Herman Bavinck: His Life and Theology

Earlier this year, the fourth and final volume of Herman Bavinck's great Reformed Dogmatics was published in English. [1] At last, this model of Reformed theological scholarship is available in English to students of Reformed theology. This year also marks the one hundredth anniversary of Bavinck's Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary. The time is ripe, therefore, to get (re)acquainted with Bavinck. Bavinck's Early Life and Education Herman Bavinck was born in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands, on December 13, 1854. His father, Rev. Jan Bavinck, was a respected pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. This denomination was originally formed in 1834 as the result of a "Secession" (Dutch: Afscheiding ) from the Hervormde Kerk, the state Reformed church of the Netherlands, which had become increasingly liberal and estranged from the Reformed confessions. Already in the early years of his formal education, Bavinck consistently excelled as a student. At the age of sixteen, he was enrolled ... Read more

The Legacy of Herman Bavinck

Although the name of Herman Bavinck may be unfamiliar to some readers, his labors have probably affected all those reading these lines. Bavinck's legacy to the Reformed world, like that of his contemporary, Abraham Kuyper, was disproportionate to the size of his native Netherlands. I write these lines on the eighty-seventh anniversary of Bavinck's death (he lived from December 13, 1854, to July 29, 1921). He is reputed to have said on his deathbed: "At this point all my knowledge avails me nothing; neither does my dogmatics; faith alone will save me." True enough, Bavinck was saved by faith alone. Yet his erudition continues to benefit us today, with its fruit of a massive dogmatics, together with penetrating insight into philosophy, educational psychology, natural science, and modern culture. This year marks the centennial of Bavinck's Stone Lectures at Princeton (published in book form as The Philosophy of Revelation ). This year also features the completed publication of the English translation ... Read more

The Witness of Scripture to Itself

Herman Bavinck's magnum opus , his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics , offers a stunning synthesis of reflection upon the teaching of Scripture. It is arguably the finest multivolume Reformed systematic theology available in the English language. His theological formulations and biblical exposition are lucid and penetrating, offering stimulating insights on every topic he treats. In this essay, I will survey Bavinck's doctrine of Scripture, focusing on how Scripture's self-witness relates to so-called problems or phenomena, both inside and outside of Scripture. Bavinck's constructive insights will help us avoid contemporary errors regarding the mishandling of alleged problems within Scripture, as well as inappropriate uses of extrabiblical evidence. [1] The God-Breathed Word Scripture, Bavinck argues, is the written word of God. Basing his argument on 2 Timothy 3:16, Bavinck observes that "the term 'divine inspiration' serves as a summary of what Scripture teaches concerning itself." [2] The ... Read more

Getting Serious about Worship

Dear James, I was amused to learn from your mom about your roommate's efforts to find a church. She was telling me that last Sunday he returned to your congregation after a period of exile. Your explanation was that Will likes contemporary Christian music, but wants good preaching more. So he plans to join you for services and put up with your congregation's hymns and psalms in order to hear serious exposition of Scripture. That is an admirable decision. I wish all of your college peers were capable of such discernment. But it does raise an interesting question about the relationship between congregational singing and preaching, or between form and content. Your roommate's experience reminds me of a television program I was watching around the time of your birth about the new kind of Protestantism that was one front in the so-called "worship wars." One of the news stories focused on a Vineyard congregation, I believe in California, that had adopted the contemporary form of worship. This involved much ... Read more

Helps for Worship #33: What to Do after Worship

"And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." (Luke 24:52) The benediction has been pronounced. You have taken a few moments to consider what has been said and done in the previous hour or more. Now you gather your family and your things, and you prepare to leave. But what should you do after worship? The simple answer is: Continue your worship! In the early church, the joy of the transforming grace of the gospel was the hallmark of worship. That joy permeated the lives of the early disciples. It did not leave them after they had gathered for corporate worship. It affected everything they did, and it became a force that influenced the world around them (see Acts 2:47 for an example). The same pattern ought to continue in our experience of worship today. After worship, as you greet those around you, encourage them in the very things that have helped you in the worship that has preceded. "Aren't you thankful that we can know God and have his word preached?" "I so appreciated ... Read more

The Breadth of Grace and Infant Baptism

One of the many gifts we find in Herman Bavinck's four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is his strong emphasis on infant baptism. For Bavinck, there is "no other, deeper, or more solid ground" upon which to base infant baptism than the covenant of grace ( RD, 4:525). (Bavinck agreed with the Westminster standards that the covenant of works and the covenant of grace stand and fall with each other [ RD, 3:103].) Bavinck writes that baptism depends upon the covenant of grace, which embraces both believers and their descendants. We baptize infants and adults, not for subjective reasons, but for objective ones. "Not regeneration, faith, or repentance, much less our assumptions pertaining to them, but only the covenant of grace gave people, both adults and children, the right to baptism" ( RD, 4:525). The gracious covenant that God made with Abraham and his household in the Old Testament was signed and sealed by circumcision, and the promise made in Abraham's day has continued ever since: God will save his ... Read more


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