Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics

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John The Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Ladies and gents, it’s time for me to begin my long (emphasis on long) journey with Bavinck. I’ve recently purchased the full 4 volume set and am planning to work my way through them in due time.

It is my goal to post something of devotional/doxological value (shouldn’t be hard to find!) here at least once a week, most likely each Lord’s day.

There are three main reasons for this:

1. As a form of accountability, that I finish what I start with Bavinck. I’m concurrently working through the Institutes and it’s been at least a year if not more. This is a much slower pace than I desire. Hopefully by mining for the gems I am spurred on to a quicker pace.

2. That those of you who have not yet read Bavinck would be encouraged to do so by reading some of what I consider to be the highlights.

3. That those of you who have read Bavinck would remember why you read him, why you love him, and perhaps be encouraged to a second read.

In general, as with all Christian reading, it’s my hope that this endeavor would be edifying not only to me, but to those with whom I share.

Please pray for me!

In Christ,
 
Seems Bavinck has some wisdom for us today, especially those who want to take the ‘I believe the Bible only’ route. Let us think God’s thoughts after Him, tracing their unity.

Chapter 1: The Science of Dogmatic Theology. Excerpts from section The Science of God. (43-46)

“There is no room in dogmatics for a system in which an attempt is made to deduce the truths of faith from an a priori principle, say, from the essence of religion, from the essence of Christianity, from the fact of regeneration, or from the experience of the devout, For dogmatics is a positive science, gets all its material from revelation, and does not have the right to modify or expand that content by speculation apart from that revelation. When because of its weakness or limitations it is faced with the choice either of simply letting the truths of faith stand alongside of one another or, in the interest of maintaining the systematic form, of failing to do justice to one of them, dogmatics must absolutely opt for the former and resist the desire for a well-integrated system. On the other hand, one must maintain the position that such a dilemma can occur only as a result of the limitations of our insight. For if the knowledge of God has been revealed by himself in his Word, it cannot contain contradictory elements or be in conflict with what is known of God from nature and history. God's thoughts cannot be opposed to one another and thus necessarily form an organic unity.

“The imperative task of the dogmatician is to think God's thoughts after him and to trace their unity…

“Without … theological reflection, however, not only no system, but no dogmatic labor at all is possible. The task of dogmatics is precisely to rationally reproduce the content of revelation that relates to the knowledge of God…

“Furthermore, the individual believer who puts his mind to the pursuit of dogmatic studies will only produce lasting benefit from his labors if he does not isolate himself, either in the past or from his surroundings, but instead takes his place both historically and contemporarily in the full communion of the saints. It is part of the calling of the έκκησια to learn to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge and also to make known within the world of science "the manifold wisdom of God" in order that the final end of theology, as of all things, may be that the name of the Lord is glorified. Theology and dogmatics, too, exist for the Lord's sake.”
 
Strong words towards those who pretend to approach the study of religion in an unbiased way. Both the atheist and the theist has biases which must be acknowledged and accounted for:

“In fact, no one actually relates to the religions of the world as objectively as he might pretend in theory. Those who assume this position are the indifferent ones who have broken with all religion but are for that reason, precisely because of their profound partiality, unfit for the study of religion. Those, however, who value religion and acknowledge it as truth, always, in their studies, bring a certain kind of religion along with them and cannot rid themselves of it in the pursuit of those studies. A human being cannot keep silent about that which is most precious to him or her in life and death. A Christian cannot keep his faith, his most profound religious convictions, outside the door of his study nor view his own religion as objectively as he would that of a practitioner of some primitive religion. No one, therefore, in the pursuit of his studies, consistently applies the idea of the equivalence of all religions.”

From Chapter 2, The search for a Scientific, Objective Theology, Pg 75
 
Bavinck is in agreement with the Reformed orthodox’s use of the scholastic method.

“Accordingly, the contrast often made between biblical theology and dogmatics, as though one reproduced the content of Scripture while the other restated the dogmas of the church, is false. The sole aim of dogmatics is to set forth the thoughts of God that he has laid down in Holy Scripture. But it does this as it ought to, in a scholarly fashion, in a scholarly form, and in accordance with a scholarly method. In that sense, Reformed scholars in earlier centuries defended the validity of so-called scholastic theology (theologia scholastica). They had no objections whatever to the idea of presenting revealed truth also in a simpler form under the name of positive theology, catechetics, and so forth. But they utterly opposed the notion that the two differed in content; what distinguished them was merely a difference in form and method. By taking this position they, on the one hand, as firmly as possible maintained the unity and bond between faith and theology, church and school. On the other hand, they also held high the scientific character of theology. However high and wonderful the thoughts of God might be, they were not aphorisms but constituted an organic unity, a systematic whole, that could also be thought through and cast in a scientific form. Scripture itself prompts this theological labor when everywhere it lays the strongest emphasis, not on abstract cognition, but on doctrine and truth, knowledge and wisdom.”

