Next up in our series of author interviews is Willem J. de Wit, whose proefschrift at VU University Amsterdam under Professors A. van de Beek and C. van der Kooi was recently published as On the Way to the Living God: A Cathartic Reading of Herman Bavinck and an Invitation to Overcome the Plausibility Crisis of Christianity (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2011). In chapters 2 and 3 Willem presents a “cathartic” reading of Bavinck based primarily upon Bavinck’s personal correspondence with Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. In the remaining chapters Willem formulates a series of “invitations” as a way to (re)gain perspective on the living God in a post-Christian context.
The past twelve months have been fruitful ones for Herman Bavinck scholarship. In addition to the recently published award-winning student essays from the 2008 and 2011 Bavinck conferences (see Five Studies and TBR 3), three Bavinck Society members have recently published significant essays on various aspects of Bavinck’s thought and life.
In order to introduce these authors and their works, the Bavinck Institute is starting a series of author interviews. The first is with Dr. Brian G. Mattson on his new book Restored to Our Destiny: Eschatology & the Image of God in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, Studies in Reformed Theology 21 (Leiden: Brill, 2011).
Kampen Theological University, the Archive and Documentation Centre, and the Historical Documentation Centre at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam invite you to a two-day conference on neo-Calvinism (Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Groen van Prinsterer, et al.) and the French Revolution at the library of The American Church in Paris on 23–24 August 2012.
- Prof. George Harinck (VU Amsterdam, TU Kampen)
- Prof. James Bratt (Calvin College)
- Dr. Mark Elliott (St Andrews)
- Dr. James Eglinton (TU Kampen)
- Robert Covolo (Fuller)
The French Revolution was the scene of much intellectual and social upheaval. Its impact touched a wide range of subjects: the relationship of the church to the state, social relationships, science, literature, fashion, philosophy and theology. Although the French Revolution’s momentum was felt across Europe and North America, it met a particularly interesting response in the Netherlands, at that time the scene of a burgeoning neo-Calvinist movement. In that context, the likes of Groen van Prinsterer, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck responded to the French Revolution’s ideals and influence in a variety of intellectual and practical ways.
This conference will focus on the historical and theological aspects of this neo-Calvinist response to the French Revolution.
The Bavinck Review 2 (2011) (PDF; 1.6 MB) is now freely available.
Download Individual Articles
Editorial by John Bolt
“Will I Remain Standing?”: A Cathartic Reading of Herman Bavinck by Willem J. de Wit
Herman Bavinck’s Theological Aesthetics: A Synchronic and Diachronic Analysis by Robert S. Covolo
Herman Bavinck and Augustine on Epistemology by Michael S. Chen
The Kingdom of God, The Highest Good by Herman Bavinck, translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman
Pearls and Leaven
Herman Bavinck and Islam by John Bolt
Bavinck Society member James Eglinton recently interviewed Tim Keller regarding the influence of Kuyper and Bavinck on his ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Eglinton’s article appeared yesterday in Nederlands Dagblad: “Nederlandse inspiratie voor Tim Keller.”
Another Society member, Nelson Kloosterman, graciously provided the following translation.
“Dutch inspiration for Tim Keller”
By James Eglinton
Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman
Monday, 11 July 2011
. . . New York City clergyman Tim Keller gleans much from British and American authors. . . . But when it comes to his church’s niche in New York City, we hear the sounds of Dutch names: Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck.
The Presbyterian clergyman Tim Keller is attracting worldwide attention through his work with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. In his sermons and books, Keller makes frequent use of the British author C. S. Lewis and the American Reformed theologian Jonathan Edwards. “From Lewis especially I have learned a lot about communicating with others, especially with skeptics. And theologically my thinking has indeed been shaped by Edwards.”
But anyone who listens to Keller talk about the wider role of Redeemer within the culture of New York City will hear other names: those of the church father Augustine and of the Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper.
Central to the work of Redeemer in New York City is the Center for Faith and Work, a center where Christians are trained to live out of their faith in their work or in their public function. Keller’s vision for this, as he indicates, would be unthinkable without Kuyper. “Kuyper said many helpful things. Especially his idea of sphere sovereignty has helped me. That idea assumes that various social relationships—among persons, families, volunteers, associations, and churches—each has its own responsibility. According to a well-known aphorism, Kuyper discovered that ‘there is not a thumb’s-width in life about which Christ does not say: ”Mine!”’ But that authority of Jesus is carried out through various social connections. Christ’s absolute claim upon human existence does not mean, for example, that the church as church may control the state.”
Keller discovered the Dutch neo-Calvinists in the 1970s during his study in Boston at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. There the Swiss theologian Roger Nicole gave his students Herman Bavinck’s Doctrine of God (Magnalia Dei) to read. “I also had to work through a translation of a small portion of Bavink’s dogmatics. I became deeply impressed by the balance and thoroughness of Bavinck’s theology. He was very nuanced. He displayed a healthy piety, but nevertheless was no pietist. And his orientation to the Bible occasionally kept him from adopting traditional positions.”
