Volume 46 - Issue 1

Trinity, Creation, and Re-creation: A Comparison of Karl Barth and Herman Bavinck’s Trinitarian Doctrines of Creation

By Jarred Jung


Karl Barth’s doctrine of creation, while rooted in his doctrine of the Trinity, errs in the way that creation is conflated into re-creation, resulting in a diminished doctrine of creation at the expense of his christological Trinitarianism. By comparing Barth’s doctrine of creation with that of Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck, this article argues that Bavinck offers a doctrine of creation that is as equally grounded in the doctrine of the Trinity as Barth’s and yet avoids the shortcomings of Barth’s doctrine by appropriately distinguishing between creation and re-creation. As such, Bavinck serves as an appropriate example of doctrinal emphasis for theologians and pastors.

Karl Barth (1886–1968) has long been considered the giant standing at the headwaters of renewed theological interest in the Trinity. Stanley Grenz comments, “Barth was by no means the first theologian in the wake of Schleiermacher and Hegel to pay attention to the doctrine of the Trinity…. Yet Barth’s efforts have predominated, almost to the point of consigning the work of his immediate predecessors to the dustbin of theological history.”1 Barth’s theological vision was rooted in a robust Trinitarian doctrine that allowed for the flourishing of all antecedent Trinitarian discussion.

Among the theological doctrines that have been reshaped in the wake of this Trinitarian revival is the doctrine of creation. Following the broader revival in Trinitarian studies, Barth is largely held to be the theologian who restored the Trinity to the doctrine of creation. For example, in his work The Triune Creator, Colin Gunton writes, “To Karl Barth (1886–1968) must go much credit for the restoration of a Trinitarian mediation of creation, to be witnessed both in his determinedly credal construing of the doctrine and in his attempt to integrate creation and salvation christologically.”2 As Barth stands at the headwaters of the renewed Trinitarian interest, so he stands at the headwaters of current efforts to reshape discussion about the doctrine of creation in light of the Trinity.

While theologians might look to Barth as the source of a Trinitarian doctrine of creation, Barth’s theological construction is not without its difficulties.3 One particular weakness in Barth’s doctrine of creation is the way that he conflates creation and re-creation. The result is a lessening of the importance of creation in order to sustain Barth’s Trinitarian emphasis. In Barth’s case, one theological doctrine is consigned to the service of another. Is it possible that one of those theologians relegated to Grenz’s “dustbin” might also offer a doctrine of creation that holds out the appropriate Trinitarian strengths of Barth’s doctrine of creation while avoiding the swallowing of creation by re-creation, and therefore the swallowing of one doctrine by another? Perhaps such a theologian might offer a better example for theologians and pastors who desire to demonstrate the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that does not diminish the importance of the other core doctrines of the Christian faith. This article argues that Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck (1854–1921) is one such example. Like Barth, Bavinck sought to develop a doctrine of creation anchored in a robust Trinitarian theology. However, Bavinck went about developing a Trinitarian-rooted doctrine of creation very differently than Barth. The aim of this study is to compare Barth’s Trinitarian doctrine of creation with that of Bavinck in order to demonstrate that Bavinck’s doctrine of creation offers the same promise of a Trinitarian foundation as Barth’s while also avoiding the conflation of creation and re-creation apparent in Barth’s doctrine of creation.

1. Definitions and Delimitations

Before proceeding, it is necessary to draw boundaries on this discussion and clarify some of the terminology that will be employed. First, both Barth and Bavinck’s doctrines of creation are expansive, treating creation, anthropology, and providence.4 For the purposes of this study, the assessment and comparison of each of their respective doctrines of creation will be confined to the points where each theologian connects their doctrine of Trinity to creation apart from their theological anthropology or doctrine of providence. Second, when discussing the nature of the covenant concepts in both Barth and Bavinck, the terms “prelapsarian” and “postlapsarian” will be used rather than the terms “supralapsarian” and “infralapsarian” to avoid confusion with the traditional use of the latter two terms in historical debates within Reformed theology over the ordo salutis. Finally, by comparing Barth’s and Bavinck’s respective doctrines of creation in terms of “creation” and “re-creation,” the position presented confessedly uses Dutch Neo-Calvinist terms and by doing so is, in a way, bringing Barth to play on Bavinck’s field. However, doing so is appropriate for two reasons. First, though he does not explicitly use the terms “creation” and re-creation” like Bavinck, Barth’s famous debate with Emil Brunner over natural theology demonstrates that he is clearly concerned with the relationship between what Bavinck calls “creation” and “re-creation.”5 Second, the terms “creation” and “re-creation” are appropriate for this discussion as it concerns not only the initial act of creation as presented in Genesis, but also sin’s impact on that creation, Christ’s subsequent impact on sin-stained creation, and most importantly, the foundational nature of Trinitarian doctrine to these impacts. Thus, the article refers to initial creation as “creation” and to Christ’s impact on that creation as “re-creation.”

2. Karl Barth’s Trinitarian Doctrine of Creation

Karl Barth calls for a foundational separation from the scientific inquiry surrounding assessments of the doctrine of creation in his day. He accomplishes this turn from science by positing the doctrine of creation as an act of faith. He writes,

The following argument ought first to have been adduced against all science both ancient and modern. If the world is not created by God, it is not. If we do not recognise that it has been created by God, we do not recognise that it is. But we know that it has been created by God only on the ground of God’s self-witness and therefore in faith.6

That is to say, for Barth, the very belief in the existence of the cosmos is an act of faith. Geoffrey Bromiley summarizes Barth’s thought well: “Christian faith, he concluded, does not endorse random scientific findings or hypotheses. It views the creature relative to the Creator.”7 But how is it that Barth establishes a faith-driven doctrine of creation?

