For those who have read the works of Herman Bavinck, one could come to the conclusion the Bavinck was a man caught in tension, tugged from both sides, between orthodox and modern theology. At least, on the surface, that’s what it seems. On the one hand, his perennial Reformed Dogmatics is arguably one of the most significant orthodox systematic theologies to date. And yet, the sources on which he often rests are “modern” – notably, the controversial father of modern theology himself, Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Some have tried to box Bavinck into one of these two sides. Others, unable to ignore the tension, have asserted a “two Bavincks” hypothesis, almost as if he had multiple theological personalities. But the true Bavinck was a man who recognized truth wherever it presented itself, and sought to bridge the gap between ancient truth and current truth.
In Cory Brock’s Orthodox Yet Modern, author Cory Brock argues that Bavinck is a theologian of reformed catholicity par excellence, a man who immersed himself into the language of modern theology so that he might translate biblical truths in an understandable way. Brock’s work expands on how this seeming tension is fostered by his commitment to catholicity (Chapter 1), his education background (Chapter 2), and his engagement with Schleiermacher (Chapters 3-5).
What is revealed in Orthodox Yet Modern is a way of doing theological study and teaching that is instructive for all of us. What we can learn from Bavinck is that he was willing to learn from others, even those with whom he may disagree on key issues, with “a sober-minded prudence” (129). We learn, from Bavinck, to separate the theological wheat from the chaff. We learn to pay our respect to the context we find ourselves in and how God’s permanent Word informs how we should then live.
Any pastor, theologian, apologist, or student trying to resolve the tensions between orthodoxy and modernity ought to learn from Brock’s well-articulated example of Bavinck’s legacy.
Thanks to Lexham Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.