More Bavinck

And the hits just keep coming. This month’s New Horizons is dedicated to Herman Bavinck. The translation of the final volume is a great blessing and benefit to the “sideline” confessional Reformed and Presbyterian churches. It’s a great academic benefit to those in the “borderline” and “mainline” churches with Reformed and Presbyterian roots who want to learn about Reformed orthodoxy in the 19th and early 20th centuries.That said, I’m a little hesitant to agree with a couple of the more enthusiastic writers in this month’s issue who both say, in separate essays, that Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics was “arguably” the “greatest” dogmatics in Reformed theology. Without having read an enormous amount of literature, I’m not sure that anyone could say that. One should have to read, e.g., Amandus Polanus Syntagma (1609) or van Mastricht’s dogmatics, I doubt that one could make such a judgment. 

The enthusiasm is understandable, however. In an age when Reformed theology sometimes (with notable exceptions! See Mike Horton’s just-completed 4 volume introduction to systematics) seems to be written by people who don’t seem to really believe the Reformed faith, or who want to revise it so radically that it’s no longer recognizably Reformed, or by biblicists whose method is hard to distinguish from the Socinians and the Remonstrants and who seem all to eager to cast off the constraints of the Reformed confessions.

In such a time, Bavinck is like a drink of fresh water. He was intelligent (widely read in classic Reformed theology and in contemporary theology), articulate, thoughtful, and orthodox. He was able to work carefully with Scripture. His piety shines through but not the exclusion of his intellect. Bavinck is a great model for praying whilst one studies and studying whilst one prays.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. And what do these guys have that Bavinck doesn’t?

    (I’ve had my eye on this series for some time now. It’s just a bit pricey. And I thought Turretin was the ultimate.)

  2. Hi John,

    They exist in Latin on microfiche for me (or in equally horrible print-outs). They exist in hardcopy in a few libraries. The hope is one day that there might be a critical edition and then, perhaps, an English translation.

  3. I’m still interested, what do these Systematics offer that Bavinck doesn’t offer? What is it about them that caused you to hold them in such high regard?

  4. Well John, Michael is one of the best contemporary Reformed theologians living. These books are chock-full of insights into what it means to be Reformed now. Bavinck wrote a long time ago. Some of what we face today existed in seed form but there have been a lot of developments since. Mike addresses those and brings to bear the insights of Reformed orthodoxy without compromise. He does so graciously, intelligently, in with careful use of Scripture and with genuine ecumenical breadth. I like to read books that teach me something and I always learn from Mike. In this series Mike does what we’ve always said at WSC/WTS, i.e. to engage the best mainline scholarship without flinching and to do so in the service of orthodoxy.

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