Archive for the ‘Bavinck’ Category

A. A. Hodge on Natural Revelation

June 30, 2011

What is the distinction between natural and revealed theology?

Natural theology is that science which proposes to itself the solution of these two great questions, 1st, Does God exist? and 2d, What may be legitimately ascertained concerning the true nature of God in himself, and concerning his relations to man, from the principles of human reason and conscience, or from the evidences of God’s works, either in creation or providence. A distinction here must be carefully observed between that knowledge of God to which the human reason was able to attain by means of its own unassisted powers independently of revelation, e.g., the theology of Plato aud Cicero, and that knowledge of God which the human mind is now competent to deduco from the phenomena of nature under the clear light of a supernatural revelation, e.g., the theology of the modern rationalistic philosophers. Natural theology, as reached by unassisted reason, was fragmentary, inconsistent and uncertain. Natural theology, as appropriated and vindicated by reason under the clear light of revelation, is itself a strong witness to the truth and supernatural origin of that revelation.

Revealed theology, on the other hand, is that science which treats systematically, 1st, of the evidences authenticating the Christian revelation as from God; 2d, of the interpretation of the records which transmit that revelation to us; and 3d, of all the information furnished by those records of God and his relation to man, and of man and his relation to God.

A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, Chapter 2, Question 3, p. 38. (Cf. Bavinck)

Bavinck on Limited Atonement

December 24, 2008

Volume 3 of Herman Bavinck’s “Reformed Dogmatics” addresses the issue of Limited Atonement. Bavinck deals with the matter at #404-08 (pp. 455-75 in the Baker Academic 2008 printing). Bavinck approaches the matter in a way that I found very helpful in light of certain Amyraldian commentators of late, in that he discusses many of the historical aspects of the issues relating to the extent of the atonement.

Bavinck quite correctly notes that “Intensively the work of Christ is of infinite value but also extensively it encompasses the whole world.” Standing alone, such a statement could easily be misinterpreted – and the incautious reader is advised to be careful to finish reading the entire selection before reaching hasty conclusions about Bavinck’s position. Bavinck goes on to explain what is intended by the terms employed, as well as what is not intended, rejecting Origen’s super-universalism and seemingly adopting Augustine’s particularism.

Bavinck quotes Augustine as stating “everyone who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ is a human; yet not everyone who is a human has been actually redeemed by the blood of Christ.” “Not one person perishes of those for whom Christ died.” The footnotes identify Epistle 102 of Augustine as the source, although I have not confirmed that this is the case with reference to the originals.

The work is clearly an academic work, and some of its most valuable contributions are the footnotes, which in some cases point one to source material, and in other cases index important related works, such as Bellarmine’s Controversies, Turretin’s Institutes, and van Mastricht’s Theology.

Bavinck appears to err somewhat on the issue of Creation at the beginning of section 407 (p. 470), where he ascribes the creation of the world distinctly to the Father, rather than the Son. Nevertheless, generally Bavinck’s discussion seems reasonable, and was enjoyable. For example, although Bavinck acknowledges Augustine’s positive contributions to our understanding of theology, Bavinck is not afraid to identify an error in Augustine’s thought (his view that the number of elect men corresponds numerically with the number of fallen angels).

I would commend the twenty pages or so of necessary reading to those interested in further study of the atonement. I’d particularly commend this section to those Amyraldians (or quasi-Amyraldians) that have been trying to make arguments from historical theology, as well as trying to formulate a system of their own.


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