Clark and Schilder on "The Categorical Distinction"

Wes has some helpful  source material on this topic. He begins with a survey on my chapter on the distinction between theology as God knows it (theologia archetypa) and theology as it is revealed to us (theologia ectypa). In the second half of the post, however, he provides a summary of some passages from Klaas Schilder on the same topic. You can see there, as well as in my chapter in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, that Schilder’s rejection of this essential Reformed distinction is part of a pattern in 20th-century Reformed theology.

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  1. I hope you don’t mind bringing this up after 8 years. I wrote an article for the ‘journal’ of the student association at the theological university in Kampen on the categorical distinction in Schilder’s theology. I’m a student in a ‘Schilderite’ denomination and followed your trail in Recovering the Reformed confession and The Pattern of Sound Doctrine. Alas, I couldn’t find the article of Wes Bredenhof. I was curious about your thoughts on two notions I discovered while comparing Schilder with the Reformed tradition:

    1. The influence of Bernhardinus de Moor on Schilder concerning the categorical distinction. Schilder adopts his reconfiguration of the categorical distinction which expends this pattern beyond the 20th century. I haven’t checked yet how Johannes á Marck is processed bu De Moor.

    2. More unknown perhaps is Dutch theologian Cornelis Steenblok (1894 – 1966), important man the split which formed the Reformed Congregations in the Netherlands in 1953. He was trained at the Free University. He had the traditional categorical distinction, but came at a similar position on the well-meant offer of the gospel as Herman Hoeksema. As I can see, he is the exact opposite of Schilder. Educated at the Free University, promoted under a staunch Kuyperian, Valentijn Hepp (1879 – 1950), expert on reformed scholasticism, especially Voetius.

    Maybe it is to detailled in specifically Dutch church history.

    • Andreas,

      Thank you for this. It’s fascinating!

      1. Given Schilder’s rhetoric about “scholasticism,” I’m quite surprised to learn that Schilder was reading De Moor. “Influence” is a slippery word in intellectual history. What sort influence do you see? I’m guessing that your essay is in Nederlands.

      2. When you say “expands the pattern beyond the 20th century” what do you mean?

      3. So, Steenblok held to the archetypal/ectypal distinction but rejected the free offer? On what grounds?

      4. Here one of Wes’s posts:
      The categorical distinction in Lutheran Theology but the other one seems lost.

      • Andreas,

        Wes graciously permitted me to post his summary of Schilder here:

        K. Schilder on Archetype/Ectype: An English Summary

        by Wes Bredenhof

        (N.B.: Schilder is notoriously difficult to translate, hence this summary
        rather than a direct translation.)

