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Herman Bavinck – The Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological, and Moral Arguments

10 Apr
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1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

The cosmological argument attempts to deduce the existence of a cause from the demonstrable existence of an effect. This argument has some validity but fails to tell us anything about the character and nature of the cosmic cause. All we have is a self-existent, first, and absolute World-cause. The teleological argument, proceeding from the world’s order and beauty, takes us one step further to an intelligent cause that must be conscious. However, we still do not know whether this means one intelligent Being or several working in harmony. We are still not nearly at a knowledge of the God of Scripture.

The ontological argument, in its various forms, attempts to infer existence from thought. Our common sense recognizes that this argument is not true when it comes to creatures. Nonexistent beings can be conceived. With God matters are slightly different. Though we cannot convincingly demonstrate the reality of God from our ideas about God, it is true that whenever we do think about God we necessarily think of God existing. The benefit of this argument is that human beings are confronted with the choice of either trusting this necessary witness of their consciousness or else despairing of their own consciousness.

The moral argument infers the existence of a supreme and sovereign Lawgiver from moral phenomena such as human conscience, fear of death and judgment, repentance, and reward and punishment. While these phenomena are powerful witness to the enduring moral nature of even fallen humanity, they are less than a proof for the existence of a righteous and holy God. The same is true for the argument that proceeds from the universal reality of religion. This fact bears powerful witness to the existence, revelation, and knowability of God but cannot as such disprove the claim that it reflects a universal pathology of the human mind, a passing fancy or delusion. Finally, arguments based on the purposefulness of history presuppose what they claim to demonstrate. History is susceptible to different interpretations that are, in the final analysis, a matter of faith, not proof. The heart rather than the intellect is the final arbiter.

That must also be our judgment concerning these “proofs” in general. Even the term “proofs” is infelicitous. The cosmological, teleological, and moral testimony to God is not a matter of logical, mathematical proof but belongs to the category of moral and religious truth.

The proofs may augment and strengthen our faith, but they do not serve as its grounds. They are, rather, the consequences, the products of faith’s observation of the world. The proofs do not induce faith, and objections against them do not wreck it. They are, instead, testimonies by which God is able to strengthen already-given faith.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 55-56.

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Herman Bavinck – Where Proofs For God’s Existence Fit In

1 Apr

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

It is important, however, to make some distinction between implanted and acquired knowledge of God. In the former God’s revelation acts upon human consciousness, creating impressions and intuitions. In the case of the acquired knowledge of God, human beings reflect upon that revelation of God and seek by reasoning and proof to rise above impressions and intuitions to clearer ideas. This is the natural human desire to explain the how and why of our knowledge. This distinction must not be restricted to so-called natural theology in opposition to revealed theology. God reveals himself to us in his handiwork of creation, but even Christian believers depend on Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit to truly know God the Creator. We are indebted to Scripture for both implanted and acquired knowledge.



This insight helps us to consider aright the so-called proofs for God’s existence, neither overestimating nor disdaining them. Christian theology accepts the support given to its convictions about God by pagan philosophy but judges these proofs within the doctrine of faith, not as preambles to it. Christian conviction about what can be known about God apart from special revelation is a valid natural theology. However, when this natural theology stands on its own and in a self-sufficient and rationalistic fashion sets aside the need for special revelation, it is an invalid and impious activity.



~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 54-55.

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Herman Bavinck – The Effort Involved In Unbelief

25 Mar

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

Belief in a personal God is both natural and normal; it arises in human consciousness spontaneously and universally. Unbelief requires enormous effort. There is no proof available to it.



~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 53.

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Herman Bavinck – The Theater of His Glory

19 Mar

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

All knowledge of God rests on revelation. Though we can never know God in the full richness of his being, he is known to all people through his revelation in creation, the theater of his glory. The world is never godless. In the end there are no atheists; there is only argument about the nature of God. The recognition is universal of a power greater than human beings themselves, to whom they owe piety.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 53.

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Herman Bavinck – God, Both Exalted and Near

14 Mar

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

The same God who in his revelation limits himself, as it were, to certain specific places, times, and persons is at the same time infinitely exalted above the whole realm of nature and every creature. Even in the parts of Scripture that stress this temporal and local manifestation, the sense of his sublimity and omnipotence is not lacking. The Lord who walks in his garden is the Creator of heaven and earth. The God who appears to Jacob is in control of the future. Although the God of Israel dwells in the midst of his people in the house that Solomon built for him, he cannot even be contained by the heavens (1 Kings 8:27). He manifests himself in nature and sympathizes, as it were, with his people, but he is simultaneously the incomprehensible One (Job 26:14; 36:26; 37:5), the incomparable One (Isa. 40:18, 25; 46:5), the one who is infinitely exalted above time and space and every creature (Isa. 40:12ff.; 41:4; 44:6; 48:12), the one true God (Exod 20:3, 11; Deut. 4:35, 39; 32:19; 1 Sam. 2:2; Isa. 44:8). Although he reveals himself in his names, no name is adequate to the purpose. He is nameless; his name is a name of wonder (Gen. 32:29; Judg. 13:18; Prov. 30:4). Neither the hidden ground, the depths [חֵקֶר] of God, nor the boundaries, the extreme limit, the very essence [תַּכְלִית] of the Almighty, is attainable (Job 11:7; Sirach 43:31–32). In a word, throughout the Old Testament these two elements occur hand in hand: God is with those who are of a contrite and humble spirit, and nevertheless is the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15).