Chapter 2, Biblical Theology and the Church, Pg 83-84
 
Bavinck, rather wisely, dissects the ‘deconstructionism’ of his own day, providing a useful analysis for us today.

“In critical times like our own, it not infrequently happens that later a painful break occurs between the faith of one's childhood and one's personal conviction. If this break is such that though one has to leave his own church one can still join another historic church, the break is healed relatively soon. Though change indeed occurs, there is no loss of religion itself, of the name "Christian,” of the fellowship and confession. A dogma that is established and supplies comfort and support in life still remains. On this basis, then, a dogmatics that describes the truth of God as it is recognized in a particular church remains possible.

But frequently doubt makes much deeper inroads in the religious life. Many people lose all faith and fall into skepticism and agnosticism. Then dogmatics, faith, confession, and fellowship are gone; mere negation is incapable of creating fellowship. Others, however, unable to maintain the faith of their childhood, attempt by earnest effort and struggle to acquire a religious conviction of their own. In this connection, too, the influence of one's environment naturally asserts itself; one never arrives at a religious conviction totally on one's own. In this case the only difference is that what one could no longer find in a church one now seeks in a school of philosophy. In recent times every philosophy has been utilized in turn to generate and maintain certain religious convictions. In this situation, too, there is no longer any question of dogmatics. What remains is only a religious faith, a theory, a philosophy of religion, a philosophical theory of religion.”

Chapter 2, Biblical Theology and the Church, Pg 84
 
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Sorry, but Bavinck is on a role this morning.

Rather than settling for the gross ecumenism of our day, Bavinck offers us a better vision for unity within the Church:

“A church is the natural soil for religion and theology. The religion and the theology do not now exist, anymore than the church. There are only differing churches and similarly differing theologies. This will be the case until in Christ the church has attained its full maturity and all have come to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. This unity cannot be reached by force but can best be advanced if each person thinks through the faith of his own church and makes the most accurate presentation of it. It is not apart from the existing churches but through them that Christ prepares for himself a holy, catholic church. Nor is it apart from the different ecclesiastical dogmas but through them that the unity of the knowledge of God is prepared and realized. In the same way the dogmatician will best be able to work fruitfully for the purification and development of the religious life and the confession of his church. Tying in with what exists is the condition for achieving improvement in the future. Concealed in the "now" is what is to come. This significance of the church for theology and dogmatics is grounded in the link that Christ himself forged between the two. He promised his church the Holy Spirit, who would guide it into all truth. This promise sheds a glorious light upon the history of dogma. It is the explication of Scripture, the exposition that the Holy Spirit has given, in the church, of the treasures of the Word. Accordingly, the task of the dogmatican is not to draw the material for his dogmatics exclusively from the written confession of his own church but to view it in the total context of the unique faith and life of his church, and then again in the context of the history of the whole church of Christ. He therefore stands on the shoulders of previous generations. He knows he is surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and lets his witness merge with the voice of these many waters. Every dogmatics ought to be in full accord with and a part of the doxology sung to God by the church of all ages.”

Chapter 2, Biblical Theology and the Church, Pg 85-86, emphasis mine
 
Bavinck’s apt conclusion to his Introduction to Dogmatics:

“Accordingly, the order that is theological and at the same time historical-genetic in character deserves preference. It, too, takes its point of departure God and views all creatures only in relation to him. But proceeding from God, it descends to his works, in order through them again to ascend to and end in him. So in this method as well, God is beginning, middle, and end. From him, through him, and to him are all things (Rom. 11:36). But God is not drawn down into the process of history here, and history itself is treated more justly. God and his works are clearly distinguished. In his works God acts as Creator, Redeemer, and Perfecter. He is "the efficient and exemplary Cause of things through creation, their renewing Principle through redemp-tion, and their perfective Principle in restoration" (Bonaventure). Dogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Christ; it is the system of the Christian religion. And the essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God. Dogmatics shows us how God, who is all-sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when it is torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It describes for us God, always God, from beginning to end - God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God's virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a "glory to God in the highest" (Luke 2:14).”

