Where to Start with Bavinck

Where to Start with Bavinck

So over the last two weeks I have explored who Herman Bavinck was and why someone should study Bavinck. The follow up question that multiple people have asked is "what should I read?". This post is not going to be exhaustive, but the hope is that it can be a starting point in helping you know what to be reading to get to know Bavinck.

Primary Sources

Reformed Dogmatics. Baker, 2008.

This is probably not the best place to start with Bavinck, but it is his most important work. This four volume set is the magnum opus of Bavinck's theology. It shows forth both his brilliance in synthesizing theological thought and his profound understanding of the Reformed tradition. For someone wanting to dive into the deep end of the pool there is nothing better, but be prepared to read slowly and schedule time for stopping just to ponder what has been said.

Our Reasonable Faith. Eerdmans, 1956.

In this work Bavinck distilled down much of his theology into one volume. I prefer this to the edited and abridged version of RD because it is Bavinck's own edited version. The rumor is that this particular edition will no longer be produced and that Eerdmans is going to put out a new fully indexed and re-edited version later this year. I would hold off buying this until that one comes out.

The Christian Family. Christian's Library Press, 2012.

In The Christian Family we get a pastoral feel for Bavinck. He walks through the life of the family and the Christian's responsibility to and in the family. There is some great wisdom in this book. Yet, you have to be careful as the book was written to an audience in a context of 100 years removed from ours. However, in light of the proliferation of sappy and useless books on marriage and family this is a substantial, biblical, and theological exploration on the topic. (On a side note, my advisor at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. James Eglinton, wrote the introduction to this work.)

Essays on Religion, Science, and Society. Baker, 2013.

As the title would indicate this work will give you a general overview on all areas of Bavinck's thought. It has essays on Faith to Christianity and Natural Sciences. There is an essay on Evolution and also one on Ethics and Politics. With the wide range of topics this work would be great for anyone interested in just about anything.

Secondary Sources

Ron Gleason. Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theology. P&R Publishing, 2010.

This work is a comprehensive biography of the life of Herman Bavinck. There is a lot of information in this book and it is incredibly helpful for getting to know who Bavinck was. Gleason highlights both the theology and the politics of Bavinck's life. It makes Bavinck's story accessible to many who are new to him though it is probably 150 pages too long.

John Bolt. Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service. Crossway, 2015.

In Bavinck on the Christian Life John Bolt asks the question: do Bavinck’s ethics line up with his systematics? After a brief biographical sketch (pp. 21-40), Bolt attempts to answer this question in three parts. In the first section he deals with Bavinck’s theological development of the imago Dei, law and obedience, and union with Christ.  In part two, he develops the concept of imitation of Christ. The final section deals with specific areas of Christian discipleship focusing primarily on marriage and family, work and vocation, culture and education, and civil society. The book closes with the translation of Bavinck’s only published sermon. This book is a good summary of Bavinck's ethics.

James Eglinton. Trinity and Organism: Towards a New Reading of Herman Bavinck's Organic Motif. T&T Clark, 2012.

This book is thoroughly academic. For many, this recommendation is probably not something even worth considering. However, for some it will be fascinating. Eglinton does some work with Bavinck's understanding of the trinity, but it is much more of an exploration of the organic motif in Bavinck's writings. In it, Eglinton hones in on the concept of unity-in-diversity and thus, brings all of explorations in theology back to the trinity, showing that Bavinck's understanding of the creation was closer to an organism rather than a deistic (or evolutionary) machine. This is helpful if you want to start getting into the academic Bavinck research now taking place.

I hope that these titles help you as you start to explore Herman Bavinck. It was difficult for me boil down the recommendations to just these few. However, for those new to Bavinck these are some great places to start. I hope it is helpful.

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