Where to Begin?
No one begins at the beginning. - Herman Bavinck
This quote, from Bavinck, has been running around in my head for weeks now. The last few days, I have found it at the forefront of my mind. We are currently spending time with good friends from Tennessee. Conversations have inevitably turned to life, stories about the past, and how Calvin is growing up. Regarding Calvin, we naturally talk about how we are raising him; ways in which we are cognizant of the little things to help guide toward good choices in the big things.
The couple we are with has older kids and they have given us some good advice. They have played nonstop with a very active boy who only wants to run. They have taken him from us when they could tell we needed a break if only for a couple moments. As I have watched this, that quote keeps ringing in my ears.
No one begins at the beginning.
In full context, Bavinck says:
No one begins at the beginning. Everyone stands upon the shoulders of those who were before him. Everyone of us lives on the treasures which parents and grandparents have gather for them. The only requirement that comes to us is that with the utmost exertion we attain and make our own that which we have inherited from the fathers. In this way, a child also accepts the confession of the church, so that this may afterwards become the free and independent expression of his personal faith.
The point Bavinck is making is that we stand on the shoulders of those that went before us. Both in the natural life and in the spiritual life, we never begin as a blank slate. Bavinck's particular emphasis in this quote is the growing up into a confession of faith. We never come to the Lord as if we are the first ones ever to come. We inherit the riches of the church from ages past.
As I saw my friends this week interact with Calvin, as I considered the advice and guidance that they have given us, as I experienced their loving hand in caring for Calvin and us, I was reminded that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Not only our faith but the faith the next generation and a generation yet unborn, rests on and is built upon the faith of our fathers and mothers. It is built upon the faith of those who have faithfully walked with Christ. Our faith is built upon the true confession of the person and work of Christ which we see and read about throughout all church history. It is our job and the job of our children to take what has been given to us and build on it. We build on it, so that the next generation has an inheritance ready for them.
We never begin at the beginning and this is why it takes a church to raise a Christian.