Last week, we featured the first part of an interview with John Bolt, the editor of the new translation of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. Dr. Bolt is Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and has served as a pastor for several years. He is a member of the Dutch Translation Society, which produced the new translation. Part two of the interview with John Bolt is below.
Herman Bavinck’s theology is closely associated with Abraham Kuyper’s theology. How does Bavinck relate to Kuyper and other prominent contemporaries? What makes him distinct from Kuyper?
Kuyper was the movement leader in the renaissance of Calvinism that helped reform the church and also led the orthodox Reformed people of the Netherlands to become a cultural, social, and political force in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Bavinck’s writing, speaking, and practice fully supported this movement but his major contribution was that of a scholar whose theological and church work became the font of most of the developments in the Dutch Reformed churches of the 20th century. Kuyper was a dynamic, sometimes overbearing, and never-in-doubt commander of an army; Bavinck was a modest, even shy retiring man who strove to find the positive in an opponent’s point of view in order to incorporate it into his own.
The publication of the new translation of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics has received favorable reviews from prominent Reformed theologians and historians around the world. The electronic edition Logos Bible Software is currently working on has attracted lots of attention. We get questions every week from anxious customers who are anticipating the completion of this project. Why have we seen such a renewed interest in Bavinck in the past few years?
Because he’s good! Seriously.
The last few years have also seen a renewed interest in Reformed theology more broadly. What are your thoughts on this movement? What is the future of the Reformed Resurgence?
I love reading these guys because they are edgy, funny, and straightforward. Calvin will always be relevant because even secular people can’t ignore his importance. Nonetheless, the Reformed (Calvinist) faith is a confessional faith (tied to an ecclesiastical tradition) and in spite of the occasional flashes of interest that we see right now, the fact remains that confessional Christianity has a terrible time in America’s overwhelmingly voluntarist religious ethos.
In addition to the two decades you’ve spent as a professor of systematic theology, you have also served as a pastor in two churches, and you continue to preach and teach regularly. Why is it important for pastors to read Bavinck? What is the significance of Reformed Dogmatics for pastoral ministry today?
As a scholar Bavinck has of course become the hub of the wheel around which I work—my scholarly work has been Bavinck and more Bavinck. But that’s only the formal part. More importantly, the content of Bavinck’s thought and the method of his theology have also deeply shaped me. Bavinck had an deeply sensitive eye for the revelation of God in the created world and in the providential guidance of human history and cultures. He sees deeply how the human quest for forgiveness, for meaning, for reconciliation, and for truth are part of our being created in God’s image and therefore perennially present in all the religious quests of human beings.
Remember, you still have a little more time to get Reformed Dogmatics while it’s on Pre-Pub. The print set normally retails for $179.95, but right now you can pre-order it for $99.95. This set ships in just a couple weeks, so you still have a little more time left to get this deal when you pre-order. Lock in your order now!