Friday 2 November 2012

The Bavinck Review 3 (2012)

The Bavinck Institute have just made available online volume 3 of The Bavinck Review. The contents are listed below, with the summaries of the articles taken from John Bolt’s editorial. Individual articles are available here, or the entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf here. I’ll be paying particular attention to the essays by Ortlund and Kaemingk.



Dane C. Ortlund
“Created Over a Second Time” or “Grace Restoring Nature”? Edwards and Bavinck on the Heart of Christian Salvation
The claim of a number of scholars, led by Eugene Heideman and Jan Veehof, that ‘grace restores nature’ is the key theme for understanding Bavinck has come under criticism in recent years. In particular, it has been suggested that ‘grace restoring nature’ contributes to this-worldly triumphalism in which, for example, sin is understood ‘more as an offense against the creational norms than an offense against our personal relationship with God.’ By bringing together under one purview Bavinck’s ‘grace restoring nature’ theme and Jonathan Edwards’s insistence on salvation as ‘the implanting of something new’ (regeneration), Dane Ortlund shows convincingly that these two themes (and thinkers) can be reconciled and hence belong together. Though they lived in different times and fought different battles, their vision of salvation for the individual person and for the eschatological goal of history were not at odds. Ortlund summarizes it nicely by asking, ‘Could we say, then, that it is that which is new which restores?’ And further: ‘Salvation is new normalcy. Utter newness; yet also a return to our true home.’

Robert S. Covolo
Beyond the Schleiermacher-Barth Dilemma: General Revelation, Bavinckian Consensus, and the Future of Reformed Theology
Robert Covolo uses Bavinck’s doctrine of revelation to bring us beyond the Barth-Schleiermacher dilemma: revelation only from divine presence within creation or revelation only as a lightning bolt of illumination from on high – Absolute Dependence or ‘Nein!’ After qualifying this conventional portrait somewhat, Covolo considers Jürgen Moltmann’s theology as a possible way forward only to dismiss it and propose the ‘Herman and J.H. Bavinck accord’ as the better way. This consensus includes the conviction that God continues to reveal himself in two ways, that both forms of revelation are the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that special revelation has an epistemic priority over general revelation. This both-and posture (in contrast with the Barth-Schleiermacher dilemma) is of current value in the battle against secularism, provides for commonness with humanity along with ecclesiastical distinctiveness, and establishes a basis for theology to be both kerygmatic and apologetic. Covolo believes that this is a valuable guide for the future of Reformed theology.

Steven J. Duby
Working with the Grain of Nature: Epistemic Underpinnings for Christian Witness in the Theology of Herman Bavinck
Steven Duby’s paper builds nicely on Covolo’s by looking at Bavinck’s appreciation for the viability of human knowledge as a natural given. Duby provides a helpful survey of Bavinck’s theological-epistemological reflections on rationalism, empiricism, and idealism and applies it to the linguistic constructivism proposed by Stanley Grenz and John Franke in their book Beyond Foundationalism. The key to Bavinck’s coordination of nature and grace is his doctrine of the imago Dei. The Fall corrupted the imago Dei but did not annihilate human nature altogether. The work of the Holy Spirit in renewal therefore does not deactivate human reason but purifies it. The import of all this is the conviction that ‘the gospel does not impose upon us the task of asking unbelievers to become other than what they are as human beings; rather, it urges us to call unbelievers by faith to shift back toward true humanity as creatures living not by bread alone but by every word of God.’ This also means an end to the faith-reason antithesis; in fact, faith itself is a habitus of the mind. We have here an answer to both atheism and pluralism.

Matthew Kaemingk
Herman Bavinck, Lesslie Newbigin, and Reformed Mission in the Global Workplace
Matthew Kaemingk’s paper applies the sort of insights highlighted in my summary of the previous two essays to a Reformed theology of the work place. He borrows insights from Herman Bavinck’s ‘robust theology of work’ and Lesslie Newbigin’s ‘vocational understanding of ecclesiology’ and links them to Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s ‘model of professional missions in New York City’ in order to propose a model for urban church planters. If a theology of cultural engagement such as Bavinck’s is to truly benefit the church, it must also answer ecclesiological questions about mission, preaching, worship, and communal life for urban professionals in today’s world. Here, Kaemingh argues, Newbigin is helpful and provides a ‘workplace ecclesiology’ that has been tried with great success by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Daniel Sung-Ho Ahn
Johan H. Bavinck’s Missiology and Its Implications for the Term Question in Korean Bible Translation
The final essay, by Daniel Ahn, uses J.H. Bavinck’s missiology as a template for interpreting the ‘Term Question’ in Korean Bible translation. Does one use the name traditional Korean religions use for the Supreme God or create a neologism? Ahn tracks this discussion from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century mission to China (Matteo Ricci and various papal decrees), through nineteenth-century Protestant missions to China (London Missionary Society), to the nineteenth- and twentieth-century mission to Korea (Methodist and, especially, Presbyterian). The story is fascinating, and the conclusion that a more sympathetic and respectful attitude toward Korean indigenous religions which led to using the native name for the Supreme God, Hananim, may have been a factor in the rapid growth of the Korean church is surprising and challenging.

In Translation

Herman Bavinck, translated by John Bolt
The Theology of Albrecht Ritschl

Herman Bavinck, translated by Henk van den Belt
Herman Bavinck on Scottish Covenant Theology and Reformed Piety

Pearls and Leaven

John Bolt
Bavinck Tributes

Bavinck Bibliography 2011

Book Reviews

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