In order to develop his doctrine of creation in terms of faith, Barth roots creation in the Trinity. Barth derives his Trinitarian doctrine of creation christologically, writing,

In view of the person of Jesus Christ we definitely cannot maintain or even suspect that there is nothing outside God, that the existence and being of the creature is only an appearance, and that God has not created heaven and earth. It is just as certain that God created them as that His eternal Word, without ceasing to be God, became something else, namely flesh—and therefore not nothing.8

Thus, in Christ’s divinity and humanity, one gains knowledge of both Creator and creature. Robert Sherman explains that for Barth, “one cannot develop even the notion of the world and cosmos as creation, let alone a full-blown doctrine of creation, without having first acknowledged God’s revelation of the Creator-creature union in Christ.”9 In line with Barth’s christological theological vision, he believes that faith in the reality of creation can only come through faith in the Creator, which only comes through faith in the Son of God incarnate. Thus, Barth makes Jesus the object of faith that presupposes the existence of the cosmos, and as such, also presupposes his doctrine of creation.

The christological nature of Barth’s doctrine of creation means that the triune Godhead’s work in creating the world is salvific in nature. For Barth, creation brings about a history where the covenant between the Trinitarian economy and creation can unfold. John Webster explains, “the created order can be understood only in light of God’s purposes for creation enacted in Jesus Christ and made real in the power of the Holy Spirit.”10 In a Trinitarian summary of the purpose of creation, Barth proclaims,

The aim of creation is history. This follows decisively from the fact that God the Creator is the triune God who acts and who reveals Himself in history. God wills and God creates the creature for the sake of His Son or Word and therefore in harmony with Himself; and for His own supreme glory and therefore in the Holy Spirit. He wills and creates it for the sake of that which in His grace He wills to do to it and with it by His Son or Word in the Holy Spirit. The execution of this activity is history.11

At this point, Barth’s understanding of “history” bears explaining. Barth stands against the idea that the creation could have ever existed outside of the intention of the triune God to love it. He explains, “As the divine Creator he cannot have created a remote and alien sphere abandoned to itself or to its own teleology…. In this case we can understand the positing of this reality—which otherwise is incomprehensible—only as the work of His love.”12 Therefore, Creation has its telos in the covenant. In other words, the entire history of creation is the history of God’s covenant with mankind where, “creation does not precede reconciliation but follows it.”13 Kathryn Tanner explains Barth’s thought thusly: “God’s decision to be for us in Jesus is not a reaction to previous events in the history of God’s relations with us, but has a reality in its own right preceding the whole of that history.”14 Thus, for Barth, “history” refers to the location for the acting out of the covenant.

Barth’s recognition that creation is the historical location for the covenant forms the foundation for his exposition of the first two chapters of Genesis. The idea of creation as the “external basis of this covenant” frames his interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3.15 Tanner explains that by “external basis,” Barth means, “God’s being for us in Christ requires the existence of the world as a theatre or space for its occurrence and requires the existence of created subjects who are to be God’s partners made over in that special way by him.”16 Thus, Barth exposits the creation account of Genesis 1:1–2:3 as God forming the stage by which he will enact the covenant in history.

This understanding of creation as the external basis of the covenant leads to Barth’s exposition of the remainder of Genesis 2, which he holds to be “neither a supplement to Gen. 1 nor a commentary on it, but a new and different history of creation.”17 Thus, in Genesis 2, “the covenant is the internal basis of creation.”18 Barth explains, “Hence what God has created was not just any reality—however perfect or wonderful—but that which is intrinsically determined as the exponent of His glory and for the corresponding service.”19 For Barth, Genesis 2 demonstrates that the covenant is the reason for creation’s existence. Hence, Barth holds Jesus to be both the beginning and telos of creation.20 Therefore, creation is the historical landscape in which the covenant can take place, while the covenant is the goal of creation’s existence.21

To summarize, Barth’s interpretation of Scripture regarding creation is determined by his judgment of the nature of the relationship between God and man. God freely chooses to love mankind and to reconcile mankind to himself by means of his incarnate Son, and it is this decision that leads him to create. This free choice of God is the core of Barth’s doctrine of creation. In this way, creation is rooted in the triune God’s work of reconciliation. If not for God’s free choice to love man, there would be no creation. As such, creation provides the historical stage in which God’s reconciling drama can be played out. Furthermore, this reconciliation is the very reason for creation. It is because of God’s covenant—not because of scientific proofs or philosophical treatises—that creation exists. Thus, for Barth, the doctrine of creation itself is rooted in faith in the reconciling God through Jesus Christ his incarnate Son.

3. Creation and Re-creation in Barth’s Trinitarian Doctrine of Creation

Having summarized Barth’s Trinitarian doctrine of creation, it is now possible to assess Barth’s understanding of the relationship between creation and re-creation. This assessment will focus on three aspects of Barth’s doctrine of creation: creation’s foundation in the covenant, Barth’s interpretation of Genesis 1:2, and Barth’s presentation of the second person of the Trinity in his doctrine of creation. An assessment of these aspects of creation will demonstrate that Barth’s doctrine of creation conflates creation and re-creation.

3.1. Creation Rooted in Covenant

Since creation serves as the historical landscape for the covenant, and the covenant serves as the purpose of creation, Barth’s doctrine of creation is closely related to the soteriological aspect of the covenant. Sherman explains that in Barth’s thinking, “God undertakes the work of creation not as an activity independent of the work of reconciliation, but as the most fundamental prerequisite for it.”22 For this reason, Barth’s covenant is prelapsarian. The connectedness of Barth’s theological system is admirable here. In the third volume of his Church Dogmatics, Barth retains the emphasis that he sets forth in the first two volumes: God’s free choice to be for man in Christ. He does this by making the covenant both the prerequisite and reason for creation itself. Nonetheless, the prelapsarian nature of Barth’s concept of the covenant also results in the covenant’s universal nature. The covenant Barth sets forth is a covenant for all humanity that will infallibly take place in history. Webster points out, “The creation is (and therefore is known as) that reality which God destines for fellowship with Jesus Christ. And, because of this, ‘creation’ and ‘covenant’ are correlative terms.”23 To Barth “election … is more a way of articulating the teleological aspect of created human nature.”24 Thus, Barth’s covenant is not only prelapsarian, but also universal in nature.

Furthermore, the prelapsarian and universal nature of Barth’s concept of the covenant determines his notion of creation’s goodness. When viewed as the historical setting for the covenant, creation becomes “the process whose fundamental purpose, as we have learnt from the biblical testimony to creation, is the history of salvation which culminates in Jesus Christ,” and thus it “cannot itself be hostile or indifferent, but can only be a benefit and can only be understood as such.”25 For Barth, creation is good because the covenant has predetermined its goodness in God’s decision for reconciliation. In his view, God, through Christ, solved the problem of creation before the problem ever existed in history because of his freely chosen covenant with all humanity.26 Therefore, humanity’s prelapsarian goodness lies in the covenant more than in God’s declaration of its goodness.