Pgs 111-112.
 
Sorry folks, Bavinck is slogging through some history at the moment. Ends up being a large list of unknown (to me) names. More posts to come!
 
How do we feel about Bavinck’s distinction between Lutheran and Reformed dogmatics? Is it a fair comparison?

“For all the agreement between them- extending even to the confession of predestination—there was from the very beginning an important difference between the German and the Swiss Reformation. The differences in country and people where Luther and Zwingli played out their respective roles, the differences between the two in origin, upbringing, character, and experience all contributed to a parting of their ways. It did not take long be fore it became evident that the two Reformers were of different minds. In 1529, at Marburg, an agreement had been made but only on paper. And when Zwingli passed away and Calvin, despite his high regard for and conciliatory approach to Luther in the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, basically sided with Zwingli, the split between Lutheran and Reformed Protestantism deepened and became a fact that could no longer be undone. Historical researches into the characteristic difference between the two in recent years have clearly demonstrated that underlying the split is a difference of principle…

“The difference seems to be conveyed best by saying that the Reformed Christian thinks theologically, the Lutheran anthropologically. The Reformed person is not content with an exclusively historical stance but raises his sights to the idea, the eternal decree of God. By contrast the Lutheran takes his position in the midst of the history of redemption and feels no need to enter more deeply into the counsel of God. For the Reformed, therefore, election is the heart of the church; for Lutherans, justification is the article by which the church stands or falls. Among the former the primary question is: How is the glory of God advanced? Among the latter it is: How does a human get saved? The struggle of the former is above all against paganism—idolatry; that of the latter against Judaism—works-righteousness. The Reformed person does not rest until he has traced all things retrospectively to the divine decree, tracking down the “wherefore” of things, and has prospectively made all things subservient to the glory of God; the Lutheran is content with the "that" and enjoys the salvation in which he is, by faith, a participant. From this difference in principle, the dogmatic controversies between them (with respect to the image of God, original sin, the person of Christ, the order of salvation, the sacraments, church government, ethics, etc.) can be easily explained.”

Pgs 176-177
 
Bavinck reflects a certain rationalist approach fairly common in the late-19th/early-20th century, which contains some true observation (maybe not best selected or organized) yet in the end proves somewhat reductionist. I do think he makes a valiant effort at distilling varied emphases within the traditions that he could note; but he is possessed himself of a set of philosophic constraints, i.e. ideas within us that define what we see as possible when it comes to explanation.

Here is another humble effort at describing how the two traditions may diverge based on an historic perspective:

Other critique of the perspective offered up by Bavinck is out there. For my part, I don't think he's correct to allege that one tradition (Lutheran) is basically anthropic in principle or origin and the other theologic, which two form a neat contrast. Try to find a Lutheran who would consent to taking such a label.

For their part, many Lutheran theologians play a similar card if talking to themselves about their distasteful cousins, the Reformed....
 
You would probably have to follow the sources Bavinck is citing to find why he is coming to his conclusion. Additionally, a read through the Lutheran Book of Concord, or even just the Augsburg Confession, and contrast those with the Westminster Standards, and you might see why he sees the differences in this way:


Spoiler: the Augsburg Confession is surprisingly bad in parts, in what it chooses to include and not include and where its emphasis lies.
 
Reading Bavinck this morning and confused… send help…

“John Cameron (d. 1625) not only joined Piscator in Herborn in denying the imputation of Christ's active obedience but also taught that the will always follows the intellect and therefore that the bending of the will in regeneration is not a physical act but an ethical one.22 Amyrald (d. 1664), author of Traite de la Predestination, turned the common doctrine of the revealed will of God (voluntas signi), the sincere and well-meant offer of grace, into a separate decree that precedes that of election. In doing this he laid a Remonstrant foundation under the Calvinist building and ran the danger of weakening man's powerlessness to believe into a moral one.”

pg 186

How does this compare to the common distinction between natural ability and moral ability? Pretty sure this is something Sproul said often..? Is he talking about the same thing? If so, does Bavinck trace that belief back to deficient doctrine?

In Christ,
John
 
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The first named error seems to place every weight in regeneration upon the intellect; and it follows from there that a reorientation of the will toward the things of God is an "ethical" choice in favor of the good proceeding from a correctly informed mind. This view I take to be at odds with the proper view of the will that does not find it "educated" to perfection. Rather, the will (desire) is corrupt and must be directly (physically?) impacted by regeneration in order to "bend" it toward where it ought to be oriented.

