“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.
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)
The Bavinck Institute is pleased to announce the publication of John Bolt, James D. Bratt, and Paul J. Visser, eds., The J. H. Bavinck Reader, trans. James A. De Jong (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013).
The Reader makes ”some of the Dutch missiologist’s seminal works in revelation and religion, religious consciousness, and the engagement of the Christian gospel with other religious traditions available in convenient form for an English audience” (Editors’ Preface, ix).
On 7 May 2013 the following speakers participated in a book launch for the Reader:
John Bolt, editor and professor of systematic theology at Calvin Seminary
James Bratt, editor and professor of history at Calvin College
James A. De Jong, translator; did his doctoral work on the history of missions at the Free University Amsterdam with Johannes Vande Berg who was J. H. Bavinck’s successor
Diane Obenchain, professor of religion at Calvin College
View the multimedia recording of this book launch (skip slides 1 and 2 and go directly to 3). The order of speakers on the recording is John Bolt, James Bratt, James De Jong, Diane Obenchain, and John Bolt.
On a recent episode of the Reformed Media Review Rev. Carlton Wynne reviews Bavinck Society member Dr. James Eglinton’s Trinity and Organism: Towards a New Reading of Herman Bavinck’s Organic Motif (London: T&T Clark, 2012).
Given that Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics stands firmly within the theological tradition of the great sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant scholastic doctors of the church, Bavinck scholars will be delighted at today’s announcement of the launch of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Seminary.
Scholars and students have a new research center devoted to developing digital tools, resources, and scholarship focused on the religious reformations of the early modern era, particularly arising out of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. . . .
The institute is conceived as a forum to promote research into the Reformation and post-Reformation periods, covering the 16th to the 18th centuries, through the use of digital tools, skills, and resources. The Junius Institute will house the Post-Reformation Digital Library (PRDL), an electronic database covering thousands of authors and primary source documents on the development of theology and philosophy in these centuries. With the click of a few buttons, researchers can now download digital files with source material from hundreds of years ago. (Excerpted from the JI press release)
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).