Archive for September, 2020

September 26, 2020


September 26 09 2020

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)


Atelier Prinses (Amsterdam)

(I took this photo from Wikipedia; )


We have considered the Holy Trinity in the work of Edward Henry Bickersteth and we proved that there are three persons in the Holy Trinity.  Anyhow I want to move on now to a new project and it may be that my posts might be once or twice a week as I will be reading volume one of Herman Bavincks reformed ethics.  I am so glad that these manuscripts were discovered and for a Religious Studies teacher it gives a wholistic picture to us. Karl Barth was not able to do this thoroughly although I think he wanted to.  In Dogmatic theology God is talking to us.  Where is the reciprocity without falling into some heresy?  Herman Bavinck obviously gives us a road map into the 21st century.


Herman Bavinck

I just did some reading about Bavinck on the internet. I read Wikipedia and I was horrified at one of the entries that Misrepresents Bavinck on revelation.

Taken from;

“Bavinck’s Doctrine of Revelation

Bavinck sensed the open question caused by the subjectivist 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)”


Bavinck is orthodox yet modern and the above is a misrepresentation of his teachings.  First of all, his style is that he interacts with other writers on their topics and gives them a proper hearing and then he speaks.  Schleiermacher and Bavinck are not on the same football field.


The Relationship of dogmatics and Ethics.

Bavinck has seriously thought about this  question and I have included it here for Christian theologians and Religious Studies pedagogy.  I enjoyed learning about Barth at KCL under professor Gunton.  We were able to dive deep into understanding a serious 20 century theologian of great stature.   At the time nearing the end of my studies I found a book by Herman Bavinck; The Doctrine of God.  Who was this theologian? Obviously I read the book and didn’t think twice about it. I became a Religious Educator and I learned tons about ethics.  Various ethics from around the world but in the grand scheme of things for Christian ethics I asked the question; Where does ethics fit and how does it work for the Christian.  I feel that I found a seriously good answer below.  Figuratively speaking the paragraphs below are dynamite in a theologians hands. 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics Page 22

“The distinction between dogmatics and ethics has become clear. The difference does not lie in the fact that the former deals with the understanding

and knowledge, while the latter is concerned with the will and conduct.

This would boil down to a division of human beings into two parts, of which

one half is purely intellectual and the other purely ethical. No. In dogmatics

we are concerned with what God does for us and in us. In dogmatics God is

everything. Dogmatics is a word from God to us, coming from outside us and

above us; we are passive, listening, and opening ourselves to being directed by

God. In ethics, we are interested in the question of what it is that God now

expects of us when he does his work in us. What do we do for him? Here we

are active, precisely because of and on the grounds of God’s deeds in us; we

sing psalms in thanks and praise to God. In dogmatics, God descends to us;

in ethics, we ascend to God. In dogmatics, he is ours; in ethics, we are his. In

dogmatics, we know we shall see his face; in ethics, his name will be written on our foreheads”


In a lot of ways Barth and Bavinck were saying the same thing but with different styles.  Both theologians had to deal with the rise of the Liberal German philosophical theology.  So, in Dogmatics God is speaking to us and what he does for us!  He goes on; Ethics is about what God expects from us now.  God is always in the driving seat and the reciprocation is real because we can give thanks.  So, Bavinck says;”. In dogmatics, he is ours; in ethics, we are his.”

This blows away the impasse of double predestination which Karl Barth struggled with.  Actually, in Karl Barth Christ became the elect and we find our election in Christ.  This was interesting but can the New Testament be interpreted this way?  I think it is one interpretation but is there another way? The answer is I don’t know yet. (For the uninitiated double predestination seems a little harsh for a compassionate God, that some are destined for bliss and others are destined to Hell.  It is a very wooden interpretation, but it gets the job done for now.) Bavinck in his doctrine of God translated by William Hendriksen is touched on but I am just working now through his ethics.

Why is Bavincks Ethics so important in the 21st Century?  It is important because it gives us another way of reading ethics in a Christian manner.  It opens up Dogmatics in some form from various centuries to deal with serious issues; abortion, Euthanasia, splitting DNA, mixing DNA with animals, growing human body parts on and in animals.  Today ethics is a minefield and it is getting worse all the time.  I despair sometimes because of utilitarianisms in the world.  Life is getting cheaper all the time. Philosophical ethics and Christian ethics start from different foundations and a lot of the time come to different conclusions.  Unfortunately, a lot of Christians don’t know the difference.  Bavinck is a breath of fresh air for the believer looking for answers to these most fundamental questions of life.  In Bavinck there is no room for Pelagian views that somehow man can make it on his own strength.  Below is a link to what Pelagianism is and who came up with it;

Karl Barth and Bavinck are certainly correct to fight Pelagianism.  God is Sovereign and we were created in the image of God thus there will always be a relationship between God and humans.  I found this in Bavincks Ethics.  I found this really interesting because Bavinck looks at the creation of Adam and Eve and at that moment humanity was perfect, there were no flaws. Then the fall happened, and the story of redemption started.  This is where Bavinck from my estimation is correct about a lot of these philosophies of his time that had their feet in an evolutionary process.  The Bible is going in the opposite direction as he says.  Enough of what I think let us let Bavinck now speak for himself.

