Posted by: Tony Reinke | November 27, 2013

Work Like A Calvinist

Herman Bavinck, “The Future of Calvinism,” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review (Jan. 1894), 20:

Calvinism gladly honors the good features of the Christian labor of our age. It by no means favors the idea of fleeing from the world; it does not encourage idleness and somnolence. It is active, points out to each man his moral calling, and urges him to labor in this with all his might. On the other hand, it is no less averse to that worldly type of Christianity which would transplant the turmoil and clamor, the agitation and strain of our times, within the pale of Christianity.

Calvinism maintains the independent value of religion, and does not suffer it to be swallowed up by morality. It has a vein of deep mysticism and it cultivates a devout godliness. It considers God alone as the highest good, and communion with Him as supreme happiness. Calvinism sets the rest of being over against the restlessness of becoming, and makes us feel the pulsation of eternity in every moment of time. Behind the vicissitudes and transitoriness of this life it points to the unchangeableness of God’s eternal counsel. Thus it offers a place of rest to the weary heart, in which God has set eternity, and protects man from all overexcitement. Those that believe shall not make haste.

Calvinism is deeply convinced that the husband as father of the family, the wife as mother of her children, the servant girl in the kitchen, and the laborer behind the plough, are as truly servants of God as the missionary.

Posted by: Tony Reinke | April 3, 2013

Women Haters and Women Worshipers

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, that is, there may be obvious differences between us, but both men and women are made in God’s image, both are beautiful, both are broken, and both need Jesus. It’s a point Herman Bavinck made in his insightful 1912 book, The Christian Family, recently translated by Nelson Kloosterman. The book is dated in some of its assumptions and generalizations (some of which Bavinck himself modified in later years), but many of his best principles hold up now a century later. Here’s one excerpt from Kloosterman’s new translation, chapter 7:

Down through the centuries and among all nations, among philosophers and among the unreflective masses, women haters have exchanged places with women worshipers. And men have hardly remained constant in their own judgment, but frequently move from the one to the other extreme. At one time or another, the woman is an angel or a devil, a queen or a vixen, a dove or a serpent, a rose or a thorn. The feminine is identified as divine, and then again as demonic. The man kneels before her in worship, only then to pin her under his foot. Frequently the conclusion is that the woman is a riddle; the man does not understand her, and yet he often understands her even better than she knows herself.

Nevertheless, the distinction exists, and it is set in terms of its main features as well. There is outward difference between man and woman, in terms of the body and all of its organs. Difference in the size of the head, in the development and weight of the brain, in the tint of the skin, in the growth of hair, in the shape of breast and stomach, in the form of the hands and feet. Difference also with regard to the strength and tone of the muscles, the sensitivity of the nervous system, the gracefulness of movements, the color of the blood, the flow of tears, the pulse rate, the sound of the voice, the multiplicity of needs, the capacity to suffer, the weight and strength of the body. In her entire development, the woman is closer to the child and reaches full adulthood sooner than the man.

No less important is the distinction between man and woman that exists in the life of the soul. People have said that the soul has no sexual differentiation, but even though the nature and capacities of the soul are the same for man and woman, they function in a different way. By means of observation the woman acquires sense impressions more quickly and retains them longer and more deeply than the man. Her imagination is characterized by greater liveliness and quicker connectivity. Her thinking and evaluating are characteristically more visual than analytic, attaching more value to the amenities of life than to abstract principles and rules. She seeks truth preferably along the route of an idealizing view of reality, rather than by the method of conceptual analysis. With the man, the volitional capacity is more logical, more capable of persistence, more persevering in striving for a goal, but the woman surpasses him in forbearance and patience, in the capacities for suffering and adapting.

The human nature given to man and woman is one and the same, but in each of them it exists in a unique way. And this distinction functions in all of life and in all kinds of activity. Already the outward appearance of the woman makes an entirely different impression than that of the man, and has an entirely different significance for her than for him. Clothes and jewelry are less important for the man, but with the woman they are an important part of her life. For that reason people often call women “the fairer sex.” That entails no insult, as long as it does not intend to portray the masculine sex as “the ugly sex.” For just as the description of women as “the weaker sex” [1 Peter 3:7] does not imply that all forms of weakness are combined in the woman, similarly the description of women as “the fairer sex” does not imply that all beauty has been bestowed on the woman. The man is beautiful as well. Only an unhealthy school of thought relating to beauty and art acknowledges no higher beauty than that of a naked female body, time and again abusing her in various seductive and hideous poses as though she were nothing more than an ornament.