Amyraldianism eventually weakens standard, confessional Reformed predestinarianism into Arminianism by reducing at base man's sin and refusal to consent to the gospel message to a decision of his independent will. Whereas, in the accurate, decretally ordered and informed view election is prior to offer, so guaranteeing the outcome for such a person by necessarily ordaining the requisite change in the bent of the will. What Amyraldianism introduces--supposedly to clear away one common objection to "strict" Calvinism--ends up allowing the seed of more serious error to take root.

Natural ability implies a man has no inherent physical or mental impediments to achievement. Moral ability implies a man has no constitutional or covenantal impediments to choosing the good and pleasing God. Perhaps you can map those definitions in some way to Bavinck's discussion.
 
Ladies and gents, it’s time for me to begin my long (emphasis on long) journey with Bavinck. I’ve recently purchased the full 4 volume set and am planning to work my way through them in due time.

It is my goal to post something of devotional/doxological value (shouldn’t be hard to find!) here at least once a week, most likely each Lord’s day.

There are three main reasons for this:

1. As a form of accountability, that I finish what I start with Bavinck. I’m concurrently working through the Institutes and it’s been at least a year if not more. This is a much slower pace than I desire. Hopefully by mining for the gems I am spurred on to a quicker pace.

2. That those of you who have not yet read Bavinck would be encouraged to do so by reading some of what I consider to be the highlights.

3. That those of you who have read Bavinck would remember why you read him, why you love him, and perhaps be encouraged to a second read.

In general, as with all Christian reading, it’s my hope that this endeavor would be edifying not only to me, but to those with whom I share.

Please pray for me!

In Christ,
Good choice. I took several Bavinck courses with John Bolt and read through all four volumes (or at least the abridged version that covered all volumes). It was some of the most devotional years of my life and it will be a blessing to you I'm sure.
 
Amyraldianism eventually weakens standard, confessional Reformed predestinarianism into Arminianism by reducing at base man's sin and refusal to consent to the gospel message to a decision of his independent will. Whereas, in the accurate, decretally ordered and informed view election is prior to offer, so guaranteeing the outcome for such a person by necessarily ordaining the requisite change in the bent of the will. What Amyraldianism introduces--supposedly to clear away one common objection to "strict" Calvinism--ends up allowing the seed of more serious error to take root.

How much do we have to be on our guard against this kind of error. The flesh seeks to insert something of itself in God's salvation. This discussion reminds me of a 2017 book I recently encountered called "Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King" by a Matthew Bates (a dangerous attempt to justifying faith as "allegiance").
 
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How much do we have to be on our guard against this kind of error. The flesh seeks to insert something of itself in God's salvation. This discussion reminds me of a 2017 book I recently encountered called "Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King" by a Matthew Bates (a dangerous attempt to justifying faith as "allegiance").
I understand the concern of Amyraldianism is to clear God of a "disingenuous" offer of the gospel. Allegedly, the solution fixed on is that (in the order of decree) God makes the offer (in general) to all men, and only then does he specify who the elect are and ordains them to eternal life. Amyraldianism has been redubbed, "hypothetical universalism," for its attempt to improve on the formula: sufficient-for-all/effective-for-elect with respect to Christ's atonement (where its intrinsic value/worth is compared to the subjective value/worth ascribed or realized by the redeemed church).

Amyraldianism admits the death of Christ has already theoretically atoned for ALL sin; thereby encouraging evangelists to preach indiscriminately: "You sins are forgiven; therefore repent and believe the gospel." It might be said, the difference between this view and some universal-atonement views (originally, the hope was reconciliation with the confessed Lutheran view) is the latter mean definitely forgiven, objectively atoned for. Election, decreed in order post atonement-accomplishment, narrows the general applicability. You can see that this device separates the intent of the atonement from its effect. The atonement doesn't effect salvation for all for whom it was laid down. It has another (negative or absent effect) with respect to those who get no advantage from it. The atonement doesn't drive toward a uni-purposed result unless (ex post facto) this man was elected. In other words, the purpose of the atonement with respect to the elect is maintained as in the Calvinistic scheme more generally. But God is ostensibly viewed more generously, as previously having (hypothetically) nullified the whole sin-debt of all mankind; thus decoupling the engine of the atonement from driving the salvation of each and every person for whom it was provided.

