Paul Scholten’s view on the judicial decision and the danger of bottomless subjectivism

Harry Groenenboom

DPSP Annual Article in Progress
ISSN: 2667-2790

Digital Paul Scholten Project


bottomless subjectivism, ethical theology, conscience, sense of justice, judicial decision, Paul Scholten.

Article Info

Category: research
Research Question: Religion and Law
Reviewed by: Marcel Poorthuis, Jonathan Soeharno
Article in Progress


In his main publication General Method Scholten not only shows how the conscience of the judge plays a crucial role in legal judgment, but he also explicitly states that for Christians like himself, conscience represents the commandment of God. The article places Scholten’s vision in the context of the new religious movement – ethical theology – that developed in the Dutch Reformed Church during Scholten’s time and in which conscience is central. In his first philosophical article, Law and the Philosophy of Life, Scholten refers to one of the leading representatives of ethical theology, P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (jr.) when considering whether the role he gives to conscience in the judicial decision may entail the danger of bottomless subjectivism.
Concerning the danger of bottomless subjectivism Scholten on the one hand follows the view of la Saussaye (jr.) regarding the absoluteness of the conscientious judgment and its orientation at the general human good, on the other hand Scholten indicates that the moral judgment is only an element of the legal judgment. In this respect the danger of relativism concerning good and evil in law is greater than that of bottomless subjectivism.

1. Introduction

The most striking part of Scholten's legal philosophy is his view of the legal decision. The final chapter of General Method1, devoted to the decision, begins with the words:

It's time to tie together the threads we've spun. (GM 501)

and classifies the decision in court as:

The judge does something other than observing in favor of whom the scales turn, he decides. That decision is an act, it is rooted in the conscience of he who performs the act. That which is expected of a judge is a deed. (…) I think that there is more than merely observation and logical argument in every scientific judgment, but in any case, the judicial judgment is more than that — it can never be reduced to those two. It is not a scientific proposition, but a declaration of will: this is how it should be. In the end it is a leap, just like any deed, any moral judgment is. „Thou shalt" or „thou shalt not", „thou may " or „thou may not", this is the core of any judicial judgment, even of the judicial decrees which are declaratory or constitutive. Such words can only be uttered by he who is convinced of it in his own conscience. The legal judgment is rooted in the moral part of our spiritual life; a good judge always desires to impose that which he can justify in his own conscience. In this respect every legal judgment is irrational. (GM 505-507)And finally: even I believe that the individual conscience doesn’t speak the last word here. But the inquiry into what is capable of giving guidance here is not the business of the science of law, and anyway it falls outside the framework of the book..(...) In my opinion there are only two options: either an idea, the ‘rechts-idee’ (idea of law), one of the forms in which the world spirit realizes itself, can be guiding here, or the conscience is subordinated to a higher power, who, revealed as Person in Creation and History, confronts the individual and the community with his unconditional claims.The first is the conception of idealism, especially in its Hegelian-pantheistic forms; the second is the demand of the Christian belief. (GM 530)

Striking elements in this conception of the judicial decision are the emphasis on the judge's conscience and the characterization of the decision as something that, like every act and every moral judgment, ultimately involves a leap. It is also striking that Scholten calls the court decision irrational, precisely because it is a decision of conscience. Finally, it is remarkable that Scholten argues that the judicial decision is rooted in the moral part of our spiritual life.

Scholten’s General Method was an immediate success when it was published in 1931. It fitted in well with the criticism of legal positivism that had erupted in the Western world. In simple language, with many examples of private law cases, it gave judges a recognizable and detailed picture of their working method.

At the time, the discussion about the meaning of values for law was widely held in the various sections of neo-Kantianism and this discussion was treated by Scholten in an eclectic but insightful manner. His view that it is the judge's job to do justice to all these views and to take them into account as much as possible, so that the ruling could be accepted as law by the community, gave judges a practical handle. Ultimately, however, the conscience of the judge determines the limit for all this.

Scholten's vision on the role of conscience and the Christian interpretation he gives to it, has been a recurring point of discussion in the Netherlands over the years. Recently, this discussion flared up again during a conference2 on the occasion of the establishment of a Research Institute for General Jurisprudence at the University of Amsterdam, which was named the Paul Scholten Institute. On the one hand, this naming was self-evident because Paul Scholten was one of the most esteemed legal scholars - not only nationally but also with some international acknowledgment3 - who had been a professor at the Amsterdam faculty. On the other hand, the Protestant Christian element of Scholten's view proved to be a stumbling block in the context of legal philosophy as currently practiced at the University of Amsterdam. Scholten's Christian view did not match the Protestant Christian Legal Philosophy, which was developed by Dooyeweerd at the Free University in Amsterdam.4 It was part however of a lively theological/philosophical international discourse between different currents of Protestantism in the twentieth-century interwar period, which has since fallen into oblivion in (legal) philosophy, and which will be further explained below.

The main criticism in the context of current legal philosophy was that Scholten’s emphasis on the individual conscience would allow for arbitrariness and thus lead to legal uncertainty, while the explicit reference to the Christian faith raised the question whether the private law theory as elaborated in Scholten’s General Method implies the acceptance of a creed. 5

Besides General Method and many other writings of a legal scientific nature, Scholten also published a series of articles in which he reflects philosophically about law, politics and religion. In addition to legal science, Scholten draws on theological sources in these writings. He regularly refers in this respect to theologians who represented the so-called 'ethical theology'. It is likely that a better understanding of ethical theology can help clarify Scholten's view of the foundation of legal decision-making.

The Digital Paul Scholten Project aims to translate these philosophical/theological texts into English. The first of these translations is now ready and concerns Scholten’s first philosophical essay, written in 1915: Law and the Philosophy of Life. 6 In it Scholten’s refers to the ethical theologian P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (jr.) This reference will be analyzed here and compared to Scholten’s view on the role of conscience as foundation of the judicial decision in General Method. In order to gauge the significance of this reference, first a brief description is given of ethical theology and the main ideas of P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (jr.).

2. About ethical theology.

2.1 Three generations

The movement of ethical theology was active in the period 1850-1940. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (sr.) (1818-1874) and J.H. Gunning (1829-1905) are considered the ‘founding fathers’ of the movement. P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (jr.) (1848-1920) was one of the great proponents of the second generation. Other proponents of the second generation include I van Dijk (1847-1922), J.J.P. Valeton (1848-1912) and J.H. Gerretsen (1867-1923). Theologians who published mainly after the First World War are generally considered to belong to the third generation.7 Scholten was a contemporary of the third- generation ethical theologians. He was friends with some of them, such as Ph. A. Kohnstamm and O. Noordmans.

The brief description given here, is based on three recent theses by Gerretsen8, Aalders 9 and Weegink10 respectively.11 Gerretsen concentrates on D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (sr.) and J.H. Gerretsen ; Aalders on J.J.P. Valeton, P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (jr.) and I. van Dijk; Weegink on A.J.Th Jonker (1851-1928). Aalders12 concentrates on the scientific, neo-Kantian aspiration of the ethical theologians of the second generation, Gerretsen13 wants to approach their personal life-experience as closely as possible and Weegink14 focuses on the meaning of ethical theology for reformed spirituality.

The emphasis is in this brief description on Dutch developments. However, like the important representatives of other movements in Protestantism, the ethical theologians participated in international conferences, 15 were published (or translated into) in French, German, English and other languages, 16 had close ties of friendship across the border, 17 and had widely known international theologians and philosophers as their source of inspiration.18

2.2 Low degree of organization

Ethical theology is not a movement that can be described as an organization. It was not until 1921 that a certain degree of organization was established with the 'Ethische Vereniging’. However, this association was already disbanded before the Second World War. The ethical theologians grouped around journals that were widely known as platforms for ethical theology: 19 Stemmen voor Waarheid en Vrede (Voting for Truth and Peace), Onze Eeuw (Our Century), Synthese (later merged into Onze Eeuw), General Weekly for Christianity and Culture (Algemeen Weekblad voor Christendom en Cultuur), Eltheto. Scholten, for example, published his first philosophical article, Law and Philosophy of Life, in Synthese.

According to Aalders20 the low degree of organization is also related to a certain ecclesiastical and theological policy. The ethical theologians wanted their ideas to permeate all existing factions and believed that party formation could undermine this pursuit. Aalders21 places the emergence of ethical theology in the context of the Higher Education Act of 1876, which stipulated that dogmatics and practical theology were henceforth entrusted to professors appointed by the churches, while the other theological disciplines, supplemented by philosophy of religion and religious studies, were entrusted to state professors.

Gerretsen describes how la Saussaye (sr.) was a pastor all his life. He was highly regarded as a pastor, especially in leading prayers, but as a scientist he was misunderstood. His theological work was considered obscure and incomprehensible, too philosophical and speculative. He cared deeply about this denial, even though he knew he had supporters among the students: the later second generation of ethical theologians who would gain universal recognition through university appointments. La Saussaye (sr.) did not become professor in Groningen until 1872, two years before his death. His inaugural lecture was about the place of theological science in the encyclopedia of sciences.22

While Gerretsen's description of la Saussaye (sr.) focuses on the philosophical reflection of human life, as it can be experienced and thought spiritually, Weegink's description of Jonker shifts attention to the way in which ethical theology has contributed to rethinking and experiencing the Christian faith tradition as a practical-religious attitude in personal life and in society.23

2.3 Main theoretical characteristics

As to the teachings of the ethical theologians, Aalders 24 refers to the famous statement of the ethical theologian Is. van Dijk (1847-1922) that ‘in ethical theology each speaks kindly for himself’. There were indeed many differences between the ethical theologians. They did not adhere to one and the same theological system as for example Kantian philosophers do. The fact that ethical theologians differ so much on so many topics has to do with the fact that ethical theologians did not intend to create a new theological system of their own or a new set of dogma’s.