Therefore, one must ask in response to this prelapsarian covenantal basis of creation if Barth has left any place for differentiation between creation and re-creation. If the creation is created good based on the pre-historical covenant freely made by God in Christ, then Barth does not conceive the covenant as something that takes place in order to redeem a fallen humanity that has marred the goodness of creation. Rather, it is the historical unfolding of what is already true of creation because of God’s free choice to love in Christ. Or in other words, for Barth, “God created the world so that he could send his son to give us grace.”27 Thus, in Barth’s concept of the covenant and its foundational nature to his doctrine of creation, creation can only exist as re-creation.

3.2 Barth’s Interpretation of Genesis 1:2

Barth’s conceptualization of the covenant also brings into question his hamartiology. To explain this, some detailed explanation of Barth’s biblical exegesis is in order. Before Barth approaches the question of sin in his doctrine of creation, he lays the foundation for its answer in his unique interpretation of the תֹהוּ וָבֹהו of Genesis 1:2.28 Barth points out two common interpretations of this verse. The first is that the chaotic תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ is a state of nothingness that is separate from creation and thus separate from God.29 The second is that the chaotic state was created by God as the primeval state prior to God’s creative activity in Genesis 1:3.30 Barth rejects both of these options. For Barth, Genesis 1:2 tells of “a world-state over which the Word of God had not been uttered.”31 Barth’s interpretation of Genesis 1:2 centers on an antithesis between the Word-less creation in 1:2 and what follows. Hence, he concludes, “Our only option is to consider v. 2 as a portrait, deliberately taken from myth, of the world which according to His revelation was negated, rejected, ignored and left behind.”32 Thus, the chaotic emptiness of Genesis 1:2 “is that which is excluded from all present and future existence, i.e., chaos, the world fashioned otherwise than according to the divine purpose, and therefore formless and intrinsically impossible.”33 As such, Barth brings the covenant to bear on the תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ. For Barth, that which is Word-less is that which is, “ungodly and anti-godly” and, “can have reality only as that which by God’s decision and operation has been rejected and has disappeared, and therefore only as a frontier of that which is and will be according to God’s decision and action.” 34 In other words, the chaos exists apart from the covenant and therefore ought not to be included in reality. Gunton explains, “Karl Barth attempted an account, not entirely successfully, with his conception of Nothingness (das Nichtige), which he conceived as a kind of negative force resisting the good purposes of the creator.”35 As such, Barth concludes, “He saw the threatening curse and the threatening misery. He rejected the reality of creation that might be neutral or hostile to Him. He pushed it back and outside the limit of the world willed and determined by Him.”36 Thus, the chaos is the creation rejected by God in his free decision to choose what would exist for the purpose of reconciliation.

So, what of man’s sin? Barth sees sin as a looking backwards to the past and seeking to return to the Word-less chaotic state.37 As man’s sin occurs in covenant history, the rescue for man’s sin also occurs in covenant history with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, Christ’s work in covenant history ensures that the chaos outside of the covenant can never be reality. Tanner summarizes the issue as follows:

More fully stated, the unmerited acceptance of human beings and the rejection of chaos, sin, and death on the cross of Christ—the Yes and No of God’s act in Christ—are mirrored by God’s acceptance of only some things for creation and the rejection of others…. Moreover, the subordination of God’s No to God’s Yes, that is clear in Christ—the destruction of sin on the cross for the sake of righteousness—finds a correspondence in the way darkness or nothingness forms around what God creates as a quite secondary consequence of God’s creative affirmation—the divine Yes—that brings the world to be…. What God rejects in Christ is not a mere neutral non-being, and therefore creation too suggests deliverance.38

Thus, the struggle against sin and subsequent victory on the cross mirrors the rejection of the chaos of Genesis 1:2. But Barth’s language suggests the cross was more than only a “mirroring” of Genesis 1:2. He writes, “As this Word is spoken and repeated in the history of the covenant which begins immediately after the fall of man, it is thereby constantly decided that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, the hayethah of chaos is final—this world was.”39 Here, Barth appears to suggest that the cross in some way retroactively deals with the chaos. Thus, it appears that if there is a fall for Barth, it takes place in Genesis 1:2 rather than in Genesis 3.

Barth’s exposition of Genesis 1:2 is a brilliant move by which he retains the primacy of the covenant in his doctrine of creation. However, it serves to add to the suspicion that his doctrine of creation conflates creation and re-creation. Tanner suggests that Barth’s understanding of Genesis 1:2 serves to mirror what Christ does on the cross against sin. However, Barth’s language suggests more than a mere mirroring, as if the chaos of Genesis 1:2 was only a foreshadow of a drama to come. Rather, Barth seems to suggest that the issue of sin is rooted in Genesis 1:2 and was dealt with on the cross, as if the cross was more about the chaos than the sin of man. This allows for a universal understanding of creation as that which is freed from the chaos. Additionally, as Ashford and Bartholomew point out, “Indeed, in our view Bath’s reading raises the unhelpful possibility of a dualism of evil and good present in the beginning.” 40 Barth speaks directly to the issue, writing, “Gen. 1:2 speaks of the ‘old things’ which according to 2 Cor. 5:17 have radically passed away in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It tells us that even from the standpoint of the first creation, let alone the new, chaos is really ‘old things,’ the past and superseded essence of this world.”41 Man’s sin, for Barth, is not the world’s great problem as much as the threat to return to chaos. However, this threat is empty because it is dealt with in covenant history by Jesus. In other words, the covenant concerns God reconciling himself to man. Thus, it is the incarnate Christ who serves as the ontological lens through which man should be viewed.42 Therefore, sin for man is not a reality because it has been dealt with in the man through the covenant.43 So, all that is created from Genesis 1:3 forward—namely humanity—is the beneficiary of the covenant determined before creation. In light of this outlook, creation and re-creation look the same. The reality of sin is removed, and re-creation swallows creation.

