Tag Archives: Reformed Dogmatics

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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Herman Bavinck – Suffering and Self-Defense

5 Aug

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. – Matthew 5:38-42

To understand this saying correctly, one must note that Jesus does not cite the words “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” directly from the Old Testament, for in that case he would certainly have introduced it with the formula “it is written.” But he cites it in the way it had from ancient times been taught and explained in Jewish schools and opposes the false interpretation that had been given of it. And that false interpretation did not consist in the fact that people considered the law of retribution as taught in the Old Testament also applicable in private life and mutual interactions, but that publicly as well, before a judge, they made it a tool of self-interest, personal vengeance, and hatred. Jesus, opposing this abuse, offers in its place the principle of love and patience. His disciples must not resist one who is evil, that is, they must not (according to the rule “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”) return evil for evil. They must not counter an unfair demand of their neighbor with an equally unfair demand of their own. They must not attempt to avenge themselves on their neighbor with like conduct but rather seek to win him with love, patience, long-suffering, leniency, and a spirit of accommodation. In saying this, however, Christ is absolutely not condemning every instance of defending one’s own rights. For when one of the officers in the high priest’s hall of justice struck Jesus, Jesus does not turn the other cheek but defends himself, saying: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (John 18:22–23; also cf. Paul, Acts 22:25; 23:3; 25:10). But the rights of others as well as our own must, according to Christ, be esteemed so highly that they may not in any way be subordinated to personal vindictiveness, hatred, self-interest, to the evil tendencies of the human heart. When we fight for them, we must do so out of love for God and our neighbor. Vengeance and recompense, also according to the Old Testament, are the Lord’s own cause (Deut. 32:35).

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2006) p. 161-162.

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Herman Bavinck – The World Is Never Godless

31 Jul

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 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 53.

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Herman Bavinck – Agnosticism Serves Pantheism

22 Jul

Not a single agnostic is prepared in the end to restrict himself or herself to saying that the matter [whether there is a God] is unclear (non liquet). Spencer, for example, keeps saying that we do not know the Absolute; at the same time he has an idea of it, demonstrates its existence, and assigns an array of properties to it. He asserts that it is not a negative but a positive concept; that it is the cause of everything; that is is a power mostly analogous to our will, infinite, eternal, omnipresent (etc.). This certainly is no longer agnosticism, but a very specific kind of knowledge and a rather well-defined God-concept. Agnosticism, inherently untenable and afraid of atheism, serves in the end to justify a pantheistic God-concept.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 51-52.

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Herman Bavinck – A Middle Way Between Knowing God Fully and Not Knowing Him At All

19 Jul

What we know of God we know only of his revelation and therefore only as much as he is pleased to make known to us concerning himself and as much as finite humans can absorb. Knowledge of God, accordingly, can be true and pure, but it is always most relative and does not include but excludes comprehension.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 51.

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Herman Bavinck – Is It Really Possible to Speak of God In Our Human Ways?

28 Jun

If as humans we may not speak of God in a human and analogical manner, we have no choice but to be silent. To think and speak divinely of God is beyond us. But then all religion implodes. If God cannot be known, neither can he be felt and, in that feeling, enjoyed. Feeling is as finite as the intellect and finitizes and humanizes God in the same way. No possibility then exists either of God revealing himself objectively in his creatures or of us subjectively perceiving him by any organ. All religion, then, is sacrilege and all theology blasphemy.

Given this outcome, the question concerning God’s knowability has been reduced to another question, namely, whether God has willed and found a way to reveal himself in the domain of creatures.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 50.

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Herman Bavinck – Does Our Knowledge Limit God?

25 Jun

Our knowledge does not limit God because (1) it is grounded in him, (2) can only exist through him, and (3) especially has as its object and content God as the infinite One.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 49.

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Herman Bavinck – Agnosticism, Kant, and the Adorable Mystery of Knowing God

17 Jun

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 tim, 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 Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 48-49.

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