The question of ‘what ethical theology is about’ is for many readers rather puzzling and even embarrassing. There seems indeed to be something vague about ethical theology, with ambiguities, paradoxes, and even some traits that one might call irrational. Contemporaries of ethical theologians experienced this in the same way. Ethical theologians were considered vague, muddled, and profound. The latter if someone wanted to say something good about them. 25 Gerretsen explains the difficulty people had to understand what ethical theology was about by characterizing ethical theology in terms of a paradigm shift from the two dominant schools in the Dutch Reformed Church, the orthodox (right) and liberal (left), both of which were intellectualistic in nature. The ethical approach implied however that the truth of faith was existential rather than intellectual. 26

Despite what is said above about ethical theologians all kindly speaking for themselves, the term also combines a number of characteristics with which the ethicals clearly distinguish themselves from orthodox and free-thinking theologians. Ethical theology can best be characterized, by two essential points of attention: life and person.

2.3.1 It's all about life itself

The reason why ethical theologians have been thought to think somewhat vaguely has to do with the fact that they believed that real, pure, scientific truth can only be found by experience, not by theories or doctrinal systems. And so they had no intention of creating a new, "ethical" theology, at least not when "theology" meant a doctrine or a set of dogmas.

In Gerretsen’s words27:

La Saussaye (sr.) was fascinated by the innovative nature of the theological thinking that had been groundbreaking there (in the German neighboring countries (ed.)) since the early nineteenth century. Theology was no longer understood as dogmatics expounding the teachings of the church. People sought a theology that could develop as an autonomous science independently of ecclesiastical involvement, not a confessional theology but a scientific one. The bond between science and church was broken without, however, abandoning faith as a constituent principle of theology. In the quest to find an intrinsic bond between faith and science, theology was apprenticed to philosophy. La Saussaye (sr.) missed such collaboration between theologians and philosophers in the Netherlands. Particular attention is paid in this connection to Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Carl Daub (1765-1836), both venerated by their contemporaries as Church Fathers of Protestant theology, and the Heidelberg theologian Richard Rothe (1799-1867), their heir, who was seen as the 'Urheber' of ethical theology. All three brought about a radical renewal in theological thought which La Saussaye hailed as the dawn of a new age for faith and theology. (trans. by ed.)

It means that the ethical theologians were interested in life itself and could not be satisfied with just theories about life. Theories, they thought, were abstractions that lack reality. What they really wanted to do, however, was to theologize from an ethical principle, considered a "principle of life" rather than a fundament of church tradition.28 For them a principle of life is an attitude to life, a mental position that implies a receptivity to the deeper motives of life. According to them, faith should not be grasped in formulations to which eternal value is assigned as principles. A conceptual or intellectual conception of principles denies their significance as an autonomous life force. Truth was not a conceptual, but an existential category in their eyes.

In the summary of his dissertation, Gerretsen uses a quote from la Saussaye (sr.) to further elaborate the core of the life principle. 29

la Saussaye (sr.)30:

Convinced as we are, in accordance with an eminent theologian of our time (Rothe31), that the Christianity of our time is moving under superior leadership from the purely religious to the ethical sphere (I would rather say the religious as the only ethical force, only fully understood and appreciated as an ethical force), we believe that as such it has a future more glorious than its past.(trans. by ed.)

Gerretsen elaborates la Saussaye's assumption of involvement in a God-initiated moment of salvation in the light of the views of the second-generation ethical theologian J.H. Gerretsen32:

(…) like La Saussaye (sr.), Gerretsen saw the opposition between liberal and orthodox as outdated. Not this opposition, but the ethical principle had the future. Both La Saussaye and Gerretsen had high expectations in this regard, not to mention euphoric. The ethical revival sounded like a proclamation that could have read, “In this life we humans mean everything in God's eyes.” The image of an impersonal autocratic God who deliberates and ordains had given way to a personally compassionate God who did not want to work outside of humans. “God never forces. […] God's favorite way of working is non-intervention, one could say” Gerretsen taught his audience. God did not reveal himself from without, but from within; the human conscience was the place where God manifested himself in Christ as a person, thus appealing to the goodwill of man, created as he was in God's image. Our Christian conscience, then, completes the Christ, which has come to us through tradition in the very imperfect forms of Scripture […].” The perceived “revolutionary” perception of faith as a dialogical and dialectical relationship between God and man prompted a radical revision of traditional church doctrine. In the eyes of the ethical, this doctrine had been based on an autocratic image of God to which arbitrariness and display of power were attached. Rothe, for example, interpreted the traditional two-natures (of Jezus, being God and man ed.) as a one-sided power grab by God. He even spoke of a perversion by ecclesiastical tradition of the biblical Christ as a person. This 'physical' or 'mechanical' merging of heterogeneous entities had to be replaced by an ethical or organic symbiosis oriented on consensus or community of will. That was also the 'kernel' of Gerretsen's Christology: finding an ethical or organic conception of the Incarnation as "willed harmony" between mind and body. (trans. by ed)

2.3.2 What does it mean to be a person?

As shown the term 'ethical theology' is somewhat misleading. It suggests that there is a completed theological system. The ethical principle, however, has to do with the starting point of theological work, not with the result. And this starting point is: what does it mean to be a person that has a relationship with God?

The adjective ‘ethical’ is understood as a moral force of nature that acts as a driving force in people and is opposed to pathos. In his inaugural address, la Saussaye (sr.) opposes not the empiricism of the natural sciences, but naturalism as an ideology.33 La Saussaye (sr.) even believes that theology, which focuses on the unverifiable knowledge of the transcendent reality of God, can nevertheless be counted among the empirical sciences. La Saussaye (sr.)'s reproach is directed against the empiricism of the modern approach in the social sciences and humanities, that systematically disregards the moral side of man under the guise that the spiritual cannot be perceived and known objectively.

According to Gerretsen, this does not mean that ethical theologians think that theology can maintain its scientific character by taking a premise in the Christian faith as an a priori: The ethical theologians

wanted to investigate on their own strength and on their own compass and think through all the implications of what it means to understand the relationship between God and man as personal or "dialogical". They wanted to think through what it means to "anthropomorphize" God as creator and "theomorph" man as a creature. Rather, theology was seen as an investigation and venture in which theological or ecclesiastical partis pris were rejected on principle. It was assumed that the truth never revealed itself beforehand, a priori, but always afterwards, a posteriori. (trans. ed.)34

In the ethical theology, life and doctrine relate in a dialectical way to each other. Dialectical means that life cannot be understood without doctrine, and doctrine not without life.35 For a good understanding of this theology it is necessary to keep in mind that 'ethical' does not mean here: in accordance with the moral habits and customs, but the moral force as explained above. It means focusing primarily on the heart, not on the mind, of man. In the substantial part of dogmatics one can thus go in many directions, and from this the differences between the ethical theologians can be explained. Or, as Aalders puts it in his book: the heart of the ethical principle is that the starting point of theologizing is the relationship that God started with man.36 The ethical theologians thought that God is a ‘personality’. This means that God respects the free will of man and the choices he makes. And also, that the revelation of God touches man at the core of its existence.37

Weegink38 elaborates the concept of Christian life as developed by la Saussaye (jr): it is a personal life which is based on what the ethical principle reveals about being a person, about the inner life and disposition of man i.e., on what goes on in someone’s heart and mind. Between the heart and the mind of man lies man’s conscience. A man experiences God in his conscience, whether he knows and acknowledges this or not. There is an interaction between God who speaks and man who learns to confirm his speaking. The starting point of ethical thinking lies with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ in history39:

Between mind and heart is the mind or conscience of man. (…) Awareness of inner life belongs to the essence of man. In conscience not only reason and feeling come together. (…) The conscience is the place where a higher power operates. Here religious consciousness opens up in the human heart. Vinet, whose thinking, like Schleiermacher's, influenced la Saussaye (Jr.), speaks of the 'sens métaphysique' and 'l'élément mystérieux et divin de notre être', the notion that the eternal God stands above man. Conscience has an antenna for this. Following Pascal's example, he speaks of a bright spot that reminds degenerate man that he came from good family - a remnant that is difficult to erase. Man is addressed by a high demand that he cannot fulfill by his own strength. By realizing its imperfection, consciously or unconsciously, its need for liberation grows. The interior of man is oriented on the revelation of God. Vinet characterizes the conscience as 'le ministre résident', the seated servant, and 'l'ambassadeur de Dieu'. In his theology, the conscience becomes the organ that receives salvation by functioning as an ambassador from God. Only Christ, who personally unites God and man and in whom holiness and grace coexist, has the power to save man's personality and restore communion with God. (trans. ed.) 40

The dialectical theology wanted to investigate the relationship of a man towards God, and of God towards man. This resulted in a theology of a rather ‘paradoxical’ character. Ethical theologians agreed on the idea that doctrine was revealed through life. 41 The truth reveals itself never a priori, they thought, but always a posteriori. The truth would itself prove to be truthful. This would only be true, however, for those whose heart was open for God.

3. Indications for Scholten's involvement in ethical theology

Let me now summarize the factors, which in my view indicate the importance of a further analysis of the influence of ethical theology on Scholten's views.

First, Scholten published on legal philosophy in the above-mentioned journals that were generally known to form the platform of ethical theology. For example, Scholten published his first article in philosophy of law, Law and Philosophy of Life in the aforementioned journal Synthese.