The Giver of Gifts is Holy and therefore let us reciprocate this great love for the church and look beyond ourselves in love.

September 25, 2020

Now I decided to go over this section again.  I felt that it was important to look at some key words that can help us get deeper into the text.  So, the first thing I will do is just give a word list based on the text below.  Once we have gotten acquainted with the words, we can start to find out what Paul was really trying to say to the Corinthians.  When I do give the list of words don’t fret.  Like in English a word can have several meanings or interpretations.   But I felt it was important for you to see other ways it has been translated in the Bible.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of  miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the  distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Varieties  3xg1243. διαίρεσις diairesis ; from 1244; a division:–   varieties(3).
Gifts x2g5486. χάρισμα charisma ; from 5483; a gift of grace, a free gift:–
favor(1), free gift(3), gift(5), gifts(7), spiritual gift(1).

Ministriesg1248. διακονία diakonia ; from 1249; service, ministry:–
ministries(1), ministry(19), mission(1), preparations(1), relief(1), serve(1), service(7), serving(2), support(1).
giveng1325. δίδωμι didōmi ; redupl. from the root δο- do-; to give (in various senses lit. or fig.):–
add(1), allow(2), bestowed(4), cause(2), commanded*(1), dealing(1), drew(1), gave(79), give(122), given(117), gives(14), giving(12), grant(15), granted(10), granting(2), leave(1), make(1), offer(2), pass(1), pay(5), permitted(1), pour(1), poured(1), produce(1), produces(1), producing(1), put(6), puts(1), putting(1), show(1), struck*(1), utter(1), venture*(1), yielded(3).

So in verse 4 Paul  says that there  are a varieties of gifts.  It just means that there are various gifts.  The word for gift here is χάρισμα charisma which is to do with grace. In other words a free gift from God that has positive implications and is supposed to benefit the whole church.   I went on to Wikipedia and I found it interesting that this word come from being happy (from χαίρω (khaírō, “I am happy”)) + -μα (-ma).) .

Anyway, we should be happy that God loves us so much that he meets all our needs.  From the point of view of the 21st century however, people can interpret this in a selfish manner.  For example, this is a gift for me.  God wants to bless the whole church and not just the individual although I am not saying that you are not important.  When you are given a gift what do you do with it?  Perhaps you were given some money for some new clothes; Did you spend it on alcohol instead?  The gifts that are given here are by God, so we ought to show them the greatest of respect for we stand on holy ground.  If we stand on holy ground, then the gifts must be holy and must be used in a holy manner and how the Giver intended them to be used.

These gifts whatever they are those mentioned here and elsewhere have been given by the Holy Spirit for the Church.  Not any one person has all the gifts.  They are shared out.  Paul keeps saying ‘to another’ 4 or 5 times. 

The gift that has the most contention I suppose in the 21st century outside of Pentecostal and charismatic circles is tongues. Glossolalia from my point of view ought to be understood as a divine language rather than a foreign language.  Why do I come to this conclusion?  The reason is that as well as Christian glossolalia there were other mystic religions at the time that used it.  It was part of the ancient universal culture of the Middle East at the time. 

This article is interesting even if you don’t agree with it.

I don’t claim to really understand what is going on in these chapters but I can say that God is bigger than us, his love is bigger than us, and his gifts are bigger than we could imagine or think.  God became a man and died in our place so that we could be in an eternal relationship with the divine.  What a blessing. Let us look beyond the gifts to our great Trinitarian God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit repeats the beautitude pronounced on those who sleep in Jesus.

September 22, 2020



13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” Revelation 14:13

The Holy Spirit comforts us when we feel at a loss.  For the Christian, those who sleep have gone off to a far country and one day in Christ we will meet again.  For the believer, death has lost its sting; it is not the end but the beginning. Having said that, we are only human and we cannot see very far but the Holy Spirit can and he comforts us and keeps us in this life and prepares us for the ultimate future in God’s presence.

The Holy Spirit cries in our hearts Abba, Father.

September 21, 2020



6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6

As we have said earlier the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. God the Holy Spirit intercedes in the closest language to the Father through and in the Son. I have heard ministers say that as Christians we can speak with this ‘abba’.  But is it not the Holy Spirit that says ‘abba’ on our behalf? The Holy Spirit speaks on our behalf.  We should always remember that God also speaks from the mountain tops. When we are in front of the Ultimate Royalty, we should guard our speech a bit more. 

Where does wisdom and knowledge in the Church come from?

