Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics: Rocket Science for all God’s Children

Creation, says Bavinck, is a revelation of God. There is not a corner of the universe that does not reflect something of his glory. But creation does not reveal God’s perfections like they do in Christ. There are distinctions and gradations throughout creation from the archetype to the ectype. The incarnation of the suffering servant finds his parallel in, “the servant form of written language (1:354),” that is, in scripture. For Bavinck, God’s name and attributes are revealed generally in the world and specifically in Scripture with this insistence: revelation has distinctions but are never suspended outside of time and history. Thus the Reformed tradition has tried its best to discuss God’s attributes as communicable and incommunicable. The thing that matters most, says Bavinck is to hold firmly God’s transcendence and “kinship” with the world.

There are many names given for God across an array of folk and scientific thinking and experience. God does not need a name because there’s no comparison. Citing W. Robinson Smith’s classic work on Semitic religion, “the Semites loved to call God “Lord or King” because they felt completely dependent upon him; names were not used for philosophical theory but were relational. The revelation of the tetragrammaton to Israel proves that God is more than the “one who is.” He is the “Unchangeable One, (faithful), the eternally Self-consistent One, who never leaves or forsakes his people but always again seeks out and saves his own.” His grace, love, and assistance are unchanging because he is so in himself.

Next time we will look pause to consider what Bavinck is up to.

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