It is all somewhat technical and more complicated than a simple-but-strict Calvinistic scheme. Our "order of decree" is (admittedly!) a logical and descriptive unfolding of what we imagine is the divine priority and divine rationality, not a literal sequence of movement in the divine mind. But we are obliged to follow the Bible's priorities (as the transcript of the divine mind); and unfortunately when the theologian's goal is to reconcile the data to his own priority--be it his pet doctrine or transdenominational reconciliation--how God "must think" ends up reflecting his own natural mind. Dabney, on the subject of lapsarianism, or the question of where the decree to permit the fall stands in relation to the rest, famously suggested this question was too hubristic for mere men to decide, and felt it was better left in the mysterious hidden depths of God.

Our view of the power of the atonement is that it is divine and irresistible and must invariably achieve all its end, ala Is.55:11. It is a saving word, and the thought that a (dead) man might overrule the divine purpose in it is ridiculous. Lazarus had no power to deny the Lord's summons from out his grave; and neither does anyone whom God wills to call to life in Christ. Those whom Jesus means to raise he raises, and leaves the rest. The rest are not summoned, or else they too would rise. According to Amyraldianism, the whole human race is summoned alive, but the power of Christ's sacrifice is ineffective toward a great many of them. What power or obstacle short-circuited their benefit? How has God's generosity in fact been displayed? The attempt to evade this doubt forces men to various expedients, and proves Amyraldianism's instability. Neither are the Lutherans bought off.
 
Here we are again with… Bavinck bashes the category between natural and moral ability, but this time with someone a little more famous…

“The first and most important theologian of New England was Jonachan Edwards (1703-58), who combined profound metaphysical mental ability with deep piety. In 1734, still before Wesley's coming to America, a remarkable revival occurred in his congregation at Northampton; and later, with his friend George Whitfield, he himself repeatedly conducted and defended similar revivals. Theologically he especially opposed Arminianism, which came to New England via the writings of Daniel Whitby and John Taylor. By his metaphysical and ethical speculations he attempted to strengthen Calvinism but actually weakened it by the distinction between natural and moral impotence—a distinction that already occurs in John Cameron—and by a peculiar theory concerning freedom of the will, original sin, and virtue. Thus he became the father of the Edwardians, New Theology men, or New Lights as they are called, who, though they maintained the Calvinistic doctrine of God's sovereignty and election, combined it with the rejection of original sin and the universality of atonement, just as the theologians of Sau-mur had done in France.”

pg 201

Thoughts?
 
Here Bavinck is a wonderful guide to our modern situation. It’s feels as though Bavinck could have been writing this about my contemporaries at university.

“Indeed, all sciences proceed from a series of unproven and unprovable propositions that are accepted a priori and serve as starting point for all argumentation and proof. Aristotle already saw this.
There is no infinite regress; precisely in order to have evidential value, proofs must finally rest in a proposition that needs no proof, that rests in itself, and can therefore serve as principle of proof… A building cannot stand in the air, and a given argumentation can rest only on a foundation that is established by being self-evident and not by proof.

“… because then the name of ‘science’ can finally be reserved only for a few subsidiary disciplines, and precisely the knowledge that is most important to human beings and that in their research is their primary interest is banished from the domain of science. Thomas's maxim, in which he follows Aristotle, remains true: ‘The slenderest acquaintance we can form with heavenly things is more desirable than a thorough grasp of mundane matters.’ And Schopenhauer made a similar statement: ‘People never stop praising the reliability and certainty of mathematics. However, what benefit is there for me in knowing with ever so much certainty and reliability something which I do not in the least care about?’

“Man is not only an intellectual but also a willing and feeling being; he is not a thinking machine but in addition to his head also has a heart, an [inner] world of feelings and passions. He brings these with him in his scientific research.
In his activities in study and laboratory, he cannot lock himself out. It cannot rightly be demanded of man that in his scientific labors, that is, in one of the noblest activities of his mind, he silence the voice of his feelings, his heart, the best part of him, and thus cripple himself. Only this may always and therefore also in the case of the practitioner of science be demanded: that he be a good, a true man, a man of God, proficient and equipped for every good work, including this work of pursuing scientific knowledge.

“In one way or another- including even spiritism, magic, and theosophy-they all seek compensation for what science will not give them. And religion, along with all spiritual knowledge, having first been shamefully dismissed through the front door, is again admitted through the back door but now frequently in the form of superstition.”