        Dr. Schilder deals with this matter in Vol. 2 of his commentary on
        the Heidelberg Catechism, pp.105-107. He specifically approaches it under
        Lord’s Day 6, QA 16: “Why must He be a true and righteous man? He must
        be a true man because the justice of God requires that same human nature
        which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because
        one who himself is a sinner cannot pay for others.”
        Schilder says that there are some who in the past and also today
        willingly speak of an archetypal and ectypal theology, understood as the
        knowledge of God proper. “Archetype” and “ectype” stand over against one
        another just as an original and a copy, a die and a coin. Archetypal,
        that is to say the original, the example, was the way the Lord God
        Himself thought, also exactly concerning Himself. His knowledge of
        Himself is, so to speak, the model whereby our knowledge of God, our
        “theology” is formed. Our knowledge is then the “ectype” or the
        representation of God’s knowledge. The archetype can be compared to the
        die used to strike a coin, and the ectype can be compared to the coin
        struck by the die.
        Schilder has many objections to this whole notion, but he will not
        give them all here. He apparently deals with this issue further in his
        book Wat is de Hemel? (severely abridged English translation: Heaven —
        What is it?), but I have been unable to find the exact place. Anyway, the
        notion itself, says Schilder, is all messed up. He will comment on one
        thing. He draws our attention to the well-known Dutch theologian
        Bernardus de Moor. He warned that we must be careful with this notion.
        What if our knowledge of God is ectypal? What then is the archetype of
        our knowledge? What is the original? Is the archetype in what God
        Himself thinks and knows? Or is it rather in what God has been pleased to
        reveal to us?
        To this hypothetical question, de Moor gives the answer: only the
        latter. We do not have a copy in our spirit (geest) of what God Himself
        has thought and now thinks, and from what He Himself knows, and from what
        the Spirit of God searches in the depths of God from eternity to eternity.
        We only have a “copy” or a “coin” from what God has been pleased to reveal
        to us.
        Now Schilder briefly turns to Abraham Kuyper. He says that it is
        really too bad that the this very meaningful remark of de Moor was not
        met with the respect that it should have in Kuyper’s Encyclopedia of
        Sacred Theology (translated in English as: Principles of Sacred
        Theology). De Moor put his finger on the Achilles’ heel of the
        archetype-ectype scheme. De Moor’s comments show that with respect to the
        dependency of our knowledge or cognition, we need to have respect for the
        boundaries (KS is using here the concept of “metae”). On the one hand,
        boundaries lie between what God holds to Himself and on the other hand,
        what He is pleased to make known. Only God can move or change those
        boundaries. And God has done so, since there is progress in revelation.
        Two more additional arguments are brought in by Schilder: 1)
        Think of a teacher and a student. The student receives knowledge from the
        teacher. Is then the knowledge of the student, a copy, an ectype, of the
        teacher’s knowledge? No, that is not the case. The student receives
        information that the teacher imparts. He receives information out of the
        teacher’s knowledge, but not a copy. The end result when one speaks with
        the archetype/ectype scheme with respect to theology is that we say too
        much for man and too little for Almighty God. And finally, if our ectypal
        knowledge of God stands over against the Divine archetype, why do people
        not speak of a ectypal zoology, ectypal botany, ectypal mathematics,
        geography, cosmology, jurisprudence and so forth?

        [I am indebted to the Dogmatics 2409 lectures of Dr. N.H. Gootjes for
        pointing me to this material and laying out the general gist of Schilder’s
        argument, thus making it easier to follow in the original.]

        I am not confident about Schilder’s reading of De Moor. That needs to be checked. The TA/TE distinction isn’t that complicated, especially since we now have Junius, De Vera Theologia in English. Scripture is not the archetype. By definition, anything that we can comprehend cannot be the archetype. Scripture is necessarily ectypal.

        To take up Schilder’s challenge, some medieval theologians did talk about our knowledge of the natural world as ectypal or as a “similitude” of the divine knowledge.

        We can read DeMoor here.

        Notice that he argued with the Remonstrant Limborch, in defense of the Categorical Distinction. What I see here is a fairly standard defense of the CD. I wonder where Schilder was reading?

      • Thank you for your response! That is the passage of Schilder I focussed on.

        Influence is a relative word, because Schilder takes the broad strokes of De Moors theology, but not the details. Just yesterday I discussed Schilders way of interpreting texts with a student who did his bachelor thesis on the way Schilder reads poetry. He told me that Schilder read a lot, and used a lot, but took concepts from texts, completely detached from the context of the text and from the intention of the author. So when Schilder is influenced by De Moor, it is in how far Schilder uses words, but not necessary the thoughts of De Moor. So it is possible that Schilder read the part of De Moor you posted and he gave his own twist to it. I looked up the books of his library ( and he didn’t own the continuus commentary of De Moor, but his co-professor at the young liberated university, Seakle Greijdanus did.

        I mean with the expansion of the pattern that it is not strictly something of the 20th century but that is has a precedent in De Moor,more or less. Maybe ‘expanding’ is the wrong word, because is suggests the other direction into time (future) than the direction I meant (history). (I can imagin that Schilder is hard to translate, I experience some difficulties to expres my own theology in proper English 😉

        Steenblok rejected the offer because he reasoned that Christ cannot offer what he hasn’t promised. I should dig deeper in Steenblok, but I know it has something to do with his definition of ‘offer’. A church historian suggested that he had Asperger syndrome and had troubles with non-literal meanings. But that sounds to ad hominem to me, he was a decent theologian, I suspect there is more behind it.

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