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 33-34.

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Herman Bavinck – The Comfort In Election

1 Mar

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

Both for unbelievers and believers, the doctrine of election is a source of inexpressibly great comfort. If it were based on justice and merit, all would be lost. But now that election operates according to grace, there is hope even for the most wretched. If work and reward were the standard of admission into the kingdom of heaven, its gates would be opened for no one. Or if Pelagius’s doctrine were the standard, and the virtuous were chosen because of their virtue, and Pharisees because of their righteousness, wretched publicans would be shut out. Pelagianism has no pity. But to believe in and to confess election is to recognize even the most unworthy and degraded human being as a creature of God and an object of his eternal love. The purpose of election is not—as it is so often proclaimed—to turn off the many but to invite all to participate in the riches of God’s grace in Christ. No one has a right to believe that he or she is a reprobate, for everyone is sincerely and urgently called to believe in Christ with a view to salvation. No one can actually believe it, for one’s own life and all that makes it enjoyable is proof that God takes no delight in his death. No one really believes it, for that would be hell on earth. But election is a source of comfort and strength, of submissiveness and humility, of confidence and resolution. The salvation of human beings is firmly established in the gracious and omnipotent good pleasure of God.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 402.

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Herman Bavinck – The Firmness of the Non-Material World

8 Jan

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

The natural, universal, and necessary character of religion and the knowledge of God already in ancient times led to the idea that it was increated in humans and innate by nature. It is simply a fact, certainly, that all persons from their earliest youth are conscious of a psychic, spiritual, invisible world as well as of a physical one. Though truth and falsehood, good and evil, right and wrong, and beauty and ugliness are not quantifiable entities and cannot be perceived by the five senses, they are things the reality of which is much more firmly fixed in our consciousness than that of matter and force. Materialism may only take into consideration gravity, temperature, and electricity, but faith, hope, and love, which are very different forces, have nevertheless governed humankind and kept it from sinking into bestiality. Augustine was right when he wrote that the truth of spiritual things is actually much more certain than that of visible things. “Nothing can be more absurd than to say that the objects we see with our eyes have being while the things we discern with our intellect do not, since only a fool would doubt the fact that the intellect is of incomparably higher rank than the eyes.” The truths of mathematics and logic and the principles of ethics, jurisprudence, and religion are indubitably established for everyone. Their natural, universal, and necessary character cannot be denied by anyone. As “innate ideas” they seem to be congenitally a part of human nature.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 59-60.

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Herman Bavinck – The Central Fact of the Entire History of the World

30 Dec

The doctrine of Christ is not the starting point, but it certainly is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics. All other dogmas either prepare for it or are inferred from it. In it, as the heart of dogmatics, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity. It is “the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16). From this mystery all Christology has to proceed. If, however, Christ is the incarnate Word, then the incarnation is the central fact of the entire history of the world; then, too, it must have been prepared from before the ages and have its effects throughout eternity.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 274.

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Herman Bavinck – Jesus: David’s Son and David’s Lord

24 Dec

Jesus was counted a son of David by the reckoning of Joseph’s lineage, not by that of Mary’s. All the emphasis is on Joseph’s Davidic descent, not only in Matthew (1:16, 20) but also in Luke (1:27; 2:4). Although Jesus was not the natural son of Joseph, through Mary, who was engaged to Joseph, he was civilly and legally the son of Joseph (Luke 2:27, 41, 48) and inherited from him the rights to David’s throne. Also for that reason Joseph was warned by God to take Mary as his lawful wife, to act as head and father of the family, and in that capacity to give the child the name “Jesus” (Matt. 1:18–21). Thus Christ became David’s son and simultaneously remained David’s Lord.

The exclusion of the man from his conception at the same time had the effect that Christ, as one not included in the covenant of works, remained exempt from original sin and could therefore also be preserved in terms of his human nature, both before and after his birth, from all pollution of sin. As subject, as “I,” he did not descend from Adam but was the Son of the Father, chosen from eternity to be the head of a new covenant. Not Adam but God was his father. As a person he was not the product of humankind but himself came to humankind from without and entered into its ranks. And since he thus, in God’s righteous judgment, remained exempt from all original sin, he could be conceived by the Holy Spirit and by that Spirit remain free from all pollution of sin. Conception by the Holy Spirit was not the deepest ground and final cause of Jesus’ sinlessness, as many theologians say, but it was the only way in which he who already existed as a person and was appointed head of a new covenant could now also in a human way—in the flesh—be and remain who he was: the Christ, Son of God the Most High.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 294-295.

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Herman Bavinck – It’s Hard Work to Be An Atheist

16 Oct

It therefore requires a certain effort not to believe in a personal God: “No one disbelieves the existence of God except the person to whom God’s existence is not convenient.” There are no atheists so thoroughly sure of their unbelief as to be willing to die a martyr’s death for it. Since atheism is abnormal and unnatural, based not on intuitions but on inferential proofs and fallible reasoning, it is never sure of its causes. The arguments for the existence of God may be weak, but in any case they are stronger than those advanced for its denial. It is even impossible to prove that there is no God. To accomplish that feat a person would have to be omniscient and omnipresent, that is, to be God!

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 59.

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