Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1

Prolegomena

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"This magisterial work exhibits Bavinck's vast knowledge and appreciation of the Christian tradition. . . . Recommended for university, church, and seminary libraries because of its historical importance."--Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal

Theologians have long appreciated Herman Bavinck's four-volume masterpiece, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, published in 1895-99, for its comprehensive treatment of dogmatic theology. Unfortunately, this magnum opus from the great Reformed theologian has only been available in Dutch, and therefore has been inaccessible to most readers. Now, thanks to the Dutch Reformed Translation Society and the work of translator John Vriend and editor John Bolt, the first volume of Bavinck's magisterial Reformed Dogmatics is available in English for the first time. Bolt's tireless work updating the documentation augments this significant work.

The seventeen chapters of this volume are grouped into sections: Introduction to Dogmatics, The History and Literature of Dogmatics, Foundations of Dogmatic Theology, Revelation, and Faith. Bavinck's approach throughout is meticulous, though he wears his vast learning lightly. As he moves throughout the subject of dogmatic theology, he stands on the shoulders of giants such as Augustine, John Calvin, Francis Turretin, and Charles Hodge.

Editor John Bolt characterizes the work as follows: "Reformed Dogmatics is biblically and confessionally faithful, pastorally sensitive, challenging, and still relevant. Bavinck's life and thought reflect a serious effort to be pious, orthodox, and thoroughly contemporary. To pietists fearful of the modern world on one hand and to critics of orthodoxy skeptical about its continuing relevance on the other, Bavinck's example suggests a model answer: an engaging Trinitarian vision of Christian discipleship in God's world."

This masterwork will appeal to scholars and students of theology, research and theological libraries, and pastors and laity who read serious works of Reformed theology.


Endorsements

"A welcome addition to the works of Bavinck in English. Of special interest is Bavinck's insightful critique of the role of apologetics in establishing certainty in faith."-Donald G. Bloesch, emeritus professor of theology, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

"Herman Bavinck has often been unjustly overshadowed by Abraham Kuyper, especially in the English-speaking world. The unavailability in English of his crowning work, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, has been a particularly significant lack. Bavinck's breadth, thoroughness, rigor, ecumenical interests, and spiritual fervor are clearly on display in this careful and readable translation. It is a splendid gift to theological studies and will contribute to redressing the neglect of this faithful servant of Christ and his church."-Stephen R. Spencer, Wheaton College

"What a wonderful gift to the English-speaking theological world! The topics explored by Bavinck are still of the utmost importance, and he addresses them here in a theological voice that is amazingly fresh. I pray that the appearance of this volume signals the beginnings of a Bavinck revival!"-Richard J. Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Finally Bavinck becomes available to the English-speaking world. The Dutch version has been a constant stimulus for students, pastors, and other interested Christians. It has shaped generations of theologians and helped them to preach, think, and act on a fresh, Reformed basis. The strength of Bavinck's Dogmatics is that it's neither conservative nor progressive, but its biblical character makes it constantly up-to-date. Baker and the Dutch Reformed Translation Society deserve praise for this project, from which without doubt church and theology will profit for years to come."-Herman Selderhuis, Theologische Universiteit Appeldoorn

"Those interested in Reformed theology will welcome with open arms this first volume of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. Bavinck is one of the premier Reformed theologians, but till now much of his magnum opus has not been accessible to English-language readers. This splendid translation gives us the benefits of Bavinck's thorough consideration of theological prolegomena, revelation, and faith. These fundamental issues are dealt with out of his deep commitment to God's divine revelation in Scripture, the need to engage modern thought, and a piety by faith nurtured in the riches of the Reformed faith. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have made the treasures of Bavinck's thought available to a new world of appreciative hearers."-Donald K. McKim, editor, Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith

"Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics has been the fountainhead of Reformed theology for the last hundred years. It is by far the most profound and comprehensive Reformed systematic theology of the twentieth century. The reader will be amazed by Bavinck's erudition, creativity, and balance. Bavinck is confessionally orthodox, but he recognizes the need to rethink the traditional formulations from Scripture in the context of contemporary discussion. I cannot express how delighted I was to read volume one for the first time in my own language! I hope it will have a large readership and will bring forth much theological and spiritual fruit."-John M. Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary

"This is one of those seminal works that embodies a significant portion of our Reformed theological heritage. We all should rejoice to see this material finally available in English and to know that more is coming!"-Samuel T. Logan Jr., Westminster Theological Seminary

"Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics continues to be the standard of modern orthodox dogmatics in the Reformed tradition. It not only is encompassing in content but also shows everywhere a profound insight into the basic problems that a Reformed theology has to face and a deep sensitivity for modern culture. The combination of both made his work famous, and studying his work fruitful also for a new generation." -Cornelis van der Kooi, Free University, Amsterdam