3.3. The Son in Creation

A third area where Barth appears to conflate creation and re-creation is in his account of the role of the second person of the Trinity in creation. Jesus serves as the fundamental point for a scriptural understanding of creation because of his divine and human nature. Therefore, Barth nowhere allows for the activity of a pre-incarnate eternal Son of the Father, or a λόγος ἄσαρκος (logos asarkos or Word without flesh), in his Trinitarian conception of creation. Indeed, Barth admits to this. He answers, “It has to be kept in mind that the whole conception of the λόγος ἄσαρκος, the ‘second person’ of the Trinity as such, is an abstraction.”44 For Barth, when speaking of the second person of the Trinity, the only reality one can speak of is the incarnate Christ. John 1:1–3 should be read through the lens of John 1:14.45 Andrew Gabriel comments, “In contrast, he wants to affirm that Jesus (not some abstract idea of the logos) is the Creator—Jesus, through whom the kingdom of God comes near and Jesus as the one who is the fulfillment of the covenant.”46 David Fergusson sums up the difficulty with Barth’s viewpoint when he writes, “it coincides with anxieties around Barth’s universalism which is viewed as an inevitable outcome of this pre-temporal location of creation and redemption within the divine being itself.”47 Barth’s refusal to consider the creative activity of the second person of the Trinity apart from the incarnation means that creation cannot be conceived apart from Christ’s salvific work. In this way, creation can only be viewed in light of re-creation. Christ the incarnate redeemer is Christ the incarnate Creator. As such, re-creation is merged into creation.

Gabriel defends Barth at this point by suggesting that in spite of his comments to the contrary, in different places Barth affirms the λόγος ἄσαρκος. He points out that Barth holds to the historicity of the incarnation, that he understands the λόγος ἄσαρκος to be a necessary part of Trinitarian doctrine, and that he believes Scripture to affirm a λόγος ἄσαρκος.48 He concludes, “Barth affirms the logos asarkos as a means of affirming divine freedom, but he wants to emphasize that as God turns to creation there is no logos asarkos if that means a concept of a logos not shaped by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ—a revelation that clarifies that God is eternally for us.”49 Essentially, Gabriel argues that in his comments on the λόγος ἄσαρκος and the incarnate Son’s role in creation, Barth makes an epistemological rather than an ontological statement. However, while Gabriel’s defense protects Barth from accusations of conflating Creator and creature, it does not adequately handle the accusation that Barth’s refusal to epistemologically conceive of a λόγος ἄσαρκος only furthers the universal nature of his covenant in his doctrine of creation. In the end, even if Barth only wants to think of an incarnate Christ as the Creator without holding that Christ was really incarnate from eternity past, he still serves his theological system by sustaining that the incarnate Jesus, as the fulfiller of the covenant, is the one who ought to be conceived of as the Creator and the blueprint for creation. In doing so, he raises creation to the level of re-creation and removes any difference in the two.

3.4. Summary

The prelapsarian and universal nature of the covenant that lies at the foundation of Barth’s theology causes creation to exist as re-creation. Also, Barth’s interpretation of Genesis 1:2 roots the problem of evil in the תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, a problem which is solved in history by the incarnate life, death, and resurrection of Christ. In doing so, re-creation and creation are so closely related that the former seems to be collapsed into the latter. Finally, Barth’s refusal to attribute the act of creation to the pre-incarnate λόγος ἄσαρκος means that the salvific incarnate Christ is the Word by which everything is created, thus elevating creation to re-creation. Therefore, while Barth formulates a Trinitarian doctrine of creation that fits naturally in the current of his theological vision, the way that he envisions the Trinity working towards creation conflates creation and re-creation. Furthermore, Barth’s conflation leads to a doctrine of creation that seems to exist for the purpose of further emphasizing his christological Trinitarianism. Though a critique of Barth at this point is by no means novel, it bears restating in light of the renewed Trinitarian exploration spurred by Barth’s theology as well as the overall importance of the doctrine of creation to the Christian faith. Is there a better way to construct a Trinitarian doctrine of creation that gives creation its due while not ignoring the importance of the Trinity?

4. Herman Bavinck’s Trinitarian Doctrine of Creation

Herman Bavinck did most of his theological writing prior to Barth’s arrival on the stage of Reformed theology. Barth published his famous The Epistle to the Romans in 1919, just two years prior to Bavinck’s death. John Vissers demonstrates that Barth actually relied on Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatik for both his Kirchliche Dogmatik and his earlier Göttingen Dogmatics and that Barth’s overall assessment of Bavinck’s theology was positive.50 However, there are important differences in the two theologians’ doctrines of creation.51 To further explore the similarities and differences between Barth and Bavinck’s Trinitarian doctrines of creation, it is first necessary to explain Bavinck’s doctrine of creation.

Much like Barth, it is difficult to understate the importance of the Trinity to Bavinck’s theological vision. He does not mince words, writing, “Now in the confession of the Trinity we hear the heartbeat of the Christian religion; every error results from, or upon deeper reflection is traceable to, a departure in the doctrine in the Trinity…. All who value being called Christians continue to speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”52 In other words, for Bavinck, any departure from the Trinity is a departure from Christianity. Indeed, Christians cannot think of God other than as Trinity.53 This position impacts his doctrine of creation. For Bavinck, it is not enough for creation to stem from a vague idea of God. Rather, “The Christian mind remains unsatisfied until all existence is referred back to the triune God.”54 Thus, many of the theological loci that Bavinck discusses will have strong connections to the Trinity, including his doctrine of creation.

Bavinck’s most extensive treatment of the doctrine of creation is found in the second volume of his Reformed Dogmatics. In his editorial introduction to this volume, John Bolt accurately describes Bavinck’s doctrine of creation as “self-consciously rooted in his trinitarian doctrine of God.”55 Because of the importance of Bavinck’s doctrine of the Trinity to his doctrine of creation, there is significant overlap of his discussion about creation in his treatment of both doctrines. For example, in his theology proper, Bavinck writes,

It [Scripture] teaches, first of all, that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. The things we perceive ‘were not made out of what is visible’ (Heb. 11:3) but existed and exist eternally as ideas in the mind of God. They, therefore, derive their origin from God, are to a greater or lesser extent related to him, and so also have the capacity to display his perfections before the eyes of his creatures. Because the universe is God’s creation, it is also his revelation and self-manifestation. There is not an atom of the world that does not reflect his deity.56

This reflection naturally leads to Bavinck’s emphasis on an archetypal-ectypal relationship between the Creator and his creation.57 But this relationship is more than the creation’s reflection of particular attributes of God. Rather, the creation reflects the Creator in his very being.

