We lost our way and since the Fall in relation to God we have lost our free will. God did not give up on the human race rather through Christ there is a way out of this malais.


So, on page 82 we have seen a change of condition and now we found ourselves separated from God. 


Bavinck raises the question of whether or not this condition is permanent and whether or not we as humans have the power to change our human condition in relation to God.  This is a very important question because if it is permanent then we would be separated from God for all eternity. 

In this situation according to Bavincks interpretation of Pelagius the heretic we are of our own accord able to change our condition. For Pelagius ‘sin only has power because of habit’.  So, all you have to do is break the habit of sin.  Bavinck then proves from the Scriptures that this is completely impossible.

As Bavinck says, “The will has lost its real, material freedom”.  This is the traditional and right view for me as well.  I know for example that Martin Luther in a huge disagreement with Erasmus wrote the Bondage of the Will that the will is a prisoner and cannot break out of this prison of sin which humanity through Adam’s sin put itself in.

Bavinck then gives us an undisputed walk through the New Testament showing the condition after the Fall.  So, let us learn from Bavinck.  Before I start, I will make a table with the phrase and then the verses. 


Even before we look at Bavinck here a little deeper, I think there are dangers of interpreting terms out of context.  First of all, in the New Testament writings ‘flesh’ has different contexts.  For example, when John uses flesh it can be used in a positive manner; ‘Christ came in the flesh’.  The use of flesh here was to counter gnostic tendencies of saying that Christ wasn’t really a physical man in the flesh but only seemed to be this.


A text out of context is a pretext so Bavinck does not fall into this trap but as a reader you may not have been aware of this.  Before interpreting any word it is good to look at the context and ask the question ‘What did this text mean to its original audience that it was intended for?’ After this we can start asking other questions.


The Old Self

In Romans 6 verse 6 Christ had to die so that we could be set free from sin.  We are referred to as ‘slaves.’ A slave is not a free person.


6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; Romans 6:6 NASB


We are naturally born as flesh and God wasn’t happy with the situation.

From the New Testament Jesus explains, that there are two births.  Flesh and Spirit.


3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless, his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3; NASB


6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6; NASB


Flesh is used a lot by Paul

Here Paul is referring to the condition of sinful man after the Fall. 

5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. Romans 7:5; NASB

The Body of sin


Paul is using a figure of speech here.  The New life in Christ has reversed our condition to what it ought to have been. It has to be a figure of speech because this circumcision does not need a blade e.g. ‘made without hands’ They didn’t have lasers in those days such as found in the James Bond film Gold Finger.




From Yahoo.com


11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; Colossians 2:11; NASB


Obviously, people are not zombies it has to be a certain type of death.  The death Paul is talking about is the broken relationship with God.

10  If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. Romans 8:10; NASB


The natural person

This is the person living for himself and not for God.

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14; NASB



By nature, ‘children of wrath’

The converted person is a changed person towards the light and a closer relationship with God. 


3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:3 NASB

And contrasted to

In contrast to the ‘spiritual person’


15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:15; NASB


These verses clearly show that our condition was a fallen condition after we were created perfect.


Herman Bavinck was no dualist and he was very careful to prove it.  In the last paragraph of page 82 he says;

“However, there is this one difference—namely, that the “old self” and the “new self” each flow forth from the activity of the flesh and the activity of the Spirit, respectively. In other words, they are the phenomena, the manifestations, of human nature itself, in the one case the fallen nature and in the other the new nature in Christ. “

Herman Bavinck Reformed Ethics page 82.


Or in my words being in the condition of the Fall and the Condition of regeneration in Christ. Dualism in Christianity is a dangerous concept and it would allow gnostic ideas to seep into Christian teaching and separate us from the pure Gospel.   Bavinck on page 83 is right to not accept this;


“Ammon, Baur, Hausrath, and Pfleiderer® all argue that Paul was a dualist because he held that sin has its origin and seat in sensuality, in matter”.  Page 83 Bavinck


Bavinck rebuffs this by giving a list of reasons why this is not the case;


             The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit

             Paul teaches about the resurrection of the body

             Paul is not an ascetic as he sees marriage as sacred and all for is good food.

             Jesus was in the flesh but without sin

From Page 83; Bavinck; Reformed Ethics

And then he goes on.  Bavincks interpretation goes on over the next few pages and he has very important things to remind us. 


Reflection about what we have learned up to now.

Paul has a lot to teach us about what condition the human race finds itself.  Only God in Christ by the Holy Spirit can break this cycle as we are slaves to the sinful nature. 


I haven’t even gone below the surface, but Herman Bavinck the Master theologian has a lot to teach us about our human condition.  We will continue to plough through this material because through it we can get closer to Christ and live the life God wants us to live.  In todays world there are many dangers for the Christian but there were great men of God such as Herman Bavinck who were willing to stand up against false teachers who were also found in the universities.  We also need to remember that Scripture was given to the Church and there are outside forces that would like to have rid of it.  On Twitter I have seen for example that there are forces that are trying to outlaw the reading of the Bible in your own home (Scotland).  As believers we need to stand up and be counted for the protection of our liberties.  Let us not forget people like William Tyndale who was murdered by the state to allow us to have our translation in English.  Yes, Bavinck is seriously important for not only the Reformed tradition but also for all the other denominations.  They might not realize it now but one day they will. 

What these scholars did that Bavinck spoke out against was to get rid of the idea of the fall. 


What does this mean in real terms?

             People are free and they don’t have to be accountable to a higher Force

             They make their decisions based upon secular and atheistic principles

             The family is less important than individual rights.

             The state works towards dismantling religious rights.

             Crimes become relative and are based on ethics of relativity.

             Human DNA becomes relative and they can do as they please.


I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Bavinck reminds us that;

             We are accountable to God

             Decisions made are based on Scripture and the fear of God

             The family as an institution is important for the welfare of the individual and the welfare of the state.

             Religious Rights need to be protected.

             Crime is against God’s law (10 commandments) there is a place for reformation of the criminal, but justice has to be fair

             Human DNA is not a tennis ball but is sacred because God created us, and we should accept people as they are and protect life.


Let us love God and our neighbour for this will hold us in good stead.

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