Pgs 220-222
 
How do we feel about Bavinck’s distinction between Lutheran and Reformed dogmatics? Is it a fair comparison?

I don't think he's correct to allege that one tradition (Lutheran) is basically anthropic in principle or origin and the other theologic, which two form a neat contrast. Try to find a Lutheran who would consent to taking such a label.

I think the Lutheran response would be that we Reformed rationalistically attempt to discern God's secret will and force difficult passages of Scripture into Procrustean beds, especially when we attempt to "rationalize away" what they see as really clear cut and plain Scriptural statements like like "This is my body...this is my blood" or "baptism saves you."

Put another way, Bavinck's criticism might be stated that the Lutherans are theologically complacent for not digging deeply enough into who God has revealed Himself to be while the Lutheran criticism of the Reformed approach would be that we dig too deeply and insist on squaring circles, especially into the secret things of God.

Incidentally, Lutheran author and podcaster Jordan Cooper loved this section of Bavinck because it says that at the end of the day Calvin sided with Zwingli.
 
Let’s talk about dependence, your dependence on God as a creature. Believe it or not, Bavinck actually appropriates Schleiermacher for his own uses…

“It was especially Schleiermacher who defined religion as the "absolute feeling of dependence." Many objections have been raised against this definition, objections briefly reproduced (inter alia) by Hoekstra. This definition in Schleiermacher indeed has a meaning that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. In his thinking dependence is so pantheistically construed that objectively it relates only to the whole of the universe and is limited, subjectively, to feeling. Nevertheless, there is in Schleiermacher's definition a substantial element of truth. What makes human beings religious beings and drives them toward religion is the realization that they are related to God in a way that specifically differs from all their other relationships. This relationship is so deep and tender, so rich and many-dimensional, that it can only with difficulty be expressed in a single concept. But certainly the concept of dependence deserves primary consideration and is best qualified for this purpose. For in religion a human feels related to a personal being who has one's destiny in his hands in every area of life, for time and eternity. For that reason God is not yet exclusively conceived in religion as mere power. As the gracious, mercitul, just, and holy One, God nevertheless still always confronts us as Sovereign, as the Absolute, as God. And human beings always relate to God in their capacity as creatures; they so relate to no one and nothing else, but only to God. Accordingly, this creaturely dependence, though it is not the essence of religion, is its foundation. We human beings, however, are not just creatures but rational and moral creatures as well. Our relation to God, therefore, is quite different from that of the angels and animals. By implication this absolute dependence in which human beings stand toward God does not exclude freedom. We are dependent but in a way that differs from that of other creatures. We are dependent in the manner and sense that we simultaneously remain rational and moral creatures who are akin to God, are his offspring and his image. We are absolutely dependent in such a manner that the denial of this dependence never makes us free, while the acknowledgment of it never reduces us to the status of a slave. On the contrary: in the conscious and voluntary acceptance of this dependence, we human beings arrive at our greatest freedom. We become human to the degree that we are children of God.”

pp. 242-243

Beautiful, ain’t it?
 
“Corresponding to the objective revelation of God, therefore, there is in human beings a certain faculty or natural aptitude for perceiving the divine. God does not do half a job. He creates not only the light but also the eye to see it. Corresponding to the external reality there is an internal organ of perception. The ear is designed for the world of sounds. The "logos" implicit in creatures corresponds to the "logos" in human beings and makes science possible. Beauty in nature finds a response in the human sense of beauty.
Similarly, there is not only an external and objective but also an internal and subjective revelation. The former is the external principle of the knowledge of religion (principium cognoscendi externum); the latter the internal principle of that knowledge (principium cognoscendi internum). The two principles are most intimately related, as light is to the human eye and as intelligent design in the world is to human reason. The question--which of the two was first, external or internal revelation- is superfluous. In the selfsame moment in which God revealed himself to human beings by creating them in his im-age, the latter knew this God and served him, and, vice versa, served and knew him. True and genuine religion can exist only in the complete correspondence of the internal to the external revelation. Those who love God-with all their heart, soul, and strength as he is and as he makes himself known by revelation, these are the truly religious, images of God, servants and children of God; they are human beings in the full sense”

278-279
 
Sometimes I think Bavinck was a time traveler.. very similar to my experience at school.