When the archetypal-ectypal relationship between Creator and creation is seen in light of Bavinck’s insistence that the Creator must only be viewed as triune, it follows that the creation reflects the triune nature of God. Bavinck does not see this reflection in numerical descriptions of creation. Rather, the creation reflects the Trinity in its simultaneous unity and diversity. He writes, “In God, too, there is unity in diversity, diversity in unity. Indeed, this order and this harmony is present in him absolutely. In the case of creatures, we see only a faint analogy of it.”58 In spite of the faintness of the analogy, creation nonetheless reflects the Creator in the way of unity and diversity. The result of this understanding is what has become known as Bavinck’s organic motif.59 Creation functions as an organism, a unified body with differing parts. Nathaniel Sutanto explains, “Unity and diversity is the particular expression of the triune shape of creation as an organism, both in its parts and as a whole simply because creation comes from an archetypal One-in-three.”60 For Bavinck, the creation’s unity in its various parts serves as the ectype to God’s triune archetype. The perspective of creation as an organism which reflects the unity and diversity of God is of critical importance to how Bavinck derives his doctrine of creation.

In addition, Bavinck’s doctrines of Trinity and creation have an interdependent relationship to one another. He goes as far as to say, “all opposition to the Trinitarian work of creation is proof of deviation in the doctrine of the Trinity.”61 The significance of this statement is astounding. For Bavinck, Trinity and creation are so closely related that separating the two not only results in a truncated doctrine of creation, but also results in a deviation from Nicene orthodoxy. Therefore, Bavinck is careful to correctly formulate the activity of the three persons in creation:

Scripture left no doubt on this point. God created all things through the Son … and through the Spirit…. In this context the Son and the Spirit are not viewed as secondary forces, but as independent agents or ‘principles’ (principia), as authors (auctores) who with the Father carry out the work of creation, as with him they also constitute the one true God.62

Thus, Bavinck agrees with Irenaeus that contra Gnosticism, God created without a mediating agent, but with Son and Holy Spirit, “his own hands.”63 From here, Bavinck can begin to discuss the roles of the three persons of the Trinity, each performing his own task in unity with the other two.64 He writes,

The Father is the first cause; the initiative of creation proceeds from him…. The Son is not an instrument but the personal wisdom, the Logos, by whom everything is created.… And the Holy Spirit is the personal immanent case by which all things live and move and have their being, receive their own form and configuration, and are led to their destination, in God.65

Bavinck gives significant space to discussing the particular role of the Son in creation because he holds that a wrong comprehension of the Son’s role in creation leads to significant Trinitarian errors. Specifically, he focuses on a gnostic perception of the Logos, whereby the Son is an intermediate agent of the Father and thus becomes the Creator apart from the Father.66 Against this view, Bavinck emphasizes that creation cannot be attributed to the Son only, but also to the Father and Spirit as one Creator God.67 So how is the Son’s role distinguished in the act of creation? Here Bavinck relies on Augustine:

Accordingly, the Logos can be called ‘a certain kind of form, a form which is not itself formed but the form of all things that have been formed’ (forma quaedam, forma non format sed forma omnium formatorum). By this line of thought the significance of the Son for the creation can be established. First, there is the Father, from whom the initiative for creation proceeds, who thinks the idea of the world; but all that the Father is and has and thinks he imparts to, and expresses in, the Son. In him the Father contemplates the idea of the world itself, not as though it were identical with the Son, but so that he envisions and meets it in the Son in whom his fullness dwells.68

Thus, the Father is the initiator of creation who thinks of it in the Son, who serves as a type of form for the creation. The result, Bavinck explains, is that the Father is not “merely the ‘exemplary cause’; he is also the ‘creating agent’ (arche demiourgike). The word that God speaks is not a sound without content; it is forceful and living [performative].”69 It is the Son who makes the Father’s word of creation effective and gives the world its purpose as the head of all creation.70 The Spirit serves as the one who “vivifies and beautifies it all.”71 Thus, when the Trinitarian work of creation is rightly conceived in the unity and diversity of the three persons, one avoids Trinitarian errors.

In summary, Bavinck’s doctrine of creation is rooted in his doctrine of the Trinity. As the creation serves as an ectype of the archetypal Creator, so the creation reflects this Trinity in its unity and diversity. This view of the creation as organism leads Bavinck to draw an interdependent relationship between Trinity and creation to the extent that errors in comprehending one leads to errors in comprehending the other. Thus, Bavinck’s doctrine of creation is built upon his doctrine of the Trinity.

5. Creation and Re-creation in Bavinck’s Trinitarian Doctrine of Creation: A Comparison to Barth

Having summarized Bavinck’s Trinitarian doctrine of creation, one can now better understand how his doctrine deals with creation and re-creation. This understanding allows one to compare Bavinck’s doctrine of creation to Barth’s at the level of the relationship between creation and re-creation. This comparison demonstrates that where Barth conflates creation and re-creation in his doctrine, Bavinck sustains a division between the two. This conclusion can be drawn through discussing differences in the two theologians’ respective views of the covenant, laying out the differences in their respective understandings of the role of the Son in creation, looking at Bavinck’s emphasis on the unity of creation, and explaining their differing understandings of creation and revelation.

5.1. Creation Rooted in Trinity, but not in Covenant

First, like Barth, Bavinck’s doctrine of creation is rooted in the triune nature of God. Furthermore, Bavinck is equally concerned with Barth to sustain God’s independence and freedom in creation, thus sustaining the Creator-creature distinction.72 He holds that this perspective distinguishes a Christian doctrine of creation from that of pantheism and materialism.73 However, nowhere does Bavinck mention the covenant in order to sustain God’s freedom and independence from creation. While Bavinck believes in a pre-creation (and thus prelapsarian) pactum salutis, this is not held as the foundational reason for creation.74 Contrarily, Bavinck’s first mention of the covenant in his doctrine of creation is the covenant of works made between God and Adam in his treatment of anthropology.75 Consequently, Bavinck’s treatment of covenant does not lead to the universalism of Barth’s. Bavinck treats God’s salvation as a postlapsarian need for man as opposed to Barth’s prelapsarian understanding of the covenant and salvation which lie at the root of his doctrine of creation.76 In this way, where Barth conflates creation and re-creation, Bavinck sustains the difference between the two.

