Friday, November 14, 2008

Herman Bavinck on Christian Dogmatics

I've recently started reading Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics Volume One. It really is a remarkable piece of work. The first volume is given over to prologema. Bavinck wrestles with the problem of doing authentically Christian dogmatics in a post-Enlightenment world. Contrary to Schleiermacher, he argues that that dogmatics cannot simply be the product of the religious consciousness of the believer. Dogmatic theology must be based on God's self-revelation in Scripture. He distinguishes his "synthetic-genetic" approach, which takes into account both word and fact in revelation, from Charles Hodge's "inductive method". Hodge tended to view the task of theology in terms of collecting and arranging the facts of Scripture rather like an empirical scientist. Anyway, here is Herman Bavinck's working definition of Christian Dogmatics:
"Dogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Christ; it is the system of the Christian religion. And the essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God. Dogmatics shows us how God, who is all-sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ. (Eph 1:10). It describes for us God, always God from beginning to end - God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull science. It is a theodicy, a doxology of all God's virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a "glory to God in the highest" (Luke 2:14)."

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