Second, there is reason to believe that ethical theology is relevant to the interpretation of Scholten's work because this theological view forms the connecting link between various theologians to which Scholten refers in his work, such as PD Chantepie de la Saussaye, Ph. A. Kohnstamm, A. Vinet, O. Noordmans and K.H. Miskotte.

The quotation in the introduction of this article in which Scholten explains his view on the judicial decision further clearly shows the marks of the approach of ethical theology: the conviction that God has a relationship with man and the emphasis Scholten puts on conscience and the human person.

Recently some other authors have already indicated this influence of ethical theology on Scholten42.

From investigating what ethical theology is about, we concluded that there is no system of ethical theology, and this means that we cannot derive Scholten’s view about substantial theological dogmas from his being attached to ethical theology. The discussion ethical theologians started was about the prolegomena of theology, a discussion about epistemology and method.43 In this discussion the danger of bottomless subjectivism was one of the main accusations by the orthodox theologians.

4. The danger of bottomless subjectivism

In their treatment of the second-generation ethical theologians, Aalders and Weegink both point at the important influence of the neo-Kantian philosophy, especially the Baden School.44 Valeton was in this undoubtedly their most important spokesman, according to Aalders. Valeton opened the way for a neutral scientific approach to historical theology by introducing a new neo-Kantian epistemology. 45

Aalders46 summarizes Valeton’s view 47 as follows:

(…) the ethical theologian (treats) in a scientific way what he himself has learned to see and understand about spiritual things. To this he (Valeton, ed.) directly adds, however, that this understanding is not obtained by 'immediate illumination' or 'mystical enlightenment'. This understanding grows in the theologian as a member of the congregation and especially through the confidential, prayerful contact with Scripture. The ‘spiritual things come to us through the Scriptures. The more the theologian feeds on her and lives in her and is taught by her, the more he associates himself with these things, or rather the more they speak to him themselves (...). This reality of God, experienced in faith, is the foundation, the real starting point of theology. Therefore, there is no subjectivity or a slippery slope. The slippery slope is where one turns away from 'the spiritual realities' and hides behind a 'system'.48 (trans. ed.)

According to Aalders,49 Valeton adds in his inaugural speech50 that the certainty of faith does not lie in historical arguments or in the reliability of Scripture, but that there is only a 'personal certainty based on experience'. The objective ground of that certainty lies in God, not in the Bible. Therefore, it is not the Bible that is the subject of theology, but God as He has revealed Himself. A year later, Valeton51 gave a further elaboration, which Aalders52 summarized as follows:

Being a Christian . . . rests on real spiritual experience, but this experience has its foundation in the person of Jesus Christ, who is known by us through Scripture. This is indeed a subjective basis for theology. But no science or theological direction escapes this form of subjectivism. ‘You want to build your theology on the objective foundation of Scripture, but then on Scripture (...) the way you read and re-read it and absorb it to a greater or lesser extent’. (…) With regard to his own point of departure, he (Valeton, ed.) next remarks that all knowledge is based on observation and experience. It is not about experience in itself, however, because: 'Perceiving presupposes something that is perceived, experiencing presupposes something that can and is experienced'. And: 'It is not the one who experiences that is the first, but what one experiences'. (trans. ed.)53

Aalders54 explains that Valeton opposes the ultra-ethical point of view, whereby one wants to base his theology purely on one's own religious experience. That is an experiential theology, which pretends that the personal experience of faith is an independent source of knowledge and that nothing exists outside of one's own experiential reality: the anti-supra-naturalism of the modern day. Unlike the moderns, Valeton, however, does not consider himself bound by an anti-supra-naturalistic image of God. The individual, according to Valeton, obtains a personal assurance based on experiencing what God has manifested of himself and what has become permanent property of the church, which also includes the Bible writers: the individual believer comes to know God by a life in and with the church and through constant contact with the Bible. Valeton thus understands the experience of faith as a hermeneutical principle.

5. P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye

As I described above, P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye belonged to the second generation of ethical theologians. His thinking is marked by all the characteristics of ethical theology that I described in the previous paragraph. He reflected on the question of how different forms of science could coexist.55

P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (1848-1920) was the son of D. Chantepie de la Saussaye, one of the two ‘founding fathers’ of the ethical theology. In 1878 he became a professor at the Athenaeum of Amsterdam. In 1899 he moved to the University of Leiden where he succeeded J.H. Gunning, the other founding father of ethical theology. During this period, he wrote Het Christelijk Leven56(The Christian Life), which according to Aalders is the fruit of his teachings in ethics.57

In this article I am not concerned with ethical theology as a socio-political movement in the interbellum period in the Netherlands, but with the theological-philosophical significance that should be attached to Scholten's reference to la Saussaye (jr.) 's book about the Christian life in the context of a discussion about the uncertainty of the judgments of conscience.58 Scholten distinguishes between morality and law. In both areas there is the danger of bottomless subjectivism. For the discussion about this danger in respect of morality Scholten refers to la Saussaye (jr.)’s book. In essence, the discussion here concerns the question whether conscience should be interpreted as specifically Christian or generally human. As will be shown below, it can be concluded that Scholten is concerned with conscience as a general human fact of morality.

The main thesis of la Saussaye (jr.)’s book is evident from the following statement:

Life precedes truth; God doesn’t reveal truths, which then subsequently are to be lived; God’s revelation is communication of life, which then comes to consciousness, is laid down in propositions: a dogma is the reflection of life.59 (trans. HG)

This quote encapsulates la Saussaye's (jr.) entire view of Revelation and the meaning of the dogma. It is a protest against traditional views of the content of revelation as doctrine, and thus against intellectualism in theology.

According to la Saussaye (jr.), the center of the life that God communicates to men is Jesus Christ, so He is the source of Christian ethics.60 La Saussaye (jr.) argues in his book that he rejects any theoretical system. He would rather follow those who were merely concerned with life than with theory. As examples thereof he mentions Blaise Pascal with his ‘Pensées’ and the Swiss literary critic and theologian Alexandre Vinet who combined the human and the divine.61 Dogmatism was not the only thing that la Saussaye (jr.) opposed. He also opposed the opposite of it, relativism. So, he also could warn for a depreciation of the dogma. He did not limit faith to the moral part of life. He acknowledged the worth of dogma and dogmatics62. But he didn’t intend to solve theoretical problems, he wanted to approach life itself:

I am not trying to solve problems, but to help my readers to approach the internal side of problems, life itself, of which both the phenomena and the theories are but the hieroglyphs. (…) Imaginary representations can be tested for their meaning for life. Thus, one always finds oneself dealing with the unspeakable, which can only be described imperfectly. (trans. HG)63

One of the themes of his book is the way human nature relates to the Christian life. La Saussaye (jr.) discusses this theme in view of another theme in his book, that of the relationship of Christianity and culture.

This relationship (of Christianity and culture, HG) will continue to occupy us. Not only when we deal with Christianity and culture, but anywhere the description of the Christian life will bring us into contact with the fundamental forces of the human soul, with questions about man and society.(trans. HG) 64

Human right and human value are human values that are truly Christian, he states. The Kantian separation of values and facts, the phenomenal and the noumenal world, is only provisional. La Saussaye’s conviction is that our sense of duty to the world is fundamentally connected.

We feel the need to suppose that behind the struggle which moral life awakens in us lies the unity of that life with the true ground of things. If this is true of moral life in itself the Christian faith sees in the God who gave the moral law, the same who created the world. Andin Jesus Christ the Logos, who is at once the life of the world and the light of men. (John I, 4, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind”).(trans HG) 65

He considers humanity to be ‘an idea’. In his texts nowhere, neither in describing personal development, nor in researching family, state and church did he want to lose sight of the humane.

Humanity is an idea, not a tangible circle of community next to the others we discussed, neither outside it nor absorbed in it. Nowhere (…) did we lose sight of the human, which we cannot impose as an abstract norm, but the neglect of which always shows that one is on the wrong way.(trans. HG)66

He also states that humanity is an ethical idea which entails a task to take the general human good as a guideline in particular relationships67. The Christian faith places our relations in the light of charity. And although la Saussaye (jr.) regards the Christian faith to be of the greatest significance with regard to humanity, he explicitly rejects the view that only in Christianity respect for the human person can be found.

It is often stated, but incorrectly so. In Homer the stranger, the host-friend, the supplicant is sacred; in Havamal (Edda), and among many tribes and peoples, we find similar views; the heart of the dead is weighed at the death judgment of the Egyptians, and among the virtues that are decisive are compassion and helpfulness; many forms of morals, for example that of the Stoa sharpens the meaning of humanity. Seneca, for example, sees the slave fully as a fellow human being and accordingly opposes the gladiatorial combat as a form of inhumanity (…) I would not dare to say that a figure like the Good Samaritan in the parable is only conceivable among Christians. (trans.HG)68

In la Saussaye’s view the opposition of good and evil is universally human. Everyone has an idea of duty69. Duty sets a standard, distinguishes between is and ought. Thus it shows a ‘gap’ in life70. That gap must be closed in ‘moral struggle’.71

6. Law and Philosophy of Life

Then it is now time to look more closely at Scholten's article on Law and Philosophy of Life.72 This is the first philosophical essay by Scholten and it appeared in "Synthese" second edition 1915-1916, , edited by A.J. de Sopper and Ph. A Kohnstamm. 73 Later the article was included in a collection of four compositions that appeared in 1924 under the title Reflections on Law (Beschouwingen over Recht).74 Law and Philosophy of Life can be regarded as Scholten's first attempt to account for the significance of his Christian faith with regard to law. In doing so, he takes a first step towards the development of his own philosophy of law.