Such an unhealthy school of thought also entails that people no longer have an eye for the beauty of the man. Yet, such beauty exists as well. It is a different beauty, quite surely, but of no less value. It is the beauty of loftiness that the man embodies, even as the beauty of comeliness is the possession of the woman. But both man and woman are beautiful; both display the features of the image of God in which they are created. To the man belongs the strength of physical prowess, the wide chest, the commanding eye, the full beard, the powerful voice; to the woman belongs a delicate shape, sensitive skin, full bosom, round shape, soft voice, long hair, elegant carriage, and supple movement. He engenders respect, she engenders tenderness. In terms of beauty, Michelangelo’s Moses is not inferior to Raphael’s Madonna.

Similarly, the woman is constructed differently than the man in terms of religion, intellect, and morality. The same laws of logic and morals, the same religion and morality apply to both. The man is not intellectually superior to the woman, and the woman is not morally superior to the man. But how entirely different each of them takes hold of religion and morality, art and science! The man sees in religion first of all a duty, the woman considers it a pleasure and a privilege. For  the man, the good functions more in the form of justice, for the woman it takes the shape of love. The man wants justice and law, the woman sympathy and participation. The man strives for the truth of an idea, the woman pursues the reality of life.

Accordingly, each must be on guard for a particular set of sins. The man must struggle against forcing his principles and pressing upon others every possible consequence, and the woman must wrestle continually against her deficiency in logic that is manifested both in rigid tenacity and incorrigible willfulness, as well as in a fickleness that defies every form of argument. The man is susceptible to the danger of doubt and unbelief, rationalism and dead orthodoxy, while the woman risks no less a danger of superficial piety and superstition, mysticism and fanaticism. The loquaciousness of the woman contrasts with the incommunicativeness of the man. The vanity of the woman is no worse than the coarse indifference of the man. The infidelity of the man is matched by the stubbornness of the woman. Indeed, man and woman have nothing to hold against each other. Each has quite glorious virtues and each has rather serious defects. There is room for neither disparagement nor deification with respect to either of them.

Posted by: Tony Reinke | March 16, 2012

Bavinck in Paris

Bavinck will be featured at this forthcoming conference in France. Here are the details:

Neo-Calvinism and the French Revolution

Paris, France – August 23rd-24th, 2012


Kampen Theological University, the Archive and Documentation Centre and the Historical Documentation Centre at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam invite you to a two-day conference on neo-Calvinism (Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Groen van Prinsterer et al) and the French Revolution.


  • Prof. George Harinck (VU Amsterdam, TU Kampen)
  • Prof. James Bratt (Calvin College)
  • Dr. Mark Elliott (St Andrews)
  • Dr. James Eglinton (TU Kampen)
  • Robert Covolo (Fuller)


The French Revolution was the scene of much intellectual and social upheaval. Its impact touched a wide range of subjects: the relationship of the church to the state, social relationships, science, literature, fashion, philosophy and theology. Although the French Revolution’s momentum was felt across Europe and North America, it met a particularly interesting response in the Netherlands, at that time the scene of a burgeoning neo-Calvinist movement. In that context, the likes of Groen van Prinsterer, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck responded to the French Revolution’s ideals and influence in a variety of intellectual and practical ways.

This conference will focus on the historical and theological aspects of this neo-Calvinist response to the French Revolution.

Call for Papers

The conference organisers welcome proposals for short papers. Proposals (approximately 300 words) should be sent to by May 4th. Conference papers will be in English.


The conference registration fee is €40. Conference places must be reserved by email ( by May 30th.

Location and Accommodation

The conference will be held at:

The Library
The American Church in Paris
65 quai d’Orsay
75007 Paris

Participants are responsible for finding their own accommodation. The organisers suggest the Adveniat Youth Hostel ( as a well-priced, comfortable and convenient option.

