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Herman Bavinck

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Herman Bavinck
Bavinck c. 1913
Born(1854-12-13)13 December 1854
Hoogeveen, Netherlands
Died29 July 1921(1921-07-29) (aged 66)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Political partyAnti-Revolutionary Party
Johanna A. Schippers
(m. 1891)
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristian (Continental Reformed)
ChurchChristian Reformed Church
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Ordainedc. 1881[2]
Academic background
Alma mater
ThesisA Succinct Demonstration of the Influence of Schleiermacher upon the Exposition of Holy Scripture[3]
Doctoral advisorJan Hendrik Scholten[3]
Academic work
Sub-disciplineDogmatic theology
School or traditionNeo-Calvinism
Notable worksReformed Dogmatics (1895–1901)

Herman Bavinck (13 December 1854 – 29 July 1921) was a Dutch Calvinist theologian and churchman. He was a significant scholar in the Calvinist tradition, alongside Abraham Kuyper, B. B. Warfield, and Geerhardus Vos.





Bavinck was born on 13 December 1854 in the town of Hoogeveen in the Netherlands to a German father, Jan Bavinck (1826–1909), who was the minister of theologically conservative, ecclesiastically separatist Christian Reformed Church (Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk). After his high school education, Bavinck first went to the Theological School in Kampen in 1873, but then moved on to Leiden for further training after one year in Kampen. He wrote in his student journal notes that he was motivated to transfer his studies by the preaching of the pastor Johannes Hendricus Donner [nl], who was also ministering in Leiden by that time. He studied under prominent faculties such as Johannes Scholten and Abraham Kuenen, and finally graduated in 1880 from the University of Leiden having completed a dissertation on the ethics of Ulrich Zwingli.

A year later, Bavinck was appointed Professor of Dogmatics at Theological School in Kampen. While serving there, he also assisted his denomination that had formed out of the withdrawal of orthodox Calvinists earlier from the state Hervormde Kerk, a withdrawal movement called the "Afscheiding" (Secession) in its merger with a second and subsequent larger breakaway movement that also left the Hervormde Kerk, this time under the leadership of Abraham Kuyper, a movement called the "Doleantie" (the Complaint: a historical reference to the term used by orthodox Reformed ministers who opposed Arminianism prior to the National Synod of Dordt, 1618–19).

The now-united Church combined the "Afgescheidenen" and "Dolerenden" into the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKiN). As a result of the merger, GKiN inherited the denominational seminary of the Afscheiding churches and that seminary became the denominational seminary of the GKiN, where Bavinck stayed put, so as to ease the transition of his colleagues and people within the much larger new Church. Already, when the Afgescheidenen merged with the Dolerenden, there was a minority of the Seceders who stayed out of the union; they formed their new denomination as the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken (CGK), and they established their own theological seminary in the town of Apeldoorn.

Move to Amsterdam


Amidst all these developments, Bavinck stayed put and pursued his class lectures, research, writing, and publication – making his distinctive mark as an orthodox Calvinist theologian and churchman.

The recently founded Free University in Amsterdam (VU), under the leadership of Abraham Kuyper, was meant to be a bastion of Reformed learning in all fields of thought. The Free University including its Theology Faculty for training clergy, unlike Kampen Seminary, was independent of both the state and all church denominations. But, of course, theology was the VU's initial leading concern for some decades. So, Bavinck, when he was first invited to join the VU Faculty, had to weigh the merits of teaching what concerned him in his theological research, in such a seemingly independent environment. With Kuyper in the same faculty, he might have come to feel quite crowded.

After refusing the invitation of Abraham Kuyper several times to come to Amsterdam, finally Bavinck accepted Kuyper's plea. In 1902 he succeeded Kuyper as Professor of Theology at the Free University in Amsterdam. Kuyper himself had developed other workloads, and simply wanted the best man available to replace himself. Thus, Bavinck moved to the big city, with his first edition of multi-volume Gereformeerde Dogmatiek already in publication. He arrived well-credentialed and well-respected. He remained at VU for the remainder of his teaching career. In 1906 he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[14] In 1911, he was named to the Senate of the Netherlands Parliament. He assisted in the encouragement of the Gereformeerde people to build their own Christian schools, without state financial help, until such a time as the 80-years "School War" was brought to an end by the granting of government assistance to all schools.

In 1908 he visited the United States and gave the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Bavinck died on 29 July 1921 in Amsterdam.

Bavinck and Kuyper


Bavinck has been compared with his contemporary Abraham Kuyper. J. H. Landwehr, Bavinck's first biographer, had this to say of the two:

Bavinck was an Aristotelian, Kuyper had a Platonic spirit. Bavinck was the man of clear concept, Kuyper the man of the fecund idea. Bavinck worked with the historically given; Kuyper proceeded speculatively by way of intuition. Bavinck's was primarily an inductive mind; Kuyper's primarily deductive.

One major difference in ideas between Bavinck and Kuyper is formulated largely in theological terms contrasting a doctrine called "Common Grace" with a doctrine called "the Antithesis". Bavinck emphasized Common Grace, while Kuyper emphasized (sometimes severely) the Antithesis. A comparison of the two positions, which came to designate two interwoven and contentious traditions in the GKiN and the neo-Calvinist Christian social movements that flowed from its membership, is presented in Jacob Klapwijk's important work of Reformational philosophy, entitled Bringing into Captivity Every Thought (English, 1986).



