Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Being There

Any religion that first had to prove its god existed prior to worship is impoverished from the get go. Bavinck has demonstrated from an array of philosophical and theological authors that God’s essence cannot be grasped by (critical) reason, morals or ethics. Some have left God in the dark. Others have split God’s revelation between ethics and the rest of the universe with unfortunate results. Bavinck says no way. The God who reveals himself in ethics (the kingdom) is the maker of heaven and earth. Therefore distinctions are not the same as contradictions. Bavinck does not like the term ‘proofs’ for God’s existence, abstract terms such as ‘absolute,’ ‘sovereign’ or ‘supreme’ being are only tolerable. What’s the solution? Everything.

The space between pantheism and rationalism is a description of God as absolute personal being. “Absolute being, who alone has being in himself,” says Bavinck, is the best description of God and preferable above “personality, love, fatherhood and so forth, because it encompasses all of God’s attributes in an absolute sense.” Such a statement affirms God is perfect in wisdom, knowledge, holiness, love, and justice. According to pantheism, God loses distinction between himself and the cosmos. In rationalism God is often reduced to the ‘Y’ carried over in an equation. Neo-platonists sometimes switch between the masculine and neuter pronoun for God because he is a variable without definite character. If scripture is true, says Bavinck, Christian theology can discuss God’s being and attributes with certainty. The enormous problems and questions Bavinck raises here on knowing God is the stuff of personal growth. Next time we will explore Bavinck’s analysis on the Scripture names for God and their interpretation within and without Christian dogmatics.

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