6.1 Idealistic factors

In the fourth paragraph of his article, Scholten starts to unfold his views on the relation between law and religion. He begins this paragraph with the following lines:

In chapter 1 we explained that there is law outside the codified law and that the judge must find it. In the struggle for greater freedom for the judge, which we described earlier, Article 1of the Swiss Code of 1907 will remain a noteworthy milestone, because here it was the legislator himself who openly claimed that there is law alongside and beyond the codified law.(…) No codification in the second half of the 19th century contained such a precept. The Swiss code marked a moment of victory for the movement for freer justice. Article 1 reads: The law applies to all legal questions addressed in terms of formulation or interpretation. If no rule can be deduced from the law, the judge must decide according to customary law and, if there is none, he must decide according to the rule he would set as legislator. He then follows prevailing doctrine and tradition. (LPL, block 43)

The arguments against legal positivism put forward by Scholten lead him to the conclusion that there is law outside the codified law. He does not regard this uncodified law as a form of pure rational natural law but elaborates it as a combination between idealistic factors (rational and moral) and realistic factors (conditions of implementation). Below we will first treat Scholten’s rejection of natural law as the rational element of the idealistic factors and then concentrate on Scholten’s treatment of the accusation of bottomless subjectivism in his elaboration of the moral element of the idealistic factors.75

6.2 Natural law

Scholten concludes that to some extent the judge and the legislator are doing the same work. For both the search for law includes law alongside and beyond the codified law. In Scholtens words:

The judge may not proceed arbitrarily but is required to find the applicable law.(…) The Swiss law expressly instructs the judge to find the applicable law. If by order of the legislator a judge applies free law (in cases as described above in block 5) because the law leaves room for him to assess a matter according to his own appreciation, he must give a decision “in accordance with law and equity” (article 4). Is his job any different if he fills a gap left by the legislator? Acting according to the rule which the judge would have drafted if he had been a legislator is, in the language of the code, synonymous with deciding according to law and fairness. Doesn’t this indicate that the legislator also tries to find law? If the judge is a legislator in a certain sense, is the legislator not also a judge in a sense? With both judging on the conflicting interests that knock on the door for help? There may be differences between judge and legislator, but the legislator must also apply a standard to determine law. Is the famous article of the Swiss code now in part a milestone in legal history because the legislator again recognizes that there is law that also applies to him? (LPL, block 44)

The last sentence of this citation contains Scholten’s main point: there is a non-codified law that binds even the legislator. Scholten then wonders whether we are not returning to natural law in this way? That is certainly not what he is advocating. In his opinion such a return would also not be possible because there is not one conception of natural law, but many directions. There is one direction that Scholten explicitly rejects:

When one speaks of a return to natural law, one usually means returning to the idea that there is a single set of rules - perfect law - which we could know or at least approach through reason, and which should be laid down in our positive law. This position is most certainly not mine. (LPL, block 45).

But Scholten wants to go further and rejects also a natural law of varying content:

However, I want to go further as I am not a proponent of the idea of a natural law of varying content, changeable according to time and place, as was vigorously defended by the most important German legal philosopher of our time, Rudolf Stammler. (LPL, block 46)

When clarifying his point of view, Scholten rejects two views which he considers to be akin to Stammler’s views:

First of all I treat the view that through rational thinking an ideal law can be found, an ideal law that should always be respected unconditionally by all peoples at all times; a law that we can never fully achieve, as almost everyone agrees, but that can be approached. For me the changeability of law is an element without which I cannot conceive of law. I accept that changeability not only as a phenomenon that up to the present has always been observed, but also as something that will not be overcome in the future. (LPL, block 46)

The inevitable changeability of law not only means a rejection of natural law, according to Scholten, but also a rejection of the belief that there could be a codified law that is the “only possible” and “only right” one for a certain people and a certain time. About this option, Scholten makes the following remark:

(…) nor do I believe in the objective existence of a codified law that is the only possible and only right one for a given people and a given time. The judgment of right or wrong with regard to a legal provision can ultimately only be made from a particular philosophy of life and world view and will therefore only apply to those who share the same philosophy of life with the one who gave the judgment. (LPL, block 46)

Scholten thus puts to the fore that every judgment about law is based on a philosophy of life. He therefore rejects Stammler’s belief that:

by pure logical reasoning, anyone who has been supplied with the factual data (which he defines as the needs and desires of the people, implying that their beliefs about what the codified law ought to be are not relevant), will be able to find the only possible applicable law for a particular time. That is an overestimation in my opinion of what can be achieved by our reason; it is pure intellectualism. Stammler sees the changeable only in human needs and desires, while I think it also lies in the standard by which one judges, or in the guideline one follows. And it is impossible to tell by pure logical reasoning which guideline is better and which worse. Proof is not possible here, only acceptance or rejection. (LPL, block 48)

Scholten rejects Stammler’s view as ‘intellectualistic’. And in doing so, he contrasts his own views with those of Stammler. Exactly in opposition to that intellectualism Scholten puts great emphasisin his article"Law and Philosophy of Life" on the moral elements in legal judgment.

6.3 Moral Judgment

Scholten distinguishes two moral elements: inner experience in conscience and sense of justice. Conscience stands first. In agreement, he quotes Augustine's statement ‘The truth dwells within.’ Scholten then concludes:

What is called truth in the sphere of the ethical - the normative - cannot be proved, but only experienced internally. There is no higher command for one’s own actions than that of conscience — no more caustic disapproval than that which is inwardly experienced. (block 49)

In addition to conscience, Scholten mentions the sense of justice. Scholten describes this as

the spontaneous conviction born of intuition about the actions of others. (block 49)

According to him, the judgment of the legal sense is something that differs from pure moral disapproval. The sense of justice speaks especially when it not only morally disapproves of certain behavior, but connects this disapproval with the conviction that the behavior in question should have been prevented by the authorities. In a pure moral judgment, an action is only seen in connection with the person who performed the act. The judgment of the sense of justice also looks at the legal consequences that action should have. Scholten’s distinction between the pure moral judgement and the judgment of the sense of justice has implications for the argument about the danger of "bottomless subjectivism" in morality, Scholten refers to page 89 et seq. of part I of The Christian Life of P.D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (jr.)when stating that for the law this danger seems less important because many other factors influence the decision.

Due to the necessity of rulemaking, moral judgment in law loses its deepest meaning. The moral significance becomes obsolete and fades away, and with it the danger of subjectivism also disappears. The danger of the opposite, that moral judgment does not show up enough in the formation of law, seems to be the greater danger at this point in time. (LPL, block 53)

6.4 Bottomless subjectivism

In the final part of his essay Law and the Philosophy of Life Scholten deals with the relationship between on the one hand law and on the other philosophy of life. He sees philosophy of life mainly in the moral judgment:

While morality expresses an absolute judgment, law always has something relative about it because it must apply inter-individually.(…) There is no objective truth for the law. There is only objective truth insofar as one is willing to accept fundamental values which can neither be proved rationally nor are evident via observation. Religious and empiricist philosophies of life are fundamentally opposite, to name just one principal contradistinction, and for neither is there a single law. Both have a different conception of law. Neither philosophy has the right to impose their law as the law on those who think differently. Each should be allowed to arrive at their own law as much possible. (LPL, block 74).

The phenomenon of law thus belongs to the relative, philosophy of life to the absolute. Relative and absolute seem contradictory. But in Scholten’s view that is not a problem. Precisely the fact that there is no objective truth for the law, that law is relative, means that the law does not affect someone’s personal convictions, someone’s philosophy of life. And the other way round, the fact that someone’s absolute convictions, the beliefs that are deeply rooted in someone’s philosophy of life are not totally, or totally not, expressed in the law, is not a problem because of the fact that the law is relative and does not endanger someone’s personal convictions. Scholten emphasizes that everyone should have the freedom and possibility to try to convince others of any philosophy of life. And as far as one succeeds in convincing others the legal system of a society will be altered by the values which that philosophy of life entails.

In Law and the Philosophy of Life (block 52)Scholten confronts the danger of "bottomless subjectivism" with the opposite danger that the "moral judgment" in the law is not heard enough. Freely represented, he means that it would be dangerous when it would ignored that in every legal decision a moral or ethical choice is made by individual judges on the basis of their own conscience. In contrast, the danger of "bottomless subjectivism" means that a decision based on the conscience or legal sense of an individual judge would be completely arbitrary: bottomless, something purely subjective. Scholten refers to la Saussaye (jr.) for the refutation of this objection in his book about Christian life. Scholten refers to an argumentation that starts on page 89 of The Christian life of la Saussaye (jr.) and ends on page 92. The argument is part of a chapter that has the heading Heart and conscience. To get an overview of la Saussaye's argument, the most important passages from it are quoted below. Referring to Vinet, who according to him pointed out better than anyone else the “unbreakable bond” between conscience and Christian-moral life, la Saussaye (jr.) states :

The word conscience, of course, Indicates more than the reflexive function, which demands the unity of our morality with our conviction: it is the bond that connects the center of our personality with God. In that word we summarized the whole basic tone of our being: our need for God, our susceptibility to come into contact with God, our duty to direct our lives to God, by allowing Him to be determined. In this way religion and morality are connected in conscience, the Christian-moral is an unbreakable unity. This is what Vinet puts to the fore both in his philosophical composition and in his preaching and his literary criticism; and it only serves to the advantage that we have his profound thoughts as much in practical applications as in systematic explanations for us. (…) Through conscience we feel our moral life in permanent relation to God. With this firmness the diversity of the moral concepts, cases, prescriptions can no longer challenge us, for God's will is known to us. Not in the external form of a law of commandments and prohibitions, but in the living touch, in which God in the conscience gives us guidance..(trans. HG) 76

An important consequence of the unbreakable bond between conscience and Christian-moral life is, that the freedom of conscience is absolute, even with respect to moral prescriptions of the church. For no human being has the right to interfere in one’s relationship with God.

