academic development" (Ibid, p. xxiii). In his Inéroduetion McIntire surveys Butterfield's life work as a teacher and historian, referring to all of his principal writings (zb¢d, esp. pp. xxxii-xxxvii). llewever, readers should note that the seventeen extracts printed in'writings do not constitute a representative sample of the Butterficld veusre, and, indeed, this was not the editor's inten- tion, As the title indicates, this work presents writings on Christian approaches to historiography, the Bible and the history of Christianity, end the position of Christians in the modern world. As a result we do not find here any extended discussions of such Butterfield specialities as late eighteenth and early nineteenth century diplomatic history, the origins of modern science, or British politics during the reign of King George 111. As a consequence, the intending student would be unwise to use this volume alone as the basis for a first introduction to the full runge of his thought. T In his Introdue 7» McIntire outlines the influences exerted upon Butter- field's thinking by the “romantic” Harold Temperiey, the “scientific J.B, Bury and the "literary" G.M. Trevelyan, as well as those giants of a preceding generation, Leupold von Ranke and Lord Acton. As the editor also makes clear (7bid, p. xxii), Butterfield made his first mature statement on the principles of historical research and historiography in The Whig Interpretation of History (1931). It is surprising, however, that no reference is made to the close alignment between Butterfield's standpoint in this work, and that stated shortly after by Michael 2 Oakeshott in his Experience and ita Modes (Cambridge University Press, 1933, pp. 142-43). It was in The whig Interpretation of History that Butterfield advocated a form of historiographical statement that was held to be in some definite sense non- or pre-interpretative, a form of statement that he subsequently referred to as "technical history,” As Butterfield put it in 1931: It is not for him [i.e, the historian] to give a philo- sophical explanation of what happens in time and space. Indeed any history that he writes ought to be as capable of varied philosophical interpretation as life itself seens to be. tn the last resort the historian's explana- tion of what has happened is not a piece of general rea- soning at all. He discovering exactly what it was that occurred; and if at any point we need further elucidation al] that hoe can do is to take us into greater detail, and make us sec in still more definite concreteness what really did take place (rid, pp. 71-72). Cl. Chri tianity and History, 1949, pp. 19°F. It should be noted that by the above Butterfield does not intend to rule all intespretation out of court, but rather that for him interpretation is a subsequent act that logically and procedurally follows the ostablish- ment of the historical facts (cl. writinge, p. 133). In terms of the above quoted passage, Butterfield suggests that an account of past "life itself" that is independent of any general or philosophical or other perspectival standpoint is a norm for any disciplingdand rigorous his- toriography. In contrast, reformational thinkers have argued that we never "just see" but that we have been so created as to always "see as"--to perceive all things out of a stance or posture that is properly described by using the word religion. From the latter standpoint there is clearly a problem in Butterfield's call for a non- or pre-interpretative statement of the “points which are established by the evidence" (Capteiianity and Bietory, p. 19). And with reference to Butterfield's formulations on this point Calvin Scerveld has asserted that "although ‘evidence’ is a crucial con- stituative element in every historian’s conclusion, ‘evidence’ may nevor presume to be a factor in the human historiographer's perspectival « priori..." (C. Scerveld "The Pedagogical Strength of a Christian Metho- dology in Philosophical listoriography," xoere 40 (1975):270-71, cf. 304, n. 9). McIntire does not, however, discuss this side of the question, and although criticisms always tell us something about the critic, I cannot say that I feel that full justice is done to Gardiner on this question, and especially to Geyl, who is not quoted correctly (writings, p. xxviii). In the F duction it is suggested that the technical history question may be resolved if placed within the "three levels" of explanation scheme first stated in "God in Wlistory" (first delivered in 1952, first published in 1958, and re- printed in Weieings, pp. 3-16), and alse appearing in xan 2 2yee (Cam- bridge University Press, 1955, pp. 140-41). According to this formulation three levels of historiographical explanation may be discerned as foliows: