Happy Birthday, Herman Bavinck!

On this day (December 13) in 1854 one of the premier Reformed Theologians of the

modern age was born in Hoogeveen in the Netherlands. Herman Bavinck first served as Professor of Dogmatics at Kampen Theological Seminary where he wrote the first edition of his multi-volume Gereformeerde Dogmatic (Reformed Dogmatics). He later accepted Abraham Kuyper’s invitation to teach at the Free University of Amsterdam. While a professor there he visited the US in 1908 and delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton on Philosophy of Revelation. Bavinck also served in Parliament and was a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics are still in print through Baker and these four volumes show a familiarity not only with the history of Reformed thought and with the Church Fathers, but also with the leading liberal thinkers and theologians up to his time.

Baker also has in print Essays on Religion, Science, and Society (which is edited by John Bolt, who also edited the Reformed Dogmatics) and P&R has a highly regarded biography of Bavinck by Ron Gleason entitled Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian.

Here are three of my favorite Bavinck quotes, all from his Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3:  Sin and Salvation in Christ. These are all from Chapter 8, “Christ’s Exaltation.”

It is the crucified but also the resurrected and exalted Christ whom the apostles proclaim. From that vantage point of the exaltation of Christ, they view and describe his earthly life, suffering, and death. For the work he now carries out as the exalted mediator, he laid the foundations in his cross. In his battle with sin, the world, and Satan, the cross has been his only weapon. By the cross he triumphed in the sphere of justice over all powers that are hostile to God. But in the state of exaltation, consequently, he has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all his enemies, to save all those who have been given him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God. On the basis of the one, perfect sacrifice made on the cross, he now—in keeping with the will of the Father—distributes all his benefits. Those benefits are not the physical or magical aftereffect of his earthly life and death; the history of the kingdom of God is not an evolutionistic process. It is the living and exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers his elect, overcomes his enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of his parousia. He is still consistently at work in heaven as the mediator. He not only was but still is our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.[1]

All these ministries and workings proceed from the exalted Christ, who is the one Lord of the church (1 Cor. 8:6) in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3; 1 Cor. 1:30). He came into the world to bear witness to the truth over against the lie (John 8:44–45; 18:36). He not only spoke the truth but is himself the truth who has made known the Father, leads us to the Father, and, in the knowledge of God, grants eternal life (John 1:17–18; 14:6; 17:3). In fighting falsehood, he therefore uses no other weapon than that of the word: this word is the sword of his mouth (Eph. 6:17; Rev. 2:12, 16; 19:15). By that word he judges and separates things (John 3:17–18; 9:39; 12:47; Heb. 4:12), but he also makes free and gives life (John 8:31–32, 51; 15:3; 17:3). To remain in his word and make his word remain in them is the calling of his disciples (John 8:31, 51; 15:7; 1 John 2:24). [2]

At the end of the days, when Christ has subdued his church and all his enemies, he will deliver the βασιλεια, the kingship, the royal office, to the Father. Then his mediatorial work is finished. The work the Father instructed him to do will have been completed. God himself will then be king forever. […] God will be king and [thus] all in all. But what remains is the mediatorship of union. Christ remains Prophet, Priest, and King as this triple office is automatically given with his human nature, included in the image of God, and realized supremely and most magnificently in Christ as the Image of God. Christ is and remains the head of the church, from whom all life and blessedness flow to it throughout all eternity. Those who would deny this must also arrive at the doctrine that the Son will at some point in the future shed and destroy his human nature; and for this there is no scriptural ground whatever.[3]

[1] Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 473–474.

[2] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, 475.

[3] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, 481-482.



About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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