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.