So far the argument of la Saussaye (jr.) with which he fights the accusation of "bottomless subjectivism". The point that la Saussaye (jr.) makes is, that conscience is not bottomless for the bottom of conscience is God. Conscience is the bond that connects the center of our personality with God, in la Saussaye (jr.)’s view.

The conscience is described by la Saussaye (jr.) as:

(…) a primary fact, an immediate fact (...) not deductible from other capacities or functions. (trans. HG)77

The conscience as a primary fact is in la Saussaye’s view a main characteristic. The other characteristic is that

(…) conscience is exclusively concerned with the moral, the consciousness of good and evil. If we connect these two sides, then therein lies the complete character, the essential value of the conscience.(trans. HG)78

So the two sides that form the complete character of conscience, being a primary fact and concerned with good and evil, make up for the essential value of conscience. Furthermore, the conscience speaks with unconditional authority:

Unconditionally true is what the conscience prescribes to us, as well as the accusation with which it torments us. (trans. HG)79

The conscience as a primary fact on the one hand, as awareness of good and evil on the other, that is the conscience that De la Saussaye proposes to us. And then conscience (in reference to Vinet) is also the bond that connects the personality with God. So conscience cannot be bottomless, for the conscience is rooted in God.

6.5 The relationship between Scholten and la Saussaye (jr.)

The following conclusions can be drawn from the study of the pages in The Christian Life to which Scholten refers.

Scholten's vision of conscience is in line with that of la Saussaye (jr.) The latter offers a representation and defense of the meaning of conscience as advocated by Vinet. In summary, he learns that conscience is a primary fact, in which morality and religion come together, that offers assuredness which is bound by the spiritual distinction of good and evil. In doing so, la Saussaye (jr.) refutes the objection of "bottomless subjectivism", the idea that the conscience judgment is purely subjective. Scholten agrees with this vision in Law and Philosophy of Life. He does this casually, as in passing. But in doing so he agrees with the argumentation that la Saussaye (jr.) offers. And he also concurs with the vision on conscience expressed by la Saussaye (jr.), in imitation of Vinet. Of these, traces can also be found in Law and Philosophy of Life, for example in the words:

What is called truth in the sphere of the ethical - the normative - cannot be proved, but only experienced internally. There is no higher command for one’s own actions than that of conscience — no more caustic disapproval than that which is inwardly experienced. (LPL, 49)

Scholten emphasizes that a moral judgment - in contrast to rationalism and naturalism - ultimately goes back to what one holds to be true in one's conscience/heart about good and evil. However, that does not alter the fact that a person functions in a community. Scholten assumes that someone wants to apply to society what he considers to be true in his conscience from a certain philosophy of life. Since there are in society different views on many subjects, this is only possible to a limited extent. One must therefore accept that the positive law is not quite as one would like it to be. According to Scholten this is not a problem when one understands the relative nature of society's legal order. The law touches more on the outside of personal life, while morality touches on the inside, as it is founded on conscience. The latter does not mean that moral judgments cannot claim validity against others, but that that claim can only be enforced to a limited extent or sometimes not at all.

More can be found about Scholten's view of the influence of moral convictions on the organization of society in Gerechtigheid en Recht (Justice and Law), where Scholten, in response to the actions of the ethical politician Van der Brugghen, raises a few thoughts about the relation between Christian faith and politics. Scholten's thoughts on this issue are also apparent from the final paragraph of his article Law and Philosophy of Life. One must fight to order society in conformance with one's personal convictions. Like the ethicists, Scholten opposed partisan politics since it works with external power instead of seeking for an internal change of conviction.

Incidentally, Scholten's thinking shows an interesting development concerning the relationship between Biblical norms and positive law. In the essay Gerechtigheid en Recht he believes that a Christian statesman will want to insert Biblical ideas about marriage into legislation. In his large essay 'It is written, it happened' from 1937, he finds this a lot less self-evident and struggles much more with the issue.

In opposition to the orthodox appeal to the inerrancy of the Bible, the ethicists appealed to "the faith of the church." They regarded the Bible as 'the charter of Revelation' and agreed that people have access to the Christian faith through the Bible. But the ethicists also believed that the Holy Spirit leads His church forward and teaches new things. The expression 'the faith of the church' therefore encompasses what people today experience and accept as Christian faith. The ethicists surely wanted to honor the Bible and stick to it, but in a different way from the Orthodox, as they considered some passages of the Bible to be historically outdated. La Saussaye assumed that the one who turns to God in conscience also encounters God. The congregation will have a share in such experiences of its members.

In ethical theology you see a combination of emerging historical consciousness and belief in progress. The historical-critical study of the Bible as accepted by the ethicists also served the aim to connect Christian faith and contemporary science. Behind this was the conviction that the Holy Spirit gives these new insights to move the church forward.

This view of Scripture, however, made the position of the ethicists problematic. For the orthodox they were too thin and too vague. The moderns found them far too conservative and traditional, not scientific enough. This left the ethicists in a challenged position.

Ethical theology leads on an individual level to a conscious attitude to life based on the conviction that one is responsible towards God, and precisely from there also towards one's fellow human beings. One strives to live one's faith in God in such a way that this faith animates and permeates one's whole life. Ethicists take very seriously the aspiration to be like Christ and try to make faith and life a real unity in their own existence. They aspired to be people of character, real personalities with their own vision and conviction, independent of the issues of the day.

Characteristic of ethical theology is its openness to the future, openness to new developments and progressiveness (in the sense of 'wanting to be up to date') as a principled attitude to life. In my opinion, the same characteristics can also be found in Scholten's General Method in his open legal system.

7 Conclusion: The relationship between law and ethical theology in Scholten’s work

The theologian K.H. Miskotte speaks in one of his essays of a "ferment", a sourdough that has brought ethical theology into society. He mentions Paul Scholten80 in this respect. The image of ferment or sourdough indicates that there is a certain influence from ethical theology on society. The same can be said about the influence of ethical theology on Scholten’s views. This influence cannot be directly and concretely indicated. Not because this connection is hardly present, but much more because of the way this connection is present. Just as sourdough is not found in the bread because it permeates the whole bread, the traces of ethical theology cannot be designated because it permeates the whole of Scholten's work, as a spirit that animates the whole.

The image presented by Miskotte does justice to the fact that Scholten does not work according to a certain 'ethical system'. And that it cannot be expected that the presence of ethical theology in Scholten's work is apparent from certain systematic characteristics of Scholten's work . The image of a sourdough also does justice to the fact that the ideal of the ethical theologians was to to live like Jesus Christ did, which means earnestness and a great sense of responsibility. Scholtens writings on legal philosophy show that he shared this ethical ideal.

In which way can all what is said in this article about ethical theology help us to clarify Scholtens view on the legal decision?

In the first place, as we saw, ethical theology has to do with the starting point of theological work, not with the outcome. This starting point is the conviction that God, through the God-man Jesus Christ, has a relationship with man. This relationship is experienced in the conscience of man. Scholten seems to share the same starting point, especially if one looks at the final passage of General Method in which Scholten presents two options:

And finally: even I believe that the individual conscience doesn’t speak the last word here. But the inquiry into what is capable of giving guidance here is not the business of the science of law, and anyway it falls outside the framework of the book. In my opinion there are only two options: “either an idea, the ‘rechts-idee’ (idea of law), one of the forms in which the world spirit realizes itself, can be guiding here, or the conscience is subordinated to a higher power, who, revealed as Person in Creation and History, confronts the individual and the community with his unconditional claims. The first is the conception of idealism, especially in its Hegelian-pantheistic forms; the second is the demand of the Christian belief.” (GM, block 530)

As we saw in the introduction of this article, Scholten’s view on the legal decision has some striking elements. Such as the emphasis on the conscience of the judge, the absolute certainty that the conscience offers the judge, the characterization of the legal decree as a "leap”. Scholten also calls the legal decision, precisely because it is a conscience decision, irrational. And he states that the legal judgment is rooted in the moral part of our spiritual life. We can now conclude that Scholten’s view of the legal decision has all the above-mentioned elements in common with ethical theology.


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1 Huppes-Cluysenaer et al., ‘General Method’. On the website the English translation and the Dutch original text can be read and downloaded. The numbers refer to the text blocks.

2 Lissenberg et al., De actualiteit van Paul Scholten.

3 Scholten wrote four French articles on invitation of which the most impressive is Scholten, ‘34. L’autorité de l’Etat’. Scholten got an invitation to give a lecture in Harvard in 1946, but died unexpectantly aboard the ship that would bring him to America.

4 Hengstmengel, ‘Paul Scholten en Herman Dooyeweerd’. Hier ook verwijzing naar artikel van Tymen

5 Verhorst, ‘Het recht van het recht is ook recht’. blz. 50-51; Maris, ‘Inleiding: De derde man. Over de actualiteit van Paul Scholten’, 25..

6Scholten, ‘2. Recht En Levensbeschouwing’. English translation: Huppes-Cluysenaer, Schoonheim, and Scholten, ‘Law and Philosophy of Life’.