"Despite all the important contributions that Dutch Calvinists have made to North American Protestantism, Herman Bavinck remains an obscure figure, lagging behind the influential Abraham Kuyper. With the translation and republication of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, this unfortunate situation should change for the better. These four volumes demonstrate the importance and mastery of Bavinck's own contribution to Reformed theology, while providing a useful and striking point of comparison with the best-known twentieth-century Reformed dogmatics, that of Karl Barth. At a time when the scholastic nature of systematic theology has come under serious criticism, Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics reveals the advantage of careful and sustained reflection on Christian truth that is both faithful to the church and engaged with the academy. Readers will discover more than Bavinck the theologian in these volumes; they will learn about the God whom he worshiped and served."-D. G. Hart, author of The Lost Soul of American Protestantism

"Bavinck's Dutch masterwork was the Everest of which the textbooks by Louis Berkhof and Auguste Lecerf were foothills and Berkouwer's studies in dogmatics were outliers. Like Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards, Bavinck was a man of giant mind, vast learning, ageless wisdom, and great expository skill, and to have his first volume now in full English, with a promise of the other three to come, is a wonderful enrichment. Solid but lucid, demanding but satisfying, broad and deep and sharp and stabilizing, Bavinck's magisterial Reformed Dogmatics remains after a century the supreme achievement of its kind."-J. I. Packer, professor of theology, Regent College

"Arguably the most important systematic theology ever produced in the Reformed tradition. I have found it to be the most valuable. English-speaking theology throughout the 20th century until now has been singularly impoverished by not having at its disposal a translation of Bavinck's Dogmatiek in its entirety. The appearance of this volume, with the remaining three planned to follow in the near future, will be an incomparable boon for generations of students, pastors, teachers, and others, serving to deepen understanding and enrich reflection in both historical and systematic theology."--Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., professor of biblical and systematic theology, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia


The Author

  1. Herman Bavinck

    Herman Bavinck

    Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) succeeded Abraham Kuyper as professor of systematic theology at the Free University of Amsterdam in 1902.

    Continue reading about Herman Bavinck

Reviews

"This magisterial work exhibits Bavinck's vast knowledge and appreciation of the Christian tradition. Written from a Reformed perspective, it offers a perceptive critique of modern theology. . . . Recommended for university, church, and seminary libraries because of its historical importance. "-Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal

"Pastors and theologians will welcome the historic first complete translation of Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. . . . This masterful theological work is now available to passionate students of theology."--R. Albert Mohler Jr., Preaching

"The publication of this translation of the first volume of Herman Bavinck's four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is an event whose importance for the advancement of Reformed theology can hardly be exaggerated. Though Bavinck's dogmatics was written about one hundred years ago and reflects the state of theological discussion of an earlier period, it remains one of the most important summaries of Reformed theology ever written. . . . The reader of this translation is well served by a considerable number of editorial improvements upon the Dutch edition on which it is based. . . . Readers of Bavinck will undoubtedly be impressed by the extraordinary reach of his learning and familiarity with the history of Christian theology. . . . At every step of the way, the reader will find that Bavinck is engaged in an ongoing conversation with theologians of the past as well as the present, many of whom represent views with which he sharply differs but which he nonetheless addresses with care and interest. . . . With the publication of this first volume and, D. V., the publication of the remaining volumes, contemporary readers will be able to witness Reformed dogmatic theology at its best."--Cornelius P. Venema, Mid-America Journal of Theology

"For those struggling with the most critical issue facing theology today, namely, the question of the truth of the Christian faith, this volume is a godsend. That seems like an outlandish claim because the book in question appeared in the Netherlands nearly a hundred years ago. Yet, what appears to be a drawback is one of the attractions of this work. To read it is to take a large step back from the theological currents that swirl around and through the theological academy. This book provides the reader a vantage point from the watershed where many contemporary currents originate. . . . While the content of his volume is identical with the original, the layout in the translation renders the material far more accessible. . . . Subdivisions and new subject headings have been incorporated into each chapter, greatly facilitating reading and consultation of this work. Most helpful of all are the splendid chapter synopses that have been crafted with obvious care by the editor and inserted before each chapter. These are at once relatively concise and sufficiently detailed, enabling the reader initially to peruse only these summaries. This quick overview gives the reader a rather good idea of the content and flow of the book and allows the reader to determine which chapters and sections are of greatest interest or relevance. The translation is eloquent, lucid, and faithful to the original. This prolegomena can hardly fail to arouse eager expectations for the many words that are to follow in the remaining three volumes."--George Vandervelde, Calvin Theological Journal

"Represent[s] some of the finest and most integrated theological reflection of the twentieth century. . . . Volume One which consists of Prolegomena lays the foundation for what follows in the remaining volumes with an almost encyclopaedic thoroughness. . . . What is perhaps most striking about Bavinck's approach is the way he seeks to engage from the outset with the tension between the world of God and the world of men. . . . The principles that govern his approach provide an excellent template for extending that interaction into more contemporary theological reflection. . . . There is no doubting the fact [this volume] represent[s] systematic theological reflection of monumental significance."--Mark G. Johnston, Banner of Truth