September 20, 2020


8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12:8

It is God the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and knowledge to the Church through its members. Whether we take these words literally depending on our church tradtions; We can agree that the Holy Spirit shares out this wisdom and knowledge so, let us give God the glory and not puff up our own pride.

I want to say a few more words on a more general topic concerning chapters 12 through to chapter 14. For a lot of teachers of the Bible it causes them problems because they don’t know what to do with the spiritual gifts so they are denied. We cannot escape the fact that they are found in every Bible and it is God’s word. So are there any keys in the text itself to help us interpet these things. I think Paul really helps us here and let us not forget how 1 Corinthians actually started. There were different groups in the Church and this caused a lot of confusion for the church. Paul is laying down ground rules for the edification of the Church. Tongues was not a problem in the first century as it was practiced all over the ancient world especially in the temples, Roman and Greek. It is only natural for this culture to also be found in the Church among the believers as a mirror of society. This was not a problem; The problem was that their was a lack of discipline.

The Holy Spirit likes order as the text says and Paul lays this out. For me, my opinion; 1 Corinthians was an introduction to the spritual gifts and how they are used in the Church. Chapter 13 is the glue that gives cohesian to everything. Let us not forget chapter 11 in all of this as the launch pad for the rest of 1 Corinthians is Holy Communion. Be aware though that tongues was usually the last in the list of spiritual gifts unless there was an interpretor

Whatever our view on these verses as Christians we ought to love one another as a reality in our lives. We will continue on these verses.

Just a short note; I have decided to slow down on my blogs as I am studying and working at the moment. However I will attempt to still write two or three times a Week. Thanks a lot for following my blogs and feel free to leave mesages or even follow.

The Holy Spirit can be personally blasphemed.

September 20, 2020



32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32

As I said many times; the Holy Spirit is God and we should watch what we say to Him. Let us walk in humility and understand that the Holy Spirit is there for our salvation.  We ought to respect the Holy Spirit and the honour of his name and who he is.  How this blasphemy exactly works I am not sure but blasphemy to any aspect of God in his person should never happen. Why blaspheme someone who has only ever showed loved to us!


Concerning the futrue of my blogs; I will be doing them a little less often because of study and work comitments.  I also want to say that I just got Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics and I really want to read this book slowly and will share interesting insights.  The thing about any dogmatic teaching; it usually follows that God is speaking directly to us and it usually stops there.  We all know however that there is the world of ethics and making the right decisions.  How does Christian ethics fit into this?  If Karl Barth had lived a little longer maybe he would have added this to his volumes of writings but alas we only have a little bit.  This ethics by Bavinck is gold dust.  I think it was rediscovered afer about 100 years so I really want to read it, not that I will understand everything as Bavinck goes very deep.   

God the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the believers for the good of all in the Church.

September 19, 2020


7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7

We ought to remember the Holy Spirit gives these manifestations for the common good in the Church.  We do not force the Holy Spirit.  The problem I have in a lot of this is that some pastor somewhere comes up with some ‘new gift’ and he says that this is for the 21 century.   Test everything by Scripture and prayer with humility. There are too many false prophets out there claiming this and that.

The Holy Spirit is personally present in a sense in which Jesus is personally absent.

September 19, 2020



7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. John 16:7

Yes, Jesus was taken up to heaven and one day He will come back. Who will take care of us while he is gone? The Third Person of the Trinity takes care of us and looks after us while Jesus is gone.  He teaches us, comforts and keeps us safe.  Even in the face of death, the second death has no control over us. No one wants to die an unnatural death, but it happens. When Nero’s gardens were lit up at night time with those burning martyrs, in no way were they helpless victims. The Holy Spirit was with the believers on those gruesome nights.  The second death has no power overs these believers, the same cannot be said for bloodthirsty Nero as they will face the eternal fire and ever conscious torment of total separation from their Creator.  Even though Jesus has gone to heaven he still The Son and the Father are watching us by the Holy Spirit. We have the hope that one day he will return for us.

The same God who works all things in all!

September 18, 2020


6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 1 Corinthians 12:6

I like this verse.  The reason I like it is that the Holy Spirit works how he wills.  Who is to say that because these spiritual gifts are not practiced that this effect may be what the Holy Spirit wants or that where these gifts are practiced that that may be what the Holy Spirit wants? It is that as human beings we all think our way is the best way.  Let us stop and remember that it is the Holy Spirit that works in the church and so we ought to put are false humility aside.

The Holy Spirit invites with personal messengers

September 18, 2020



17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Revelation 22:17

God loves us so much that he knows that we are in need of before we even ask anything.   He wants us to live our lives to the full. Being a follower of Christ means that we are not orphans. We have all lost loved ones, but this is not the end.  There is hope of a future eternal life that has started now. The Holy Spirit invites us and he knocks on the door of our lives.  He does not force his way into our life.