7 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 16 and following Aalders, Weegink, Nochtans mijn God., 19, footnote 10.

8 Gerretsen and Wall, ‘Vrijzinnig noch rechtzinnig’.

9 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920.

10 Weegink, Nochtans mijn God.

11 All three theses are in open access available on the internet.

12 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 22.

13 Gerretsen and Wall, ‘Vrijzinnig noch rechtzinnig’., 22.

14 Weegink, Nochtans mijn God., 13.

15 Taking la Saussaye (sr.) as example: he participated in the Jubelfeier in Wezel 1858., where he was offered an honorary doctorate; a Conference of the Alliance Evangelique in Amsterdam 1867, the Dutch - German (Nederlands-Duitse Conference in Zeist 1872, Kirchentage in Barmen; In Wezel La Saussaye (sr.) Gave a speech about the relation between the German and Dutch theology. See: Gerretsen and Wall, ‘Vrijzinnig noch rechtzinnig’.: 77,81,86,90/4

16 Taking father and son la Saussaye as example: La Saussaye (sr.) was initially a pastor in the Walloon Church. In Worldcat the following international publications, stored in libraries all over the wolrd, can be found : La crise religieuse en Hollande souvenirs et impressions. ;‘À la loi et au témoignage’: (Éssaie VIII, 20a.) : sermon d’adieu.; Christ toujours le même.; Conservatisme et progrès. ; La parabole de l’enfant prodigue. ; Le principe de la société.; Goliath et David. ; Trois sermons sur Rome. ; Témoignage. ; Ausgewählte kleinere Schriften.Concerning la Saussaye (jr) Lehrbuch Der Religionsgeschichte.; Historya religij. ; Illiustrirovannaia istoriia religii. Dopolnenie. ; Die vergleichende Religions-forschung. ; Manuel d’histoire des religions. ; la Saussaye (jr.), Manual of the Science of Religion.

17 According to Gerretsen (97/8) the Christian-theosophist Friedrich Fabri (1824-1891) was a close friend of la Saussaye (sr.), while also J.P Lange, a theologian from Bonn, was a regular contact. Aalders (101) indicates that la Saussaye (jr.) stayed several times in Bonn and Tübingen, where he met Johann Tobias Beck (1804-1878) among others.

18 la Saussaye (sr.) was according to Gerretsen (18) inspired by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Carl Daub (1765-1836), and Richard Rothe (1799-1867). According to Aalders (124) la Saussaye (jr.) particularly related to the work of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662, Alexandre Vinet (1797-1847) and Wilhem Herrmann (1846-1922). His wife translated parts of the works of Kierkegaard into English.(p. 101).

19 Weegink, Nochtans mijn God., 50; Aalders p.14

20 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920.,15.

21 Aalders.,22.

22 Gerretsen and Wall, ‘Vrijzinnig noch rechtzinnig’.,39, 72, 122 ff.

23 Weegink, Nochtans mijn God., 13.

24Aalders M.J., 1990, p. 13

25Gerretsen, P., p. 22.

26 Gerretsen and Wall, ‘Vrijzinnig noch rechtzinnig’. See English Summary (269-272)

27 Idem, 18: La Saussaye (sr.) was gefascineerd door het vernieuwende karakter van het theologische denken dat daar (Duitse buurlanden HG) baanbrekend was sinds het begin van de negentiende eeuw. Theologie werd niet langer verstaan als dogmatiek die de leer der kerk uiteenzette. Men zocht naar een theologie die zich los van kerkelijke bemoeienis als een autonome wetenschap ontwikkelen kon, een confessionele maar wetenschappelijke theologie. De band tussen wetenschap en kerk werd geslecht zonder evenwel het geloof als constituerend beginsel van de theologie vaarwel te zeggen. Op de zoektocht naar het vinden van een intrinsieke band tussen geloof en wetenschap ging de theologie in de leer bij de filosofie. Die samenwerking tussen theologen en filosofen miste hij in Nederland maar al te zeer. Bijzondere aandacht wordt in dit verband geschonken aan Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) en Carl Daub (1765-1836), beiden door hun tijdgenoten als kerkvaders van de protestantse theologie vereerd, en de Heidelberger theoloog Richard Rothe (1799-1867) die hun geestelijk erfgenaam was en gezien werd als de ‘Urheber’ van de ethische theologie.62 Alle drie bewerkstelligden een radicale vernieuwing in het theologische denken die La Saussaye (sr.) als de

dageraad van een nieuwe tijd voor geloof en theologie begroette.

28 Gerretsen and Wall, ‘Vrijzinnig noch rechtzinnig’., 11.

29 Gerretsen and Wall., 85-6.

30 Gerretsen and Wall., 252: ‘Overtuigd als wij zijn, met een uitnemend godgeleerde uit onzen tijd, dat het Christendom onzer dagen, onder hooger leiding, bezig is over te gaan uit het zuiver-religieuse in de ethische sfeer, ik zoude nog liever zeggen het religieuse als eenige ethische kracht en alleen als ethische kracht te begrijpen en te waardeeren, gelooven wij dat het als zoodanig een toekomst tegemoet gaat, heerlijker dan zijn verleden.’ La Saussaye, ‘Een woord vooraf’, Ernst en Vrede 5 (1857) 5.

31 Gerretsen and Wall.252: He had in mind Richard Rothe as ‘the eminent theologian of our time’, as a corresponding passage from La crise religieuse en Hollande from a few years later shows.

32 Gerretsen and Wall., 252-3. (…) evenals La Saussaye (sr.) zag Gerretsen de tegenstelling tussen vrijzinnig en rechtzinnig als achterhaald. Niet zij hadden de toekomst, maar het ethische beginsel. Bij beiden, La Saussaye en Gerretsen, waren in dit opzicht de verwachtingen hooggespannen, om niet van euforisch te spreken.

Het ethische reveil klonk als een proclamatie die aldus had kunnen luiden: ‘Wij mensen doen er in Gods ogen alles toe in dit leven.’ Het beeld van een onpersoonlijke autocratische God die wikte en beschikte, had plaats gemaakt voor een persoonlijk

meelevende God die niet buiten de mens om te werk wilde gaan. ‘God forceert nooit. […] De geliefkoosde manier van werken van God, is, om het zoo eens uit te drukken, niet-ingrijpen’, hield Gerretsen zijn gehoor voor. Hij openbaarde zich niet van buitenaf, maar van binnenuit; het menselijke geweten was de plaats waar God zich in Christus als persoon manifesteerde en

appelleerde aan ’s mensen goede wil, geschapen als hij was naar Gods beeld. ‘Onze christelijke consciëntie dan is het, die den Christus voltooit, welke ons in zeer onvolkomen vormen in de Schrift is gegeven […].’ De als ‘revolutionair’ ervaren perceptie van het geloof als een dialogisch en dialectische verhouding tussen God en mens noopte tot een radicale herziening van de

traditionele kerkleer. Want die ging in de ogen van de ethischen uit van een autocratisch Godsbeeld waaraan willekeur en machtsvertoon kleefden. Rothe interpreteerde bijvoorbeeld de traditionele tweenaturen als een eenzijdige machtsgreep van God. Hij sprak zelfs van een pervertering van de bijbelse Christus als persoon door de kerkelijke traditie. Deze ‘fysieke’ of ‘mechanische’ samenvoeging van heterogene entiteiten diende vervangen te worden door een ethische of organische symbiose waarin consensus of wilsgemeenschap centraal stond. Dat was ook het ‘Anliegen’ van Gerretsens Christologie: het vinden van een ethische of

organische opvatting van de Incarnatie als ‘gewilde harmonie’ tussen geest en lichaam.

33 Summary in Gerretsen and Wall.,72-73.

34 Gerretsen and Wall., 11, wilden op eigen kracht en op eigen kompas onderzoeken, en in al zijn implicaties doordenken, wat het betekent als men God en mens in een persoonlijke of ‘dialogische’ verhouding op elkaar betrekt. Zij wilden doordenken wat het wil zeggen wanneer men God als schepper ‘anthropomorphiseert’ en de mens als schepsel ‘theomorphiseert’. Theologie werd eerder gezien als vraagstuk en waagstuk waarbij theologische of kerkelijke partis pris principieel werden afgewezen. De waarheid openbaarde zich immers nooit vooraf, a priori, maar altijd achteraf, a posteriori.

35 Gerretsen and Wall., 17-18

36 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 66

37 Aalders., 18.

38 According to Weegink, Nochtans mijn God., 37 ethical theology opposes empiricism and idealism. This way he differs from Gerretsen in not emphasizing the scientific aspiration of la Saussaye (sr.)’s differentiation between empiricism and naturalism.

