Bavinck Contra The Donum Super Additum

It was called a “covenant of nature,” not because it was deemed to flow automatically and naturally from the nature of God or the nature of man, but because the foundation on which the covenant rested, that is, the moral law, was known to man by nature, and because it was made with man in his original state and could be kept by man with the powers bestowed on him in the creation, without the assistance of supernatural grace.1

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:567 (HT: Harrison Perkins)



  1. The question at issue is whether humanity was created not merely able to sin and able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare) as Augustine taught but inherently defective by virtue of being a creature. Thomas Aquinas, for example, represented the tradition that assumed that created nature is per se defective by virtue of finitude and that it can, therefore, only attain natural ends. In this view, nature, per se, needs supernatural grace to attain supernatural ends, e.g., eternal blessedness. Most of the Reformed came to reject this view even though, against the Anabaptists, more than a few writers used Thomas’ language of grace perfecting nature. In Reformed theology the question is of the character of the covenant of works made with Adam before the fall.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    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.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


    • David,

      No. The implication of saying that nature cannot achieve the supernatural, i.e., beatitude, is to say that Adam required the donum. Bavinck (like Witsius, Rollock et al) rejected the Thomistic construal of nature and grace. Ante lapsum we were not defective. Ante lapsum we had all that we needed by nature, as Bavinck wrote, to enter into beatitude. We did not fall because we were created finite. We fell because we mysteriously chose to be as God.

      • In this regard, WCF 4.2 is instructive:

        After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

        The phrase, “power to fulfill it” speaks to the created ability of Adam to obey without need of the donum.

        So too Heidelberg 6: “created in righteousness and true holiness that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness.”

Comments are closed.