"This volume's theological methodology demonstrates Bavinck's grasp of the various disciplines of theology: historical, biblical, philosophical, and systematic. Furthermore, he fully grasps the Sitz im Leben of his own times. . . . He also reveals a remarkable knowledge of psychology and world religions. Although written over a century ago, Reformed Dogmatics still addresses contemporary theological issues. . . . Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena still speaks to us today as we struggle to maintain our Reformed heritage in an increasingly Arminian culture. It also speaks as we struggle with an increasing secularism, in a growing experientialism which has become anti-intellectual."--Barry L. Wynveen, Reformed Review

"Bavinck's serious engagement with the biblical text, the history of Christian theology, non-Christian thought, and with other non-Reformed theological traditions, particularly Roman Catholicism and liberal Protestantism, makes for enjoyable theological reading. His critical interaction with Enlightenment thinkers is a helpful, contextualized model for theology in the post-Enlightenment world, making this a very timely work. . . . [Bavinck's] emphasis on faith seeking understanding in service of the Christian community is a helpful corrective to the tendency toward individualistic approaches to theological method, in which theologians are disconnected from the church and her heritage, sometimes found in contemporary American evangelicalism. . . . The translation of these volumes into English is a welcome addition to the resources for study of Reformed theology. Even those who are not Reformed in their theological heritage can gain much from Bavinck's clear presentation of Christian theology. This is not easy reading, but the effort is worthwhile to mine the depths of Bavinck's comprehensive and thoughtful summary of the Dutch Reformed tradition. Those who desire to understand the faith once for all delivered to the saints will be rewarded by a careful and systematic reading."--Glenn R. Kreider, Bibliotheca Sacra

"The theological world has been blessed by being the recipients of the translation of . . . Herman Bavinck's magnum opus the Gereformeerde Dogmatiek in English. As one who has read the entire 4-volume Dutch work from cover to cover 5-6 times, I can attest to the fine job of editing and translating John Bolt and John Vriend have done, respectively. . . . John Bolt has performed a great service by his editorial introductions and notes in the English translation. Far from hindering the reader's grasp of the material, Dr. Bolt provides us with highly helpful and pertinent comments in each of the chapters of material. By the same token, the translation team has done an admirable job in what is often a thankless task of a kind of theological midwifery. What is of greater import, however, is that the translation team was able to put older Dutch into a highly readable English format. . . . These volumes have been anticipated by the theological world for a long time and now that they are available, it would behoove every professor, theological student, Elder, and serious Christian to purchase them. . . . It would not be saying too much to state that reading any chapter of [Reformed Dogmatics] will have the effect of thoroughly grounding the Christian in the most important aspects of the subject under discussion. The reader is more fully equipped to understand the motivations as well as the theological constructions behind each of the respective movements. What this translates into is a theological orientation from a decidedly well-balanced Reformed persuasion that enables the reader to critique more modern 20th and 21st century theologies and theologians. . . . You will find yourself taking these volumes from the shelf and pouring over the rich history of dogma, the profound and continued use of Scripture, and the thorough grasp of theology and theological positions that Herman Bavinck offers. . . . John Bolt and John Vriend have done us the great service of putting the works of this outstanding Dutch theologian into our hands in the English language. You will only be the richer for studying Bavinck's theology."--Ron Gleason, Reformation21

"[Bavinck] says much that seems even more directly addressed to our own context than to the environment in which he wrote. . . . Bavinck's probings . . . are now accessible to theological communities where his name is revered, but where little has been known about the details of his thought. This is a cause for rejoicing. But it is to be hoped that the larger English-speaking theological world will also accept the challenge of seriously engaging his considerable contribution to Reformed thought. . . . Bavinck comes across as a remarkably gifted and creative guide to the contemporary landscape."--Richard J. Mouw, IRT Bulletin

"We should be extremely grateful to the Dutch Reformed Translation Society for their work in bringing this important, stimulating publication to an English readership. . . . Here one finds helpful, nuanced discussions of revelation and history; the incarnation, language, and the Bible; and the relationship of Scripture and confession in the task of theology. . . . [This volume is] presented very attractively in hardcover, with a bibliography and Scripture, name, and subject indexes. All of Bavinck's own footnotes have been retained and updated in form, and the subparagraph numbers of the second Dutch edition (and following editions) have also been retained in this edition. Both are excellent editorial decisions which render the final product that much more useful. . . . [Bavinck] was an extraordinarily astute, knowledgeable man with a depth of commitment to his God that is just as palpable in these pages as is his fervent love of the gospel and the Church. Some of the more doxological portions of his Dogmatics compare favorably with the most familiar, lofty, moving passages in Augustine and Calvin. What especially impresses, however, as one moves methodically through these tomes is Bavinck's integrity. . . . Ongoing work in systematic theology will not advance much if it neglects to wrestle honestly and frequently with the gems in this great work. . . . The student of Bavinck will find that patient pondering over the Reformed Dogmatics is a spiritual feast. . . . This is truly a publication event worthy of rejoicing. We can hope and pray that this project will encourage the kind of theological work for which its author is so greatly revered--the constant commitment to patient exegesis, the responsible and informed interaction with history, the churchly sensibility, and the keen perception into the concerns and needs of the present time. These are the classic priorities of Reformed theology, and they--and we--are deepened and advanced in Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics."--Mark A. Garcia, American Theological Inquiry