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Reformed Ethics, Volume 2

The Duties of the Christian Life

series: Reformed Ethics

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Herman Bavinck's four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is one of the most important theological works of the twentieth century. The English translation was edited by leading Bavinck expert John Bolt, who now brings forth a recently discovered manuscript from Bavinck that is being published for the first time. Serving as a companion to Reformed Dogmatics, Reformed Ethics offers readers Bavinck's mature reflections on ethical issues. This book, the second of three planned volumes, covers the duties of the Christian life and includes Bavinck's exposition of the Ten Commandments.


Continued from Volume 1

Book III Humanity after Conversion
13. Duties, Precepts and Counsels, Adiaphora
§27 The Doctrine (Theory) of Duty
§28 Precepts and Counsels
§29 Duties and the Permissible; Adiaphora
14. Collision and Classification of Duties
§30 Collision of Duties
§31 Classification of Duties
Part A. Our Duties toward God
15. No Other Gods; No Images
§32 The First Commandment
§33 The Second Commandment
16. The Honor of God's Name
§34 The Third Commandment
17. The Sabbath
§35 The Fourth Commandment
Part B. Our Duties toward Ourselves
18. General Bodily Duties to Self
§36 General Duties (Self-Preservation)
§37 Duties toward Bodily Life
19. Basic Necessities of Bodily Life
§38 Food and Nourishment
§39 Clothing
20. Bodily Duties to Our Souls
§40 Our Duty to Life Itself
§41 Attending to Bodily Life in the Seventh through Ninth Commandments
§42 Duties toward the Soul
Part C. Duties toward Our Neighbor
21. Loving Our Neighbor
§43 Neighbor Love in General
§44 Degrees of Neighbor Love (Fifth Commandment)
§45 Concern for Our Neighbor's Life (Sixth Commandment)
§46 Duties toward Our Neighbor's Chastity (Seventh Commandment)
§47 Duties toward Our Neighbor's Property (Eighth Commandment)
§48 Duties toward Our Neighbor's Reputation (Ninth Commandment)
§49 Covetousness (Tenth Commandment)


"For the last decade, a global readership has enjoyed the theological and historical richness of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. At the outset of that work, Bavinck set out that dogmatics is happiest in the company of its twin discipline, theological ethics. Dogmatics and ethics, respectively, show us why and how we should love God. For that reason, they belong together as 'related members of a single organism.' Since its release, Reformed Dogmatics has given a wide audience the chance to engage with a great Christian theologian on God and God's works of creation, salvation, and consummation. In Reformed Ethics, we are invited to think with Bavinck about the concreteness of human life in the light and strength of God's deeds for us. For that, we owe the editor and translators a great deal."

James Eglinton, Meldrum Lecturer in Reformed Theology, New College, University of Edinburgh; author of Bavinck: A Critical Biography

"In addition to Bavinck's magisterial Reformed Dogmatics, we now have the complementary Reformed Ethics. John Bolt and his accomplished team of translators and editors have added amazing value to Bavinck's recently rediscovered manuscripts in the field of moral theology. Their lucid translation, background studies, notes, and careful documentation of bibliographic sources used by Bavinck make this volume an invaluable background study on the history of theological ethics. Equally important, the book fills out our understanding of Bavinck the complete theologian. Working through it is an exhilarating eye-opener."

James A. De Jong, emeritus president and professor of historical theology, Calvin Theological Seminary

"Ethics is no marginal relative of doctrine and theology, as the letters of Paul bear eloquent witness. The translation of Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics has been of major significance, and now it is followed, appropriately, by his Reformed Ethics. It is wonderful that this work has been discovered, translated, and published. One of the great needs of our day is close attention to the 'theological' in theological ethics, and Bavinck does not disappoint in this respect, with his characteristic rigor and creativity. John Bolt and his colleagues have provided us with a fresh resource for theological and ethical reflection."

Craig G. Bartholomew, director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology, Cambridge

"Recent decades have witnessed renewed interest in a genuinely theological ethics. Theology promises Christians a third way between an often simplistic and atomistic direct application of normative scriptural proof texts and a retreat into the theories of one or more philosophical-ethical schools. The publication of Herman Bavinck's ethics perfectly affirms that promise. Its deep anchors in both Scripture and the theological tradition and its surprising accents render it an important interlocutor and source of moral wisdom even today. For example, though Bavinck employs the concept of moral 'duties' and--like the Reformed fathers--concentrates on the Ten Commandments, his ethics is anything but one-sidedly deontological. His core concept is not 'acting' but 'living,' and the inclusion of spirituality in ethics engenders a much wider ethical scope than usual. Also remarkable is his continuous attention to the virtues and to the spiritual disciplines and the formational dimensions of the imitation of Christ. The editors and translators deserve our gratitude and appreciation for this important achievement. They have transformed a rich but almost inaccessible manuscript into a clear, readable, interestingly annotated, well-structured, and attractive book. I cannot wait for the next volume."

Ad de Bruijne, professor of ethics and spirituality, Theological University Kampen, The Netherlands

"What a treasure! John Bolt has done the church a tremendous service in translating and editing this first volume of Bavinck's Reformed Ethics. It shares all the hallmarks we have come to associate with Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, offering a formidable, astute account of the Reformed approach to ethics. We have long needed a work like this! Bavinck's Reformed Ethics offers pastors, students, theologians, and ethicists--and Christians who would like to wrestle more deeply with the nature of the Christian life--a rich introduction to moral theology in all its contours. On the one hand, Bavinck sets forth a Christ-centered, Spirit-focused paradigm for ethics that accounts for the complexities of human nature amid the great story of creation, fall, and redemption. On the other hand, he manages to provide immensely practical and even devotional insights into dimensions of the Christian life that rarely receive the treatment they deserve, including the conscience, spiritual and moral pathologies, and practices of restoration and communion. I am grateful to have this tremendous resource in my hands!"

Matthew J. Tuininga, assistant professor of moral theology, Calvin Theological Seminary

The Authors

  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

  2. John Bolt

    John Bolt

    John Bolt (PhD, University of St. Michael's College) is the Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology, emeritus, at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He edited Bavinck's four-volume Reformed Dogmatics.

    Continue reading about John Bolt