Posted by: Tony Reinke | May 21, 2011

New Bavinck Journal

The latest issue of the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology is devoted to Bavinck. Here’s a run-down of its contents:

Bavinck Issue (29/1 — Spring 2011)

Guest Editorial

Bavinck’s Use of Wisdom Literature in Systematic Theology

Bavinck’s Use of Augustine as an Antidote to Ritschl

Herman Bavinck and His Reformed Sources on the Call to Grace: A Shift in Emphasis towards the Internal Work of the Spirit

The Religious Character of Modernism and the Modern Character of Religion: A Case Study of Herman Bavinck’s Engagement with Modern Culture

Herman Bavinck on the Imitation of Christ

Herman Bavinck and the Basis of Christian Certainty

Bavinck, Barth, and the Uniqueness of the Eucharist

HT: Naselli

Posted by: Tony Reinke | May 20, 2011

Trueman on Bavinck

Special thanks to Themelios for granting us permission to post a valuable editorial written by Carl Trueman titled “Some Advantages of Going Dutch.” It appeared in the opening pages of Themelios back in June 2000, and it has never appeared online.

In the editorial Trueman recounts his introduction to Bavinck’s writings and then asks a pointed question: Is Bavinck relevant today?

In conversation with theological students around the country, it often seems to me that one major problem faced by many is the development of a way of thinking theologically which neither retreats into a ghetto and adopts a ‘seek out and destroy’ mentality towards every new idea which crosses their path, nor capitulates unconditionally at the first objection to their faith which they cannot immediately answer. Such students need their theological confidence boosted by good role models of a kind provided neither by the tunnel-vision of the specialist scholars who epitomise the fragmented nature of the theological discipline today, nor the platitudes of self-appointed evangelical gurus whose latest blockbuster tells them what they know already. What they really need to do is to read someone like Bavinck…

Download the entire editorial here (pdf).

Posted by: Tony Reinke | May 12, 2011

Reformed Dogmatics, Abridged

John Bolt’s new abridgement of Herman Bavinck’s 4-volume magnum opus, Reformed Dogmatics, is now available for purchase. My copy arrived in the mail on Tuesday and since it arrived I have been browsing through the new abridgement and comparing a handful of sections with the original unabridged work. By all accounts it appears Bolt has done a fine job of shrinking Bavinck’s classic from 3,000 pages to 850 while preserving the essence of Bavinck’s theology. Props to the folks at Baker Academic who continue to serve the church by translating, and now abridging, one of the Church’s most precious theological works.

Posted by: Tony Reinke | April 6, 2011

Bavinck on Justification

Dane Ortlund:

This side of several months pondering Bavinck’s writings on justification, here’s my best attempt at a single (run-on) sentence articulating his view–

Justification, the outstanding blessing of salvation, is the Triune God’s counterintuitive gift of forensic acquittal and right status, an end-time decision announced now in the middle of history, consisting of Christ’s own righteous obedience freely imputed to sinners united to Christ through self-divesting and Christ-riveted faith.

Posted by: Tony Reinke | January 11, 2011

A Review of Gleason’s Bavinck Biography

Review by Dane Ortlund:

It is a real gift. Many of us have been exposed to Bavinck for the first time in any significant way this past decade, with the translation (an excellent one) of his Reformed Dogmatics into English. Rich, wise, Bible-saturated, philosophically aware, reverent, courageous–it makes one want to know more about this man who wrote the systematic theology Henri Blocher calls the best in the Reformed tradition since Calvin.

Ron Gleason has come through for us. Ron spent many years in Holland, giving him facility with Dutch and a front-row knowledge of Dutch culture and history. This included studying at the university where both Kuyper and Bavinck taught a century ago. He did a PhD at Westminster (East), finishing in 2001 and writing a dissertation on Bavinck, arguing that the notion of union with Christ is the centerpoint of Bavinck’s theology. Today Ron pastors here.

It is a good biography. I know neither the Dutch language nor the Dutch culture and history like Ron does, so any kind of review is a bit like me critiquing Lebron’s dunks when I can’t even touch the rim.

But some might be pondering whether they should invest the money and (more importantly) the time into reading this biography, so perhaps a few thoughts would be useful.

1. I find that Christian biography of people who have made an unusual difference in the world is almost invariably encouraging. Yes, it can be paralyzing or threatening, I suppose, to read about the giants of the faith, but far more pervasive in reading Christian biography is the encouragement of seeing, in specific historical circumstances, how God used a frail man or woman to accomplish great things. This biography was no exception.

