Bavinck Blessings

How do we determine right from wrong? What factors into our assessments of what is good and evil? Have you ever pondered these questions? What do they imply? What do they not consider? How are they applied?

As we consider these questions, and similar ones that we have not raised, how can we provide an answer? If you ask the world at large, a hundred possible answers can be and typically are offered. But what is the foundation? Isn’t that just your opinion? Of course, this is often the response to Christians, as well as others, who attempt to present any concrete answers.

As I was reading about the communicable attributes of God as discussed by the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck, I was struck at his answer to my unasked questions. His answer comes from his discussion on God. He writes, “[The order of] justice, in the Bible, is not a property of God’s ‘absolute dominion’ but rests on a moral foundation….it is God himself who gives his creatures ‘rights’ (so to speak)….God is the supreme Lawgiver, and that the entire order of justice undergirding every domain of life is rooted in him.” (227)

How do we determine right from wrong? Through God.

What factors into our assessments of what is good and evil? Through God.

We know God through revelation (which Bavinck treats at length in volume I of his Reformed Dogmatics). We have the foundation of justice in God and God alone. Bavinck says, “Justice above all is the way in which the grace and love of God are maintained and made to triumph.” (228) We have another Bavinck Blessing!

Check out the previous blessing from Bavinck here.

You can purchase Reformed Dogmatics here.

Bavinck Blessings

What does God’s omniscience mean for me? As a theologian, I love contemplating the amazing (and infinite) depths of our Triune God. I look forward to an eternity of learning about my Savior. But God knows all. There is nothing outside of His knowledge.

Herman Bavinck, the Dutch Reformer and theologian, discusses God’s knowledge at length in his second volume of Reformed Dogmatics. Bavinck writes, “God knows things not by observation, but from and of himself. Our knowledge is posterior: it presupposes their existence and is derived from it. Exactly the opposite is true of God’s knowledge: he knows everything before it exists….he knows all things in and of and by himself. For that reason his knowledge is undivided, simple, unchangeable, eternal. He knows all things instantaneously, simultaneously, from eternity; all things are eternally present to his mind’s eye.” (Reformed Dogmatics, II, 196)

We cannot grasp these statements; let alone the truth they communicate. I find his last statement particularly wonderful, “He knows all things instantaneously, simultaneously, from eternity; all things are eternally present to his mind’s eye.” What a glorious truth! The Scripture, as Bavinck points out, clearly and consistently teaches this truth. It is wonderful and, to me at least, soul-stirring. But what does it mean for the average Christian?

First, this incredible truth deserves our unhindered worship. After a lengthy discussion of God’s election, Paul bursts out with praise, writing, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! To him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33, 36b, CSB) As we attempt to grasp God’s unimaginable knowledge, we should be moved to utter praises to Him.

Second, this wonderful reality should comfort us. God knows all things fully, at all times, and in every conceivable way. This means that God knows what tomorrow holds. He understands, infinitely so, the different paths that His children walk. We can trust Him completely, as Sovereign Lord of creation, because He knows all things fully and completely. This is the same God that Paul tells us works all things for our good (Rom. 8:28).

Third, building upon the previous truth, we can rest in the daily difficulties. When we receive bad news from the doctor, when we are involved in an accident, when someone hurts our feelings, all of these are in God’s mind. He knows everything. Add to this the truth of the incarnation of Jesus, and we are left with a God who knows by His deity and by His experience the troubles we face (cf. Heb. 4:14-16).

Check out the previous blessing from Bavinck here.

You can purchase Reformed Dogmatics here.

Bavinck Blessings

I recently picked up Herman Bavinck’s substantial work Reformed Dogmatics. It is highly acclaimed as a must-have in works on theology. A fellow blogger and friend added me to a group in which readings are assigned and discussions can begin about the readings. The chapter to be read this week is chapter 5, God’s Communicable Attributes. I am about 4 pages in, but it is excellent.

While I am not a Bavinck scholar, I do want to share blessings that I receive as I read it. What is the first Bavinck blessing?

He writes, “Unlike human knowledge, God’s is not based on observation; it is undivided, simple, unchangeable, eternal.” (179)

That statement is dense, philosophically and theologically. However, it is also dense practically. That is to say, it is a wide-ranging truth that involves our lives. This thought is not simply for ivory tower theologians, it is for the mom of four children. It is not for the erudite scholar, it is for the mechanic.

What is the blessing? God is. There is no aspect of time, past, present, or future that is outside of God’s present being. This has enormous implications and too many for us to unpack in a brief post. However, I want to focus on one thing. In this period of US history, the times are unparalleled (though some could argue it is not, I have not experienced such a monumental shift in culture and society like the last ten years have witnessed). While theologically most Christians will acknowledge that God knows this, Bavinck expands this to a level that is at our grasp (at least in a limited fashion, He is, after all, infinite). His knowledge, contrasted with the limited knowledge of humans, is not based on observation. It incomprehensible, and this is what its practicality lies. He knows all, He is presently in all tenses of time, without any hinderances. What a comfort that is to the believer! As we look to the future, uncertain of the present, and longing for the past, God’s knowledge is undivided, simply, unchangeable, and eternal.


You can purchase Reformed Dogmatics here.