“The question I want to pose at the very beginning of a volume on Herman Bavinck’s understanding of the Christian life,” writes Bolt in the preface,
is whether this great Reformed theologian, broadly celebrated for his erudition and theological genius, practiced what he preached and taught. How does his theology relate to his ethics? In other words, was his great mind combined with a warm heart for the Lord and a commitment to a life of Christian service? Does his life stand up to the scrutiny of his own theology?
It is my honor and pleasure in the pages that follow to provide the evidence for a positive answer to these queries. The opening chapter is an exploration of Bavinck’s own desire, frequently expressed during the years he was a student at the University of Leiden, “to be a worthy follower of Jesus.”
Part 1 explores the basis of Bavinck’s theology of Christian discipleship, which can be summarized especially under the rubrics of creation/law and union with Christ. The three chapters of this foundational section are followed by two chapters describing the shape of Christian discipleship in terms of the imitation of Christ and sketching out the contours of Bavinck’s worldview.
The remaining four chapters apply this vision concretely in marriage and family, work and vocation, culture and education, and finally, civil society. The volume concludes with Bavinck’s only published sermon—on 1 John 5:4b—as a summary statement of triumphant Christian discipleship. My translation of this sermon into English was prepared specifically for this volume. Taken together, the chapters of this volume serve as an introduction to and brief primer of Herman Bavinck’s thought.
An historical bit of biographical Bavinckiana translated here just for fun. Later this same year, Bavinck relocated to Amsterdam in order to accept Kuyper’s invitation to succeed him in the chair of dogmatics at the Free University.
Dr. Herman Bavinck, born in 1854 in Hoogeveen. Promoted in 1880 to doctor in theology at the University of Leiden with the dissertation, “On the Ethics of Zwingli.” Was a minister in Franeker from 1881–1882, and since the latter year is professor at the Theological School in Kampen. Major works: The science of sacred theology (1883), The theology of Prof. Dr. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye (1884), The catholicity of christendom and the church (1888), Common grace (1894), Reformed dogmatics (4 vols., 1895–1901), Principles of psychology (1897), The sacrifice of praise (1901), Rhetoric (1901), etc.; additionally, many articles in various journals. Also, he has served as an editor of the weekly The Trumpet since its appearance in this paper in January 1900. Residence: Kampen.
—“Dr. Herman Bavinck,” in “Who is that?” 1902: A biographical catalog in which the question “Who is that?” is answered with details about the résumé, works, etc., concerning all the countrymen who become prominent by office of ministry or practice of art or science, who are referred to in the newspaper or magazine, or who make themselves known (Amsterdam: Vivat, 1902).
We’re busily preparing the 2014 issue of The Bavinck Review. If you have any Herman and/or Johan Herman Bavinck bibliography items to share (i.e., theses, periodicals, books, websites) in any language, please let us know.
This thesis seeks to put two theologians, Martin Luther and Herman Bavinck, and their theological traditions in conversation with emphasis upon how they approach the topic of education. Specific emphasis is placed upon their understanding and application of the classical education tradition.
The purpose of such a conversation is to point to what returning to Luther and Bavinck as sources can add to a discussion on pedagogy as well as to examine how their theological positions lead to a different emphasis in regards to pedagogy. The thesis is entitled “Pedagogy as Theological Praxis” because it makes the case that there are definite ethical implications in how one approaches pedagogy. In a broader spectrum, the thesis also examines how the epistemological presuppositions of these two traditions may effect the application of their theology.
The first half of the thesis deals primarily with Martin Luther. Luther’s understanding of the three estates of ecclesia, oeconomia, and politia are used as a lens by which to examine his writings. The three estates are used specifically to examine Luther’s 1524 letter, “To the Councilmen of all Cities in Germany that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.”
The thesis then shifts to an examination of Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck and his theological tradition of neo-Calvinism. Several prominent themes in neo-Calvinism are noted, and the distinctive contributions of Bavinck are also examined. As the thesis previously applied the framework of Luther’s theology to his work, the thesis also applies the Reformed neo-Calvinist framework to Bavinck’s article “Classical Education” and his book Pedagogical Principles. The thesis ends by putting Luther and Bavinck, as well as their traditions, into conversation in regards to the subject of Christian classical education. Emphasis is placed upon the North American context, which has seen a recent resurgence in the practice of classical education. Luther’s and Bavinck’s distinct contributions are placed alongside the contemporary practice of classical education for the purpose of fruitful dialogue and engagement.
Professor Bolt defended his original dissertation in 1982 at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, under the title, ”The Imitation of Christ Theme in the Cultural-Ethical Ideal of Herman Bavinck.” For the published edition he has updated the scholarship and added a concluding chapter on application and relevance. Also, he has included the first available English translations of Bavinck’s two imitation articles of 1885/86 and 1918.
Bolt’s investigation of Bavinck’s essays on the imitation of Christ . . . immerses us in some of the most important aspects of the Christianity and culture debate. What is the relationship of God’s work of creation to his work of redemption? What is the relationship of nature and grace? What is the significance of common grace and natural law? What is the relationship of the Old Testament law, as summarized in the Decalogue, to New Testament ethics, especially as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount? Can the Sermon on the Mount really direct our social-cultural life and, if so, how? These will undoubtedly remain central questions to discussions about Christian cultural activity, and Bolt reflects on all of them as he expounds Bavinck’s essays. I predict that his conclusions will surprise many readers, challenge simplistic assumptions about Bavinck’s view of culture, and inspire many people to read Bavinck anew. (David VanDrunen, “Forward,” v–vi)
Originally written in Dutch by a major Reformed theologian, this English translation explains the origins of marriage and the family then describes how sin has affected human relationships. When it was published in 1908, the book served as a manual for Christian families just as the secular concepts of marriage and family were beginning to change. Bavinck evaluates historic Christian theology that deals with marriage and makes it applicable for his readers.
The family unit is the building block of society and because of this, Christian families must be morally healthy. For society to flourish, Bavinck explains, families must first be moral. Rather than change as the secular world changes, Christian families must remain firm and follow Biblical instruction. The Christian Family, rooted in biblical truth, explains marriage and family life in a simple manner that is especially applicable for modern readers.
John Bolt, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, said readers will be “challenged” by Bavinck on the very issues that threaten the family today. “They will be also encouraged because Bavinck so obviously loved the family and celebrated it in hope,” he said. “This is a great read for those who are married or contemplating marriage and family.” — CLP press release