Category Archives: Herman Bavinck

“Nothing may be put on a level with Scripture” by Herman Bavinck

“Church and confession must yield to Scripture. Not the church but Scripture is self-authenticating (αὐτοπιστος), the judge of controversies (iudex controversiarum), and its own interpreter (sui ipsius interpres).

Nothing may be put on a level with Scripture. Church, confession, tradition—all must be ordered and adjusted by it and submit themselves to it…

Scripture alone is the norm and rule of faith and life (norma et regula fidei et vitae). The confession deserves credence only because and insofar as it agrees with Scripture and, as the fallible work of human hands, remains open to revision and examination by the standard of Scripture…

All Christian churches are united in the confession that Holy Scripture is the foundation of theology, and the Reformation unanimously recognized it as the only foundation (principium unicum).”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 86-87.

 

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“A doxological tone that glorifies Him” by Herman Bavinck

“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.

Theology is about God and should reflect a doxological tone that glorifies Him.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 61.

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“Sitting down at one table” by Herman Bavinck

“The blessedness of communion with God is enjoyed in and heightened by the communion of saints. On earth already this communion is a wonderful benefit of faith.

Those who for Jesus’s sake have left behind house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields already in this life receive houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields—along with persecutions—(Mark 10:29–30), for all who do the will of the Father are Jesus’s brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:50).

Through the mediator of the New Testament, believers enter into fellowship, not only with the militant church on earth, but also with the triumphant church in heaven, the assembly of the firstborn, the spirits of the righteous made perfect, even with innumerable angels (Heb. 12:22–24).

But this fellowship, though in principle it already exists on earth, will nevertheless be incomparably richer and more glorious when all dividing walls of descent and language, of time and space, have been leveled, all sin and error have been banished, and all the elect have been assembled in the new Jerusalem.

Then will be fully answered the prayer of Jesus that all His sheep may be one flock under one Shepherd (John 10:16; 17:21). All the saints together will then fully comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:18–19).

They will together be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19; Col. 2:2, 10), inasmuch as Christ, Himself filled with the fullness of God (Col. 1:19), will in turn fill the believing community with Himself and make it His fullness (πληρωμα, plērōma; Eph. 1:23; 4:10).

And sitting down at one table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11), they will unitedly lift up a song of praise to the glory of God and of the Lamb. (Rev. 4:11; 5:12)”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Vol. 4, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 722–723.

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“The one undivided and indivisible Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“The Reformation attacked this entire nomistic system at the roots when it took its position in the confession that sinners are justified by faith alone. By this act, after all, it all at once reversed the entire order of things.

Communion with God came about not by human exertion, but solely on the part of God, by a gift of His grace, so that religion was again given its place before morality.

If human beings received the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, adoption as children, and eternal life through faith alone, by grace, on account of the merits of Christ, then they did not need to exert themselves to earn all these benefits by good works.

They already possessed them in advance as a gift they had accepted by faith. The gratitude and joy that filled their hearts upon receiving all these benefits drove them to do good works before the thought that they had to do them even crossed their mind.

For the faith by which they accepted these benefits was a living faith, not a dead one, not a bare agreement with a historical truth, but a personal heartfelt trust in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

In Justification that faith of course manifested itself only from its receptive side because in this connection everything depended on the acceptance of the righteousness offered and bestowed in Christ.

Yet, from its very inception, and at the same time as it justified, it was also a living, active, and forceful faith that renewed people and poured joy into their hearts.

Actually, therefore, it was not faith that justified and sanctified, but it was the one undivided and indivisible Christ who through faith gave Himself to believers for righteousness and sanctification, who was imputed and imparted to us on the part of God, and whom we therefore from the beginning possess in that faith as Christ for us and in us.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Vol. 4, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 242–243.

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“An adorable mystery” by Herman Bavinck

“To a considerable extent we can assent to and wholeheartedly affirm this doctrine of the unknowability of God. Scripture and the church emphatically assert the unsearchable majesty and sovereign highness of God.

