The Dogmatician: Revelation Is the Revelation concerning Revelation

A true concept of revelation can be derived only from revelation itself. If no revelation ever took place, all reflection on the concept is futile. If, however, revelation is a fact, it and it alone—must furnish us the concept and indicate to us the criterion we have to apply in our study of religions and revelations. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Bread Science Can’t Engineer

And, further, the numerous manifestations of superstition evident today demonstrate that humankind cannot live by the bread of science alone but need every word that comes from the mouth of God. Indeed, science does not tell us what God is or what humanity is; it leaves us ignorant of the origin, essence, and goal of things. It can therefore never replace religion, nor ever compensate for its loss. —Herman Bavink, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: God Is Not Indifferent to Anything

Religious indifferentism assumes that it is immaterial to God how he is served. It deprives him of the right to determine the manner of his service; in any case it postulates that God has not prescribed the manner of his service. …Factually and objectively, however, nothing is indifferent, neither in nature, nor in the state, nor in science and art. All things, even the most humble, have their specific place and meaning in the context of the whole. Human beings are indifferent only to what they do not, or do not sufficiently, know: they automatically assess and appreciate what they do know. God, who knows all things, is not indifferent to anything. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: No Revelation Means No Religion

There is no religion without revelation. Scripture too derives subjective religion from revelation (Heb.1:1). It is, for that matter, perfectly natural that religion and revelation consistently go together and are most intimately connected. For if religion really contains a doctrine of God and of his service, it is self-evident that God alone has the right and ability to say who he is and how he wants to be served. “It is not the part of men to establish and shape the worship of God, but, having been handed down by God, it is for them to receive and maintain.”* Religious indifferentism assumes that it is immaterial to God how he is served. It deprives him of the right to determine the manner of his service; in any case it postulates that God has not prescribed the manner of his service. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

*Helvetic Confession

The Dogmatician: The Target, the Arrow, and the Archer of Truth

The aim of theology, after all, can be no other than that the rational creature know God and, knowing him, glorify God (Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 3:17). It is his good pleasure to be known by human beings (Matt. 11:25, 26). The object of God’s self-revelation, accordingly, is to introduce his knowledge into the human consciousness and through it again to set the stage for the glorification of God himself. But that divine self-revelation, then, cannot end outside of, before, or in the proximity of human beings but must reach into human beings themselves. In other words, revelation cannot be external only but must also be internal. For that reason a distinction used to be made between the external and the internal principle of knowing, the external and the internal word, revelation and illumination, the working of God’s Word and the working of his Spirit. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: Theology Isn’t Dull

Dogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Christ; it is the system of the Christian religion. And the essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God. Dogmatics shows us how God, who is all-sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when it is torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It describes for us God, always God, from beginning to end God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God’s virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a “glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Theology

The Dogmatician: The Source of Truth

The assertion that the religious and moral human being is autonomous is always linked with either deism or pantheism. Deism makes human beings independent of God and the world, teaches the all-sufficiency of reason, and leads to rationalism. Pantheism, on the other hand, teaches that God discloses himself and comes to self-consciousness in human beings and fosters mysticism. Both destroy objective truth, leave reason and feeling, the intellect and the heart, to themselves, and end up in unbelief or superstition. Reason criticizes all revelation to death, and feeling gives the Roman Catholic as much right to picture Mary as the sinless Queen of Heaven as the Protestant to oppose this belief. It is therefore noteworthy that Holy Scripture never refers human beings to themselves as the epistemic source and standard of religious truth. How indeed, could it, since it describes the ‘natural’ man as totally darkened and corrupted by sin in his intellect (Ps. 14:3; Rom. 1:21-23; Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:14; Eph. 4:23; Gal. 1:6,7; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:8); in his heart (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Jer. 17:9; Ezek. 36:26; Mark 7:21); in his will (John 8:34; Rom. 7:14; 8:7; Eph. 2:3), as well as in his conscience (Jer. 17:9; 1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12; 10:28; 1 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:15)? For the knowledge of truth Scripture always refers us to objective revelation, to the word and instruction that proceeded from God (Deut. 4:1; Isa. 8:20; John 5:39; 2 Tim. 3:15; ). And where the objective truth is personally appropriated by us by faith, that faith still is never like a fountain that from itself brings the living water but like a channel that conducts the water to us from another source. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: Dogmatics vs. Ethics

Dogmatics describes the deeds of God done for, to, and in human beings; ethics describes what renewed human beings now do on the basis of and in the strength of those divine deeds. In dogmatics human beings are passive; they receive and believe; in ethics they are themselves active agents. In dogmatics, the articles of the faith are treated; in ethics, the precepts of the decalogue. In the former, that which concerns faith is dealt with; in the latter, that which concerns love, obedience, and good works. Dogmatics sets forth what God is and does for human beings and causes them to know God as their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; ethics sets forth what human beings are and do for God now; how, with everything they are and have, with intellect and will and all their strength, they devote themselves to God out of gratitude and love. Dogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God; ethics is that of the service of God. The two disciplines, far from facing each other as two independent entities, together form a single system; they are related members of a single organism. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics