How can we learn humility from the scholarship of Herman Bavinck?

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Herman Bavinck was an immensely great Dutch theologian of the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. He was the successor of Abraham Kuyper, whose name is probably more familiar to Christians in the United States. I might be bold enough to say that Bavinck was a greater systematic theologian than Abraham Kuyper. Maybe the question was asked because Bavinck’s great work, Reformed Dogmatics, has been translated into English for the first time in the last fifteen years or so, all four volumes. It is an immensely great work.

The answer is, yes, we can learn humility from Herman Bavinck. One of his great sayings is that if you’re going to think about God, you need to realize that you’re dealing with mystery, and mystery that is recognized produces humility. Another thing he said is that humility is the cardinal virtue of the theologian. Why is that? Because what we are doing as theologians is talking about God, and we are not God. The sooner we realize that, the better. In the spirit of Bavinck, I often say that doing theology is simply the way we repent mentally. We allow God and His Word to shape the way we think and feel, rather than seeking to shape God according to the way we naturally think or feel.

Bavinck is certainly to be recommended. For those who don’t want to read four hefty volumes, there is a one-volume edition of his Dogmatics. There is also a wonderful book he wrote, which was called Our Reasonable Faith when it was translated into English. Its original title was The Wonderful Works of God. It is a truly beautiful book of theology. So, I am very enthusiastic about Bavinck’s theology and very appreciative of his emphasis on the importance of humility.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Sinclair Ferguson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.