39 Weegink., 41.

40 Tussen verstand en hart bevindt zich het gemoed of geweten van de mens. (…)Het is de bewustheid die tot het wezen van de mens behoort. In het geweten komen niet alleen rede en gevoel samen. (…) Het geweten is de plaats waar een hogere macht werkzaam is. Hier opent zich het godsdienstig zelfbewustzijn in het hart van de mens. Vinet, wiens denken evenals dat van Schleiermacher invloed had op la Saussaye (jr.), spreekt over de ‘sens métaphysique’ en ‘l’élément mystérieux et divin de notre être’, de notie dat boven de mens de eeuwige God staat. Het geweten heeft er een antenne voor. In navolging van Pascal duidt hij op een lichtpunt dat de ontaarde mens eraan herinnert dat hij van goeden huize kwam – een overblijfsel dat moeilijk uit te wissen is. De mens wordt aangesproken door een hoge eis die hij niet uit eigen kracht kan vervullen. In een besef van onvolmaaktheid groeit bewust of onbewust de behoefte aan bevrijding. Het innerlijk van de mens is aangelegd op de openbaring van God. Vinet typeert de consciëntie als ‘le ministre résident’, de zetelende dienaar, en ‘l’ambassadeur de Dieu’. In zijn theologie wordt het geweten het orgaan dat als ambassadeur van God het heil ontvangt. Alleen Christus, die in eigen persoon God en mens verenigt en in wie heiligheid en genade samengaan, heeft de macht om de persoonlijkheid van de mens te redden en de gemeenschap met God te herstellen

41Van Driel M., pp 272. Weegink refers to Van Driel in several places. Van Driel’s Schermen in de schemering. contains a number of important studies. Among other things about the rapprochement between the so-called right-wing moderns and the ethicalists. To promote this rapprochement, the magazine Synthese was founded, to which Scholten also contributed.

42So Borst, ‘De dialectiek bij Paul Scholten’. refers to Langemeijer, De Wijsbegeerte Des Rechts En de Encyclopaedie Der Rechtswetenschap Sedert 1880., p. 68. Langemeijer uses the words ‘ethical-personalistic’ with respect to Scholtens Christian faith. Klanderman, as cited in Roos, De Nederlandse privaatrechtsleer in dramatisch perspectief., p. 250, where Klanderman states that Scholtens views are a rather eclectic synthesis of personalistic-Christian thinking, from elements of the ‘Freirechtschule’ and the American legal realism, and from ideas that derive from Savigny, Bierling and Ihering.

43 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 18,21,155

44 Aalders., 23ff., 117ff., 191ff.; Weegink, Nochtans mijn God.39ff.

45 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 42.

46 Aalders., 44-5.

47 As explained in Valeton, Nog één woord. in response to Kuyper’s accusation in De Heraut, no 29, 1878.

48 (…) de ethische theoloog (behandelt) op wetenschappelijke wijze hetgeen hij zelf van de ‘geestelijke dingen heeft leeren zien en verstaan’. Hieraan voegt hij (Valeton, ed) echter direct toe, dat dit verstaan niet door ‘onmiddellijke illuminatie’ of ‘mystieke geestesverlichting’ wordt verkregen. Dit verstaan groeit in de theoloog als lid der gemeente en vooral door de vertrouwelijke, biddende omgang met de Schrift. Door de Schrift komen de ‘geestelijke dingen’ tot ons. Hoe meer de theoloog ‘zich met haar voedt en in haar leeft en door haar geleerd wordt, hoe meer hij ook met deze dingen in betrekking treedt, of liever hoe meer zij zelve tot hem gaan spreken (…). Deze werkelijkheid Gods, ervaren in het geloof, is de grondslag, het werkelijke uitgangspunt van de theologie. Daarom is er geen sprake van subjectiviteit of een hellend vlak. Het hellende vlak is daar, waar men zich afwendt van ‘de geestelijke realiteiten’ en zich verschanst achter een ‘systeem’.

49 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 45

50 Valeton, Een nieuw begin.

51 Valeton, Geloof en theologie.

52 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 46

53 Het christen-zijn, (…) berust op werkelijke geestelijke ervaring, maar deze ervaring heeft haar grond in de persoon van Jezus Christus, die ons in de Schrift wordt getekend. Dit is inderdaad een subjectieve grondslag voor de theologie. Maar aan deze vorm van subjectivisme ontkomt geen enkele wetenschap of theologische richting. ‘Gij wilt uwe theologie bouwen op den objectieven grondslag van de Schrift, maar dan toch op de Schrift, zooals gij (…) ze gelezen en herlezen en ze in meerdere of mindere mate in u opgenomen hebt’. (…) Ten aanzien van zijn eigen uitgangspunt merkt hij (Valeton, ed) vervolgens op dat alle kennis op waarneming en ervaring berust. Het gaat echter niet om die ervaring op zichzelf, want: ‘Waarneming onderstelt iets dat waargenomen, ervaring iets dat ervaren worden kan en wordt’. En: ‘Niet die ervaart is de eerste, maar wat men ervaart’.

54 Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 47-8

55Weegink B.H., 2020, pp 39.

56Chantepie de la Saussaye, Het christelijk leven.

57Aalders M.J., 1990, p. 107.

58 Scholten, ‘2. Recht En Levensbeschouwing’., block 52

59Chantepie de la Saussaye, Het christelijk leven., part I, 15: “Leven gaat vóór waarheid; God openbaart geen waarheden, die dan daarenboven beleefd worden; Gods openbaring is mededeling van leven, dat dan tot bewustzijn komt,, vastgelegd wordt in stellingen: een dogma is de neerslag van leven.”

60Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 134,135 ; Chantepie de la Saussaye, Het christelijk leven.,15, 21, 22..

61Chantepie de la Saussaye, Het christelijk leven., part I, 10..

62Aalders, Ethisch Tussen 1870 En 1920., 138..

63Chantepie de la Saussaye, Het christelijk leven., part II, preface. : “Ik tracht geen questies op te lossen, maar wil mijn lezers helpen om de binnenzijde der questies, het leven zelf te benaderen, waarvan zoowel de verschijnselen als de theorieën slechts de hieroglyphen zijn. (…) Voorstellingen zijn te toetsen naar haar levensgehalte. Zoo ondervindt men telkens met het onuitsprekelijke te doen te hebben dat zich slechts gebrekkig laat beschrijven.”.

64Chantepie de la Saussaye., part I, 8-9. : “Telkens zal deze verhouding ons bezighouden. Niet slechts als wij over christendom en kultuur handelen, maar overal zal de beschrijving van ‘t christelijke leven ons met grondkrachten der menschelijke ziel, met de vragen naar mensch en maatschappij in aanraking brengen.”.

65Chantepie de la Saussaye., part I, 55. : “Wij hebben behoefte aan te nemen, dat achter den strijd, dien het zedelijk leven wekt, de eenheid van dat leven met den waren grond der dingen ligt. Geldt dit al van het zedelijk leven op zichzelf, het christelijk geloof ziet in den God, die de zedewet geeft, denzelfden, die de wereld geschapen heeft, in Jezus Christus den Logos, die te gelijk is het leven der wereld en het licht der menschen (Joh. I, 4).”

66Chantepie de la Saussaye., part II, 327-8,. : “De menschheid is een idee, geen tastbare kring van gemeenschap naast de andere die wij bespraken, evenmin er buiten als er in opgaande. Nergens (…) verloren wij het humane uit het oog, dat wij wel niet als abstracte norm kunnen opleggen, maar waarvan het verzaken altijd toont dat men op een verkeerden weg is.”

67Chantepie de la Saussaye., part II, 328, :. La Saussaye’s views here are very similar to the views of the Danish philosopher S. Kierkegaard on what he called ‘the ethical’. He considered it to be the ethical duty of every individual to realize the general good. It is known that the wife of la Saussaye translated works of Kierkegaard into the Dutch language. So, la Saussaye (jr.) could have been influenced by the views of the Danish philosopher.

68Chantepie de la Saussaye., part II, 330-1.. : “Zoo wordt vaak beweerd, maar het is onjuist. Bij Homerus is de vreemde, de gastvriend, de smeekeling heilig, in Hávamál (Edda) en bij vele stammen en volken vinden wij soortgelijke zeden; het hart van den doode in het doodengericht der Egyptenaren wordt gewogen en onder de deugden die beslissen zijn mede barmhartigheid en hulpvaardigheid; menige moraal b.v. die der Stoa scherpt humaniteit in, zoo ziet Seneca in den slaaf ten volle een medemensch en verzet zich tegen de onmenschelijkheid in gladiatoren-gevechten (…) Ik zou niet durven beweren dat een figuur als de barmhartige Samaritaan in de gelijkenis alleen onder christenen denkbaar is.”

69Chantepie de la Saussaye., part I, 6.

70Chantepie de la Saussaye., part I, 54.

71Chantepie de la Saussaye., part I, 56.

72 Huppes-Cluysenaer, Schoonheim, and Scholten, ‘Law and Philosophy of Life’.

732. Periodiek.Kohnstamm., Synthese was established as a platformfor ethical theology. The second edition is a brochure that counts as much as 327 pages.

74Scholten, Beschouwingen over recht. De andere drie opstellen zijn Recht en Liefde, Gedachten over macht en recht, Recht en Billijkheid.

75 See for a treatment of the realistic factors Borst, ‘Three Intuitive Concepts in Scholten’s Oeuvre’.

76Chantepie de la Saussaye, Het christelijk leven., 89. “Het woord geweten duidt dan natuurlijk meer aan dan de reflexieve functie, die ons de eenheid van ons zedelijk willen met onze overtuiging tot eisch stelt: het is de band, die ’t centrum onzer persoonlijkheid met God verbindt. In dat woord vatten wij den geheelen grondtoon van ons wezen samen: onze behoefte aan God, onze vatbaarheid om met God in aanraking te komen, onzen plicht om ons leven naar God te richten, door Hem te laten bepalen.

Zoo zijn dan in het geweten godsdienst en moraal verbonden, het christelijk-zedelijke vormt een onverbrekelijke eenheid. Ziedaar wat Vinet zoowel in zijn philosophische opstellen als in zijn prediking en zijn litteraire kritiek op den voorgrond zet; en het strekt slechts tot voordeel, dat wij zijn diepe gedachten ruim zoozeer in praktische toepassingen als in systematische uiteenzettingen voor ons hebben.