“And even if the scientific investigator assumes a "neutral" stance, he or she does not thereby make any difference in this awesome reality of the division of humankind over its highest interests and values. All people, including the men and women of science, have to acknowledge this fact; and they can do this only if, along with Paul, they see in this reality an effect of the darkening of the human mind, a cross that sin has forced humanity to bear. No science, however
"presuppositionless,” is or will ever be able to undo this division and bring about, in the life of all nations and people, unity in the most basic convictions of the heart. If there is ever to be unity, it will have to be achieved in the way of mission; only religious unity will be able to bring about the spiritual and intellectual unity of humankind. As long as disagreement prevails in religion, science too will be unable to achieve the ideal of unity.”

298-299
 
A little bit on general revelation:

“On the insufficiency of general revelation, however, there can scarcely be any doubt. In the first place, it is evident from the fact that this revelation at most supplies us with knowledge of God's existence and of some of his attributes such as goodness and justice, but it leaves us absolutely unfamiliar with the person of Christ, who alone is the way to the Father (Matt. 11:27;
John 14:6; 17:3; Acts 4:12). General revelation, therefore, is insufficient for human beings as sinners; it knows nothing of grace and forgiveness; it is frequently even a revelation of wrath (Rom. 1:18-20). Grace and forgiveness, which for fallen human beings have to be the primary content of religion, are acts of God's good pleasure, not of nature and necessity. General revelation can at best communicate certain truths but conveys no facts, no history, and therefore changes nothing in existence. It somewhat illumines the mind and restrains sin but does not regenerate the nature of human beings and the world. It can instill fear but not trust and love.”

313
 
1) Kudos on your commitment to reading Bavinck and posting continuously. Inspiring.

2) As to Edwards:
the Edwardians, New Theology men, or New Lights as they are called, who, though they maintained the Calvinistic doctrine of God's sovereignty and election, combined it with the rejection of original sin and the universality of atonement, just as the theologians of Sau-mur had done in France.”

I am no Edwards scholar but honestly, where did he ever reject original sin and claim universal atonement? I am unaware of his writings but I highly doubt Gerstner and Sproul regard him so highly if this is true? Or does Bavinck refer to only a subset of Edwards' devotees that went down that road to error?
 
1) Kudos on your commitment to reading Bavinck and posting continuously. Inspiring.

2) As to Edwards:


I am no Edwards scholar but honestly, where did he ever reject original sin and claim universal atonement? I am unaware of his writings but I highly doubt Gerstner and Sproul regard him so highly if this is true? Or does Bavinck refer to only a subset of Edwards' devotees that went down that road to error?
Yeah. Sounds like a misfire to me.
 
I am no Edwards scholar but honestly, where did he ever reject original sin and claim universal atonement? I am unaware of his writings but I highly doubt Gerstner and Sproul regard him so highly if this is true? Or does Bavinck refer to only a subset of Edwards' devotees that went down that road to error?

He didn't reject original sin, but he had a bizarre view of it.
 
And now special revelation… what does the similarities between the OT faith/Christianity and pagan religions tell us?

“The difference between Christianity and the other religions does not consist in that all these necessary elements of religion are lacking there; it consists in that all that occurs in paganism in the form of caricature has become shadow and image in Israel and authentic spiritual reality in Christianity. This may explain why in form, circumcision, sacrifice, tabernacle, priesthood, etc., the religion of Israel bears so much resemblance to pagan religions on the one hand and is fundamentally different from them on the other, so that the Messiah came forth only from Israel. This fundamental distinction arises from the fact that in Scripture the initiative in religion is not taken by human beings but by God. In pagan religions it is human beings who seek God (Acts 17:27). In every way they attempt to bring God down to themselves and into the dust (Rom. 1:23), and by all kinds of methods they try to achieve power over God. But in Scripture it is always God who seeks human beings. He creates them in his image and calls them after the fall. He saves Noah, chooses Abraham, gives his laws to Israel. He calls and equips the prophets. He sends his Son and sets apart the apostles. He will one day judge the living and the dead. The religions of the nations, on the other hand, teach us to know human beings in their restlessness, misery, and discontent but also in their noble aspirations and their everlasting needs human beings both in their poverty and riches, their weakness and strength. The noblest fruit of these religions produces humanism. But Holy Scripture reaches us to know God in his coming to and search for human beings, in his compassion and grace, in his justice and his love. And here, too, theophany, prophecy, and miracle are the means by which God reveals and gives himself to people.”

327-328

More to come on modes of special revelation…
 
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