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New Horizons

October, 2008: Herman Bavinck

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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

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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." 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] 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. 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? 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). Read more

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