5.2. The Importance of the Son to Creation

Second, like Barth, Bavinck holds that an appropriate grasp of the relationship between the Father and the Son is necessary for an appropriate doctrine of creation. Also, like Barth, Bavinck’s treatment of Trinity and creation contains more discussion about the role of the Son in creation than that of the Spirit.77 This bears particular importance to Bavinck’s stance on creation and re-creation, which he often expresses in terms of nature and grace. In the same way that a wrong view of creation results in Trinitarian errors, so Trinitarian errors lead to a wrong view of creation. Bavinck stands opposed to all dualism in the relationship of nature and grace. He holds that these sorts of views result from a wrong perception of the role of the Logos as a mediating Creator for the Father. When the Son is seen in this light, the result is that “re-creation swallows up creation and grace nullifies nature.”78 Bavinck holds that such views lead to the minimalizing of creation at the hands of re-creation. He concludes, “Creation as a work of God is not inferior to re-creation; nature is not of a lower order than grace; the world is not profane itself. Consequently, there is no need for an inferior divine being to enable the Father to create the world.”79 Here Bavinck connects Trinity to the relationship between creation and re-creation. To view the Son as a creating demiurge for the Father means that creation is swallowed up by re-creation and that re-creation is superior to creation. This view is one that Bavinck wants to avoid in his insistence that re-creation does not replace creation. Rather, for Bavinck, re-creation restores creation in such a way that the two remain distinct parts of one ongoing work.

Furthermore, in Bavinck’s formulation of the Son’s role in creation, he does not speak of an incarnate Son in the fashion of Barth. Rather, Bavinck sustains a clear distinction between the Son in his pre-incarnate form and the incarnate Son Jesus. When speaking in terms of creation, the Son is referred to as the “Son” or “Logos,” never the incarnate Son.80 Additionally, Bavinck differentiates the two in terms of creation and re-creation. For Bavinck, the Son is both the beginning of creation and its telos, both the head of creation as the pre-incarnate Logos and of re-creation as Jesus the God-man.81 Thus, he concludes, “Summed up in the Son, gathered under him as head, all creatures again return to the Father, from whom all things originate.”82 Here he differentiates from Barth, who, though he locates the incarnation in history, holds the incarnate Christ to be the foundational principle of creation.

5.3. Unity in Creation

Third, Bavinck emphasizes that the unity of creation as organism reflects the unity of God. He writes, “There is a most profuse diversity and yet, in that diversity, there is also a superlative kind of unity.”83 Eglinton comments, “in the relationship of unity to diversity, Bavinck claims that unity comes first.”84 Bavinck believes that a misinterpretation of the unity of the Godhead results in a misinterpretation of creation and re-creation. He warns,

When the confession of the one true God weakens and is denied, and the unity sought in pantheism eventually satisfies neither the intellect nor the heart, the unity of the world and of humankind, or religion, morality, and truth can no longer be maintained. Nature and history fall apart in fragments, and along with consciously or unconsciously fostered polytheistic tendencies, every form of superstition and idolatry makes a comeback.85

Regarding this statement, Eglinton writes, “One must read his sentiment regarding ‘nature falling apart in fragments’ against the backdrop of his ‘grace restores nature’ leitmotif: the key to nature holding together, rather than splintering and losing its oneness, is found in the unity of the one true God.”86 However, by maintaining this unity, Bavinck’s desire is to avoid elevating re-creation to a higher place than creation, not to conflate the two. Bavinck expounds on the relationship:

In virtue of this unity the world can, metaphorically, be called an organism, in which all the parts are connected with each other and influence each other reciprocally. Heaven and earth, man and animal, soul and body, truth and life, art and science, religion and morality, state and church, family and society, and so on, though they are all distinct, are not separated. There is a wide range of connections between them; an organic, or if you will, an ethical bond holds them all together.87

While sustaining the unity of creation in reflection of the unity of God, Bavinck also sustains the unity of every part of creation—both those parts that seem more related to creation and those parts that seem more related to re-creation. In doing so, he also maintains a distinction between the two. While sustaining that both are part of a unified creation of God, he still distinguishes creation from re-creation rather than conflating them.

5.4. Creation as Revelation

Bavinck departs significantly from Barth in his assertion that creation serves as God’s revelation. Barth desires to root his doctrine of creation in God alone, not wanting to engage questions of science or philosophy. In this way, one hears echoes of Barth’s wholesale rejection of natural theology. Thus, Barth also rejects the concept that aspects of the Trinity can be understood from observing the creation for reflections, analogies, or vestiges of God’s triunity, otherwise known as vestigium trinitatis.88 Barth leaves no place for the creation to reflect the Creator. Bavinck, on the other hand, roots his doctrine of creation in his confidence in general revelation and the creation’s ability to reflect the Creator, even in the triune economy.89 In his 1908 Stone Lectures, Bavinck offers a philosophy of revelation—as antithetical a concept to Barth’s theological vision as one could imagine—in which he draws connections between the Creator, creature, and revelation. He writes, “In this religion God is the creator of all things. The whole world is the work of his hands; matter itself is made by him, and before its making was the object of his thought. All being and becoming thus embody a revelation of God.”90 Indeed, creation serves as “the initial act and foundation of all divine revelation and therefore the foundation of all religious and ethical life as well.”91 Because creation for Bavinck is general revelation, it must reflect the Creator.92 Hence, this revelation explains the unity of all parts of creation, a unity Bavinck sees in the creation’s order.93 This order brings a unity to creation and re-creation because, “Nature and grace, culture and cultus, are built upon the same foundations.”94 Thus, Bavinck holds that creation exists as a revelation of the Creator, reflecting God in its unity.