Bavinck's Doctrine of Revelation


Bavinck sensed the open question caused by the subjectivistic tendency of Friedrich Schleiermacher's doctrine of revelation. Deeply concerned with the problem of objectivism and subjectivism in the doctrine of revelation, he employed Schleiermacher’s doctrine of revelation in his own way and regarded the Bible as the objective standard for his theological work. Bavinck also stressed the importance of the church, which forms the Christian consciousness and experience. (Source: Byung Hoon Woo, Herman Bavinck, and Karl Barth)



This section only includes Bavinck's writings which are available in English (alphabetical order).

  • The Certainty of Faith. Translated by Harry der Nederlanden. St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1980. (Original: 1901; English version translated from the third edition of 1918).
  • Christian Worldview. Translated and edited by Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, James Eglinton, and Cory C. Brock. Wheaton: Crossway, 2019. (Original: 1904; English version translated from the second edition).
  • Essays on Religion, Science, and Society. Translated by Harry Boonstra, Gerrit Sheeres. Edited by John Bolt. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
  • Guidebook for Instruction in the Christian Religion. Translated by Gregory Parker Jr. and Cameron Clausing. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2022.
  • Herman Bavinck on Preaching & Preachers. Translated and edited by James P. Eglinton. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2017.
  • In the Beginning: Foundations of Creation Theology. Edited by John Bolt. Translated by John Vriend. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.
  • Our Reasonable Faith. Translated by Henry Zylstra. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956. (Original: 1909)
    • Updated version: The Wonderful Works of God: Instruction in the Christian Religion according to the Reformed Confession. Translated by Henry Zylstra and Nathaniel Gray Sutanto (Foreword). Glenside: Westminster Seminary Press, 2019.
  • Reformed Dogmatics. Edited by John Bolt. Translated by John Vriend. 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003-2008. (Original: Gereformeerde Dogmatiek,[15] 1895–1901)
    • Vol. 1 Prolegomena
    • Vol. 2 God and Creation
    • Vol. 3 Sin and Salvation
    • Vol. 4 Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation
  • Reformed Dogmatics: Abridged in One Volume. Edited by John Bolt. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.
  • Reformed Ethics. Edited by John Bolt. 3 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019-ongoing.
    • Vol. 1 Created, Fallen, and Converted Humanity
    • Vol. 2 The Duties of the Christian Life
    • Vol. 3
  • Saved By Grace: The Holy Spirit's Work in Calling and Regeneration. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. Edited by J. Mark Beach. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.
  • The Doctrine of God. Translated and edited by William Hendriksen. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977.
  • The Christian Family. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. Grand Rapids: Christian's Library Press, 2012. (Original: 1908)
  • The Last Things: Hope for This World and the Next. Edited by John Bolt. Translated by John Vriend. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.
  • The Philosophy of Revelation: The Stone Lectures for 1908–1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1909.
    • Updated version: Philosophy of Revelation: A New Annotated Edition. Edited by Cory Brock and Nathaniel Gray Sutanto. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2018.
  • The Sacrifice of Praise: Meditations Before and After Receiving Access to the Table of the Lord. Translated by John Dolfin. Grand Rapids: Louis Kregel, 1922. (Original: 1901)
    • Updated Version: The Sacrifice of Praise. Translated and edited by Cameron Clausing and Gregory Parker. Peabody, Hendrickson: 2019.


  • Bavinck, Herman (1892). "Recent Dogmatic Thought in the Netherlands (Translated by Geerhardus Vos)". The Presbyterian and Reformed Review. 3 (10): 209–28.
  • Bavinck, Herman (1894). "The Future of Calvinism (Translated by Geerhardus Vos)". The Presbyterian and Reformed Review. 5 (17): 1–24.
  • Bavinck, Herman (1910). "The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands". The Princeton Theological Review. 8 (3): 433–60.
  • Bavinck, Herman (1992). "The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church" (PDF). Calvin Theological Journal. 27 (2): 220–251.
  • Bavinck, Herman (2017). "My Journey to America". Edited by George Harinck. Translated by James Eglinton. Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies. 41 (2):180–93.

See also





  1. ^ Eglinton 2020.
  2. ^ a b Eglinton & Bräutigamb 2013, p. 38.
  3. ^ a b Brock 2018, p. 107.
  4. ^ Brock 2018, p. 47; Eglinton 2013, p. 85.
  5. ^ Brock 2018, p. 44.
  6. ^ Brock 2018.
  7. ^ Van Engen 2001, p. 145.
  8. ^ Bolt, John (7 April 2011). "Herman Bavinck". Escondido, California: Westminster Seminary California. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  9. ^ Brock 2018, p. 92; Engelsma 2012, p. 56.
  10. ^ Eglinton, James (12 July 2011). "Dutch Inspiration for Tim Keller". Translated by Kloosterman, Nelson. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Bavinck Institute. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  11. ^ Van der Walt 2016, p. 2.
  12. ^ O'Donnell 2011, pp. 71–72.
  13. ^ Singh & Mishra 2007, p. 745.
  14. ^ "Herman Bavinck (1854 - 1921)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  15. ^ Herman Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek I inhoud at www.neocalvinisme.nl

Works cited