Tag Archives: Reformed Dogmatics

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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Herman Bavinck – God: Personal and Absolute

6 Jun

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…

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)…

in Scripture the personality and the absoluteness of God go hand in hand.

~Herman Bavinck~




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

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Herman Bavinck – The Infinite God is Knowable!

4 Apr

The moment we dare to speak about God the question arises: How can we? We are human and he is the Lord our God. Between him and us there seems to be no such kinship or communion as would enable us to name him truthfully. The distance between God and us is the gulf between the Infinite and the finite, between eternity and time, between being and becoming, between the All and the nothing. However little we know of God, even the faintest notion implies that he is a being who is infinitely exalted above every creature. While Holy Scripture affirms this truth in the strongest terms, it nevertheless sets forth a doctrine of God that fully upholds his knowability. Scripture, one must remember, never makes any attempt to prove the existence of God, but simply presupposes it. Moreover, in this connection it consistently assumes that human beings have an ineradicable sense of that existence and a certain knowledge of God’s being. This knowledge does not arise from their own investigation and reflection, but is due to the fact that God on his part revealed himself to us in nature and history, in prophecy and miracle, by ordinary and by extraordinary means. In Scripture, therefore, the knowability of God is never in doubt even for a moment. The fool may say in his heart, “There is no God,” but those who open their eyes perceive from all directions the witness of his existence, of his eternal power and deity (Isa. 40:26; Acts 14:17; Rom. 1:19-20). The purpose of God’s revelation, according to Scripture, is precisely that human beings may know God and so receive eternal life (John 17:3; 20:31).

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 30.

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Herman Bavinck – All Things Are From, Through, and To Him

15 Mar

Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics. To be sure, the term “mystery” (μυστεριον) in Scripture does not mean an abstract supernatural truth in the Roman Catholic sense. Yet Scripture is equally far removed from the idea that believers can grasp the revealed mysteries in a scientific sense. In truth, the knowledge that God has revealed of himself in nature and Scripture far surpasses human imagination and understanding. In that sense it is all mystery with which the science of dogmatics is concerned, for it does not deal with finite creatures, but from beginning to end looks past all creatures and focuses on the eternal and infinite One himself. From the very start of it labors, it faces the incomprehensible One. From him it derives its inception, for from him are all things. But also in the remaining loci, when it turns its attention to creatures, it views them only in relation to God as they exist from him and through him and for him [Rom. 11:36]. So then, the knowledge of God is the only dogma, the exclusive content, of the entire field of dogmatics. All the doctrines treated in dogmatics–whether they concern the universe, humanity, Christ, and so forth–are but the explication of the one central dogma of the knowledge of God. All things are considered in light of God, subsumed under him, traced back to him as the starting point. Dogmatics is always called upon to ponder and describe God and God alone, whose glory is in creation and re-creation, in nature and grace, in the world and in the church. It is the knowledge of him alone that dogmatics must put on display.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 29.

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