At the same time, Bavinck also holds that creation as general revelation cannot fully reveal God. For this revelation, one must see God not only as Creator, but also as reconciler.95 Here he differentiates between creation and re-creation in terms of revelation. He explains, “The God who created and sustained us is also he who re-creates us in his image. Grace, though superior to nature, is not in conflict with it. While restoring what has been corrupted in it by sin, it also clarifies and perfects what is still left in it of God’s revelation.”96 Therefore, creation and re-creation are connected as a single work of God’s revelation yet differ in content and effectiveness.97 Thus, the two are not conflated but held separate.

The difference between Barth and Bavinck could not be starker at this point. For Barth, revelation only occurs through the incarnate Word.98 Therefore, there is no general revelation of creation. Creation can only reflect the Creator through the incarnate Word.99 From Bavinck’s viewpoint, while the Logos is the prototype for creation, the creation itself reveals God apart from the incarnate Word.100 Accordingly, Bavinck is more willing than Barth to interact with science and philosophy in his interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis.101 For Bavinck, the incarnate Word serves as the foundation of re-creation and special revelation, but not creation.102 Where Barth pushes re-creation into creation in confining revelation to the incarnate Word, Bavinck holds the two to be separate by differentiating between general and special revelation and holding creation to be God’s general revelation.

6. Conclusion

Karl Barth receives credit for the revival in Trinitarian studies, and hence is considered the one to whom we should look for a Trinitarian appropriation of creation. However, as has been demonstrated, Barth’s Trinitarian doctrine of creation has difficulties, namely in how he collapses re-creation into creation. Bavinck’s doctrine of creation is as thoroughly Trinitarian as Barth’s doctrine of creation. At the same time, Bavinck’s doctrine appropriately separates creation and re-creation where Barth’s doctrine conflates the two.

Returning to a question posed at the outset of this study, does Bavinck offer a better example than Barth to pastors and theologians seeking to instruct others on the importance of Trinitarian doctrine? This article would conclude that he does. Good theology shines forth the beauty of Christianity in each and every doctrine of the faith. The best theologians are able to bring these doctrines together in a unified system. These systems, like concert symphonies, repetitively bring to light certain themes and motifs in each doctrinal “movement.” However, one must be careful that one movement does not come to dominate the rest, resulting in a theology that repeats a loud chorus so often that the other movements are never heard. Doctrines will naturally overlap and interact, and there are times to emphasize the importance of one particular doctrine over another. However, when seeking such a doctrinal emphasis, one must be careful that this emphasis does not diminish the necessity and importance of the other doctrines of the faith. Otherwise, one becomes like the preacher whose sermons funnel to the same conclusion each week no matter where the passage leads or what the specific pastoral needs of the congregation may be. By conflating creation and re-creation, Barth is guilty of such a theological funneling. Barth’s doctrine of creation, voluminous as it may be, becomes lost in the christological Trinitarianism that dominates his theological vision. Bavinck, on the other hand, serves as a better example of a theologian who emphasizes Trinitarianism without losing the immense importance of creation to the theological storyline of Scripture.

While this study focuses on how Bavinck offers a corrective to Barth’s doctrine of creation in the area of creation and re-creation, there are other areas of Bavinck’s doctrine of creation that might serve as strengths to Barth’s other weaknesses that bear further exploration, particularly in light of the recent increased interest in Bavinck in the English-speaking world.103 Furthermore, while this study briefly touched on the importance of revelation to the difference in Barth’s and Bavinck’s respective doctrines of creation, this topic in particular is ripe for further study. As the Trinitarian revival continues and discussion surrounding the Trinity and creation expands, theologians who are tempted to join the chorus that holds Barth to be the restorer of all things Trinitarian should not overlook Bavinck’s Trinitarian doctrine of creation. For those who desire to answer the recent calls in evangelical theology for a more robust “Trinitarian thinking” about God and for pastors who desire to call their congregants to think more deeply about God’s triunity in all areas of theology and life, Herman Bavinck’s theology is an excellent place to begin.

[1] Stanley J. Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004), 34.

[2] Colin E. Gunton, The Triune Creator: A Historical and Systematic Study, Edinburgh Studies in Constructive Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 157. Another example is seen in Jonathan R. Wilson, God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 71.

[3] A helpful survey of critiques of Barth’s doctrine of creation is provided by Andrew K. Gabriel, Barth’s Doctrine of Creation: Creation, Nature, Jesus, and the Trinity (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2014), 84–101.

[4] Barth’s doctrine of creation fills one four-part volume to his massive Church Dogmatics. Bavinck’s doctrine of creation, though not as voluminous as Barth’s, consumes fourteen chapters in the second volume of his Reformed Dogmatics.

[5] Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, Natural Theology: Comprising “Nature and Grace” by Professor Dr. Emil Brunner and the Reply “No!” By Dr. Karl Barth, trans. Peter Fraenkel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002).

[6] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, study ed. (New York, NY: T&T Clark, 2004), III/1:6.

[7] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Introduction to the Theology of Karl Barth (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001).

[8] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:25–26.

[9] Robert Sherman, The Shift to Modernity: Christ and the Doctrine of Creation in the Theologies of Schleiermacher and Barth (New York: T&T Clark, 2005), 62.

[10] John Webster, Barth, Outstanding Christian Thinkers (New York: Contiuum, 2000), 97–98.

[11] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:59.

[12] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:95.

[13] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:76.

[14] Kathryn Tanner, “Creation and Providence,” in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster, Cambridge Companions to Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 111–26, 114. Similarly, Gabriel explains, “Barth often presents the covenant as pre-history, whereas creation is part of history.” Gabriel, Barth’s Doctrine of Creation, 85.

[15] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:96.

[16] Tanner, “Creation and Providence,” 118; cf. Church Dogmatics III/1:97.

[17] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:229. Barth’s separation of Genesis 1 and 2 as distinct creation narratives is helped along by his acceptance of the Documentary Hypothesis.

[18] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:231.

[19] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:231.

[20] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:232.

[21] This linking of creation and covenant also explains why Barth confines creation almost solely to humanity (Church Dogmatics, III/2:13).

[22] Sherman, The Shift to Modernity, 76.

[23] Webster, Barth, 98, emphasis original.

[24] Webster, Barth, 102.

[25] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:330.

[26] Bromiley, Introduction to the Theology of Karl Barth, 119–20.