There is no knowledge of God as He is in Himself. We are human and He is the Lord our God. There is no name that fully expresses His being, no definition that captures Him. He infinitely transcends our picture of Him, our ideas of Him, our language concerning Him.

He is not comparable to any creature. All the nations are accounted by Him as less than nothing and vanity. ‘God has no name. He cannot be defined.’ He can be apprehended; He cannot be comprehended.

There is some knowledge (γνωσις) but no thorough grasp (καταληψις) of God. This is how the case is put throughout Scripture and all of theology. And when a shallow rationalism considered a fully adequate knowledge of God a possibility, Christian theology always opposed the idea in the strongest terms…

Involved here is a matter of profound religious importance, to which Augustine gave expression as follows:

‘We are speaking of God. Is it any wonder if you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend, it is not God you comprehend. Let it be a pious confession of ignorance rather than a rash profession of knowledge. To attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing; to comprehend Him, however, is totally impossible.’

God is the sole object of all our love, precisely because He is the infinite and incomprehensible One. Although Scripture and the church, thus as it were, accept the premises of agnosticism and are even more deeply convinced of human limitations and the incomparable grandeur of God than Kant and Spencer, they draw from these realities a very different conclusion.

Hilary put it as follows: ‘The perfection of learning is to know God in such a way that, though you realize He is not unknowable, yet you know Him as indescribable.’ The knowledge we have of God is altogether unique. This knowledge may be called positive insofar as by it we recognize a being infinite and distinct from all finite creatures.

On the other hand, it is negative because we cannot ascribe a single predicate to God as we conceive that predicate in relation to creatures. It is therefore an analogical knowledge: a knowledge of a being who is unknowable in Himself, yet able to make something of Himself known in the being He created.

Here, indeed, lies something of an antinomy. Rather, agnosticism, suffering from a confusion of concepts, sees here an irresolvable contradiction in what Christian theology regards as an adorable mystery.

It is completely incomprehensible to us how God can reveal Himself and to some extent make Himself known in created beings: eternity in time, immensity in space, infinity in the finite, immutability in change, being in becoming, the all, as it were, in that which is nothing.

This mystery cannot be comprehended; it can only be gratefully acknowledged. But mystery and self-contradiction are not synonymous.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3Ed. John Bolt, and trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 47-49.

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“Christ is our holiness” by Herman Bavinck

“To understand the benefit of sanctification correctly, we must proceed from the idea that Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which He is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Savior.

He does not accomplish His work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing His acquittal in our conscience, He has also imparted full holiness and glory to us.

By His righteousness, accordingly, He does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life.

But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed Himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate Himself to us in all his fullness for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).

The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully awaits us in Christ.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (vol. 4; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 248.

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“The mystery of grace” by Herman Bavinck

“Although knowledge is attainable in theology, this is not true of comprehension. There is substantial difference between ‘being acquainted with,’ ‘knowing,’ and ‘comprehending.’

True, these words are often used interchangeably. But there are demonstrable differences among them. ‘Being acquainted with’ pertains to a thing’s existence, the that; ‘knowing’ concerns a thing’s quality, the what; comprehending relates to its inner possibility, the how of a thing.

There are few things we comprehend; actually we comprehend only the things that are totally in our power, the things we can make or break. I comprehend a machine when I see how it is put together and how it works, and when there is nothing left in it I still think strange.

Comprehension excludes amazement and admiration. I comprehend or think I comprehend the things that are self-evident and perfectly natural. Often comprehension ceases to the degree a person digs deeper into a subject.

That which seemed self-evident proves to be absolutely extraordinary and amazing. The farther a science penetrates its object, the more it approaches mystery.

Even if on its journey it encountered no other object it would still always be faced with the mystery of being. Where comprehension ceases, however, there remains room for knowledge and wonder.

And so things stand in theology. Disclosed to us in revelation is ‘the mystery of our religion’: the mystery of God’s grace [1 Tim. 3:16].

We see it; it comes out to meet us as a reality in history and in our own life. But we do not fathom it.

In that sense Christian theology always has to do with mysteries that it knows and marvels at but does not comprehend and fathom.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), Vol. 1: 619.

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