The Finest Single-Quantity Reformed Systematic Theology Youve By no means Heard Of

Following the watershed publication of his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics in English on the flip of this century, curiosity in Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck (18541921) has sharply elevated. Certainly, it virtually appears as if Bavincks future is to affect the 21st century excess of the 19th century, throughout which he wrote most of his dogmatic work. A gradual stream of recent translations and editions of his different works has emerged (e.g., Saved by Grace, Essays on Faith, Science, and Society, The Christian Household, On Preachers and Preaching, Philosophy of Revelation, Reformed Ethics, The Sacrifice of Reward,Christian Worldview).

The Great Works of God

Herman Bavinck

Westminster Seminary Press. 695 pp.

This widespread digest of Herman Bavinck’s traditional four-volume Reformed Dogmatics clearly presents the basic doctrines of biblical theology. A sensible handbook of theology, it’s an impressive complete assertion of Christian religion and doctrine.

However there’s a guide that has virtually been forgotten on this flurry of curiosity and pleasure. Translated by Henry Zylstra and initially printed by Eerdmans in 1956 beneath the titleOur Cheap Religion, this single-volume systematic theology represents Bavincks personal distillation of his four-volume magnum opus. Although out there for over half a century, it has remained pretty obscure exterior the partitions of Reformed seminaries.

The explanations for this obscurity are mysterious, for the guide has a believable declare of being one of the best single-volume Reformed systematic theology ever produced. Its subsequently welcome that Westminster Seminary Press has now restored the authors title (Magnalia Dei, or The Great Works of God), and re-released it in a format worthy of such a guide.


By format I imply that the amount itself is gorgeous, from its richly textured mud cowl, to the fabric cowl beneath, to its high-quality Smyth-sewn paper. Annotations will resist bleeding by means of the paper, and the guide will lay open in your desk. The aesthetics are spectacular.

Inside one finds a sexy new typesetting for Zylstras translation, together with way more. Westminster Seminary professor R. Carlton Wynne helpfully introduces Bavinck and the books background, and Nathaniel Grey Sutanto interprets for the primary time Bavincks unique foreword, which Zylstra had omitted.

Most useful of all is a large topic and Scripture index compiled by Charles Williams, which can improve the books usefulness for college students and researchers.

Content material

As for the content material, it isas already mentionedBavincks personal distillation of his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics right into a single quantity. However that’s really deceptive: its not an abridgment of the 4 volumes. It’s, fairly, Bavincks recent restatement of his dogmatic work for a lay viewers. In 1910, one reviewer put it this fashion: None however a discovered man might have written this guide, however he has hidden his instruments. Bavinck has put apart the kitchen gear and delivered the meal. All the things that tends to dissuade readers from his four-volume work (lexical research within the unique languages; deep interactions with modern theologians and philosophers; prolonged walks by means of the historical past of doctrine) are minimized, and what shines above all is his final reliance on Holy Scripture.

The perfect single-volume Reformed systematic theology ever produced.

His chapters are organized virtually as an easy catechism, starting with God, The Highest Good, and ending with Everlasting Life. In between one finds the same old matters of systematic theology: revelation, Scripture, God, humanity, sin, the individual and work of Christ, justification, sanctification, church, and so forth.

One of many difficulties with Bavincks bigger work is that he interacts so charitably along with his numerous opponents that at instances it may be tough to discern his personal voicewhat he himself thinks about numerous issues. This isn’t an issue in The Great Works of God. As a grasp trainer, Bavinck writes clearly, straight, profoundly, pastorally, and but additionally artfully to the person reader.

Works of God

To the minds of too many, systematic theologyperhaps particularly Reformed theology!is a laborious and even suspect self-discipline. It conjures notions of difficult analytical arguments in logical syllogisms, an summary try and deal with the Bible as a science experiment, or, even worse, an artificially organized checklist of proof texts predestined to reach exactly the place the theologian has foreordained that it ought to. Bavinck is a breath of recent air. The Great Works of God isnt a scholastic work within the classical sense.

Many books present solutions that fulfill the thoughts; higher nonetheless is the guide that presses these solutions into the center to elicit worship and reward.

As an writer should, he treats doctrinal matters one after the other, however the overwhelming impression is that he’s telling a unified, organically unfolding story, andtrue to his titlethe important actor on this grand story is God himself. Bavinck isnt actually instructing Christian doctrines; hes exploring the works of God. Take into account a passage chosen at random, introducing the doctrines of creation and windfall:

Holy Scripture doesn’t need to give us an summary idea of deity, however fairly needs to place us into contact, all of us personally, with the residing and true God. Scripture breaks off our notions and ideas and leads us again to God Himself. Therefore Scripture doesn’t argue about God, however presents Him to us and exhibits Him in all of the works of his hand. Elevate up your eyes and behold, Scripture appears to say, who has made all this stuff. From the very starting, His invisible issues, His everlasting energy and Godhead are thoughtfully discerned from the creatures, the issues that have been made. We don’t study to know and to glorify God in independence from His work, however fairly in and thru His works in nature and in grace. (144)

This devotional side is probably unusual in systematic theologies, however it’s attribute of The Great Works of God. Christian households ought to have some reference work or information to assist make sense of the Bible and theology and to seek the advice of when confronted by complicated or tough issues. Many books present solutions that fulfill the thoughts; higher nonetheless is the guide that presses these solutions into the center to elicit worship and reward.

Household Bookshelf

Bavincks achievement is noteworthy in one other means. In his endorsement, John Bolt notes that no specialised coaching is required to grasp and recognize this work, but what’s outstanding is that these with specialised coaching will discover a lot to problem and reward them. Uncommon is the popular-level guide that proves as much as the duty of retaining the specialist deeply engaged, however that’s precisely what Bavinck has produced. I nicely recall studying his chapters on justification and sanctification in my seminary years and being blown away at his cautious therapy of extraordinarily tough issues, and I return to this quantity time and again. Im grateful to have it on this new and exquisite format.

I couldnt suggest a guide extra enthusiastically.

Bavinck meant his Reformed Dogmatics for the students library, and The Great Works of God for the household bookshelf. The previous objective has now largely been achieved, and Westminster Seminary Press has accomplished its half to meet the latter. I couldnt suggest a guide extra enthusiastically.

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