(…) Door het geweten gevoelen wij ons zedelijk leven in vaste betrekking tot God. Bij deze vastheid kan de verscheidenheid der zedelijke begrippen, gevallen, voorschriften ons niet meer aanvechten, want Gods wil wordt ons bekend. Evenwel niet in den uiterlijken vorm eener wet van geboden en verboden, maar in de levende aanraking, waarbij God in ’t geweten ons leiding geeft.”

77Chantepie de la Saussaye., 80. “…een primair feit, een onmiddellijk gegeven […] niet uit andere vermogens of functiën af te leiden.”

78Chantepie de la Saussaye., 80. “…het geweten uitsluitend betrekking heeft op het zedelijke, het bewustzijn van goed en kwaad.”

79Chantepie de la Saussaye., 85. “Onvoorwaardelijk geldt voor ons wat ’t geweten voorschrijft, evenzeer als de beschuldiging waarmede het ons kwelt.”

80Miskotte, ‘De Ethische Richting’., 335.


Marcel Poorthuis

It is interesting to see that within the sphere of legal theory there is a renewed interest in ethical theology. Groenenboom's article sets itself a limited task: to show that Paul Scholten has been influenced by this direction and to answer the question whether the danger of bottomless subjectivism applies to Paul Scholten's view. In my view as a theological reader, this way too little attention is paid to what extent this question still makes sense at the moment. I am thinking in this respect of the following points. The ethical theology at the end of the 19th century in Groningen steered a midway between an extreme liberalism, in which theology became subservient to sciences and to philosophy (Leyden and later on Amsterdam), and a strict orthodoxy, which ran the risk of being closed to society. Ethical theology emphasized orthopraxy as the ultimate goal of Christianity and largely refrained from complex debates about dogmatic issues like predestination. The question of moral conscience was considered in connection with the belief in God, which meant that moral conscience should be fostered by belief. On the other hand, human moral conscience was as it were the privileged entrance of God into the world. It was felt that without that metaphysical dimension, moral conscience would become arbitrary in its claim of infallibility: “if one feels that things are all right, it is all right”. The connection with revelation should avoid such individual arbitrariness, without , however, falling in the trap of a positive set of objective rules. Although the Hebrew Bible itself can definitely be characterized as law, meant for a community in society, the (protestant) Christian attitude to religious law was obviously highly ambiguous by the claim that grace had replaced the law. Still, the appeal to revelation transcended a mere individual judgment. The complication for modernity emerges from the fact that faith itself has become a rather arbitrary personal decision. Nowadays one expects faith to be left out when decisions are taken in the public realm about right and wrong. Ethical theology has been characterized by openness to societal issues, but also to art and literature as relevant to theology. Still, because of its position between rigid orthodoxy and liberalism (‘vrijzinnigheid’) it proved difficult for ethical theology to maintain a position of its own. This becomes clear when we study the ‘Werdegang’ of father and son Chantepie de la Saussaye. Whereas father Daniel can be regarded as the founder of ethical theology in Groningen, his son Pierre Daniel already left the patrimony of theology to become one of the founders of comparative religion / Religious Studies (‘Godsdienstwetenschap’). Significantly, his orientation became Utrecht and Leyden, not Groningen any more. This field of research may sound familiar to theology, but in its inception Religious Studies were highly antagonistic to theology. Theology as such was considered prejudiced and narrowminded, bound by the dictates of the church. C.P. Tiele was more radical in this respect than Pierre Daniel, who maintained the importance of personal faith, even when comparing religions. Still, the duplex ordo dictated that ethical theology belonged to the ecclesiastical part of theology, supposedly subjective, whereas the other disciplines such as Church history and Bible study were relegated to the state part of theology, the objective part, including Religious Studies. The duplex ordo is a typical feature of the end of the 19th century with its somewhat artificial separation between objective scholarship and subjective scholarship, both in one theological faculty. Whereas ethical theology presupposed a highly personal involvement in the theological reflection, centered around the human moral conscience, Religious Studies shared the ideal of a distant, dispassionate research with other scientific disciplines (“sine ira et studio”). The rise of hermeneutics as a philosophical discipline meant a rehabilitation of subjective perspective as a precondition of research and posed serious questions to the ideal of objectivity, not only in theology, but also in history, law (!) and literature. Although the ideal of objective study of religious phenomena has proved to be an illusion, as one’s own convictions of superiority and evolutionary or Eurocentric view of history continued to play an unconscious or even conscious role, the solidification of Religious Studies as a new branch of scholarship proved fruitful. Some theologians felt threatened by this comparative study of religion in which the uniqueness of Christianity seemed to be drowned in a sea of exotic data, such as miracles, wisdom sayings, mystical experiences and narratives from all parts of the world. Books with telling titles such as: The gospel of Buddha, appeared; Pierre Daniel himself had no longer the idea that his study had a special connection to the Christian church, this in marked contrast with his father Daniel. Hence these two thinkers should not be conflated in one perspective, but on the contrary, mark an important rupture in theologicis, which has its repercussions until today. In that respect, Groenenboom has adopted a too harmonizing approach to what has been an earthquake and a watershed. Although theological faculties have subsequently incorporated religious studies as an important method and as a great help for sound theology, an undeniable tension has remained until today. The last decades, this tension has been solved in an unexpected way at Dutch universities: by losing sight of theology altogether. Interestingly, recent developments at Dutch universities show a definite tendency to marginalize theology in favor of religious studies. The paradoxical situation obtains that universities deliver scholars in religion(s), but without any inner connection to a specific religion. In this way, the methodical approach of religious studies, trying to encompass other religions without prejudice (which is mandatory for theology as well), becomes a diagnosis of our modern time as such: “believing without belonging”. A methodical agnosticism has turned into a post-modern skepticism. Theology has a hard time being accepted at universities, due to secularism and an ill-founded rationalism from the side of other faculties. The demand of pluralism has become a weapon against any single conviction, especially Christianity, but perhaps even fostered by the rise of Islam in our country. In that respect, drawing attention to belief as a factor in moral decision-making will be considered as no more than a variety of Weltanschauung, which by no means may claim any universal validity. Pluralism will serve here as a tool to disarm any religious claim to truth, even when this is done in a non-absolute way. The paradox of denying any religion any claim of the truth, in the name of tolerance, has been emphasized often, without, however, solving this paradox. Still, Scholten’s intuition that the moral conscience of the judge plays a role in juridical decision making will not be rejected, but at the same time will be disarmed by relegating that to each individual conscience, for which no further criteria obtain. It would be interesting to study the position of theology at the University of Amsterdam. This would shed light on the question of how relevant Scholten’s ideas are for today’s academic reflection. It may well be that Scholten with his emphasis upon the connection between moral decision-making and belief is considered a mastodont of bygone times. Likewise, today hardly any student will recognize the relevance of the confrontation between Scholten’s ethico-juridical stance and Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of the law (‘Wijsbegeerte van de Wetsidee’).

Jonathan Soeharno

This is an interesting read. It fills a gap in our knowledge of Paul Scholten by focusing on ethical theology – a highly influential movement in the Netherlands (with international parallels) at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century and with which Scholten was, as the author convincingly shows, well acquainted. The article is mostly descriptive in nature, with ample (sometimes: too long) citations of ethical theologians. It provides an overview of the discussions among these theologians and of Scholten's knowledge of ethical theology as well as his use thereof in his own publications. It is clear that the author is keen to present ethical theology and to highlight the contents of these works. Sometimes this does take some podium away from Scholten. Yet to mark the main merit of the article: this article is of great help to get an understanding of ethical theology. Along that line, it makes Scholten's theory (much) more understandable. My main interest concerns the conceptual part. Here, however, I am left a bit puzzled. The author argues against accusations against Paul Scholten. Scholten is critiqued for introducing undue subjectivism in the adjudication of law. As is known, Scholten argues that every judicial decision is in the end a 'leap' – a choice of conscience – by the individual judge. At the same time, this leap is balanced by the external demands of the judicial work, such as the law (to name the most important). Scholten's criticasters find this subjective element undue as this would allow judges to – internally – sail on conscience yet – externally – obscure that choice in abstract motivations. In layman's terms: the reasoning of the judicial decision does not necessarily say something about the actual choice made by the judge . By researching ethical theology, the author wishes to demonstrate that Scholten's internal part of judicial decision-making is not bottomless subjectivism at all. For, in short, ethical theologians use principles on which to ground subjectivism. And following ethical theologians: so does Scholten. I am not sure whether I am convinced. Of course Scholten refutes bottomless subjectivism because to him, conscience is not subjective but bound to 'higher' principles (say Gods commandments, life itself or the person of Christ). The author does a great job at demonstrating this but I do note that the reader of Scholten would have known this even without reference to ethical theology. Simply because Scholten is quite clear about this. Scholten is explicitly concerned at un-randomizing the internal, conscientious part of judicial decision-making and grounding it within firm principles. But from the point of view of non-Christians this does not make it more objective but more subjective. It is not the randomness of Scholten's subjectivity that bothers them, but the fact that it specifically concerns Christian subjectivism. But how does Scholten address that? The author does not answer this question. In fact, strangely the conclusion says nothing about subjectivism. It seems as if the article hinges on two purposes: (i) showcasing and providing a better understanding of ethical theology (and its influence on Scholten) and (ii) arguing that Scholten's theory is not unduly subjective. I find that the author contributes to the first but not (convincingly) to the second. I therefore feel that the author could restrict himself to one purpose and then align the article – the issue, the analysis and the conclusion – according to that purpose. This critique does not take away from the interesting and valuable groundwork that the author has done and for which the article is commended.

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