[27] Bruce Riley Ashford and Craig G. Bartholomew, The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 84.

[28] NIV renders this Hebrew phrase “formless and empty.”

[29] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:102.

[30] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:102.

[31] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:108.

[32] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:108.

[33] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:102.

[34] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:102

[35] Gunton, The Triune Creator, 172.

[36] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:102.

[37] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:109.

[38] Tanner, “Creation and Providence,” 119.

[39] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:109.

[40] Ashford and Bartholomew, The Doctrine of Creation, 153.

[41] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:110.

[42] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2:135–36.

[43] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2:31.

[44] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:54.

[45] Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:54–55.

[46] Gabriel, Barth’s Doctrine of Creation, 93. One further critique at this point is that by not speaking of a pre-Incarnate Word, Barth loses the Creator-creature distinction. Gabriel, Barth’s Doctrine of Creation, 91–92; David Fergusson, “Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Creation: Church-Bells Beyond the Stars,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 18.4 (2016): 414–31, 420.

[47] Fergusson, “Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Creation,” 420.

[48] Gabriel, Barth’s Doctrine of Creation, 93–94.

[49] Gabriel, Barth’s Doctrine of Creation, 94.

[50] John Vissers, “Karl Barth’s Appreciative Use of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics,” CTJ 45 (2010): 79–86.

[51] While Barth holds Bavinck to be an admirable Trinitarian theologian, he also thinks Bavinck (along with Abraham Kuyper) is guilty of allowing worldview and philosophy into theology. See Vissers, “Karl Barth’s Appreciative Use,” 82–84.

[52] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003–2008), 2:288

[53] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:330.

[54] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:330.

[55] John Bolt, introduction to Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:20.

[56] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:109.

[57] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:110.

[58] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:331.

[59] James Eglinton has written extensively on Bavinck’s organic motif. See James Eglinton, Trinity and Organism: Towards a New Reading of Herman Bavinck’s Organic Motif, T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012). Nathaniel Sutanto, “Herman Bavinck on the Image of God and Original Sin,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 18 (2016): 174–90, esp. 175–78.

[60] Sutanto, “Herman Bavinck on the Image of God and Original Sin,” 177.

[61] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:422.

[62] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:421.

[63] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:421.

[64] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:422–23.

[65] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:423.

[66] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:424.

[67] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:424–25.

[68] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425.

[69] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425.

[70] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425.

[71] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:262.

[72] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:407.

[73] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:408–15. Pantheism for Bavinck includes the Hegelian panentheism prominent in the German theology of his contemporaries.

[74] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3:212–16. The pactum salutis, or covenant of redemption, refers to the inter-trinitarian agreement between the Father and the Son in eternity past to save the elect through the Father’s sending of the Son in time and history and the Son’s willingness to be incarnate in time and history.

[75] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:567–71.

[76] This is perhaps why Barth includes hamartiology in the anthropological portion of his doctrine of creation while Bavinck treats hamartiology apart from creation as the beginning of his soteriology. See Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3:24–190.

[77] Neither Barth nor Bavinck give much attention to the role of the Spirit in creation. Barth goes as far as to deny pneumatological significance to Genesis 1:2. See Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/1:108 and Gunton, The Triune Creator, 160. Bavinck would disagree at this point and believes that the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2 refers to the Holy Spirit. See Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:261–62.

[78] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:424.

[79] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:424.

[80] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:420–26.

[81] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425.

[82] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425.

[83] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:435–36.

[84] Eglinton, Trinity and Organism, 68.

[85] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:173.

[86] Eglinton, Trinity and Organism, 111.

[87] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:436.

[88] For Barth’s rejection of the concept of vestigium trinitatis, see his Church Dogmatics, trans. G. T. Thompson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955), I/1:383–99. Interestingly, Vissers points out that Barth relies of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics to formulate his rejection (“Karl Barth’s Appreciative Use,” 84); see Barth, Church Dogmatics, I/1, 386.

[89] For Bavinck’s formal treatment of general revelation, see Reformed Dogmatics, 1:301–22.

[90] Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation: The Stone Lectures for 1908–1909 Princeton Theological Seminary (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1909), 307.

[91] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:407.

[92] Eglinton, Trinity and Organism, 67.

[93] Bavinck, Philosophy of Revelation, 307.

[94] Bavinck, Philosophy of Revelation, 307.

[95] Bavinck, Philosophy of Revelation, 307.

[96] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:330.

[97] Bavinck, Philosophy of Revelation, 308.

[98] See for example his discussion of the secularity of the Word of God in Barth, Church Dogmatics, I/1:168.

[99] Sherman, The Shift to Modernity, 62.

[100] Bavinck calls the Son the “fundamental form (forma principalis) of the world itself” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425).

[101] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:485–500; 512–29.

[102] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:425.

[103] Since the publication of the final volume of his Reformed Dogmatics in English in 2008, Bavinck scholars have published English translations of several works. These include the first volume of a previously unpublished manuscript of Bavinck’s work on ethics: Herman Bavinck, Created, Fallen, and Converted Humanity, ed. John Bolt, vol. 1 of Reformed Ethics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019). Several compilations of his essays, speeches, and lectures have recently appeared: Herman Bavinck, Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers, ed. and trans. James P. Eglinton, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2017); and On Theology: Herman Bavinck’s Academic Orations, ed. Bruce R. Pass, trans. Bruce R. Pass (Boston: Brill, 2020). Previously untranslated works include Herman Bavinck, Christian Worldview, ed. and trans. Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, James Eglinton, and Cory C. Brock (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019); Herman Bavinck, A Sacrifice of Praise, ed. and trans. Cameron Clausing and Gregory Parker Jr. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2019); and Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman (Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2012). There have also been recent updates to two translations: Herman Bavinck, Philosophy of Revelation: A New Annotated Edition, ed. Cory Brock and Nathaniel Gray Sutanto (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2018); and Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God: Instruction in the Christian Religion According to the Reformed Confession (Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2019). Furthermore, James Eglinton recently published a major biography of the Dutch theologian: Bavinck: A Critical Biography (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2020).

Jarred Jung

Jarred Jung is a faculty member of East Asia School of Theology in Singapore, serves in cross-cultural theological communities in Asia, and is a PhD student in systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

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