Keller narrates how one of Bavinck’s basic insights has become foundational for his own theology and vision for Redeemer. “Bavinck’s fundamental idea that grace restores nature was truly a revelation for me. In my opinion, this has enormous consequences for how you look at the church and the world.”
“Many Christian traditions view sanctification as a journey out of the natural world to a spiritual world that has nothing to do with ordinary life and your calling in that life. For that reason, we at Redeemer ask the question: ‘How does your faith affect your work?’ That is really crucial for following Christ. Most evangelical churches in America make believers into disciples of Christ by removing them from the world and bringing them into the church. Discipleship supposedly involves how we study the Bible, how we lead Bible studies, how we pray, evangelize, overcome temptation, forgive, and seek relationships with others, practice fellowship with other believers, how you can work in the congregation. And that is also important. But at the same time, this doesn’t help people lead a recognizably Christian life in society, at work, in art, in media, in the marketplace, etc.”
At the same time, Keller is not uncritical regarding the Kuyperian tradition. He points out that many churches in this tradition place heavy emphasis on living according to a Christian worldview while neglecting spiritual piety and evangelism. On the other hand, he realizes as well that some churches move to the other extreme: “They place all the emphasis on piety and evangelism, but neglect the integration of faith and work.” So he is seeking a middle way with the help of Bavinck and Kuyper. “With Kuyper I believe in an antithesis, an opposition between belief and unbelief. Ultimately there is no neutrality. Thinking proceeds from belief in God or from belief in an idol. But at the same time, unbelievers are often inconsistent. Despite their mistaken presuppositions and ideals, they display their goodness and possess many insights, by virtue of God’s common grace.”
It is that balance that has led, in the case of Keller and Redeemer, to a flourishing church in a city that for the most part is secular.
Why are Kuyper and Bavinck at this moment more popular in America than in the Netherlands? To this question Keller supplies a philosophical answer. “C. S. Lewis is much more widely known and read in the United States than in Great Britain. The same pertains to other well-known British Christian authors, like J. I. Packer and John Stott. Lewis, Packer, and Stott are not neo-Calvinists. So I don’t think that the reason lies with the content of the thought of Kuyper and Bavinck. For various reasons, America possesses a far more flourishing religious institutional life and an enormous evangelical subculture. European Christian authors and thinkers simply have more readers in America than in their own countries.”
The Scotsman James Eglinton obtained his doctorate with a dissertation on Herman Bavinck and is doing research at the Theological University in Kampen on how Calvinism in the Netherlands and in Scotland have influenced each other.
The Bavinck Review 2 (2011) is now available for Bavinck Society members. This year’s issue contains six student papers and two research précis delivered at the 2010 Edinburgh Bavinck Conference as well as a translation of Herman Bavinck’s intriguing lecture, “The Kingdom of God, The Highest Good.”
Preview TBR 2:
TBR issues are made freely available to non-Society-members six months after publication. See our inaugural issue: TBR 1 (2010).
(The preview PDFs require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
The Rutherford House and the Scottish Evangelical Theological Society have announced an upcoming special edition of the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology (29.1) that contains the plenary papers from the September 2010 Edinburgh Bavinck Conference.
SBET 29.1 Contents
- “Bavinck, Dogmatics and Ethics” – Dr James Eglinton (TU Kampen)
- “Bavinck’s use of Wisdom Literature in Systematic Theology” – Prof John Bolt (Calvin Seminary)
- “Bavinck’s use of Augustine as an antidote to Ritschl” – Dr Mark Elliott (St Andrews)
- “Herman Bavinck and His Reformed Sources on the Call to Grace: A Shift in Emphasis towards the Internal Work of the Spirit” – Dr Henk van den Belt (Utrecht)
- “Bavinck, Barth and the Uniqueness of the Eucharist” – Dr Paul T Nimmo (New College)
- “The religious character of modernism and the modern character of religion: A case study of Herman Bavinck’s engagement with modern culture” – Prof George Harinck (VU Amsterdam and TU Kampen)
- “Herman Bavinck and the Imitation of Christ” – Dr Dirk van Keulen (PThU Kampen)
- “Herman Bavinck and the basis of Christian certainty” – Prof Donald Macleod (Free Church College)
SBET 29.1 will be available in early June. The Rutherford House is offering this special Bavinck issue to non-SBET subscribers for the following prices (USD), postpaid:
Surface Mail (takes up to 6 weeks): $16
Orders may be placed by check or CC. Checks should be made out to “Rutherford House” and mailed to the following address:
1 Hill Street
Edinburgh EH2 3JP
For CC orders, please contact [email protected] to receive instructions.