2. There’s hardly a better man to write the book–someone who did a PhD on Bavinck, who is serving in the local church and thus immersed in the realities of life in a fallen world, who has a deep conviction about the Lord’s providence in all things (this came through often in the book), and, most of all, who knows Herman Bavinck the way you know your own signature.

3. Ron does an outstanding job tracing Bavinck’s career as a churchman and politician (American readers should understand how intertwined the two often were in nineteenth century Holland). Bavinck’s involvement in seeking to unify the two Reformed separatist movements is an interesting story, well told. Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is fleshing out the ecclesial world in which Bavinck was immersed throughout his life.

4. Readers wanting to learn about Bavinck’s personal life and theology will need to look elsewhere. No biography can do everything, and we are much the richer for having this account of ecclesial, academic, and political events surrounding Bavinck’s life. Yet one wishes the book had painted a bit more of a portrait of the man himself, his family (the brief comments on his daughter and wife on pp. 416-17, 426, respectively, cry out for elaboration), and his theology (one finds occasional forays into Bavinck’s interaction with Kuyper’s supralapsarianism and the related notion of eternal justification, but not much more). Yet for what I learned of Bavinck’s life in other ways, I am enriched and grateful. And it could be that there simply is not much to be found, historiographically, on his personal and family life.

5. The book errs a bit on the side of hagiography. Ron speaks extensively and repeatedly on the errors of Kuyper and some of the other men with whom Bavinck worked, but Bavinck seems to receive special treatment. Perhaps he truly was in a category of his own when it comes to personal integrity and relational wisdom and the exercise of love. I think to some extent this is likely true. Yet more needs to be candidly said of Bavinck’s weaknesses. Yes, Ron does affirm that Bavinck had ‘feet of clay’ (pp. 125, 223), and there is an extended section on Bavinck’s error in going ahead too fast with his 1899 proposal to unite the churches. But the former is not explained, and the latter receives mere puzzlement from the author.

6. Regarding style, the book moves along fairly well, footnotes are kept to a minimum, Dutch words and phrases are used judiciously, and the book (mercifully) is not written to impress but to illumine. Yet there are some annoying stylistic idiosyncrasies (such as a penchant for using ‘vis-a-vis’ to a distracting degree), is frequently overdramatic in a way that feels forced, and is stilted and at times confusing in terms of flow (e.g., ch. 7 is entitled ‘A Tear in a Laugh’ yet this phrase is not explained until ch. 14). Overall, the book is not elegantly written (as, e.g., Fred Zaspel’s recent theology of Warfield is), and one wishes an editor had improved the style and ensured that the content flowed well.

Summary: While there are weaknesses in content and tone, the overriding feeling in closing the book is one of immense gratitude for this work. This was a significant labor and we in the English-speaking world are greatly enriched by our brother Ron Gleason’s fruitful labors. I hope this is not the last that Gleason teaches us about this theologian he knows so well.

Posted by: Tony Reinke | July 2, 2010

iPad + Logos + Bavinck

While in the Dallas airport Friday I received a long-awaited email announcement that Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck was now ready for download into Logos Bible Software 4. There in a chair near my departure gate I downloaded the new books through a wifi card and spent the remainder of my travel day browsing and searching through RD in the sky.

A few days later my friend and gracious boss surprised me with a new iPad which added to the fun of the latest addition to my electronic library. The free Logos app for the iPad grants users access to just about their entire library. Together the iPad and the Logos app combine to create a highly portable library on the road. For a closer look at this recent fusion of the iPad, Logos, and Bavinck, here are three screenshots (click for larger):

Posted by: Tony Reinke | May 14, 2010

Bolt on Bavinck

In anticipation of the release of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics as an ebook for Logos, Kent Hendricks asked leading Bavinck scholar John Bolt four questions:

  • Who was Herman Bavinck?
  • What is the mission and role of the Dutch Translation Society in translating the works of Bavinck and other theologians?
  • The translation project took a decade to complete. Can you describe the process? What was your role in the translation and editorial process?
  • You write in the introduction to Bavinck’s Prolegomena in volume 1 that “the Gereformeerd Dogmatiek represents the concluding high point of some four centuries of remarkably productive Dutch Reformed theological reflection,” including “Voetius, De Moor, Vitringa, van Mastricht, Witsius, and Walaeus.” How does Bavinck both reflect and develop the theological system of his predecessors?

Read Bolt’s answers here.

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